The King James Version: Its history and worshipers.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 January

Most of the verses I’ve memorized were in the King James Version.

Hey, it’s my upbringing. The hundred English translations of the bible that exist nowadays? Weren’t around back when I was a kid. (’Cause I’m old.) There were maybe a dozen in the Christian bookstores.

But my church used the KJV, so that’s largely what’s in my brain. I later got a Good News Bible, then a first-edition New International Version, but when it came to memory verses my Sunday school teachers drilled us in KJV.

In adulthood, for a lot of years I memorized verses in NIV. (Which they’ve updated three times since, so sometimes my memory verses won’t match the current NIV. Thanks guys.) After I learned biblical languages I translated the verses myself, and memorized ’em that way—which makes it particularly tricky to look up memory verses in my bible software. Google isn’t so picky.

Still, I quote KJV a lot, which surprises a lot of people. They assume I’m more postmodern than that (whatever they mean by that term; I know what I mean by it) and supposedly a with-it guy like me should think the KJV is old-timey, or out of date, or not reliable. That once I left my Fundamentalism behind, I also abandoned the KJV.

Nope. I still like the King James Version. It’s a good translation.

Not infallible, of course. None are; there’s no such thing as an infallible translation. Yeah, there are people who insist the KJV is the only God-inspired infallible bible; not just the only reliable English bible, but the only reliable bible, period. I’ll deal with them in a bit.

But y’notice whenever I write about the scriptures and use my own translation, I usually compare my translation to the KJV. For four main reasons:

  1. I am not declaring my translation superior to every other translation. We’re supposed to compare multiple translations when we study the bible. So since I gotta use some translation, why not the KJV?
  2. For better or worse, the KJV is still the English-language standard for bibles. Including for pagans—if you don’t use proper KJV “bible English,” they’re gonna think you’re paraphrasing.
  3. Loads of Christians, especially Evangelicals, still consider it the authoritative translation of the bible. Even when they like other translations better; even when they think it’s out of date.
  4. Nearly every translation has, when in doubt or whenever possible, deferred to the way the KJV originally put it. They’re not gonna stray too far from that version.

“The bible says…”

by K.W. Leslie, 13 January

I grew up hearing preachers, pastors, and Sunday school teachers use this phrase: “The bible says…” before directly quoting a verse, loosely quoting an idea, or claiming to refer to an extapolated “biblical principle” as found in the scriptures.

It’s a common phrase among American Christians. I don’t know who coined it. I know evangelist Billy Graham used it constantly; whenever he’d visit the San Francisco Bay Area, local TV stations would broadcast his services, and his sermons would include more “The bible says” in ’em than Raisin Bran has raisins. “Your friends might tell you such-and-so, but the bible says…” and again, sometimes a direct quote, sometimes a general idea, sometimes what he considered a principle.

And sometimes, sometimes, an address. “John 3.16 says for God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son….” But it was rare.

In my experience the reason preachers say “The bible says” is because they don’t know those addresses. Or maybe they do, but it’d take ’em a minute to recall them, and they don’t wanna spend a minute on stage, or at the lectern or podium, trying to remember precisely where in the scriptures Jesus or Paul or Isaiah or David said that pull quote.

Or even whether it was Jesus or Paul or Isaiah or David. Plenty of statements of “The bible says” would be, more accurately, “Jesus says.” In fact wouldn’t it be better to state it’s what Jesus says? You realize there are people out there who don’t care what the bible says, but they do generally approve of Jesus, and if you told ’em Jesus said it, they’d perk up and listen.

And that’s most of the reason I’m writing this piece. Using “the bible says” instead of referring to the author, or to the specific scripture address, is generating a lot of missed opportunities. We now live in a world where most people don’t care what the bible says. (Or at least are willing to confess they don’t care; in previous generations they hypocritically pretended to care, but didn’t really.) But they may care about Jesus. Or the apostles and prophets. What they say holds more weight with people… even though the apostles and prophets did write the bible.

Disciples: Students of Jesus.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 January

The word disciple gets flung around Christianity all the time. Usually we mean by it “an acolyte of Jesus.” Someone who’s interested in him, fascinated by him, hangs around him, name-drops him. Not so much someone who actually does as he teaches; just someone in Jesus’s vicinity. A fan.

Yeah, some of you are going, “Waitaminnit, “disciple” does not mean a fan. It means someone who personally follows him. A devotee. A student.”

Oh I’m fully aware of how the popular dictionaries define the word. But let’s be honest: What Christians actually mean by the word, is demonstrated in how we live it out. Some of us “students” of Jesus are exactly like those kids who sit in the back of the room, sometimes asleep, perfectly happy to get D’s, and absolutely outraged when they find out they’re not just failing but getting held back. Somehow they never saw it coming. They figured attendance should count!

Yes, disciple means a follower, but we’re talking literal followers: They were in the crowds surrounding Jesus wherever he taught. God forbid he actually challenge them; they’d balk, and leave.

John 6.60-66 NRSVue
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who were the ones who did not believe and who was the one who would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”
66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

Or they take the more usual way out: Christianism. They follow popular Christian culture. Jesus, not so much. They imagine what they’d like Jesus to be like, project their dreams and wishes all over him… and sometimes even quit following that image when he doesn’t come through with those wishes precisely the way they want ’em.

Does this sound extremely cynical? Honestly it’s not. I’m describing all disciples; not just Christian.

Disciples should be close followers of the person they consider their master. Fans of self-help experts, fans of radical economists, fans of this or that philosophy, fans of this or that theologian. Whether a martial arts master, a philosophy or religion teacher, or any sort of authority; we should expect a “disciple of Ayn Rand” to do exactly as she’d have them do. And they don’t.

Too many of them are trying to make a name for themselves, and sometimes the way they do it is to say, “Well my master says this, but I think…” yet they insist they still follow their master. Christians are hardly the only ones with loopholes. Rand fans seldom do exactly as she’d have them do. (Like quit their jobs and go hide in the mountains till the economy collapses.) Plenty of Rand fans claim to be Christian, but Rand’s philosophy is largely based on her devout atheism, her full-on Mammonism, and her pure contempt for Christian teaching. She’s in no way compatible with Christianity… and yet many of her disciples insist they’re totally Christian. In reality, they compromise either Rand or Jesus. Or both.

There are self-described disciples of all sorts of gurus. And every time these gurus push their disciples farther than they’re comfortable, they step back, reassess, and frequently go their own way. Yet they still claim to be a disciple, ’cause they’ve invested a lot of money, time, and pride in calling themselves disciples. Yeah, it’s hypocrisy. But hypocrites are everywhere.

Happens to Jesus; happens to everyone. We really shouldn’t be surprised it happens to Jesus so often. He’s got exponentially more fans than any other guru. And no, it’s not a failing with Christians; it’s a failing with humans. It’s life.

The real Esther.

by K.W. Leslie, 11 January

The story of Hadassah bat Abihail, or as she’s better known אֶסְתֵּר֙/Ester (KJV “Esther”), is told in the book Purim, written in Late Biblical Hebrew in the late 300s. When it was translated into Greek for the Septuagint, the translators rightly renamed it Esther. It’s actually a secular book: It never mentions God in the Hebrew version, although the Greek translation inserted God and a few prayers in several places, and those additions are either titled Additions to Esther and made a separate book in the apocrypha, or simply left in Esther as part of the text—like you’ll find in Roman Catholic bibles.

Esther takes place in Iran, which back then was called Persia. It’s about a Persian vizier named Haman bar Hammedatha, who attempted to destroy all Persian Jews, but was unexpectedly stopped by the shah’s Jewish wife. Thus it explains how the Jews celebrate the day of Purim in memory of that event.

Thing is, popular fiction of the last 30 years tries to reinterpret Esther as a romance. It’s the story of a young Jewish girl who wins a beauty contest, falls in love with a handsome king, and courageously stops the vizier from killing her uncle. Oh yeah, and all the other Jews. It’s a love story. A romance novel. Disney will make an animated movie of it yet.

It’s no such thing, but that hasn’t stopped various Christians from spinning it that way big-time.

The Jesus prayer.

by K.W. Leslie, 10 January

In Psalm 123.3, the psalmist asked the LORD to show grace to his people. Quote it? Why sure.

Psalm 123.3 NRSVue
Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.

The Septuagint translated it ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς, Κύριε, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς/eléison imás, Kýrie, eléison imás, “Mercy on us, Lord, mercy on us.” And in Jesus’s Pharisee and Taxman Story, it comes up again.

Luke 18.9-14 NRSVue
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other, for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

To this day you’ll hear Christians pray a variation of Psalm 123.3, plus the taxman’s prayer, and Jesus’s name for good measure. We call it “the Jesus prayer.” It’s a really simple, really popular rote prayer. Probably the simplest.

Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, υἱέ τοῦ Θεοῦ (or υἱέ Δαυὶδ/“son of David”) ἐλέησόν με, τὸν ἁμαρτωλόν/Kýrie Yisú Hristé, yié tu Theú, eléisón me, ton amartolón. “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Sometimes it gets shortened all the way down to Ἰησοῦ ἐλέησόν, “Jesus have mercy,” or Χριστέ ἐλέησόν, “Christ have mercy,” or Χριστέ ἐλέησόν, “Lord have mercy.” But no matter the form it takes, it’s the “Jesus prayer.”

It’s similar to what Bartimaeus shouted at Jesus to get his attention. We pray it for the same reason. We want mercy.

Mark 10.46-52 NRSVue
46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Good for him. ’Cause when we pray the Jesus prayer, sometimes we get naysayers who object to our praying this prayer. “Stop the vain repetitions. Mt 6.7 KJV That’s not how Jesus taught us to pray!”

Actually it is how he taught us to pray. In his story of the unjust judge, he taught us to be persistent, to cry out to God day and night, and not lose heart. Lk 18.1-8 This is that. It’s the prayer equivalent of a knock on the LORD’s door. It’s not a vain repetition; we’re not praying it for no reason. (Better not be, anyway!) We’re knocking so the door might be opened to us. Lk 11.9 Sometimes we gotta knock more than once. Sometimes we gotta get loud. But when we mean it, we’ll get his attention. He’ll hear. And respond.

Epiphany: When Jesus was revealed to the world.

by K.W. Leslie, 06 January

6 January is Epiphany, the day which celebrates how Jesus was revealed to the world.

True, the Christmas stories depict that taking place with angels, sheep-herders, and frequently magi; and Jesus’s dad dressed as if he’s ready to travel, for some reason. But technically he was revealed at the beginning of his ministry—at his baptism, where John the baptist identified him as God’s son.

John 1.29-36 The Message
29 The very next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and yelled out, 30 “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world! This is the man I’ve been talking about, ‘the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me.’ 31 I knew nothing about who he was—only this: that my task has been to get Israel ready to recognize him as the God-Revealer. That is why I came here baptizing with water, giving you a good bath and scrubbing sins from your life so you can get a fresh start with God.”
32 John clinched his witness with this: “I watched the Spirit, like a dove flying down out of the sky, making himself at home in him. 33 I repeat, I know nothing about him except this: The One who authorized me to baptize with water told me, ‘The One on whom you see the Spirit come down and stay, this One will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 That’s exactly what I saw happen, and I’m telling you, there’s no question about it: This is the Son of God.”
35 The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. 36 He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb.”

In eastern churches which still follow the Julian calendar, Epiphany’s gonna wind up on 19 January, and sometimes it’ll be called Theophany.

The third-century Christians began to celebrate Jesus’s baptism in January. Why January? Two theories. One is Jesus’s baptism had to take place when the Jordan was in flood, otherwise there wouldn’t be enough water to immerse him. So January’s a good bet.

The other theory is the early churches divided up the gospels into a year’s worth of readings. If you start with Mark, you get to the baptism story in the second week of the year. So since that’s the week they always read the baptism story, stands to reason they’d celebrate Jesus’s baptism that week. This theory’s much less plausible, because why would they start with Mark when historically we start with Matthew? Plus the civic year back then began in March, not January.

Regardless, ancient Christians picked 6 January to celebrate Jesus’s baptism. And since Jesus was also sorta revealed as God incarnate at his annunciation, Epiphany celebrations began to include all his birth stories. Till the early Christians realized Jesus’s birth needed its own celebration. Thus the 12 days before Epiphany evolved into the separate celebration of Christmas.

Yep, that’s how it happened. I know; pagans like to claim we Christians took over all the pagan winter solstice festivals, and shoehorned Jesus’s birthday into that. Didn’t work like that. Any Christian can tell you: We don’t swipe pagan holidays. We swipe Jewish ones.

We still don’t know when Jesus was born, or baptized… and it doesn’t matter, right? We just need a day or two to celebrate. Or 12. And for the longest time Epiphany also lasted several days. Usually eight.

Epiphany also marks the end of Christmastime. Bummer.

Really don’t wanna go to church.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 January

There’s a guy whose blog I’ve been following for years. In the past three years he’s been really amping up his message to everybody to quit their churches. Stop going, he says. Just stop; stay home. You’ll be a lot happier.

And I get it. There’ve been times in my life where I didn’t wanna go to church either. I didn’t try to drag people away from church along with me, like this guy; I figured if you like church, you do you, but for me, nah.

For the usual excuses.

I HAVE ANOTHER CHURCH. I moved about 100 miles away from home for college, and for a semester I used the excuse, “I already have a church.” I didn’t care for any of the local churches I had visited. And whenever I went home, I did go to church, with my family. But when I was at school I figured it was okay… if I missed 10 weeks of church services.

CHAPEL COUNTS. Plus my school had daily chapel services. So they became my other excuse that semester. Me and a lot of other students.

DON’T GOTTA GO EVERY WEEK. When I wasn’t in church leadership, I found it was really easy to skip a Sunday morning here and there. Sometimes skip a lot of mornings. There are some Christians who only attend a service once a month… and of course there are those twice-a-year Christians who only attend Easter and Christmas services. If that; nowadays they can watch services on YouTube.

“I have freedom in Christ, y’know,” was my usual excuse for inconsistent attendance. And I do… but in context that passage is about freedom of conscience, Ro 14 not the freedom to be irresponsible.

I CAN DO THIS ON MY OWN. Years before, when I wasn’t at school, this was my excuse for a few weeks while I was really annoyed with the people of my church. ’Cause I totally can do this stuff on my own.

  • Pray?—no problem.
  • Sing worship songs?—easily done.
  • Learn from fellow Christians?—I have their books; I have the internet; I got content.
  • Study the bible?—sure.
  • Tithing? Well yes, I could donate money to myself for “religious” expenses; or I could give that money to charity. Or I could spend all of it at a Peets one afternoon while I sat there reading some Christian book; wouldn’t that totally count?
  • Take holy communion? I could eat saltines and grape juice on my own, and call it communion. But the vital element in communion is, y’know, actual communion—with fellow Christians. So that makes it tricky.

As are all our other rituals which require the participation of other Christians. Plus evangelism: Once you lead someone to Jesus, where do you take ’em so they can be taught Christianity and mentored? Well I could do it myself… but that’d mean I’m starting a church, right?

There are plenty more excuses. Some of them get pretty complex, and as a result they kinda merit whole articles, because it takes a little time to take these excuses apart. But for many a Christian, any excuse will do.

Do you know what Christ Jesus really teaches?

by K.W. Leslie, 04 January

Ask anybody what Jesus of Nazareth did for a living, and nearly all of us will say, “Oh, he was a carpenter.”

More precisely Jesus was a τέκτων/tékton, a “craftsman, artisan”—someone who made stuff. Sometimes in wood… and sometimes in stone. Nowadays Israel has a lot of trees, but that’s because of a serious reforestation campaign the nation started decades ago. Thousands of years before that, the trees had been cleared to turn most of the land into farmland, so by Jesus’s day, not a lot of wood. Lots of stones though—good thing for archaeologists. So Jesus worked with wood, stone, whatever; in general he made stuff. Makes sense; he’s the Creator y’know. Jn 1.3

So he was what we’d nowadays call a contractor. Mk 6.3 Family business, apparently; he did it because his dad did it. Mt 13.55 But by the time we read his teachings in the gospels, that was Jesus’s previous job. He left that job and took up a new one: Jesus was a rabbi. A teacher. Jn 1.38

Yeah, most of you already knew Jesus was a rabbi. Even those of who who responded, “He’s a carpenter.”

So why is everyone’s first response typically, “Ooh! Ooh! Carpenter!” Because it’s kinda obvious he’s a teacher, but “carpenter” feels like more of a trivia question—“Okay, what was Jesus of Nazareth’s little-known vocation? What’d he do for a living? ’Cause the teaching didn’t pay.” Actually it did pay: Rabbis took donations. Usually of food; sometimes of money, sometimes free labor. Some of Jesus’s followers included the women who financially contributed to his teaching, Lk 8.2-3 and also did stuff for him… and got to stick around and listen to what he taught. They were functionally his students, same as his Twelve. (Or at least that’s how Jesus sees them. Lk 10.38-42 Sexists, not so much.)

But “Jesus was a carpenter” actually comes from the statement the folks of his hometown made to belittle him: “Hey, why’re we even listening to this guy? Isn’t he just the handyman?” It’s exactly the same as if the pastor of your church invites a guest speaker to preach, and instead of it being some famous bible scholar it’s the janitor… and the janitor presents you with a truth so challenging, so contrary to your beliefs (yet entirely biblical!), your knee-jerk response is to find any excuse at all to demean him, so you pick on his blue-collar job. “Who’s this guy? Who does he think he is?”

Subtly, a lot of antichrists still maintain this bad attitude about Jesus: He‘s “just” a carpenter. He wasn’t really Christ; that’s some hype his followers made up.

Regardless, “rabbi” is maybe the second thing we list on Jesus’s résumé. Sometimes we remember “king”—when we’ve not presumed that’s merely his future job, and doesn’t apply yet.

Well. I use this example of “Jesus was a carpenter” to point out how frequently we get Jesus wrong. Even on as something as simple as his job description. We think we know him. But we make lots of little slip-ups on very basic data, and repeat the common clichés instead of quoting bible. We trusted what other Christians told us, parrot it, and never bother to double-check it: “Wait, where does it say that in the bible?” Or “Is that what this verse means?”

Ironically this is exactly what a rabbi does for a living: Train students to ask such questions. And we, Jesus’s present-day students, need to ask these questions.

Religious. Not “spiritual.”

by K.W. Leslie, 03 January

Happy new year; or since it’s 3 January, happy 10th day of Christmas. At the beginning of each year I figure it’s a good idea to remind readers of the point of TXAB, i.e. the Christ Almighty Blog. And remind myself too: I’ve seen many a blog which began as one thing, evolved into another, and it wasn’t an improvement. God forbid TXAB warp into yet another blog where somebody’s ranting about immature Christian misbehavior.

This blog is about following Jesus the Nazarene, our God-anointed king and Messiah, or Christ. The first of his followers became known as Χριστιανούς/Hristianús, “Christ-followers,” or Christians, because that’s what we’re meant to do, or how we oughta be identified: We follow Jesus. We teach what he taught, believe what he tells us, do as he says, and grow good fruit.

Except some of us don’t follow Jesus… yet claim the title anyway. Because we’re fans. We really like Jesus, claim to love him (or at least love him as we’ve re-imagined him), and immerse ourselves in popular Christian culture. And thereby become Christianist. Such people presume they know Jesus—really well, they’ll insist—and don’t really. As we can see by the fact all their fruit is “fleshly.”

There are so many misbehaving Christians, it’s no wonder various Christians insist, “No, don’t call me Christian; I’m a Christ-follower. Call me that.” They want it very clear they’re honestly trying to follow Jesus; they’re not just in it because “Jesus” conveniently dislikes all their political foes, nor for the spiritual perqs.

And the Christianists might claim they’re totally following Jesus too! (Certainly they’ll claim it whenever somebody does something they consider sinful.) But y’know, whenever you drop an authentic God-encounter on ’em, either they immediately recognize their errors and repent… or they lose their minds in horror and offense, and insist this has to be some kind of devilish trick. Yep, given the opportunity they’ll commit straight-up blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which is why God doesn’t drop that on them as often as he could; why push ’em into sin? But we needn’t even bring up their near-blasphemies. Fleshly works prove ’em as frauds quite effectively.

Well. Once we quit following the crowd and follow Jesus whithersoever he leads, we call this being religious.

Getting hungry for God. Literally.

by K.W. Leslie, 31 December
FAST fast verb. Go without food [for God].
2. noun. A period of going without food [for God].

Whenever I talk to people about fasting, their knee-jerk reaction is “No food? No food? No FOOD? You’re outa your [profane adjective] mind.” After all, this is the United States, where a 20-ounce soda is called a “small.” In this nation, the stomach rules.

This is why so many Christians are quick to redefine the word “fast.” My church, fr’instance, does this 21-day “Daniel fast.” I’ll explain what that is elsewhere; for now I’ll just point out it’s not an actual fast. Nobody’s going without food. They’re going without certain kinds of food. No meat, no sweets. But no hunger pains either.

Fasting, actual fasting, is a hardcore Christian practice. The only things which go into our mouths are air and water. In an “absolute fast” you even skip the water. Now, we need food and water. If we don’t eat, we die. And that’s the point: Push this practice too far and we die. But God is more important than our lives. That’s the declaration we make when we fast: Our lives aren’t as important as God.

Why do we do such a thing? For the same reason Jesus did it, when he went to the desert for the devil to tempt him. Mt 4.1-2, Lk 4.1-2 Fasting makes people spiritually tough. It amplifies our prayer and meditation by a significant factor, which is why it’s a common prayer practice. When we deprive our physical parts, and shift our focus to the spiritual parts, those parts get exercised; they get stronger.

We reject our culture, which teaches us we shouldn’t deprive ourselves of anything. We recognize God, not food, is our source of life. Our minds get better attuned to God’s will. We hear him better, because our bodies physically feel our need for him. We detect spiritual things faster. We discern the difference between good and evil better.

Yeah, fasting does all that. That is, when we’re praying as well as fasting. If you’re fasting but not praying, it’s time wasted.

Don’t get me wrong. Other forms of self-deprivation do it too. Dieting for God, or going without certain beloved things and hobbies, because God’s more important than our desires, will also achieve the same things fasting can. Just not as quickly; not as intensely. The stakes just aren’t as high. Fasting is hardcore, remember? Going without bacon, as hard as that might be for you personally, isn’t life-threatening. (In fact it’s better for your health.) But though a small thing, it’s still a sacrifice, and part of the proper mindset: “God is more important than my palate.”

Why you’re not gonna read the bible in a year.

by K.W. Leslie, 30 December

So I wrote yesterday about how people choose to read the enitre bible as one of their new year’s resolutions, and how they really oughta skip the whole bible-in-a-year idea and read it in a month. Because it’s doable, and because you’re more apt to retain and understand it if you don’t stretch it out.

But some of you won’t. I know; I’ve heard the feedback. Many of you got it in your heads a month is impossible. Or unreasonable. Or that you need the extra time to process what you read. (And okay, I’ll take your word for it you actually do meditate on what you read, and aren’t just pretending to practice a real spiritual discipline just so you can weasel out of the challenge. ’Cause I know some of you legitimately do. The rest of you, I have my doubts… but fine; you meditate.)

Likewise I know plenty of Christians with plenty of self-control, but reading is a struggle. It’s never been something they enjoy, nor do for fun. For all we know, they have undiagnosed learning disbilities. (Some of ’em have been diagnosed.) So, for the life of ’em, they can’t manage to get through the bible. It really frustrates them because they know they really should read it, but, y’know, reading.

I should point out new believers regularly claim the bible has proven a giant exception to their reading difficulties. Zealous new believers will pick up a bible, find they can’t put it down, whip right through it… and soon after, seek something else to read. Reading the bible turned them into readers! But that’s not everyone, so let’s be fair.

For those folks who don’t struggle to read, I still point out the way bible-reading plans are commonly structured, they are poison to reading comprehension. To reading retention. To natural pacing. To context. To enjoyment! They turn what should be informative and inspiring, into a chore. And people hate chores, and are happy to find excuses to get out of ’em. “Whoops, missed two readings. Oh well; guess I’ll start over again next January.” Then they don’t.

Chopping the bible into 365 segments (or 366 in leap years, or 313 if they let you take Saturdays off) is a design feature of the yearlong reading plan. This is the very thing which makes the plans terrible.