Faith

Struggling with reading the Bible...

51308580_10157018527172840_4905516061270474752_n.jpg

These days, it's easy to fall into a little rut. With the cold (and gloomy) weather, post-holidays lull, and the long wait for spring, it feels more important than ever to develop good habits. I hear it all the time (hi mom!): sleep well, eat better, be active. And while I've been consciously making an effort to improve these aspects of my life, I'm finding more and more that my overall wellbeing comes from being rooted in God. Paul said it all the time: the truth brings forth a renewal of our mind, which then transforms us. Our affections, our values... it changes. We don't desire the things that once occupied our hearts. We begin longing for something more, something otherworldly... and from that, often praise and joy flow out.

Anyway... all this to say, I notice I have a lot more joy, peace, and hope when I'm reading the Bible everyday. Do you believe that God's truth transforms? Do you believe that you are coming before the Word of God Almighty? Humbling! And trust me, there are TONS of nights when I can't be bothered to even spend 2 minutes in the Word. But with accountability (thanks Alex, thanks life group!), I am being blessed everyday!! A daily dose of God's Word is honestly the best habit I've been building all year. What's your experience been like with Bible reading since the start of the year? I can always use some encouragement!

 

Bible Reading: Genesis

What a ride! On January 1, my church (with my main accountability being my life group! <3) started the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan. It’s a reading plan that fits the entire Bible in one year: it spreads itself across four books a day, and is scheduled for 25 days every month. What’s amazing about these one-year plans is that it gives you an opportunity to appreciate the Bible story from a high-level. It feels fast sometimes, but it gives you the ultimate context to see God’s redemptive plan for the world. Naturally, the challenge is being able to digest those nuggets of truth, especially when you’re used to focusing in on one chapter or a handful of verses at a time. I want to use this blog as a way to share some of the nuggets I’ve picked up on the way (scribbles on post-its, etc.) and reflect on what I’ve learned from a book. I’m skeptical about being able to write about all the books but I can at least start with Genesis. It’s JAM PACKED.

Gensis.png
 

We’ve all read the Creation story. If you’re like me, it’s probably the most read portion of my Bible because I’ve started so many Bible plans in the past (only to fail, haha). Here, God creates the world. He takes a vast darkness and creates a beautiful, bountiful garden. He creates Adam (means “Humanity” in Hebrew) and Eve (“Life”). An important note is that they’re made in His image. He creates them to be a representation of himself and to reflect his character. They live and work in the Garden of Eden and everything was good. Over and over again, it is said that it was good. There was harmony between the man and woman and between them and the land. Work was a good thing, and it was fruitful and productive.

The tree of good and evil is in the garden and when Eve eats from it, sin enters. I had to read and listen to a few commentaries to really clear up what this meant. Up until this point, God defined what good was. Adam and Eve just had to trust his definition and enjoy life. But the tree represented a moral choice. Rather than trusting in God, there was a desire to be know for themselves. To be independent.

When sin enters, there is immediate shame between Adam and Eve. Their relationship and harmony is broken. Suddenly they notice that they are naked and - as John Piper so eloquently says - “the foundation of covenant-keeping love collapsed. And with it the sweet, all-trusting security of marriage disappeared forever.” There is insecurity about their own bodies and how God created them, there is a lack of trust with each other, and their eyes are suddenly opened to things that they originally did not care for otherwise.

Sin broke the relationship between God and people, between people and people, and between people and the earth. Because God is holy and cannot be in the presence of unholiness, Adam and Eve were no longer able to walk with God. They were cast out from the garden. Work became laborious. Isn’t that funny? We forget that work is not a consequence of sin but it was created to be Adam’s purpose from original creation. Work was meant to be purposeful, holy, and glorifying to God. After the fall, it has become greedy, toiling, and self-serving.

The next few chapters outline the tragedy of sin. From Cain and Abel to Noah’s flood, to the tower of Babel, you see generations of people spiralling down, further and further away from God. But in chapter 12, we read about the beginning of God’s mission. Through Abraham and his family, God begins his grand redemptive plan.

For the rest of Genesis, I saw a lot of patterns. The story focuses on four generations: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. God makes promises to all of them, but in every generation, you see man losing faith in God. Abraham and Sarah are promised a child, yet in his lack of trust, Abraham gives Sarah away to Pharaoh and Abimelech… and in her lack of trust, Sarah gives Hagar to her husband! Even with God’s promise of a family, they become anxious and take it upon themselves to work out His promise. With Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob, there’s tons of deception. Isaac already knows that the younger is to serve the older, and yet with his favour being on his older son, he sets out to bless him… and his plan backfires when Jacob deceives his father and brother. Read it for yourself — super dramatic chapters! And yet, through all the ups and downs, God does not abandon them. He walks with each family and makes himself known to them.

My favourite part of this month was reading about Joseph. Out of envy, his brothers sell him as a slave. Joseph is thrown into jail but through a series of events, he is made second-in-command to Pharaoh. By acting with integrity, respect, and faith, he wins the heart of the Egyptians and is positioned as the overseer of the food distribution during the famine. When Joseph’s Israelite brothers come into Egypt to seek help and buy food, they meet Joseph. Joseph’s response stopped me dead in my tracks. I would’ve been scheming vengeance but he says this:

I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. 

It was God. Though his brothers meant evil against Joseph, God meant it for good and turned it into part of his redemptive plan for Israel. Joseph is able to see that and he forgives his brothers. He brings the entire family into Egypt and they settle in the land of plenty. The wheels are in motion! God is going to rescue His people. From Adam to Joseph, there is so much failure and brokenness and we know where that comes from. But God counts our faith as righteousness. He is the one doing the work of restoring and reconciling and rescuing… and we are to cling onto Him with faith.

Genesis 50:20 sums up this book nicely for me: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Humans keep choosing evil but God keeps turning it into good. Friends, we are just skimming the surface!!

p.png
 

The Discipline of Writing

Alex and I went through boxes and shelves of old stuff during the holidays. It helped that we were both sick and quarantined in our small apartment. The mixed feelings of guilt (this extravert felt guilty from the lack of holiday socials!) and desire to be productive led to this holiday project. The nostalgia went well with the Christmas cheer.

IMG_2337.JPG

I found that most of my possessions were writings. I kept so many words - journal entries, sermon notes, birthday cards, written prayers, postcards, love letters… and they brought back such salient memories that I decided to keep most of them haha (so much for cleaning out!). I started journaling when I was 10 years old as a way to process my thoughts. In times of both joy and hardship, it was always easier to start writing than drowning in my own head. Writing something down gives you a place to start. It gives you something to work with and evolve.

I stopped journaling a few years ago. I don’t remember why but like any habit, I’ve adapted to my journal-less life. I can’t fathom having time to write anymore. I’ve also noticed I’ve become more anxious and less in tune with my feelings. I don’t take the time to sit down and choose words to describe what’s going on inside of me. Rather, the moment passes… and without the reflection and internal processing, I miss out on important life lessons, gratitude, and testimonies of what God is doing.

With 2019, I want to challenge myself to be more reflective and pick up the habit of writing. It’s a discipline! It’s going to require practice. I’m telling myself that it doesn’t have to be crafted perfectly, as long as it’s earnest ;) This blog is a small part of this endeavour. I want to share with you what I’m learning, not just in terms of calligraphy, but as a person trying to live this life joyfully. I already know I’m going to look back at this blog in a year or three or five, and feel encouraged. More birthday cards, more devos, more pen pals, more blog posts, more scribbles to myself! Here goes!