Having turned 62 a few days back, Babycakes got me a rare treat for this year’s present: a brand-new hardcover Thompson Chain NIV Bible. The tired, blurred, smudged, oily-paged veteran it replaces was a 1984 model.
Hard cover scuffed, corners bent, duct tape holding it on several layers thick from repeated patch jobs. So noted, underlined, highlighted and otherwise marked up it’s easier to find UNmarked passages than the other kind. Definitely ready to retire.
Since I’m sitting at my desk with my new one laying open before me, my trusty old friend that saw me through undergrad and grad work – and following years of pastoral and chaplaincy ministry – has now taken its ease on the shelf with Mother’s old Bible. And Mom’s.
The reason my new Thompson Chain’s laying open is so the first highlighted passage will dry. You had a question? Oh, sure–by all means.
“You just barely got it home and you’ve already started marking it up? Some think it’s improper at least and disrespectful at most to write in God’s Word. By the way, that’s not your actual Bible, is it?”
Second question first: Nope. I quit using finger thingies in 2nd grade.
I respect anyone’s choice regarding how to treat and use God’s Word. Some grew up, as I did, knowing you lay nothing on top of The Bible. I’m still that way with mine. What people see in looking at Bibles I routinely carry is that I use them. I give The Bible its due respect as I was taught when grasshopper-height. I also make it clear: I use the thing. I read it and am diligent in ordering my life around what it – He – is teaching.
“Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison to the soul. . . . Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth . . .
“Don’t be naïve. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. . . .
“I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ Himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple … You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up with spiritual junk food — catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you— keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” [2 Timothy 2:14-4:5]
“Wow. Okay, you don’t do this very often. When you do, there’s always a reason. C’mon. ‘Fess up. What lit your fire this morning? Was it that first passage you just told me you highlighted in your new Bible?”
When facing life-and-death situations, I remember no one arguing semantics or theology . . . What I heard again and again was, “I want to know I’m ready to meet God.”
Yep. Very perceptive–as I expect from any 2nd Cupper. One of the things I cherish from this constantly-expanding group of thinkers is the true diversity of spiritual experience and background of its members. I’ve known all along that we have differing points of view about God’s personal nature and work; and how we relate to Him and to one another. Part of being a good chaplain is in understanding how to link arms and hearts when it’s necessary.
I don’t have to believe exactly as you do to love and appreciate who you are. When facing life-and-death situations, I remember no one arguing semantics or theology. Struggling to pull oxygen into heaving lungs I heard no one trying to convince a loved one that Pre-Tribs have it right or that Missouri Synod Lutherans are too stubborn to be allowed in Heaven. What I heard again and again was, “I want to know I’m ready to meet God.” I tend to think that’s a mighty good spot to close ranks and focus on Him. Together. Something tells me the Holy Spirit is an excellent teacher who can be trusted to lead us all closer to Himself regardless of our starting points. Sounds simple only until we each start working on it. Right?
I could tell you my thoughts, but how about if I just leave the inaugural passage (the very 1st one highlighted and annotated in this new Bible) here with you and let you draw your own conclusions?
“. . . In you men accept bribes to shed blood; you take usury and excessive interest and make unjust gain from your neighbors by extortion. And (AND) you have forgotten Me, declares the Sovereign Lord ….”
“Again the word of the Lord came to me: ‘There is a conspiracy of her princes within her like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her. Her priests do violence to My law and profane My holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.
‘Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says’–when the Lord has not spoken. The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.
‘I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before Me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none . . . ” [Ezekiel 22]
I could say a lot. I won’t. Anyone who is intellectually, morally honest, religious or not, will have no problem understanding this passage from the Old Testament of God’s Word.
As always, though I don’t try to answer them all, I listen to your comments. Your thoughts matter here.
Back to the matter at hand: yes, Virginia, I mark up my Bibles. Much later on when I’m not around, anyone chancing across one of my Bibles will be able to see honest, authentic, sometimes bloody tracks as I worked through not-s0-easy passages and was trying to apply them to my living.
My first intention in marking, highlighting and making notes in The Word is for my understanding. MY application of God’s wisdom and direction to MY life. Then, if by reading where I’ve been someone else is helped, strengthened and encouraged by reading and thinking about my notes and marking, great.
But I take Paul’s strong counsel to young Timothy to heart: it’s primarily FOR ME, for MY OWN UNDERSTANDING AND HELP. Nothing marked, highlighted or annotated in any of my Bibles is to impress someone else. Few will ever read what’s in there.
Those who do will discover a Dan closest to the one God knows.
They may not always like or understand what they see, but they’ll know who and what I really am in this life; and why I am to my level best, and without apologies, a Biblical Christian.
© D. Dean Boone, October 2014