Thursday, August 5, 2010

From Reading to Writing to Living

Over the years, my writing style has changed from being aloof and preachy to very personal. But lately I am finding myself judging an essay or blog post by one simple standard – is this Old Testament or New Testament stuff? Now I’m not talking about if the subject material comes from a date of BC or not. I’m evaluating my writing style compared to the Old Testament and New Testament writing styles.

I got the idea from a book I’ve been enjoying this summer, The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey. It has an odd title, so let me explain to those who aren’t familiar with Yancey’s work. The author tells why the Old Testament is relevant to New Testament believers and the answer, in large part, is because this is the Scripture Jesus learned as a child and taught from in His ministry. But that summary of the book is really too over-simplified. The author also explains how different the two testaments are based on their biographical content.

In the New Testament we learn mostly about the lives of Jesus and Paul; two people we as Christians should strive to follow. The life of Jesus tells the story of the Perfect Man, living a sinless life, loving everyone, sharing the gospel. Paul, while not perfect, exhorts us to be like Christ and gives us many lofty ideals to strive after in our personal lives. He is also presented as a guy who has it all together. He is obviously following after Jesus, picking up his cross daily, witnessing, loving, and being the guy we’d like to think we are on our “good” days.

But from what we know of his life in the New Testament, every day was a “good” day for Paul. I’m not talking about being beaten and imprisoned as good, but I mean that every day he was out there doing the Lord’s work – and THAT is definitely a “good” day. The problem is that we don’t have a “good” day every day; I think a lot of folks might think these “good” days are maybe once a week or even once a month. In other words, the distance between the example of Jesus or Paul and my life is huge! And at times it can be very discouraging . . .

So Yancey suggests that when this happens, it is time to turn to the Old Testament and be reminded of the more “real” characters from that part of Scriptures. Here you’ll find Adam and Eve eating forbidden fruit, Noah getting drunk after getting off the Ark, Abraham lying about Sarah being his wife, Jonah trying to outrun God’s call to Nineveh, and the sad story of David – a man truly after God’s heart, being guilty of both adultery and murder. You’ll also find companionship in the Psalms, where you can read how real people dealt with fear, loneliness, anger, depression, abandonment, and disappointment.

So, it sounds like a great book, doesn’t it? But maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with my writing style. Well, the truth is that my writing can sometimes sound a lot like Paul, exhorting myself and my readers to follow Christ and live holy lives. And this is all well and good, and we should each strive for that. But wait -- that’s what the New Testament is for! No one needs ME to come along and tell them what God has already revealed in His Word.

However, I do think my writing can be an encouragement to someone who may be suffering from depression or disappointment, maybe they’re feeling angry with God over a nasty turn their life has taken. I get that, I understand, I’ve been thrown some nasty curve balls too! I think the purpose of my writing should be to be more “real” for you, my readers, whoever you are. I need to be willing to let down my guard and be honest with you about my own shortcomings. I think as Christians we run around with masks on, trying to look like Perfect Pauls on Sunday morning -- never letting anyone see the hurts and struggles we’re having.

Thanks to Yancey’s book, I’ve become more thankful for the imperfect “real” characters of the Old Testament. And I’d like to not just write more “real” but also live more “real”, letting the people around me know when I’m hurting or struggling. In other words, take off the Perfect Paul mask. . . So now for a little peek at the real me . . . I’m changing, The Lord is working in my life and I am so very thankful for this. And this means I’m not the same person I was this time last year; not by a long shot. I went through some intense biblical training last fall with Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project. As a result, I’ve quit going to a church that was 20 miles from home and now I attend a church just 6 houses away. I made this change so I wouldn’t have any excuse to not be involved with mid-week programs, and it’s working like a charm! The problem is, I may be over-extending myself. I’m pretty much exhausted – very, very happy, but also very tired. As a result, I missed my Wednesday blog deadline this week. I failed to use my time wisely. I’m not perfect. But I still want to do more, including bringing The Truth Project to this new church. I'll be leading the 13-week course starting a week from Tuesday -- so please pray for me that I’ll get organized, focused and set proper priorities.

There’s also the problem of people; there are persons in my life who need my attention, and I’m failing at times to be there for them. I’m letting distant old friends be ignored while working to build new friendships in my new town and I’m struggling with knowing if that is even biblical or not. And lastly, there are those around me that are hurting, really hurting and I’m still recovering myself from a spring with 7 funerals to attend. At times, I don’t know if I have the strength to reach out and help them when I’m hurting too. I know my over-activity at church is partly denial, not wanting to stop long enough and think about what all those lives meant to me and how much they are missed. But I need to connect with these folks, the ones who are here, still hurting – and let them know I’m really here for them, with more than “just” my prayers and cliché platitudes. So again, I need your prayers – that I will make time to do that which is truly important and have the right words to say for those around me. Thank you . . . !

James 5:16
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Journal Suggestions:

Describe how a book or movie has changed your worldview.

Which parts of the Bible are your favorite / least favorite and why?

Want information on The Truth Project? visit

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