Don’t be tricked by the rainbow collection of pens. These tools are drills and dredge machinery for mining the first two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew.
Most of the colors are brighter than the soot you’ll see on foreheads today, but they are the tools I’m using during the 6 weeks leading up to Easter to create more whitespace for God. Today marks the launch of Lent, my mostest favorite season on the church calendar, a time when we prepare our hearts and minds for the resurrection of Christ at Easter.
You’re invited to join me and some incredible friends to read through the Gospels over the next 40 days. That requires reading through 2.225 chapters of the Bible each day.
Friends including Catalyst Conference, YouVersion, Jenni Catron, and Shelly Miller are joining us this year. Last year, we had more than 50,000 people join in the Lent reading—we’d love for you to join this precious fellowship.
Will you let us know that you’re onboard by posting about what you’re discovering as you read on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your blog using #lentchallenge?
But back to the issue of colored pens and the beginning of war.
My friend, Matt suggested the Color Method months ago and now I’m hooked. Read how The Color Method works, here.
Let me be clear: You do not need to go all cray-cray-crayon to do the #LentChallenge Gospel reading plan.
This is just something I’m experimenting with as a spiritual Dora the Explorer who loves to try new spiritual disciplines to grow deeper in Christ.
I fear showing you my Bible doodles and reading because:
- I draw like a four-year-old.
- I know some Bible scholars would scoff at this approach.
- My observations are raw and unrefined.
- I don’t want you to think I don’t take Lent seriously.
- I have no idea if this is going to work.
This is only Day One of Lent which means reading Matthew 1-2. My color key and approach will shift and modify, but here’s the initial plan.
Verbs are circled in red. Highlighting the activity of people and God.
Names are underlined in green. Additional mentions receive an extra underline.
Timing is circled in blue. Noting when, then, and after exposes God’s blueprint.
Numbers are circled in orange. Numerals often have Biblical significance.
The Holy Spirit, angels, the prophetic are marked in light blue. A steady presence.
Observations are scribbled in turquoise. Comments, insights, humorous notes.
Doodles appear in a variety of colors. Doodling allows the soul to reflect.
Now I miss verbs and places and mentions of the Holy Spirit on every page. This isn’t about perfect markings.
The goal of my pens gone wild approach to Bible study is interacting with the text in a tangible way that uncovers patterns and placement, that primes our hearts to hear from God through familiar passages in fresh ways.
The question I’m challenging you to ask and I’m asking myself this Lent is:
What do I most need to read but least want to hear?
(Thanks to Shane Farmer for this brilliant question)
For me, the most striking facet of Matthew 1-2 is the clashing of kingdoms taking place. The genealogy communicates that God, the true king, has been at work for a very long time despite impossible situations and the frailty of humanity. The world needs a savior.
Jesus catapults on the scene in the most understated fashion. A showdown ensues:
Mighty King Herod Versus The Infant
This is one for the history books. Literally. The notion of such a battle seems preposterous. Silly. Yet behind the heavenly curtain all eternity is at stake.
More than a scrimmage, this is a clash of power and principalities, light and darkness, order and chaos, life and death.
Herod’s response to the infant boy: Anxiety. Panic attacks. OCD. Paranoia.
A ribcage you could hold in the palm of your hand makes Herod mad as a hatter—both angry and berserk.
Yet God does not shudder or withdrawal. The kingdom of God is advancing each day with each gurgle and coo.
In a crazed panic, Herod unleashes infant genocide.
But God remains one step ahead. He sends another angel, another dream. Joseph, father of Jesus, must follow the footsteps of another Joseph who lived centuries before. Again, Egypt will provide sanctuary. The angel instructs that the family must stay until further notice.
Joseph and Mary are an everyday man and woman, but they are also servants of the Most High King.
These are the crosshairs of a kingdom clash. The kingdom of heaven versus the kingdom of earth. Both sides playing for keeps.
What do I most need to read but least want to hear?
For me, it’s a sense that how I live matters much more than I realize. I long to live awake to God and His presence. But on far too many days, I give into spiritual slumber. I want to awaken. To follow his leading. To respond in obedience.
Battles are taking place in my life and those all around me. The enemy may not be King Herod, but forces are still at work pilfering people’s hope, strength, vision.
Those same dark forces deafen and blind us to Christ and the kingdom of God breaking in all around.
Perhaps today, more than any other, I need to hear the gurgles and coos of the Christ child anew.
This morning, I’m spending time asking God to make me more alert to His Kingdom and how I can serve Him in specific ways throughout the day. Along the way, may I have the grace to fight back with joy.
What do you most need to read but least want to hear from today’s reading? Share in the comments below.
As questions come along, post them as comments below. Every week, our friend and New Testament Bible Scholar, Craig Blomberg will be providing insightful answers.
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Want some music to listen to you while you read and study this Lent? Check out this Spotify playlist.