The air is cool—the wind blows softly—the dogs are asleep on my lap. Finally, there is peace, a moment to myself.
As I flip through the Bible, I say “the Bible”, because it’s not “my Bible”. Strange as it may seem, there is a difference.
In my Bible, I know where everything is. I can open it to the book I want just about every time—give or take a few pages. My Bible is the one I use everyday. It has my personal notes, my thoughts, and my prayers written on its pages—a textbook and journal all in one. I even know what side of the page I will find the verse I am looking for. I know it well, too well.
On the other hand, “The Bible”, is a Bible that sits in my library of Bibles and is handy when mine is not close by. It is foreign to me, however, and I don’t know where to find anything. Before I open it, I examine it and then open up to where I think I should be. To my surprise, I am way off. If there is anything that bothers me, it’s not knowing exactly where each book of the Bible lands based on the size alone. The other problem with this is it seems so generic; a big book filled with many little books—just words on a page. It is unfamiliar, too unfamiliar.
Still flipping, I decide I want to read the book of Philippians—a book on brotherly love. Four chapters packed with wisdom, encouragement and a beautiful picture of the humility of Jesus.
Just one problem; it’s not where it’s supposed to be! Nevertheless, going to the Table of Contents is out of the question and it’s not because I’m stubborn, I’m just testing my memory:
What was that I learned when I first tried to memorize the books of the Bible?
After staring down at the pages a moment, it comes to me: God Eats Pop Corn.
G = Galatians
E = Ephesians
P = Philippians
C = Colossians
Thank you, Jesus! All I had to do was find Galatians and I was there. Now I’m ready to read. The cool breeze had a calming affect, making it easy to close my eyes for a quick prayer.
Not only was this Bible not my Bible, it was also a different translation—thus being twice unfamiliar. The translation I was reading is called, “The Message”—a reader’s version, also known as a paraphrase. It is designed for people who have never read the Bible before and want to get the “gist” of the message. In many ways, it reads like a novel--extremely unfamiliar, surprisingly refreshing.
These are Paul’s words to the Philippians:
“If You’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human. Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” Philippians 2:1-8
Wow! Very refreshing—the words jumped up at me so fast, I almost choked.
“Forget about yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
It doesn’t say it that way in my Bible. Mine says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (NKJV)
I get it. Don’t be selfish, think of others as well. So how often do I do this? And is it only after I take care of myself first? Surely, Jesus thought of himself last. In my mind, I know this. In my theology and scripture memorization I know this, but how long do I forget about myself to help others? Is it long enough?
Suddenly, I realize I have so much more to learn. As I close my eyes and ponder this amazing find in the Bible, I drift off to sleep. I’m not sure how long I slept with my dogs cuddled on my lap, but when I woke, my desire to renew my mind with a fresh reading of God’s word was stronger than ever before. I am thankful for the unfamiliar and the sweet conviction of the Holy Spirit which brings me to a place of humility before my Lord Jesus as I am washed clean by the water of His word.
There is that saying, “what I don’t know can’t hurt me.” Nonetheless, this is an example of the reverse and I have been reminded that what I know, can and will hinder me.
Sometimes when we are too comfortable, we become complacent. We have confidence in what we know, and it cripples us.
In all this I must disagree with the idea that “The Message” translation of the Bible is only good for new believers or people who want to get the gist of the message.
I am convinced that it is also good for those of us who have read and reread the Bible—especially for those of us who have a special one we call our own. You know who you are.
For all those who read the “word for word translations, it will be hard to read at first. It was for me, but once I set aside “what I know” and sat with an open heart to read the unfamiliar, the Holy Spirit had access to the deeper parts of my spirit.
I desire to have a teachable spirit, one that is open to the new things God has for me. The word of God is alive and active, it convicts, encourages, and challenges those of us who claim to follow Jesus.
I have a renewed sense of awe and wonder for God’s word. I don’t ever want to lose those warm-fuzzy feelings of when I first fell in love with my Savior.