Forgiveness, according to Tim Keller (and Jesus)

I am reading Tim Keller’s very awesome book, The Reason for God. It is very good. This morning, I was reading the chapter about the cross and why we can not remove it, as some people want to because it is so offensive. He talks about how the cross relates to forgiveness. I had to restrain myself to keep from just highlighting everything. Here’s what I did highlight.

(p. 196) “Forgiveness means refusing to let them pay for what they did.”

“Forgiveness must be granted before it can be felt, but it does come eventually. It leads to a new peace, a resurrection. It is the only way to stop the spread of the evil.”

(p.198, talking about Dietrich Bonhoeffer) “His forgiveness was costly suffering, because it actually confronted the hurt and evil before him. His forgiveness was not what he called (in The Cost of Discipleship) ‘cheap grace.’ He did not ignore or excuse sin. He resisted it head on, even though it cost him everything. His forgiveness was also costly because he refused to hate. He passed through the agonizing process required to love your enemies, so his resistance to their evildoing was measured and courageous, not venomous and cruel.”

(p.199-200) “Forgiveness means bearing the cost instead of making the wrongdoer do it, so you can reach out in love to seek your enemy’s renewal and change…Should it surprise us, then, that when God determined to forgive us rather than punish us for all the ways we have wronged him and one another, that he went to the Cross in the person of Jesus Christ and died there? As Bonhoeffer says, everyone who forgives someone bears the other’s sins. On the cross we see God doing visibly and cosmically what every human being must do to forgive someone, though on an infinitely greater scale. I would argue, of course, that human forgiveness works this way because we unavoidably reflect the image of our Creator.”

Ephesians.432.Tree(p.200) “Jesus Christ is God. God did not then, inflict pain on someone else, but rather on the Cross absorbed the pain, violence, and evil of the world into himself…this is a God who becomes human and offers his own lifeblood in order to honor moral justice and merciful love so that someday he can destroy all evil without destroying us.”

“There was debt to be paid-God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born-God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.

“We have seen how human forgiveness and its costliness sheds light on divine forgiveness. However, it is divine forgiveness that is the ultimate ground and resource for the human. Bonhoeffer repeatedly attested to this, claiming that it was Jesus’s forgiveness of him on the Cross that gave him such security in God’s love that he could live a life of sacrificial service to others.”

In The Eye of The Beholder?

Perspective.5.19.15I was watching a lecture by  Dr. RC Sproul for my Ligonier class, wherein he talks about interpreting the meaning of the Bible. He uses the analogy of art. He says that when we look at art and try to interpret it, we are trying to discern what the art means, that is, what the artist meant when he made the art. Then he talked about the movement in the art community to put emphasis on the meaning that the viewer took from the art, some artists even going so far as to say that they didn’t put any meaning into the art and that the only meaning is what the viewer brings.

That whole thing is so weird to me. How could you make a painting or a sculpture or a poem or whatever without having some intention or feeling or meaning behind the creation? If you were to do that, it seems like it would only be done as some kind of statement on your own perception of the randomness/meaninglessness/futility of life. But isn’t that meaning that you invest into the art? I don’t believe that God thinks that life is futile or meaningless and I don’t think he creates that way, neither his creation nor his word.

Source: http://www.jackson-pollock.org/convergence.jsp#prettyPhoto
Source: http://www.jackson-pollock.org/convergence.jsp#prettyPhoto

But then I started thinking about how when you look at a piece of art, let’s say, Jackson Pollock’s Convergence, just for example, you may be able to discern what the author intended this piece of art to say. You will probably also see some personal meaning in it. It will make you think of things. If you see a meaning in the artwork and the author doesn’t intend it, does that make it invalid or incorrect? Does it mean that meaning isn’t there? Maybe one person just sees chaos. Another might see the streaks of orange and yellow as excitement and happiness. Another might see the little pops of blue as representing little birds and go off on a Disney style fantasy. You could show this painting to 50 or 500 different people and you might get as many different interpretations. The artist could not have imagined all these different meanings that people come up with. I mean, if I look at this very descriptive painting and it reminds me of my first apartment in college and, therefore, I think it is a statement on overwhelmed exhaustion, loneliness and fear. Jackson Pollock couldn’t possibly have foreseen that, 22 years before I was born. (Just for the record: it does not remind me of my first college apartment. It doesn’t remind me of anything. Pollock looks like drop cloths to me.)

But God could. God could bring me to this painting because he knows that in my heart I need to work through the loneliness and fear of my first year of college.  God could know what the paint scheme of my first apartment was like and find a ridiculous painting and show it to me. Heck, if he chose, God could make Pollock paint that ridiculous thing in those particular colors for no other reason than that I would see it 63 years later and make a huge breakthrough on some of my post-teen angst. And he isn’t limited to just the one or two meanings. He could, simultaneously, know the heart of every person that would ever see this painting, know what they are going to need to see and put it in there so they could see it.

When we study a painting, we ask, “What does it mean?” and there can be many answers depending on what each of us sees or what the painter had in mind when he painted it. But when we talk about scripture and we ask “what does it mean?” Dr. Sproul says we are trying to discover what the words literally mean. When he talks about what each of us sees and what it “means” to us, he would call that application or significance. So any given passage can only have one meaning, but infinite applications and significances. Can they all be valid? I believe the answer is a qualified yes. God can not lie or sin, so he could not imbue scripture with a meaning that would do either of those things. But, assuming that the applications we see are consistent with scripture and God’s character, then, I say, yeah. God could have put all that significance in there.

When Matthew wrote his gospel, he couldn’t have known that I would be thinking about God’s attention or that I would be writing this almost 2000 years later, any more than Jackson Pollock could know the color scheme of my first apartment. But God did. And every single word of the Bible was written from their inspiration for ours. God knew every devotional, every blog post, every journal entry that would be written, every struggle revealed, every reassurance needed, when he inspired the scripture. He knew it all at the beginning of time, before he even knit the stars together. When Matthew wrote this, when Jesus said it, God knew that I would be sitting in this chair at my dinosaur of a laptop, quoting it.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
-Matthew 10:28-30

How can we not be constantly overwhelmed by a God this awesome?

Denying Ourselves Daily

I guess a thing I am supposed to take away from my study of the life of Moses is about idolatry and not worshiping other things. I just keep getting these messages about casting down idols. Right now, I’m struggling with whether or not I should get some rabbits from someone that I don’t want to get them from. It’s embarrassing to even admit it, really. It’s not even that I don’t want to see her or talk to her. It’s not even that then my rabbits would be from her farm and descended from rabbits from her farm. The problem is that getting successfully bred rabbits from her just reminds me that she has successfully bred rabbits and I have not, when it comes down to it. It’s ridiculous, really, because it probably won’t even happen. But it does give me something to think about.

This plays into my own idolatry in two ways, actually. First, I idolize my competency. I only like to do things that I am good at. To have God call me to things I am not good at or to want to do things that I am not good at, is grating. And to be reminded of my incompetence in this way is particularly…annoying. The issue isn’t insecurity, like she’s better than me. The issue is my second idolatry problem: me coveting her freedom to spend her time learning about homesteading and gardening and whatever she wants. And I don’t have that freedom.

My first and foremost focused interest must be God and his word. I can not replace any of my study time spent on that with time spent on gardening or rabbits. I have to do my Bible study and writing first because those are the things God has called me to. For me, that is what obedience looks like. Then, after I do those things, I can start on my own interests. If I run out of energy (and I often do), then that is that. And, some days, I am just so jealous of people who don’t have to make that choice, that sacrifice of what they want on the altar of what they are called to. I am jealous of people who can spend their time and money and energy on things that they choose, things that are fun or interesting or whatever, never thinking about duty or obedience. And I am jealous of people who don’t have to make that choice because they have the energy for work and hobbies.

But I have to repent of those desires. I wouldn’t really trade my eternal reward for hobbies and fun on earth. I wouldn’t rather be selfish and focused on what I want. I want God to take those desires and that love of the world from my heart. And when he does and I focus on him and his word, I usually end up getting enough time on my interests to satisfy me and I manage to treat other people better and myself.

Source: http://annaangela.com/surrender-god/matt-16_2425/
Source: http://annaangela.com/surrender-god/matt-16_2425/

It brings home, though, exactly what a demand Jesus is putting on us when he says we must give up our lives and deny ourselves, what that can mean. Sometimes the sacrifice is not about big things, sometimes it is about the littlest things, the minute to minute choices we make every day. How those things speak to and from our heart.

This is one of those places where the focused interest is both a blessing and a curse. I love that I can get interested in something and the more I learn about it, the more I want to learn about it. The more I read the Bible and the more I know about it, the more I want to know and the more I want to read it. I want to spend hours and hours and hours doing it. Once I get through a chapter or two, I want to read 20 more. But, the more I focus on one thing, the less I want to focus on anything else. Everything else gets to be more boring. Which is awesome except for when it’s things I need to focus on in order to be more effective in my life.

I guess, though, if I have a choice (and I do), I will choose to make God the thing that I want, the thing I want to get deeper and deeper into, the thing that I want more and more of. Everything else can be a chore.

More importantly, when I think about what all this tells me about God, it’s amazing. The God we worship holds the galaxies that he created in place with his word. That same God wants to be so integral in our lives that everything we do and say would be an act of worship. He had the Israelites camp all around the Tent of Meeting so that they would always be able to see the cloud that he was dwelling in. He set up the sacrificial system so that all of their lives would revolve around it. He instructed them to talk about his word and his commands constantly. The Creator of the Universe and Time wants to be in every minute detail of us. I can think of no reasonable response but to put him there.

In Autism: I Crash Because I’m Spoonie

Source: http://ift.tt/1ETZM1A
This is really what I look like crashed. Except, not a dog. (Source: http://ift.tt/1ETZM1A)

Sometimes my own spooniness (if you are unfamiliar with spoon theory, you can read about it here) is such a part of my experience that I forget about it. I plan my activities and think about how much I can do each day automatically. If one of my kids has a dentist appointment later today and I have to go to BSF tonight, I know that I better not plan anything for Tuesday. If I have to leave the house, I know I can’t do too much in the house or I will be dragging butt through whatever I have to do out of the house or, if that’s not an option, I will be on my back all day the next day. I think, after my aversion to people looking at me and my multiple anxieties and phobias, this is the thing that affects my day to day life the most.

Before I knew about autism, I didn’t handle it very well. I didn’t know what was going on, so I just beat myself up for being lazy. Nothing was ever good enough. I never did enough for my head but my body always felt like I was falling apart. And every few days to two weeks, I would fall apart emotionally. I would either just start yelling at everyone, give everyone the silent treatment or break down and cry for a day. Or check out completely for weeks at a time. Between a bit more maturity (for me and my life/kids) and some self-awareness on my part, I am usually conscious enough of my own state that I don’t run myself to the point where I just meltdown for days. I only get to the point of shutting down usually, which is hard for me and requires consideration on the part of my family but, generally, leaves no permanent casualties. But that has taken 40 years to get to.

For the most part, these days, I have a lot of things under control, I think. I still don’t do as much as I would like. I hate how much time I have to spend…resting. It’s like a bad word in my head. I don’t want to rest, I want to use every minute, but I don’t because I know what that gets me. Sick and crazy. So, it annoys me, but I go slow and I only do so much. My house isn’t as clean as I want, but my kids get more of my spoons that way. It’s a constant balancing act. If I know I have to cook dinner for friends coming over, I keep that in mind all day long. And I don’t cook the day before or the day after.

This week, I think I forgot how many spoons mental things take. I spent much of my time this week doing mental things: writing, reading, Bible study. I started my Ligonier class yesterday. And I felt pretty good. Then this morning, I was eating breakfast and I just couldn’t focus on my Bible reading. So I thought, “well, maybe I’m tired. We have stayed up a little late the last two nights. Maybe I just need a nap.” I never used to sleep during the day. I just hated it because I ended up groggy. I think I was actually crashing because now I can lay down, watch one episode of something, maybe sleep, maybe not and feel better when I get up. It’s like vegging out meets napping. Veg-napping.

That is not what happened today. That’s what I wanted to happen, but that is not what happened. Today I laid down to watch a couple episodes of The New Detectives and the next thing I know I’ve been asleep for two hours. And then I roll over and toss and turn my way through another two hours. And it’s so hot. And that, for me, is crashing. It’s almost like being sick, except I’m not. I just feel tired and a bit cold and unfocused and then I lay down and fever sleep all morning. (You know, fever sleep? Hot and sweaty no matter what the temperature it is, you want a blanket but then you’re too hot. You half wake up every twenty to thirty minutes. You have crazy dreams that don’t make any sense and, even though, you slept for hours you are more tired then when you laid down and now you are sore and sweaty.) Then I’m groggy all afternoon. And before I know it, I’ve lost a day.

That’s what happens when I run out of spoons. That’s why I didn’t get to the next lesson of my Ligonier class. That’s why I didn’t get any photos taken or any planning done or any housework besides washing my sheets done. I am pretty lucky I got my Bible reading done and got my kid out to the mall. That’s why I’m writing this at 7 pm and I couldn’t think of anything else to write about.

And I still feel bad about it sometimes. I think, I am just as capable as anyone else. I should be able to do just as much as other people do. There are women out there who do everything that I do and they have jobs. Could I have a job? Maybe. But I don’t think I could do anything else. I think 40 hours of effort is all I have and I can either spend it the way I do now or on a paying job. Which would be far more stressful for everyone. Would I like that more? Maybe. Would I prefer to not have to guard my energy like a precious commodity? Probably.

Then I wonder. If I could just be going and going and going 24/7, or even 16/7, like some people do (and if I could, I would), would I ever just sit around and talk to God? Would I have read the Bible straight through a dozen times in 7 years? Would I give most of my life to a volunteer organization and help kids study the Bible? Would I spend any time thinking about God or reading or studying his word? Or would I be so busy going and doing and cleaning and making and cooking that I never even thought about anything?

Casting Down Idols

Casting Down IdolsBack in November, we were studying Exodus 32 which is the part where Aaron and the Israelites make the Golden Calf and worship it as their God. So we were talking about fearing people more than God (that’s why Aaron made the Golden Calf) and casting out idols the way Moses did when he discovered the Israelites worshiping the calf. If you don’t remember, he burns it up and then grinds it to dust, throws it in the water and makes them drink it. Hmmm, gross.

(A little background here: Numb3rs – the TV show about crime fighting brothers? one an FBI agent, the other a mathematician? –  is one of my focused interests. It’s one of the things that soothes me when I’m stressed. And I  was pretty stressed around that time, so I was kind of perseverating with it. That is, I would watch it all day, every day as I went about my other business. And when I got through the whole series, I’d start over again. I can watch about six to ten episodes a day, depending on how much time I have to spend out of the house, and I get through the whole series in about 1 1/2 to 2 weeks. And then I start over again. From September, when school started, until the other Evanses moved out in March, I think I watched the whole series…enough times to lose track, but I would guess more than ten times.I did take a few days off in October and I watched the Property Brothers for a week, but I got twitchy and went back to Numb3rs. Anyway, back to my story…)

So there’s an episode of Numb3rs with Neil Patrick Harris, it’s called Prime Suspect. He plays a mathematician, Ethan Burdick, who thinks he has solved Riemann’s Hypothesis and some people kidnap his daughter so that he will make them a number sieve so they can break high level internet encryption and hack into government databases and such. (Spoiler alert, spoiler alert! Run away now if you don’t want to find out what happens at the end of this 10 year old episode of a tv show that’s been off the air for five years!) In the process of trying to distill it to a simple algorithm, he realizes that he hasn’t actually solved Riemann’s and they have to fake out the kidnappers to get his little girl back. At the end, they bring his little girl home and there’s this big reunion and it’s beautiful.

So, at one point, Charlie Eppes (“the math brother”) goes over to Ethan’s house to help him work on the algorithm and they have this conversation:

Charlie: I told her I’m here to help you.

Ethan: Yeah, but you’re not. You’re here to talk your brother in the door. And, in case you haven’t realized it, I don’t have time to waste.

Charlie: Look, I think you’d be better off letting him do his job because he’s actually pretty good at it. They’ve figured out that the kidnappers want your proof on the Reimann Hypothesis, your work on number sieves.

Ethan: Well, that’s not exactly the stuff of Sherlock Holmes.

Charlie: They’re going to use its capabilities to break internet encryption. Which means they’ll expect you to distill it down to an algorithm. That would be a huge job under normal circumstances, but, Ethan, with the time limit, and the stress of your daughter’s…

Ethan: Yeah, I know that. I know, okay? 15 years of work, my life’s work, and I have to process it into an algorithm for people who don’t give a damn. To give it up like that, it’s like a part of me is dying.

Charlie: I understand that.

Ethan: More than that, more than anything, I need to get Emily back.

Charlie: Let me help you. I’m not suggesting a collaboration. It’s obviously all your work.

Ethan: I don’t care about that anymore. It’s…I need your help.

Charlie: Then you’ve got it.

Now the thing you have to understand here is that his daughter, Emily, was stolen by a clown from her birthday party, while her dad was working in his study. His window faced the yard and he didn’t notice because he had his headphones on, doing math. So, once you get over how ridiculous it sounds when I say it like that, you can see that he is wracked with guilt.

But what really struck me when I was watching this back in November, was how, in the space of a few lines – from “15 years of work” to “I need your help”  – you can see his idol fall. You can almost see it hit him in that pause right before he says “I need your help.” The realization that he lost his daughter because he was too focused on solving a math problem. He was so wrapped up in doing more work, bigger work, better work, finishing his paper for publication; that he never noticed his daughter getting kidnapped. He made being a great mathematician the most important thing and now, she may die, because he can’t actually do the math they are demanding from him.

It’s gut-wrenching. You can see him realize that he has sacrificed his real love to the idol of his work. It’s a perfect image of how we put other things ahead of God; sacrificing him on the altar of our earthly loves, rather than the other way around. And sometimes we don’t realize it until it feels like it is too late and God is gone. But here’s the thing. God is never gone. Matt Maher said it like this:

If you’re scared that you don’t matter
If you’re lost and you need to be found
If you’re looking for a savior
All you’ve gotta do is turn around.

No one listens to you anymore and your heart is broken down
You don’t need to move, love has come to you
All you’ve gotta do is turn around.

And Jesus said it like this:

So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
-Matthew 15:20-24

Black-and-white Thinking, Black-and-White Salvation

imageI love reading people’s testimonies. I don’t know if it’s because I’m nosy or I’m just fascinated with seeing how other people’s brains work and how other people’s lives play out. After I heard a few, I realized that my testimony was a little bit different than a lot of the stories I was hearing. Not vastly different, but a little different.

A lot of people can tell you when they were saved or when they knew they believed. Some people can get it down to a time in their life or an age or an event. Some people can tell you the exact moment.

I can tell you the exact moment I was saved. I was sitting in my sister’s living room, checking my email. I got an email from Eli telling me about a blog post he had just read here. It’s about the commonalities between faith and science. The bit that That Weird Kid liked was this:

Science thrives on open questions. So does faith rightly understood. Both are journeys into the unknown with the lightest of equipment: a metanarrative or mathematical formula for a compass, and a few fixed reference points on a map that may, who knows, be turned upside down.

That is an awesome line, it is true. But I had never read Psalm 8 before so I went to the linked translation of it here. What blew my brain and changed my world was this line: “What is man that you mind him, children of dust that you note them?” Suddenly, my eyes were opened. And I heard the still small voice and I knew.

But here is where I think my story gets a little different than a lot of people’s. I notice that when a lot of people get saved, they talk about how they suddenly knew that God was real or they realized they were a sinner and they needed to be saved. Some people have a profound realization of how depraved they are and how they can not save themselves. Some people realize they have no other hope of escaping Hell and they must cling to God. Some people have told me about how they suddenly understood the immensity and glory of God’s grace and they wanted it.

What I realized in that dark, sleep-deprived moment, was that the Bible is true. I heard, just as if God had whispered it in my ear, “The Bible is all all true. It is my word, it is my heart, every bit of it. And I love you. Because you are dust.” And I think that is the only redemptive moment that would ever work for my autistic brain. I get broken by my own smallness and the immensity of God’s love, but, first and more importantly, I get the foundation of basic truth to build back up on.

In my black and white thinking, things are either true or they are not. Ideas, opinions, feelings can be outside the realm of verifiability, but, actual physical things and facts: they are either true or not. I am willing to admit that I was mistaken about what is true in the face of better information, but a thing can not be both true and false at the same time. I live by that. I love that. It means that I can build my foundation of what the world is on some premises that I know are true. Then I can check new things by those things. If they are in conflict, I figure out which has better authority or support and I go with that one.

imageSo God gave me a premise to build my whole world on. The Bible is true. It is a God-breathed love letter to his people and therefore, it has the highest authority. It trumps all. If there is a question, the Bible wins. And God knew that that would be all I would need.

Am I a sinner in need of redemption and Jesus’ saving sacrifice? Oh, yeah. But I believe that because I believe the Bible is true.

Do I love grace and want as much as possible for myself and everyone else? Oh, you betcha. But I believe that because the Bible is true.

Do I believe that Jesus died and rose on the third day? Do I believe that Jesus is the culmination of God’s redemptive plan? Do I believe that Heaven is real and I would rather be with God for eternity? Yes, yes, and yes. But I believe all that because I believe the Bible is true.

I have heard people say that autistic people are too concrete, too unnuanced in their thinking, too black and white to understand God or religion or spirituality. But I know that’s not true because God saved me and my concrete, visual, unsubtle, unnuanced brain.

Jesus looked at them and said,”With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
-Matthew 19:26

OlBloPoSum, Day 2: First 10 Bible Highlights

A Bible open to Ephesians 3-6. There is a moderate amount of highlighting, underlining, miscellaneous markings and marginalia.
The Bible in question. I did open to this page, but I couldn’t pick just one highlight, so I used it for the picture.

Okay, so it’s only day 2 and I already missed a day. Maybe if I called it something different? Nah, it’s probably just me. I think I did this exact same thing back in November for NaBloPoMo. Anyway. Here’s a post for yesterday: The First 10 Bible Highlights I find in one of my old Bibles. This is a blue thinline NIV with a lime green belt. I’ve had this Bible for awhile and I used it for BSF to study Acts, Genesis and Matthew. Then they switched to the NIV 2011, so I did, too.

One of the study methods I use when I don’t really feel like or I can’t read large sections of text is to just open one of my old Bibles at random and see what’s highlighted there. Sometimes the verses move me again. Sometimes there are notes there and it is interesting to see what I was thinking months or years ago. Sometimes there are no notes and I wish there were because I have no idea why a certain verse would have stood out to me. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to turn that into a post. Even if it’s not fun, you can never go wrong quoting the one who is more quotable than anyone.

1. Jeremiah 33:37-41 “I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them; I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”   In the margin, I wrote “NEW covenant.” Well, yeah. I am sure I underlined this, at least in part because it contains the promise: “They will be my people, and I will be their God.” That is my favorite promise of God’s. It’s just this amazing picture of the relationship between us and God; we belong to each other. He is happy to be our God. Reading it again, so many other promises jump out to me: he will give us singleness of heart and action, he will make an everlasting covenant with us, never stop doing good to us, inspire us to fear him. He will rejoice in doing us good. And he will plant us in the Promised Land with all his heart and soul.  Amazing.

2. Acts 19:20 “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” This is a highlight from when we were studying Acts. My note says “because they stopped being hypocrites”. Our sinfulness can never hinder God’s work but it can make us less effective at the part we are called to do.

3.Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Ah, the Shema. I love this. I am pretty sure it is highlighted in every single Bible I own. The only reason I don’t highlight it when I am reading is if I don’t have a highlighter. Or it’s already done.

4.Deuteronomy 6:13-15a “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you…” I don’t know why I highlighted this that particular day, but this is good stuff. I always like to see God’s wrath (” a jealous God and his anger will burn against you”) sitting next to his love (“the Lord your God, who is among you“).

5. Deuteronomy 8:2 “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” It’s interesting that I highlighted this before (when did I have a grey blue highlighter? Maybe it’s faded…) This verse stuck out to me when I was reading it just a few weeks ago again. I was reminded that God lets us struggle so that we may be tested and humbled; so that he (and, more importantly, we) may see if we will follow his commands. So we can see if our faith is real. It occurred to me that this is one of his greatest gifts.

6. Nehemiah 6:9 “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’ ”  I believe this was from when I was doing a Kay Arthur study on Nehemiah, Ezra and Esther. I guess I thought it was just good advice in general: when everyone is against you, pray.

7.Isaiah 56:6, 8 “foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him…I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” Redemption for the Gentiles. Why wouldn’t I highlight that?

8. Hosea 2:21-23 “ ‘In that day I will respond,’ declares the Lord- ‘I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and the oil, and they will respond to Jezreel. I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”  More promises, I guess. Promises are always good. So is redemption. And grace.

9. There’s not really any highlights on the page that contains Matthew 15, but across the top of it I have written “Everything you do is because of one merciful “DONE.” I think my Teaching Leader said that in a lecture last year, and it’s awesome.

10. 2 Timothy 1:7-10 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.