Monday, June 06, 2005

Getting to Know Jesus, One Chapter at a Time

Sometimes we Christians make our faith complicated, turning what should be a simple relationship in which we gratefully follow where Jesus Christ leads into a system of do's and do-not's that are far away from Christ.

I find it helpful then, to periodically allow myself to fall in love with Jesus all over again, the way I did back when He turned me from an atheist to a believer.

How do I do that? By spending time with Him. I've found that when it comes to Jesus, to know Him really is to love Him.

One of my "projects" for this summer is to deliberately set aside some time during my daily prayers and devotions to read a chapter from the New Testament Gospel accounts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. [The New Testament is a portion of the Bible composed of 27 books, mostly letters.]

I also made a couple of decisions about my approach to this "project."

First, I decided that if I missed a day, I wasn't going to beat myself up for it. The whole idea is to get to know Jesus, the Loving Liberator, not to lay another legalistic guilt trip on myself. I'm starting to believe that it's possible to be disciplined and intentional about having a relationship with Christ without turning Him into another unholy obligation.

Second, I made a decision based on my past experiences not only with reading the Bible, but with things as mundane as driving to work. The meaning, significance, and guts of something can be ripped right out of them from daily use. Sometimes, we need to look at old companions and familiar settings with fresh eyes. I decided to take my trip through the four New Testament Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--using Eugene Peterson's wonderful translation/paraphrase, The Message. Peterson isn't just a Biblical scholar and former pastor, he's also an accomplished poet. He presents the entire Bible in fresh, eye-opening language.

Third, I decided to invite you to take this journey with me. If you want to do that, you can read Peterson's rendering of the Gospels too, if you'd like. Or you may want to read them from another translation. My favorite is the New Revised Standard Version, which is presented online in several places. You can Google them or other translations you might prefer. Whichever one you choose to use, I hope that it will be one that you don't ordinarily read. Remember, the idea is to try to see Jesus with fresh eyes, to fall in love with Him all over again. Or, maybe for you, you'll be getting to know Him for the first time.

One other thing before we begin this journey in earnest together. This is addressed to those who don't believe that Jesus is God as well as a human being, who think that the stories of miracles He performed are far-fetched, who can't accept His resurrection, or who may have some other problems with the Bible's accounts of Jesus, but you would like to believe:
I used to be just like you. I understand how you feel and I respect your feelings. Please do me and yourself a favor, read the Gospel accounts, one chapter a day and maybe read the notes I put here from time to time. Before you read them each day, tell God something like, "God, I don't even know if you're real or not. But I've been told that the best way to get to know you is to get to know Jesus. So, unclutter my mind right now. Help me to believe what I can and not worry right now about the things I can't. Help me to get to know Jesus." Then, just read the chapter.
Hopefully, as we progress, I'll have more hints and pointers for you. I hope that you get a lot out of this exercise. I know that, having already gotten to chapter 12 in Matthew's Gospel myself, I'm already getting a lot out of it.

If you'd like to join me, try starting with Matthew, chapter 1, tomorrow.

[A link to one translation of Matthew 1 can be found here.]

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