I’ve mentioned a few times about my Christianity, and even posted a review on a previous piece of Christian literature. Some time last year (before Christmas), I made a commitment to go on a sort of religious journey.
While in the Navy, I got frustrated pretty quickly by people in charge saying what they wanted to say without regard for the standards. “You’re uniform is UNSAT,” or “That’s not how WE do things.” I don’t think that issue is unique to the Navy, and I assure what I’m describing wasn’t in violation of any standards, more an misunderstanding of them. Most of the time, it was well meaning people trying to establish what they thought was right. My problem with it was that I don’t want to stand behind my rank or my seniority. I want to stand behind the standards.
In Christianity, that standard is The Bible. I decided to start with the New Testament as that is the new covenant between God and humanity.
Why did I do this? Honestly, I want to be a better Christian, and, in my opinion, the best way to do that is by going directly to the source. Now, I can’t read the native language of The Bible, but I can read the version I have.
I read the New International Version of the New Testament. I’m currently reading the Old Testament, but that’s a conversation for a later date. Now, imagine my surprise when some said that version “wasn’t the best.” You see, this is part of my frustration. The biggest problem with religion and the Bible is the habit people get into of discussing what perspective or what version was best. If the United States Navy can create one, single Standards of Operating Procedures, I’d think my Lord and Savior could create one Bible everyone could agree on.
I’m simply ignorant. This whole journey started as an effort for me to do more to build a relationship with God. I’m not smart enough to know which Bible is “right” and which church is “best.” I have this silly idea the my role in life is to live as close to God as I can, and I figure anyone doing that is on the right track. We’re all human, so I figure none of us is perfect.
This is a story about my journey with my faith. It is my testimony about my efforts to know God better. You are welcome to read whatever version of The Bible you wish. I’d be MOST interested in the opinions of someone who’s read The Bible in its original language, as there’s less room for errors in translation. What I will not appreciate is anyone simply posting comments on how “wrong” this Bible is or how “much better” your church understands it than I do. I freely admit my ignorance, but I’d appreciate perspective and insight, not backhanded ridicule because I don’t read your version of a book we should all agree on as the standard for this particular faith. I will also not appreciate anyone using this post as ammunition against other faiths or persons. I am me. When I die, I’ll be judged by God. He’ll judge me and everyone else. I TRY to live in His name as well as I can. I’ll neither judge anyone else nor pretend to know anything I don’t.
The other reason for reading The Bible? Well, you see, I grew up in a strange neighborhood. I had a lot of people throw quotes from The Bible at me in a sincere effort to help me understand why, exactly, I was destined to be dammed. I had to have been about 13 at the time, and even to this day I wouldn’t necessarily argue. What’s the point? I’m not God, so I have no say on my admission into his kingdom other than to do my upmost to live in His name. The thing that dawned on me after my time in the Navy is that, a LOT of people are willing to tell you “what The Bible says,” but how many of said people actually read said scripture. In order for me to understand my faith more, in order to speak intelligently and ask the right questions, I felt it my duty to start at Matthew and work my way through the book of Revelation. It’s a start of a journey I mean to continue. I’m looking for answers from a source I know I can put my faith in. Churches, like the one with the man who enjoyed stopping me on my way home from school every day so I could better understand the reasons for my damnation, are full of men. I don’t necessarily begrudge them their belief, but I trust The Bible, the Word of God, more than anything else. (I will admit this doesn’t mean I’m completely prepared to call this a historical document. I don’t wish to start an argument on the subject. This post requires a fair, open, and honest commentary with the context and honesty necessary to have intelligent discussion.)
Well darn, I guess I have to touch on one issue this may bring up. While I’m not ready to deny or accept The Bible as a complete historical record, I have no doubt in my heart (and you’re again welcome to your own beliefs) that Jesus lived. He was born of the Virgin Mary and died on the cross for my sins. There are still other aspects and details I am simply far to ignorant of to make an educated decision on.
What I learned:
First was that the first books of The Bible are different perspectives of the life and teachings of Jesus. They’re called, as I understand it, the gospels. Each book offers a different perspective of these moments, with some other events focused on more than most. These were the books I felt the most reward in reading. That’s not to say the rest of The Bible didn’t have an impact, but for a man seeking a closer relationship with God, I highly recommend he read the testimony on the life of his son.
Next is the book of Acts, which set up the church and described the Holy Spirit. I watch online sermons recommended by a dear friend, and that church has gone over Chapter 2 of that book quite extensively.
The rest of the book are letters. Testimony from the Apostles about religion, faith, sin, temptation, and walking with God. I found a good many of these comforts. It’s pretty hard to get wrapped up in your own drama when you’re reading about a guy in prison who’s about to be executed.
What I still need to learn:
Well, yeah, I read The Bible, but I read it, out loud, straight through, one time. This doesn’t make me an expert. Heck, I could express to you the idea of my favorite passage (I write to you, dear children), but I couldn’t quote it directly nor tell you what chapter and verse it was. (Pretty sure it’s 2 John. Maybe 12?) That’s when my Navy training came back.
Any former service members (still) reading this? Can you quote any policy? Can you tell me what article in the UCMJ relates to alcohol related incidents? I can’t. Heck, I teach PA and visual policy, and I still can’t do much more than name the two instructions. I don’t think of The Bible as some book you read and then put down saying, “Yep, I got it!” No, it’s a reference book. It’s something to turn to when one needs guidance. It’s a way to learn and better understand my faith. I expect to do a great amount of study. I’m a man of faith, and I’m a man of science and research. I’m of the opinion that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
I’m not writing this to say, “I read The Bible, so now I’m saved.” In fact, as I understand it, reading The Bible, while good, isn’t required. It’s a charging station for the heart. And this is what I found most valuable. I’m a very mortal man with very real temptations and vices. I find any who claim they don’t have such are probably guilty of lying. Rather than avoid the FACT that I sin, I’d rather acknowledge that fact. However, since I’ve started this, I have more strength in matters of Faith.
I described temptation to a friend of mine like a song. It’s a catchy, beautiful, loud melody. Imagine, if you will, that haunting, beautiful, horrible song taunting you, just in the background of your mind. It’s at my weakest moments when the song cranks the volume to 11. The Bible is a metaphorical pair of noise reducing headphones.
To keep the metaphor, life happens when I pull those headphones off, and that song of temptation (and yes, there is a trilogy I plan to write using this same metaphor) never goes away. Neither does the song of God. The challenge is me. I choose what I listen to. I choose what I play in my mind and hear. The more I listen to the Word of God, the less I hear that other song. Being me, I’ll admit I hear more of the bad song than the good. It’s the rhythm of jealousy. The beat of ambition. The staccato of fear. The bass of pride. The crescendo of lust. I’m surrounded by that song.
Playing quietly, if I block out all the other songs, is a lovely, single violin. It’s haunting. It’s humbling. It’s beautiful and hopeful. It’s love without bias or condition. It plays most strongly when I read the word.
I’m going to finish reading the Old Testament. Then, I’ll begin deeper study. I’ll cross reference religious material and facts. I’ll ask questions. I do so to feel more certain. I do so to understand. This is my nature. Whatever I do, I’ll never stop seeking until I feel I truly have that understanding. This was just the first step.
Thank you for reading,