I will never try to convince you that you need to accumulate more things on this earth. Jesus reminds us to “…store up treasures in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy.” That being said, when we do purchase items, say, a gift for mom, we can be mindful of where our dollars are going. …
It’s February, so I am on to Mark, but I thought I would share what I have been doing over on Instagram. @thestoneandtheoak, I do a running “now i know” series to share what I learn during my reading. Here is the collection for Matthew:
As Julie Andrews famously sang, “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”
My name is Adelaide. First and foremost, I am a daughter of God. I am a wife to a very strong man, a mom to three boys who could not be more different from each other, and an educator by trade.
But I have a confession. I have been raised in the church and call myself a Christian, but I have not read the bible in its entirety– not even close, really. Sure, I’ve paid attention in church. I’ve slapped my favorite verses on the wall and boy, do they look nice. I’ve even attended bible studies and done most of my homework. But how am I to understand my God or my purpose without reading the one document that will give me the answers I need?
What makes my confession even more shameful? My degrees are in literature and I have spent years in classrooms teaching English at the community college level. I have touted the importance of reading Shakespeare or Toni Morrison in their true forms and not relying of Cliff’s Notes— lest my students lose the magic and art of the language itself. I’ve impressed upon my students the importance of understanding the context of the text when reading the text itself. But when it comes to the doctrine of my faith, I have blatantly disregarded everything I believe about written texts with a passive, lackadaisical approach to consuming its truths. I’ve remained limited in my biblical knowledge, and it is high time I did something about it.
This brings me to my current mission: to read and thoughtfully consider all of the New Testament this year– by the end of November to be exact. I have created a reading plan for myself that breaks the New Testament into eleven very manageable chunks, so that I don’t set myself up with more than I can do in a thoughtful manner. The goal here is not to race through these books, but to sink into their words and let them engulf my heart.
Why the New Testament? Why not begin with the Old Testament?
I’m so glad you’ve decided to ask follow-up questions, hypothetical friend! I have made a couple of “read the bible in a year” attempts starting right at verse one of Genesis, and it didn’t work well for me. First, the style in which I prefer to learn isn’t always linear; I can’t start an essay with the first sentence of the introduction, for instance. I always write the “meat” of the essay first and build around it until my argument takes shape. I usually save the introduction for last. In the same way, I want to get at the “meat” of the bible first (the gospel). I am, in fact, aware that themes and prophecies presented in the Old Testament are important to understanding the New Testament. I intend to arrive at that understanding, but I know I will have the most success if I put the smaller goals before the larger ones. And of course, I plan on enriching my reading with trusted supplementary resources as I make my way through.
Why the Stone and the Oak?
Golly, you ask such good questions. The symbols of the stone and the oak are derived from the book of Joshua (again, in my limited understanding). In chapters 23 and 24, Joshua is imploring the tribes and leaders of Israel to make a decision: serve the Canaanite godsor serve the Lord. This is where we see the famous verse “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24.15, ESV). The people insist that they will put away their false gods and serve only the Lord. Joshua records the agreement in the “Book of the Law of God”(which I understand to be his contribution to the Bible), and then uses a large stone as a witness for this new covenant.
Joshua uses two items of fortitude, a large stone and an oak tree, to commemorate this dedication of heart and obedience. Some translations say it was a terebinth tree, but both represent strength, and so I’m going with the oak (the stone and the terebinth doesn’t trip off the tongue, does it?). I live in a very different time than that of Joshua, and if I could roll an enormous stone in front of a grand oak and proclaim to the masses that I am ready to turn away from my biblical complacency, I would. But what I have as my tool of accountability is this platform right here. You, dear reader, can help keep me accountable for seeing my project through. You will be my stone.
And like the oak– known for its steadfastness and depth of roots–I aim to grow my biblical understanding deeper and sturdier.
What do you hope of the readers who follow along with the stone and oak project?
I mentioned accountability before, and so your presence here is the key to that.
For those of you further along in your understanding of the bible, I would love your encouragement and I will certainly benefit from your wisdom. You can post comments here (or on Instagram @thestoneandtheoak ) and will hold your comments with both hands, full of gratitude for your help.
For those of you in a similar stage of biblical knowledge or even new to the faith, I would love the company. Would you read along with me? Be it a book, a chapter, or just a single verse, I would love to have a companion to read alongside.
For those of you outside of the faith who might happen upon this project: you are welcome and safe here. If you want to know more about what it means to be a follower of Christ, you can start by emailing me at thestoneandtheoak@iCloud.com. I will offer you my testimony and will find some good, local resources for you.
So, it’s early January, and the book of Matthew is on the docket. Let’s get started, shall we?