Through the Bible

I recently finished reading the whole Bible through again.I used the ESV Bible plan from YouVersion, so I read every verse in the Bible and the Psalms twice.

It only took me 15 months this time, which is a vast improvement over my 58 months last time. I know some people who can read through the Bible every year which is amazing to me. I’ve read through Genesis about 12 times thinking I was going to read the whole thing and I rarely make it because it’s so great I need tome to reflect and ruminate on what I am reading. Other sections of the Bible are just insanely boring; I mean do you really need to read the dimensions of the tabernacle every year? Or it’s just really depressing; I read through Job this year during a bit of a stressful time and it didn’t help much at all.

If you’ve never read through the whole Bible you should. Even if it takes you a decade, it’s such a great exercise and will help your faith grow. There are guides online and YouVersion makes it so simple to do – it really is just a matter of commitment.

I read the vast majority on my smart phone, until the very end when the app kept stalling and it was driving me crazy. I spent more time loading the app than I was reading the Bible, so I finished the last 10ish days on the computer instead. I still like YouVersion for what it is, but, for me, it still doesn’t compare to a regular old book. Books don’t crash, don’t stall in the middle of your reading and let you change pages whenever you want – almost instantly! Still, I cannot carry 4 versions of the Bible with study notes and any relevant information that I can think of in my pocket…so books may not be the greatest thing ever…

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Rob Bell, What We Talk About When We Talk About God

Understanding the way that our current cultural context affects the way we understand God is a real key to growing in Christ and having honest theological views that carry historical truths forward. Since we live in the most judicial society in the history of planet earth, we naturally see God in a judicial way. It hasn’t always been this way, though, and it won’t always be this way either. Since we are living in a time of massive transformation and discovery (a transition into what people are calling postmodernity) it is natural that we are able to examine our beliefs and our doctrines and make massive new shifts and growth that will help us love God, grow in faith and share this hope with others.

This is the goal of Rob Bell’s new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. He aims to make a contribution to a growing body of Christians that are eager to follow God into the future, and not see God as something that belongs in the past and calls us back to the old days (which have been romanticized into some kind of perfect Christian era).

I will say, if you are beholden to some literal interpretations of poetry sections in the Scripture, this book will challenge you. Young earth creationists that like to fight for a literal seven day creation are sure to ban this book from their local library. Bell seems to ascribe to that funny creation theory that there was a big bang, but it was God who made the big bang. I’ve always thought that was the funniest of all the creation accounts, the agnosticism of creation, if you will.

In addition, the middle of the book is a less than scholarly treatment of quantum mechanics that can get a bit cumbersome. If you already are familiar with quantum physics, it’s a bit boring. If you are overwhelmed by science, it’s a bit heady. All the same, it’s a trendy summary of some recent developments in physics which is fun…but it does drag on.

It’s a great book, and one I will reach for a lot in the future for people who are struggling to believe in God, His existence, or His place in an ever changing world of new discoveries. If you are a Bell fan (guilty here…), or already  then some of the material will be repetitive, but for most normal people, this will be a great book with fun information and encouraging words to help us follow God wherever He leads.

Here’s some money quotes to remember for later:

  • p.2, “And then there are the latest surveys and polls, the ones telling us how many of us believe and don’t believe in God and how many fewer of us are going to church, inevitably prompting experts to speculate about demographics and technology and worship style and this generation versus that generation, all of it avoiding the glaring truth that sits right there elephant-like in the middle of the room. The truth is, we have a problem with God.”
  • p.7, “…have suffered great pain in their young lives, and the clean and neat categories of faith they were handed in their youth haven’t been capable of helping them navigate the complexity of their experiences. And so, like jilted lovers, they have turned away. God, for them, is an awkward, alien, strange notion. Like someone that they used to know.” (cue Gotye)
  • p.15, “What I’ve observed is that while we want more of a connection with the reverence humming within us, we often don’t know where to begin or what steps to take or what that process even looks like.”
  • p.18, “I believe God is with us because I believe that all of us are already experiencing the presence of God in countless ways every single day… I believe God is for every single on of us, regardless of our beliefs or perspectives or actions or failures or mistakes or sins or opinions about whether God exists or not.”
  • p.19, “…when I talk about God, I’m not talking about a divine being who is behind, trying to drag us back to a primitive, barbaric, regressive, prescientific age…”
  • p.41, “Neils Bohr said that anyone who wasn’t outraged on first hearing about quantum theory didn’t understand what was being said.”
  • p.93, “Certainty is easier, faster, awesome for fundraising, and it often generates large amounts of energy because who doesn’t want to be right?”
  • p.99, “Great effort, then, is often spent trying to prove that that God even exists, which can, of course, fail spectacularly.”
  • p.150, “…at the heart of Jesus’ message is the call to become the kind of person who is for everybody.”
  • p.179, “There’s a church near where I used to live that did a survey of its congregation, asking how important people’s spiritual lives were to them. Spiritual lives? as opposed to their other lives?”

And a couple promotional videos that Bell produced that contain ideas from the book:

Back at it!

Gotta lot of stuff to write about on the old blog, so I’ll be pumping out some more content in coming weeks. Been through a disturbingly busy season in my life, which is not the best way to live my life, but got some help and have been putting things in order – having way better quiet times and feeling more alive.

Plus, I finished Rob Bell’s What We Talk About When We Talk About God and what else is there to blog about but Rob Bell! And if I mention Rob Bell a lot, I get a lot of blog hits! So all sorts of strangers from Uzbekistan can read my opinions on Rob Bell. Rob Bell.

So, this is just a weird lead in, to remind me, when I read through my blog in 2104 as to why there was a stark gap for a couple months. Here’s some random thoughts that don’t deserve their own posts but I am just loving right now –

  • the best part of american idol this season is watching Nicki Minaj whenever Mariah Carey speaks. Those two seem to be really getting along!
  • If JT’s Suit and Tie and Britney and Will.I.am’s equally terrible song are going to be our summertime radio hits, I’m going to need to upgrade my spotify to listen to it in the car….
  • I can’t wait for the Heat-Spurs game coming up soon. If the Heat win, they have a bonafide chance of running to 33 (and sweeping the east in the play-offs)
  • I got to play basketball with grown men last week for the first time in two years…it was awesome! Just love playing ball.
  • I think Peyton Manning wins NFL MVP next year, and gets another Super Bowl too. I also think the Jets should sign another QB, because 4 just isn’t enough depth.
  • Stuff and Things
  • I’m actually excited for the new Pope Francis and the hope that people have for some real changes to the Catholic Church – too many kids have been victimized and it has to be dealt with.
  • I’m thinking about hiding everyone of the people I am friends with on facebook so that I can have actual interesting conversations with people, and not always have the preface, “did you see what I (or someone else) posted on facebook?” In other news, I am carrying printed out pictures of my food to show people, since that’s what’s socially appropriate these days.
  • I say GSP rolls over Diaz this weekend

Rath, Strength Based Leadership

Tom Rath and Barry Conchie wrote this as a leadership follow up to the Strength Finder 2.0, which is also available from Gallup Press. It’s a leadership development tool that follows the philosophy of leading from one’s strengths for maximum impact. This book builds on this pattern so that teams can be formed that are greater than the sum of the parts. Though it seems like a thick book, most of it is reference material and there’s less than 100 pages of actual text to be read. It really is a great resource, though the leadership styled strength finder online test that comes with it doesn’t produce the same level of reports that the original 2.0 version does. I bought just one copy of this text and several 2.0 books for the group I was doing this test with, which gave more in depth and personalized insight for the participants.

The real development that is found in Strengths Based Leadership is the dividing up of the strengths into 4 areas of leadership, which allows for simpler building of teams that will be complementary. (As a side note, it’s no surprise that the majority of my strengths were categorized in the “Strategic” domain.)

If you lead people, this little group of books can be a great encouragement and affirmation tool and will help you to place people in spots where they can shine and contribute in an energizing way, and actually love the work that they do!