Pathways to Joy

Have you ever been on holidays to a place you’ve been many times before and then one day suddenly found yourself ‘over it’ and never going back?… I think Busselton and Albany have fallen into that category for me. Every time we go we end up repeating the same cycle of activities and while they aren’t bad – I’m getting bored – verrry bored!

Lately Bible reading has fallen into that same space for me. I’ve been finding the Bible familiar, repetitive and dull. I understand how to do reflective/meditative reading, but my mind just seemed to be getting in the way. If I started reading John 1 I’d immediately be remembering big ideas – the incarnation – trinity etc and my brain would say ‘got it’ and then I’d struggle to stay with any kind of thought process. Either that or I would find the text being sub-conciously shaped into a sermon – again not the point…

I said to a friend ‘I’m finding scripture oh so very boring lately. I feel like I’ve ‘been there done that’ and I’m tired of going back to see if anything has changed. (I’ve also said to the family that I am ‘over’ Busso/Albany holidays – we need to go somewhere new and find some adventure)

Then as we were planning our second teaching series for the year at QBC I found myself saying ‘hey lets attack a major prophet! Let’s go after Isaiah, or Jeremiah or Ezekiel!’ I was feeling adventurous…

To give that some context, if I were honest I’d say I have carefully dodged any significant engagement with these fellas in my 28 years of Christian leadership so it was time to ‘man up’ (or whatever gender neutral term you prefer) and give this a go. The major prophets feel like dense, difficult to read books, not at all written in such a way that people can easily engage and follow. They are long, often repetitive and without a strong grasp of the context they may not even make sense.

So let’s do it… yeah…

We chose Isaiah – because he felt like the ‘sanest’ of the prophets. And if we got stuck then there were plenty of ‘inspiration texts’ to rip out of context and fall back on (wings of eagles and the like…)

So back in Feb I began reading Isaiah – reading – re-reading – reading and then reading again. I think I must have read the whole book 12 or 13 times just trying to get a handle on it. I was right – it wasn’t an easy read at all. My paper Bible was highlighted and annotated meaning that at some point in my life I obviously did take the time to engage with this book – but I have a feeling it was in days of Vose seminary c.1997, so I had forgotten quite a bit.

As I read I saw themes and ideas developing, I found myself buying some new commentaries and spending hours on the net asking questions, emailing my old theology lecturer and reading various people’s ideas on the different texts. I began to understand the setting of the book and as I did the message made more sense. I found myself flipping across to Kings and Chronicles, Ezra and more to get a better handle on things. This was good stuff…

Then last night around 11.00pm I found myself getting stuck into Lamentations – quite literally with the thought of ‘ok so what the heck is this about?’ And it was great. I read it through and enjoyed its content.

I chuckled as I finished – who would have thought I’d be reading Lamentations late on a Friday night – just for the fun of it?… For the last couple of months I’ve also been telling people how much I’ve been loving reading Isaiah and loving the stretch that its been to preach it.

The Bible has actually started to grab me again. And as I realised what was going on I remembered how much I enjoyed my time studying theology at Vose. I know plenty of people viewed theology as a dry subject and one that sucked the joy and vitality out of faith, but for me its always been the opposite.

My heart and head are connected and when my head is engaged and stirred my heart begins to come alive. I knew this – but it had been a while since I’d bothered to do anything about it. It was largely laziness that had me in a trap of working with the familiar and being able to use it in teaching easy enough, but losing some of passion that goes with fresh discovery.

So tomorrow I get to teach thru Isaiah 40 – and not just the juicy bits at the end that make for good preaching – but the context of exile and the hope of restoration, the nature of God and the rather sad and predictable shape of our own character.

As well as marinating in Isaiah, I’ve downloaded Rob Bell’s 4 part series on Leviticus – heck – if we’re going to get adventurous then lets see how we go in the ‘Simpson desert’! Those MP3s are now my staple ‘go tos’ in the car as I drive and I’m enjoying hearing his take on this most curious of books.

So – if you’re in the same boat – bored – sick of the same groundhog experience then maybe it’s time to go an adventure to somewhere new and to really go there – to live there, rather than visiting as a ‘tourist’ and checking out the highlights. I feel that’s what I have done in the last few months and in the process accidentally activated that part of me that finds joy in the Bible.

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