Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing

There are Cokeheads and Pepsi addicts.

No wait – there are people who like Coca-Cola and people who like Pepsi.  I am a Coke guy.

I have fond memories, as a younger lad (ah, late 80s), of Friday nights at The Incredibles' house.  My parents would go out to dinner or something with Mr. and Mrs. Incredible and my sister and I would stay at their home with their children.  We’d feast on cheese pizza from Pizza Hut and throwback a couple two-liters of that marvelously fizzy and sweet Coca-Cola.  Thankfully, this happened after New Coke was on its way out of society’s door.

I didn't like New Coke and I’m convinced I still wouldn’t.  It's like Diet Coke but worse.  Drinking New Coke, you know you’re getting something different than the “normal” Coke, and usually newer versions of things are better, right?  Instead, the experience is more like being told you're going to get Double Dragon II for Christmas and you assume it’s going to be for the NES but instead it’s the lame Tiger version (yes, something like this happened to me a couple of times).

Thing is, as Christians, we tend to do this with the Bible.  We’ll read books, we’ll listen to sermons, we’ll read commentaries, go to conferences, go to church, but rather than directly indulging in the sweet effervescence of the Bible, we gulp down this “New Coke” of everything else related to the Bible instead of reading the Book itself.  I did this for the last 6 years of my life.

From 2005 to earlier this year I esteemed myself for studying under such venerated authors of Christian lore and doctrine as C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning, A.W. Tozer, Oswald Chambers (especially), and John Piper among others.  I felt like I needed the guidance of these “Super-Christians” because there was no way I could understand it on my own. 

The Bible is full of “God” stuff, right?  “Holy, holy, holy,” “Verily, thou shalt be smitten for missing the esoteric point,” “Sanctifidispencovenantalization” – you’ve got to get all that crap or you’ll screw it up and think you’re saved but really won’t be or you’ll somehow do the Christian thing wrong.

But you know what I’ve discovered?  It’s really not that complicated.  Plus, we already have everything we need to understand.  It’s the reading, knowing, then doing that is difficult.

Now, granted, the Bible is a big book – it’s one comprised of 66 books!  It can be a little intimidating.  But just start off in one of the Gospels – I recommend John – and as those little footnotes and cross-references pop up, look ‘em up and later read more from those sources. 

And sure, listen to sermons, go to church and to conferences, be in community with other believers and read books.  But do your own daily Bible reading.  For one thing, it’ll make church a lot less boring.  For another thing, there are some really great stories in there.  And they’re true – they’re all real – that makes life a lot less boring. 

Just start off with maybe 15 minutes a day.  If you’re so inspired to take notes, fine; if not, fine.  There is no verse that says, “Thou shalt take notes” though it does help you get a little more out of it the more involved you are in the reading.  But just start it off simply.

Read it as it is – a book.  And realize, this is where the fantastical, the supernatural, the mysteriously spiritual reveals itself through the words of normal people, like you and me, for normal people, like you and me.

Give it a whirl and see what happens.

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