Unlike my normal Sunday message, this one's going to do a little bit of bopping around. First up:
My contribution to the Fifty States of Pray blog hop by Mark Koopmans is in the can and will publish Christmas Eve at 12:30 AM. I'll have a link there so you can go read some of the other entries- prayers and hopes for Christmas in the coming year.
Next up, I want to "clear the deck" as it were, on the Duck Dynasty thing. I have read the article, and I came away with these three thoughts. First, I find it highly disingenuous for gay groups to attack ANYONE speaking their mind in a public forum, when they feel its acceptable to force business owners to cater to them despite the owners' personal beliefs. "Christians should just shut up, A&E has the right to fire anyone they want," they say, and that's not discrimination. But a Christian cake shop owner had to close their business because they did not want to serve an openly gay couple, and that refusal to serve IS discrimination. I have had it way past up here with gay advocates crying that they are "marginalized", that they are simply "trying to be heard against the opposition of the nation's 'dominant religion'", but the truth is that they are just like the atheists- they don't want equality, they don't want fairness, they want to be the ONLY voice heard. Second, I think GQ told their reporter to be the biggest ass he could be, so that he could give Phil Robertson his say and still make him look stupid. My question to you, Mr. GQ "reporter", do you REALLY talk like that in public? Frankly, Phil is a much better Christian than I for even putting up with your presence in his home. Third, I think that was A&E's plan all along as well- give the "hick Christians" a show so the world can see how stupid Christianity is; but it took on a life of its own, because (surprise to A&E) not everyone thinks Christians are stupid. They got caught with their pants down when it became a success, and now they are desperately trying to not look like idiots for having a show with people who don't back down from their Christian values. Not near so funny now, is it, A&E?
Just a couple side notes more on the subject. I sincerely hope that Willy and the rest stand by their dad and walk away from the show as soon as contractually possible. And as for Cracker Barrel, who practically tripped over itself trying to get Duck Dynasty gear out of their restaurants: So much for those old fashioned country values, eh?
Finally, and what would be the core of today's message. Those who have read along these last few months know that this basically started with my tasking myself to read three chapters out of each book of the Bible in turn every night, and praying to see the theme as the week went on. And I'm sure most of you surmised that that particular way of doing things went up in flames some weeks ago. Let me boil down how things such as this happen.
You start with the knowledge that the best way to keep up your faith and/or ministry and keep sin at bay is to stay in the Word. Sometimes, though, that concept becomes ambiguous and life around you has a much better shot at knocking you off track. So you go out and get the latest devotional, or put yourself on a reading program that can be quantifiably measured (as I did). And at the start, it really helps you make a dedicated effort.
But the thing is, some areas of some books easily lend themselves to 3-chapter-a-night reading. Story chapters in the historical books, dramas like Ruth and Esther; even cup-of-coffee-and-alarm-clock ones such as Leviticus and Numbers, can be easily pored through on that basis. But try that with John's Gospel, or Romans or I Corinthians, and try to get anything out of it.
So then it becomes a chore; and pretty soon, you hit a night you had something else to do. Missed nights become like Lay's Potato Chips, and pretty soon you're feeling like the guy who chased out the demon, tidied up his soul, and then the demon came back with ten buddies. And you don't feel worthy. You ignore your Bible, avoid making eye contact with God, skip Sunday Messages... or just don't feel real good about them when God takes over your keyboard.
Somewhere in the middle of "Thou shalt read this much" and, "Where did my Bible get off to", there is a middle ground. Somewhere in between, "I must examine every jot and tittle" and "ForGodsolovedtheworldHesentHisonlybegottenSonthatweshouldnotperishbuthaveeternallifeAmen", there is a place we can actually benefit. There are a lot of factors wedged in-between Be Faithful and Be Flexible. And that's why we should start any Bible time with prayer- not only for enlightenment, but wisdom in what is necessary. Jesus told us it's a narrow road- that way, we know we're on the right track. The part about "the mountain above, the abyss below," He figured we'd catch onto on our own.