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Bible Book Tag

I love old school YouTube, especially late 00s-early 10s era! Tag videos take me back the most. Tag memes (when memes were shareable templates moreso than standalone expressive images) were all over DeviantART, too. Instead of everyone generally following the same headlines with more or less similar initial reactions, tags gave room for people to share their own stories.

I found a Bible-themed tag, which is pretty cool, answered by tinawonderfullymade. I'm not familiar with her, but I liked her honesty about her spotty Bible knowledge and her fresh enthusiasm for learning since a year ago. I feel like I'm in the same place as her. After filling out so many memes on DeviantART in middleschool, I want to give this tag a try!

1. What is your favorite book of the Bible?

I think my favorite has been static since high school: Song of Solomon. It's swooningly romantic, full of bizarre descriptions (her teeth are like shorn ewes?), and unexpectedly relevant to other books and life in general. Also, I think a lot of people around me are afraid to read it or discuss it, so it's fun to bring in to doctrinal discussions.

Solomon himself lived a larger-than-life tragedy, becoming the wisest man with the most peaceful reign and the builder of the most extravagant temple but also the victim of the seductive foreign gods of his myriad wives. I love this song. It's a shame it's his only surviving one, when he supposedly wrote hundreds or thousands or whatever, but this is a true treasure.

I first read it in 8th grade after a Bible teacher said not to read it. I'm usually a rule-follower, but I had recently been shamed my literature teacher for reading Catcher in the Rye, as if I only did so to see the cuss words. (As if that isn't the most shallow thing to object to in that book.) Now my Bible teacher was treating our class like we would only read the Bible to leer at the sexual words! (As if nearly every other book of the Bible shouldn't be banned, too, by that criteria.)

So I finished my first reading of it before the school day was over.

Wow. It's ridiculous how taboo people treat such a rich story full of God's sweeping love for Israel and, someday, her little sister. It preciously describes the Shulammite's figure and sets up sensual scenes, sure, but it's poetic rather than gross and serves to paint an image of a Lord the congregation will someday call "husband" rather than "lord."

And the classic must absolutely be quoted. Song of Solomon 8:6-7 - Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealous is fierce as the grace. Its flashes are the flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.

2. What is your favorite Bible story?

It's very difficult to choose, and I definitely relate to different stories over time! When I was very, very little, definitely the calling of Samuel for how directly God spoke to a child. When I was a little older, I gravitated towards the sisters Mary and Martha, who each approached the Lord differently. Then in middleschool and high school, I found escape in the various tellings of the new heavens and new earth.

For the past three years, though, I've had a desperate urge to understand the Bible for myself, and it's like a whole new book to me. The inciting point coincides with my mom telling me she very likely had cancer, which was the first moment I needed God to be real and to know what the Bible says. To begin, I turned to Jeremiah first, someone I knew nothing about besides his weeping and getting thrown in a cistern. Immediately, his lost childhood spoke to me, as did the Lord's precious protection and uncompromising directive in the midst of hopelessness.

Jeremiah's ministry is so much more expansive, though. He touches on God's grace offered to Israel, should she acknowledge her iniquity (3:12-15). He touches on stony hearts (19:1-15). He touches on phony priests, falsely speaking in the name of the Lord and following the idolatrous and murderous contemporary culture of the Baals (23:9-40). He also touches on the new covenant (31:1-40) and coming of a Messiah (3:11-18; 23:5; etc). Sin, obstinance, grace, and redemption flow throughout the book.

At the same time, it's so personal and vulnerable. God's first vision for little Jeremiah is apparently an almond pun (1:11-12), and He addresses his feelings of inadequacy by physically placing His words in his mouth and building him up as a fortified city (rest of 1). He's from Anathoth, yet called to preach to the capital's priests and rulers who disregard him and even plot to kill him. He candidly cries out to the Lord about the hopelessness of his situation, yet he experiences an unbearable burning in his bones when he desires to quit (20, especially 20:9). But despite it all, Jeremiah loves Jerusalem with the Lord's love. He is called the weeping prophet because he weeps for how his people have forsaken their Lord and must be refined (8:18-9:26).

As the Lord said, Jeremiah faced persecution and eventually was cast into a cistern and jailed. His only friend was Baruch, a guy with his own complaints and hopeless projection due to his association with Jeremiah (yet given a name meaning "blessed"). And despite preaching that only death would be found in Egypt, he was forcibly taken there anyway. Tradition holds he was stoned to death shortly afterward. Lamentations illustrates how depraved Jeremiah's society was after Babylonian invasion. My heart was wrenched over this guy.

As a bonus, whenever I was having my final conversations with Mom in the hospital, we realized we were both reading Jeremiah and Lamentations at the same time. Bless the Lord that He is surely giving Jeremiah his crown in Heaven, and bless the Lord for giving a new home to Mom.

3. Who is your favorite person in the Bible?

I don't know, it might be King Saul, honestly. 1 Samuel sets him up as such a sympathetic figure, whisked away to an annointing while searching for goats, repeatedly made to prophesy against his will, obsessively allowed his borders to deteriorate while chasing his son-in-law through the wilderness over petty matters, and sought solace from necromancers he himself had banned. He spoke blessings in God's name, yet couldn't wait on the Lord. He had direct access to the first prophet in years, and he didn't even try using Urim and Thummim besides as a half-hearted final gesture.

It's a ridiculous tragedy. But his son Jonathan showed unwavering love and respect for his father through it, despite his soul-knit loyalty to his father's enemy, David. And David wrote a genuine lament for him, despite wasting his prime years fleeing from him. The people of Jabesh-gilead were also indebtedly loyal to him to the end, regardless of public opinion or the state of the latter years of his reign.

This was a stony man. Honestly, he reminds me of my dad.

It's impossible to know people's hearts, and it is enormously true that even "bad" religious leaders and teachers' preaching of the gospel is to be rejoiced over (Philippians 1:15-18). You may be able to judge someone's fruit, but C. S. Lewis points out that we all have different starting points and rates of progress when it comes to sanctification. Still, though, I just look at stony people and don't get why they struggle with waiting on the Lord, discerning His will, and being authentic in general. Their lives are obviously filled with frustration and confusion, when being vulnerable before God and turning to the Word is ever-available as a relief. They just have to, you know, stop being so stony.

I really root for Saul when reading the Bible. Why would he allow himself to care so much about what others think (Saul's thousands and David's ten thousands♪) and be so hateful to the point of self-destruction? It's so sad. He was surrounded by heroes like Samuel and David, too. His own son had incredible faith, and he himself prophesied the words of God time and time again. If anyone is without excuse, it's Saul. What a shame.

Can someone that hypocritical and lacking in self-awareness ever be vulnerable even in his own introspection? Why even do the church stuff anyway if nothing about it sinks in deep? Does the Lord really harden hearts after a certain point? How do life-shaking events not make you sprint to the Lord for answers? How does anyone at all turn to the Lord, when submitting to the Lord is so alien and we all are so deeply entrenched in idolatry ourselves? Why would the Holy Spirit draw David but not Saul, and why would God gift David with faith but not Saul? I just don't know.

I don't understand Saul at all, yet I want so badly to have seen redemption for him by the end of his story. It never came.

4. What is your favorite Bible verse?

When I was a kid, I found Proverbs 15:1 to be my lifeline. When you are in a physically abusive household, everyone in the world will tell you to fight back, defend yourself, and all kinds of other worldly wisdom. They'll tell you "turn the other cheek" (Matthew 5:38-39) doesn't apply to physical abuse, too. Responding in kind only ever made it worse, though. The Bible says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger," and it's the only truth I found. Responding gently and turning the other cheek vacuums all the energy out of the situation and ends fights pretty fast. I'll always love this verse.

Now I think I consider the thanksgiving and peace verse most frequently: Philippians 4:4-7, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Despite everything, you must enter His courts with thanksgiving. Grumbling is one of the least attractive things to the Lord, but it's also obnoxious to everyone around you. Choosing thanksgiving is such a mental health cleanse. I'm always doing better when I'm constantly in prayer, too. Everything in this verse is really great advice for busting stress and bad days. Then on top of it, it promises sublime peace, which I can confirm as being a free gift to those who live by these words. Nothing in the world can comfort like this verse.

5. What is your favorite translation and Bible to read that you own?

I don't have strong opinions towards any translation, really. I love the ESV study Bible my mom bought for me best, but I also have a 1611 KJV and an NASB phone app. When I memorize or quote, I reference the ESV.

6. What is your favorite hymn, chorus, song, singer, and band?

My church's worship team, for real. Their voices are beautiful, and our worship pastor's view of joining with the 24/7 angelic choir of Heaven and worship as a weapon against the Enemy is so vivid. I love worship time at church.

I really love "Peace" from Lionel Peterson's Rejoice Africa album. I sang it in the hospital a lot. I also like "I Speak Jesus" because I sang that one a lot in the hospital when Mom was sick.

Otherwise, I don't know, I like a lot of hymns and 00s Hillsong because that's what we got growing up.

'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus," "It is Well With My Soul," "What Can Wash Away My Sins?," "There is a Fountain,"...so hard to choose one. Also I really, really like Silent Night during Christmas.

Also for more modern songs, "Revelation Song," "Blessed Be Your Name," "Here I Am To Worship," "The Heart of Worship," and "Gratitude".

7. What is your favorite Christian movie?

I am not much of a movie person at all. I've watched some Christian movies in church and Bible class, but idk. I would love to watch Ben-Hur again. For more modern movies, Jesus Revolution and Journey to Bethlehem were pretty cool. I suppose the Larry-Boy movies deserve an honorable mention, too, but it's been a while.

8. Who is your favorite speaker/preacher?

My own pastor! He loves the Lord, reads his Bible, and his sermons are always relevant to my life. He strikes a great balance of encouragement, conviction, popular topics, and biblical topics I've never heard preached elsewhere. It's a smaller church, too, like 100 regulars, so he knows what's going on and who to have the congregation pray over. He's a real shepherd.

I also frequently listen to Pastor Daniel Batarseh's Bible studies. Maybe sometimes he gets political or too abstract with his connections, but his studies are extremely thorough character studies. He also knows the Law well and really brings it and the nuances of Jewish culture to life for me.

Really, I like a lot of pastors.

I grew up watching B.H. Clendennen on TV, and I frequently reflect on his sermons on fasting and the worship of self to this day.

I like David Wilkerson, too, for his novel The Cross and the Switchblade and his sermons about having a personal relationship with the Lord. (Why did I only listen to Pentecostal pastors as a kid? I was taught not to even raise my hands in church by my Southern Baptist parents lol.)

I have a book of Charles Spurgeon sermons, and his style of expository preaching mixed with stories and poetry is very relateable and beautiful to me, despite being from the 1800s. I reflect on his The Raven's Cry sermon often.

There's also Paul LeBoutillier of Calvary Chapel Ontario (yes, that's a Jesus Revolution plant! I had no idea until I watched Jesus Revolution.) has deep knowledge of Jewish culture and writings, so he can give more background on Old Testament texts.

I've really enjoyed following SermonIndex.net on YouTube, too. There's a mix of preachers and traditions, there, but they have their finger on the pulse on what I need to hear and what's going on in the world. It's a nice channel.

9. Who is your favorite Christian fiction & nonfiction author?

I like Matthew Henry. His Commentary took up the whole bottom shelf at the church library I served at from 5th-12th grade, and it endlessly fascinated me. He kind of has a bit of a mythic quality as a preacher, too, since so much is said about him, but he's too ancient for really confirming or denying random rumors. His insights and cross-references are genuinely pretty helpful for guiding a self-study, too. His quote "I can suck marrow out of a bone" goes pretty hard against people who complain about their pastor or Bible teachers.

As for fiction, I kinda hate to say C.S. Lewis because I read and enjoyed so little of Narnia, but he's a nerdy guy. He was deeply into mythology, particularly Vedic and Norse and English systems, but I'm not so sure his Narnia and Space Trilogy series have the same quality as his inspirations. In his letters to Arthur "Gawain" Greeves, he touched on all kinds of things like the ancient belief planets made different sounds as they slide across the sky, like fingers on the strands of stringed instruments.

10. What is your favorite Christian fiction & non-fiction book?

Cloud of Unknowing by an anonymous 14th century monk is probably the coolest Christian book I've read so far. It's about Christian mysticism and prayer, and it provides a tiny peek into what monastery life was like back then. I think my real favorites would be pretty generic, though: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. Imitation of Christ has been a read-on-repeat devotional since graduating high school. I'm currently reading Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, too.

11. Who is your Faith based inspiration?

The leader of my Woman of the Bible life group at church. She's a perfect lady, and her flair for reading the Bible out loud as a drama, combing through each perspective in the Bible meticulously to understand them as real people, and praying on her knees with respect for proper prayer posture has brought the Bible to life like no one else has. I also just really love her. She's a super mom and such a strong person. I want to pray like her and read my Bible like her.

She actually had a deep influence on the philosophy behind my study wiki, particularly the Bible entries, too. She's better at the drama and character study aspect than me, but I like tracking all the random details and seeing how they become relevant and change over time.

12. Tag someone!

Anyone who actually reads my blog. Thanks for reading as always^^