Favorite Scripture

 

I have spent quite a bit of time reading the Bible since my mid 30s when I went looking for God.   I have read through the entire Bible several times, and do a daily reading which usually includes an Old Testament and New Testament piece.  Yet, I am not a person who sees the Bible as a verbatim dictation from God.  God's Word?  Yes.  If I could own only a single book, the Bible would be it.  But, I find it full of contradiction and misunderstanding. Why would Moses come down from a mountain carrying commandments, one of which says not to murder, then give an order to slaughter those who were worshipping an idol?  Why does it say God is a jealous God?  Jealously springs from insecurity.  How can an all powerful God be insecure?  If it actually means God requires full devotion, why not just say that.  For me, ultimately the Word of God is Jesus.  He is the fulfillment of all that I read.  So, all that I read I filter through His life actions and words.  It can still be confusing, and the directions are not nearly as clear cut as some keep telling me, but it gives a broader perspective which has become the most important relationship in my life.      

 

"Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities!  All is vanity."

"I have seen everything that is done under the sun;
   and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind."

Ecclesiastes 1:2 & 1:14 (RSV)

 

Ecclesiastes is my favorite book of the Bible.  It could pretty much be quoted in its entirety here.  The same goes for Matthew (chapter) 6, which is my favorite piece of the New Testament.  Rather than do that, I will just summarize.  In Ecclesiastes the "teacher" or "preacher," depending on the translation, pretty much tries to experience the sum total of human activity only to conclude that "everything is meaningless."  I particularly like the translation that says "everything is vanity."  His final advice?  Just do what God asks of us, since, as our Creator, He is the one who judges it all, even the stuff we hid from the world. 

 

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to break down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace."

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

 

"Create in me a clean heart, O God;
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence;
And take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation;
And uphold me with a willing spirit."

Psalm 51:10-12  (ASV)

 

Just do what God asks of us is easy to say, and not so easy to do, if we are trying to accomplish it ourselves.  That is why I like the above verse and Psalm 23 so much.  At a funeral, I was asked to read the 23rd Psalm, and I did so in an unusual style, placing strong emphasis on every word representing God.  You see, I believe doing what God asks of us, is not so much about our own effort, but what we allow God to do for us, in us, and through us.

 

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."

Psalm 23 (KJV)

 

You might have noticed I used the King James Version for the 23rd Psalm.  As a poet, there are a few verses of Scripture where poetically, for me, the KJV has it all over the rest.

In the below verses Jesus is responding to a man who asked if He could do anything to help his son.  I like these verses because I can relate to the honesty of the father regarding his own doubts.  Questioning and doubt are ever present companions on my journey of faith. 

 

" 'If you can'?" said Jesus.  "Everything is possible for him who believes."  Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

Mark 9:23-24 (NIV)

 

Does a comma make a difference?  Well, it can.  Culturally, I would be identified as a white (with a trace of Cherokee) American Christian. My real religion, however, is Truth, as best as I can ascertain it.  So, I am not afraid to look and listen outside of the boxes.  When the Jehovah's Witnesses visit the Center, they bring some interesting perspectives.  One pertains to Luke 23:43.  Jesus is speaking to one of the thieves crucified with him.  In most Bibles He says, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (RSV)  Notice the placement of the comma after "you."  In the JW Bible, they put the comma after "today."  "I tell you today, you will . . ."  The meaning of the passage changes significantly by moving the comma one word to the right, but not the general intent.  The Witnesses ask, how can mainline Protestant and Catholic creeds declare "He [Jesus] descended in to hell and on the third day was raised" while our Bibles say "today you will be with me in Paradise?"  It is a very good question.  It is one of the many reasons I am not a literalist when it comes to Scripture.  I choose to read and experience it from a broader perspective. For instance, from a mystical perspective God transcends time and space, as well as existing within it, and we profess Jesus to be God, so such limits of lineal time become irrelevant.  I also like my brother-in-law's response.  His reaction was if you are worried about the placement of the comma, you missed the whole point of the passage. 

 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

"No one can serve two masters . . .
You cannot serve both God and money."

Matthew 6:19-21 & 24 (NIV)

 

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
 Look at the birds of the air . . .

. . . you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Matthew 6:25-26 & 30-34 (NIV)

 

The version of the final line above that I like the best reads, "Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day."  I do not know where it is from though; maybe it is a movie version. 

While I focus on Matthew [chapter] 6 a lot in my readings, there are portions of 5 and 7 which I really like as well, such as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) and the below verses. 

 

"Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."

Matthew 7:7-8 (NRSV)

 

"Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen."

Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV variation)

 

The next quote is from where the Scribes and Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus by bringing a woman caught in adultery before Him and asking what He thought they should do. 

 

When they persisted in questioning him,
he straightened up and said to them,

"Let the person among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

John 8:7 (ISV)

 

While working on this web page I ran across an article by Rabbi Rami Shapiro.  I like his criteria.  Trying to find the narrow road is not the same as being narrow-minded. 

"Before joining any religious or spiritual community, ask questions: Does it promote free inquiry? Does it promote universal justice and compassion? Does it promote healthy families and democratic communities? Does it promote compassion toward those with whom it disagrees? Does it promote the ending of fear, hatred, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism? Does it promote the health and well-being of persons and planet? Does it affirm and support your capacity to think and act for yourself? 

If you answer yes to these questions, it may be a group worth joining.  If, on the other hand, asking these questions reveals this community to be self-focused, isolationist, fear-based, demanding submission of will and the abdication of reason, claiming a monopoly on truth, decrying science and free inquiry, preaching hatred and fear of the other, and eternal damnation of those with whom it disagrees, then you are better off leaving it alone."  

 

And He [Jesus] said to them,
"The Sabbath was made for man,
and not man for the Sabbath."

Mark 2:27 (NKJV)

 

Jesus said to him,
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life."

John 14:6 (NRSV)

 

The final verse below is one of my very favorites because of its simplicity.  Many translations use mercy instead of kindness, and I have seen the words "only this" replace "but" before the three instructions, which is the way I like it best.

 

". . . and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? "

Micah 6:8 (NRSV)

 

Q&P Index   Scripture (page 2)   future link to
Scripture (page 3)
  future link to
Scripture (page 4)