Category Archives: Bible in 90 Days

Charlton Heston or Christian Bale? – Day 5 – February 5 – 90 Days through the Bible – Exodus 1-15

Day 5 – Exodus 1-15

My image of Moses is, unfortunately, built on the pictures from the classic movie “The Ten Commandments.” Charlton Heston is the model I have for Moses. At least, he was until we 7f228e20-3e59-11e4-af8d-91d89822217c_christian-bale-charlton-hestonwatched the newest incarnation of this second book of the bible in the Hollywood extravaganza that was “Exodus” with Christian Bale in the Moses role. My wife, Rachell, loves Christian Bale. Anything he is in, including the vastly underrated “Reign of Fire,” and she’ll watch it over and over. Without any shame, I’ll admit that I was equally excited to see “Exodus” in the theater a couple of months back.

While I’m not trying to do a movie review, I do have to recognize the cinematic choices made in the new film that left an impression on how I see the first chapters of Exodus that I read today. You see, the choice in the movie to have God displayed as a defiant child has stuck with me. As I read today’s passages, I tried to see that picture of God and it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Imaging God, the God of Exodus, pre-NT, is never an easy task for me. Most Christians can jump easily to the incarnational God we encounter in Jesus of Nazareth and use that image for God in all parts of the scripture. For me, that doesn’t quite suffice. It’s too easy of an out and my unimaginative brain can’t process it. So, I’m stuck with the images provided in children’s bibles, Hollywood, and campy religious artwork.

Which is why the picture of a child sticks with me. God as a child is not the God I want to see. I want a God who is powerful, authoritative, and in charge in a way that I am not. As a 34 year old man, I want someone older, stronger, and better than me, not someone who resembles my children. Likewise, I want Moses to be the squarejawed Bale or the gun-toting Heston. Seriously, I want Moses, the prophet and messenger of God, to be equally obvious and intimidating. I want Moses to command the scene and those two over the top actors certainly do that.

The problem is in the scripture, because the Moses of Exodus does not claim the scene the same way as the actors who portray him. Far from it – he appears to doubt, dither, and worry. He cannot trust the words of God and he needs his brother to speak for him. He is much more human and fallible than the Hollywood versions of this patriarch of the faith.

Which do you see when you read?

G— and K—- (and other readers), what is your image of Moses? Who do you see? What about God? What is the sound of God’s voice in your heads?

  • I’ve always wondered how the Israelite people allowed themselves (or were forced?) to be taken into slavery. They obviously started off with somewhat equal standing among the Egyptian people. If they were so numerous and potentially prosperous, how did this happen?
  • Infanticide and the slaughtering of innocent children – this is not the last time we encounter this horrific act in the Bible. There are no words to understand this tragic response to a threat. Who does this?!?
  • Fun, less destructive side note – Exodus 1:20 is the first example of “Elohim” as a title for God. Maybe that’s just fun to me?
  • I absolutely love Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush. Taking his sandals off because he’s standing on Holy Ground? What an incredible passage…Where are the holy places in our lives where we remove our shoes out of respect, awe, and wonder? Do we have any?
  • The continuation of the story. It’s great to see Exodus flow out of Genesis. It’s a good sequel.
  • Do people only believe when they see or experience signs and wonders? Are they more likely to believe? What about us, the people who don’t get to see staves turn into snakes and hands turn from leprosy to cleansed? What signs do we see in our lives?
  • I know, I know, this may be a bit irreverent but Pharaoh’s line in Exodus 5:2 (Who is theterence-stamp-superman LORD?) feels an awful lot like General Zod in Superman II saying, “Who is this, Superman?”
  • Odd interlude talking about the genealogy of Moses and Aaron in chapter 6. Seems a bit out of place, eh?
  • Ranking the plagues? Is that something people do?
  • My dad used to go around the house saying, “And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.” I like this response to my children when I give them a negative answer to their requests.
  • There is a shift from Pharaoh hardening his own heart to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. I love this image and this transition.
  • The first Passover and all of the subsequent memories of that day…I’ve celebrated Passover with a Seder at various times of the past few years and I cannot think of a better way to remember the history of God. We’ll be having a Seder at The Peoples Church of East Lansing again this year on Maundy Thursday. At the end, we’ll be spoiled to enjoy the music of a local Klesmer band led by our very own church sound technician, Will Cicola!
  • 430 years in Egypt before heading back home. To put that in perspective, Europeans have only been in the country we now call America for a bit more than 500 years.
  • I wish I could write a song like Moses.

Dreamweaver – Day 4 – February 4 – 90 Days through the Bible – Genesis 41-50

Dreamweaver – Day 4 – February 4 – 90 Days through the Bible

Genesis 41-50

My friend from Alma College, Chris LaCroix, was in the traveling Broadway company version of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.” I remember going to see Chris out in Brooklyn for a show. He played the Butler (or the Cupbearer Genesis identifies him). Rachell, my wife, and I were so excited to see our dear friend Joseph_and_the_Amazing_Technicolor_Dreamcoatup there on a huge stage with a professional company. When his scenes came, we were overwhelmingly excited for him and I must admit, we paid extra attention. Chris, of course, was phenomenal and while we were a bit biased in our review of his performance, I was amazed by the role of the butler in the narrative. Joseph has one dream as a teenager and then no more. It’s the dreams of others that he interprets and makes sense of. Moreover, it’s the reaction of those who have their dreams interpreted that change the fortunes from Joseph.

Yet throughout the who process, Joseph gives credit and thanksgiving to God’s hand in the process. He has such a firm grasp of providence that necessarily believes God is acting in the good and the bad. There is such hope in that kind of faith, but man, is that a tough theology to realize at all times and in all places. I admit I struggle with that interpretation of God. I want to believe but doubts make it so hard at times.

If anything, the ending of Genesis is helping me appreciate the faith with have in God’s role in our families, our work, our community, and our world. My dreams include the desire to experience and feel God’s presence in all things…as well as the ability to give thanks.

  • Joseph waits in the cell for another two years before Pharaoh has a dream that needs interpreting by Joe.
  • “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Great answer, Joseph (Gen 41:16).
  • Joseph’s new name is Zaphenathpaneah…I liked Joe better.
  • I’ve never understood the trick Joseph plays on his brother. Revenge? Spite? Just teaching them a lesson? Fear of being known? Why do we do things like this to one another?
  • Rueben is willing to sacrifice two of his own sons if Benjamin does not return? Would Jacob have been willing to go along with the murder of two of his grandsons?
  • I am Joseph. With that one statement, everything changes. Amazing how recognition can lead to an epiphany can lead to a changed life.
  • Joseph tells them God sent him to Egypt, not them.
  • Imagine Jacob’s delight in knowing he had a chance to see his son, the son he thought dead, again in the flesh. Any of us who have lost a loved one imagine that moment, that hope. This is pure passion and ecstasy.
  • “Few and hard have been the years of my life.” Well said, Jacob. Well said. (Gen 47:9)

Antiheroes Abound – Day 3, Feb. 3 – 90 days through the Bible – Genesis 29-40

(Here’s the schedule if you’d like to read along! 90 Days in the Bible)

Day 3 of the 90 Days through the Bibleantihero

Genesis 29-40

I’m just as much at fault for pop culture’s fascination with the rise of the antihero in these days as the next obsessed viewer of “Dexter,” “Breaking Bad,” and the rest.  I can’t help myself. I love watching these shows with terrible, terrible people as the protagonists. Why is it we seem to gravitate toward these flawed characters? Is it our ability to better relate to them? Do we just like cheering on the underdog who might change for the better?

I wrestle with the patriarchs and matriarchs of the church – the men and women who we hold up as models to learn from. Most of the ones we encounter in Genesis are conniving, self-serving, and despicably motivated. Yet these are the ones through whom we trace our faith. Don’t get me wrong, I love the history of our faith but I’m a bit concerned with these men and women and what they do our don’t do for their family, children, and neighbors.

As an aside, I have to recognize how great these stories are in Genesis. I mean, wow are these interesting, intriguing, and page turners. Maybe that is why we are so drawn to them – everybody likes a bit of scandalous drama to spice up their lives, right?

Anyway, here are my stray observations about today’s readings:

  • Jacob kisses Rachel and then weeps aloud. Talk about a first date. It seems a bit bold for the times but maybe this is how things were done? Too bad Laban makes the situation utterly complicated by tricking Jacob into working, marrying another daughter, and giving up some good years of his life. Still, he says it seemed like only a few days while he worked those seven years. Poetic, romantic, and beautiful phrasing.
  • The hope that Jacob would love her because Leah was able to bear him four sons is sad and troubling. What a difficult experience for Leah – your husband loves your sister more than you and all you want is to please him? She deserves better.
  • Can’t think of the last time I went out looking for mandrakes. Anybody else gone mandrake hunting?
  • Jacob gets back Laban through selective breeding of goats? Interesting tactic for a son-in-law to take.
  • Why does Rachel steal her father’s gods? What does that even mean? Seems like a strange insertion into the fleeing narrative.
  • Wrestling with God is one of my absolute favorite images in the Bible. How often do we wrestle with the Lord until sunrise? How do we struggle to make sense of what will happen next, what we fear, and what we desire?
  • The rape of Dinah – this is such a powerful, uncomfortable, and challenging story in Genesis. I can’t help but ask, what did Dinah feel, think, want throughout her encounters with Shechem, the proposal, the circumcision trick, and the eventual murder of all the men. Did she speak with her brothers? Is this what she wanted? Did they care what she wanted? Such a tough passage to teach, read, and interpret.
  • Rachel names her final son “son of my sorrow.” Powerful expression…was she sorrowful about all things or just her impending death during the birth? Did she ever feel remorse about her relationship with Leah? With Jacob? Her father?
  • Chapter 36 is a bit dry but it does contain some interesting side notes about various people and their families.
  • Enter Joseph – Just because you had this dream doesn’t mean you need to tell it to your family, does it?
  • They sell their brother for 20 pieces of silver. Is that the going rate for an impetuous younger sibling?
  • The side story about Judah? Lots of weird family issues going on here. Tamar is allowed a voice (unlike Dinah) but the situation is still just as difficult. It is important to note that it is through Tamar that we find David’s lineage. Just sayin’.
  • Joseph interprets dreams. What a strange gift…is this a curse or a blessing?

“Devotional Guilt” Day 2 – 90 Days through the Bible – Genesis 18-28 – February 2

(Here’s the schedule if you’d like to read along! 90 Days in the Bible)

Day 2 of the 90 Days through the Bible

Genesis 18-28

First off, nicely done with the motivation email, G–. When you sent the message saying you were done with the first two days already? I was impressed and a little bit guilty for having not completed my day yet. Is that weird? Should we feel guilty about reading or not reading the Bible? I guess that’s a question for everyone. Guilt free bible reading

I remember as a teenager participating in a student led Bible study before school. It was my first exposure to the term “devotions.” One of the older students asked me, “Are you keeping up with your daily devotions?”

Naturally, I lied and said, “Of course I’m keeping up! Devotions? Sure, I’m doing them right now. I do them all day long. Am I keeping up?! You know I am!”

They were extremely well meaning youth and I learned a ton about my faith from and through them. However, I also learned a lot about Christian guilt, shame, and legalism. That was the first time I felt like less of a Christian than these friends. It really wasn’t their fault as much as mine. I couldn’t get past the idea that some people were more dedicated, more devoted, and more in tune with their faith than I was. I equated regular, ritualized Bible study with great amounts of faith. While they are connected from time to time, they are not mutually dependent upon one another and it took me a number of years to realize that fact.

Part of me is feeling a bit of that again as I start this 90 days through the Bible project. I applaud people who read the Bible regularly and I really want to…but I usually choose not to. I find other things to do. I fall into a rut. I get distracted. I do other very meaningful things and other very trivial things. The rhythm never really takes root in my life. And when it doesn’t, I can’t seem to let myself off the hook. I get down over not completing this self-appointed task, or self-appointed competition with my brothers and sisters in faith.

That’s not going to happen this time…I hope. K— and G—-, I am relying on you to keep me focused, honest, and easy going. This is meant to be an edifying, faith building experience and the act of doing it in community has got to help, not hurt.

With that said, here are my thoughts for this second day of reading.

  • Why is circumcision the physical characteristic to distinguish the Hebrew men from the otherwise unselected men of the biblical world? Seriously, circumcision? Wow. That is just…I mean…wow, that’s a tough one. I’ve taught on circumcision before as a theological distinction, usually related to the NT references to the practice as unnecessary for new believers in Jesus Christ. Rarely have I taught on this OT passage in a vacuum. Might be a good challenge?
  • My favorite exchange in all of Genesis happens between Sarah and the visitors from God.

Angel: Why did you laugh?

Sarah: I didn’t laugh.

Angel: Yes, you did laugh.

Sarah: (uncomfortable silence)

Do you like my hatThe passage always reminds me of the kids’ “Go, Dog Go!” book.

Dog 1: Do you like my hat?

Dog 2: I do not.

Dog 1: Good bye.

Dog 2: Good bye.

  • Lot offers up his daughters to the would be rapists? What a hero you are, Lot. At least we won’t discover this incident leaving a weird mark on your daughters. They’ll act perfectly normal and acceptable in the next chapters.
  • Abraham does it again, pretending his wife is his sister. He gives his wife to another king to save his own skin. I’m sure Sarah loves this whole situation. How must she have felt each time he pitched this idea to her?
  • And, like father, like son…Isaac pulls the same trick with his wife. That is a weird bit of family legacy to pass along.

Day 1 – 90 Days through the Bible – Genesis 1-17

Day 1 – 90 Days Through the Bible – Genesis 1-17

(Here’s the schedule if you’d like to read along! 90 Days in the Bible)

In the beginning, we read chapter 1…

I’ve had the desire to read the Bible in 90 days for the past few years, but I’ve never been able to buy into the task fully enough to complete it. This year’s going to be different…or, at least I hope it will be.

I had a conversation with a friend a couple weeks back and she talked about wanted to know the Bible better. It seemed like the perfect time to get into this project again. Accountability is going to make this work. I like knowing someone else is reading through with me, asking questions at the same pace and about the same chapters. More than that, I like knowing someone will ask me, “Hey Andrew, did you read today?”DustyBible_thumb

Motivated by guilt and shame is never a good thing but it certainly has the potential for producing the right outcome. So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m reading along with G and K (I’ll use these references instead of their full names). Both are members of The Peoples Church but not individuals I have ever engaged in a study with before. We’ve all got kids around the same ages. We’re all are married. And we all live in the incredible mid-Michigan area that is home to Michigan State University, the state legislature, and all the wonders of the Greater Lansing Region.

Rather than post overly academic biblical interpretations and musings, I’m going to offer more easily digestible, quick notes on the passages I complete each day. Because there is so much reading required each day to complete this journey, the style of reading is very different from my normal study habits. I’m reading from a view that is much further away from the text, rather than a careful, deliberate examination of shorter passages. I’m trying to see the whole narrative, not just the individual passages.

In addition, these posts will be written as letters, comments, notes and questions to G and K (and anyone else who’d like to join us on this journey?). I’ll try to make specific references to the passages but will more than likely just offer paraphrased quotes related to the chapters of the day. You can generally pick out the passages I am referencing but if you have any specific questions about what I am questioning, noting, or observing, feel free to ask me to clarify.

With that said, here’s the first day’s comments!

Genesis 1 – 17

  • This is my first time reading through the Bible entirely from the New International Version (2011 edition). It reads a bit differently from other translations I typically use but still provides enough familiarity mixed in with colloquialisms to be intelligible to modern ears.
  • “In the beginning, God created…” Great beginning and ripe for theological interpretation. Seminary is coming back to my brain as I remember my first OT class taking an hour on this one line, this one phrase, this one groundbreaking idea. It still sticks with me.
  • A vault between the waters – that’s a new way to phrase it. I’ve never thought of that passage until reading it today with the word “vault.” Not sure what to make of that.
  • Do you have a favorite day of creation? I’m going with day 5. Definitely day 5.
  • What do we declare good and very good in our lives? Right now, sitting in a flannel shirt with the fire crackling in the background, drinking my coffee, listening to Phish in the background, my dog sleeping on my feet while I read Genesis? This is very good. Very, very good.
  • A man leaves his father and mother to be united to his wife because she was bone from his bones and flesh from his flesh? To be reunited is to be made whole.
  • Adam is such a wimp – “The woman you put here, she’s the one that gave me the fruit! It wasn’t my fault! It’s not my fault!”
  • Am I allowed to say, “Poor Cain?” I feel like he really was set up for disaster from the beginning.
  • Jabal, father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. Totally forgot about that verse and that name. I’m going to name my next dog/cat/child Jabal.
  • “The Lord regretted making humans” That’s a rough passage to read.
  • “Even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” Makes me want to go back and talk about inherent evil vs. inherent good. Are we really bad from the start and we choose to do good or are we good from the start and we choose to do bad?
  • All of these names rule.
  • First blessing of Abram includes the following:
    • 1 – I will make you a great nation,
    • 2 – I will bless you,
    • 3 – I will make your name great,
    • 4 – You will be a blessing,
    • 5 – I will bless those who bless you,
    • 6 – I will curse those who curse you,
    • 7 – all peoples on earth will be blessed through you
  • Abram hands his wife over to Pharaoh? What a jerk…At least he’ll never do this again, right? I mean, there’s no way you’d pretend your wife is your sister TWICE.
  • Melchizedek makes an appearance. His next reference is found in Hebrews, because, the Bible?
  • Understatement of the day -Hagar has it awfully rough