By: Linda Buskirk
Christmas is a time of retelling the story of the miracles of Jesus’ birth… Mary and Joseph being visited by angels, Mary and Elizabeth together in wonderment about their miracle pregnancies, Mary and Joseph embarking on a journey. For many people, the most precious story telling happens in children’s pageants, with little cotton-ball-covered sheep, floppy eared donkeys, shepherds in robes a bit too big, wise men with Burger King crowns, the Holy Family knocking on doors, and the triumphant angels proclaiming that God has come to live among us! Alleluia!
The Christmas Story is meaningful, hopeful, and powerful – and it’s one we know by heart. Lesser known are hundreds of meaningful, hopeful and powerful stories found elsewhere in the Bible.
I know they are there, but I don’t always know WHERE. Sometimes when I need one, I wonder… “Was that in the Old Testament, or did Jesus say that?... or maybe it was in one of Paul’s letters?”
I am taking on the Bible Challenge this year so I will be more familiar with the Bible and will be able to tell more than one story. I care about this because of this verse, Deuteronomy 8:3: “He [God] humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
Jesus quoted this very verse when tempted by Satan to turn rocks into bread while he was fasting in the wilderness. Jesus answered every temptation with quote from scripture, and the devil retreated. The Word of God is powerful, and more vital to our sustenance than food.
I pray that 2013 will be a year of spiritual renewal for me, as I gain a greater understanding of God, His character and the relationship He wants to have with me. I believe the Bible Challenge will flame this renewal each day. I also hope the Challenge equips me to tell the right story just when someone needs to hear it.
The practicalities of getting started on the Challenge entailed figuring out when I would actually read each day. Several Lents ago I disciplined myself to incorporate a prayer and study time into my day, in the early morning. I have decided to extend that time to include the Bible Challenge. I find it’s better for me to have a set schedule rather than hoping I can grab a few minutes here and there. Take some time to determine what will be the best way for you.
I also determined that I would use the schedule of readings provided by the official Bible Challenge site which are so conveniently forwarded to anyone in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana by the Bishop’s office. I selected the NIV Study Bible as the “hard copy” Bible to use for the Challenge.
Additionally, I downloaded the Bible onto my iPad, so when I am traveling I have easy access to it. My husband also downloaded a version on his phone for the same reason. We have come a long way from those huge stone tablets God carved and gave to Moses!
By now, you hopefully have received a pamphlet at your (northern Indiana Episcopal) church that outlines the daily Bible ready program. You can find more information about the Bible Challenge at http://thecenterforbibicalstudies.org. You can sign-up for the Bible Challenge on the diocesan website, http://www.ednin.org. When you do so, you will receive via email periodic words of encouragement and reminders of the Bible verses “assigned” for each week. These are really helpful! The diocese also created a Northern Indiana Bible Challenge Facebook page: www.facebook.com/edninbible.
If you weren’t really “up for the Challenge” at the beginning of this year, don’t worry or let that be an excuse. You can start TODAY. Join hundreds of Episcopalians in northern Indiana who are signed up for the challenge, experience spiritual renewal, and start telling some wonderful stories!