Personally, these have been trying times. The pressures of losing my job, trying to start my own business, dealing with some personal health care issues (which are complicated by the job situation), and then having so many people close to me experiencing the very same things -- family members and church friends. It seems like so many of us are under attack, under the pile. It has been very discouraging in many ways, and I have really battled depression lately.
But the temporal nature of the current situation does not change the eternal nature of God. 2 Corinthians 2:18 says "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." Romans 8:18 says " I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." I find myself clinging to these truths ever more tightly than before, even when the perceived reality around me indicates otherwise. In addition, I have had the support of so many people -- my wife, my children, extended family, and my dear brothers and sisters in Christ -- who encourage me, pray for me, and hold me up when I don't have the strength in me to stand. I owe an eternal debt of gratitude to a lot of wonderful people.
I give this update sort of as a reality check -- and to segue into an announcement of sorts.
For my Facebook, Xanga, and blogspot "friends" who actually bother to read what I post, I have decided to re-start the concept of blogging on a regular basis. I have occasionally posted my thoughts in these on-line forums from time to time, ranging from deep spiritual issues to such mundane things as humor and baseball. But the material I want to delve into is material from my personal bible study journal.
Back when I had first wholeheartedly committed myself to Christ as a teenager, a good friend and mentor to guys my age in our church (some of you will remember Bill Hartley) was teaching a group of us about how to read and study the bible. One method he suggested that really stuck with me was to use a journal. He counseled us to take a manageable book of the bible -- one of the new testament epistles, for example -- and go through it on a daily basis. He suggested we seek the Lord for revelation, read a short section of the scripture, meditate on it, and then write down whatever the Holy Spirit showed us, or what we felt spoke to us, or what application we might find. In the end, you would have a wonderful journal of your personal thoughts about that particular book of the bible you could revisit in the future.
I found this method of bible meditation and study life changing. As a teenager, I filled several notebooks with my thoughts as I would spend time in God's word. i got away from this particular method as I got older, however. Yet, about six or seven years ago, another good friend of mine (Dave Botma) spoke at a men's meeting at our church, and encouraged us to get into the bible using this same method -- taking short chunks of the bible, reading and meditating on it, and then journaling your thoughts -- as an effective means of drawing closer to God. I hadn't thought about that sort of thing in years, and it really inspired me to "go back to my roots."
So, I started doing this, with the book of Galatians. I don't know why I chose Galatians, but it turned out to be a Holy Spirit inspired choice. It led to some life changing breakthroughs for me, and some really interesting presentations I was able to make as part of the teaching ministry in our church.
I ended up going a little deeper than just reading and meditating. The subject matter and the things God was speaking to my spirit seemed so profound, I dug a little deeper, and kept a lexicon, Bible dictionary, a cultural background commentary and several alternate translations of the bible handy each time I opened up Galatians. Some of my journal entries got rather involved.
I started posting my Galatians journal on my Xanga site back in 2004. It came in fits and starts, partially because I wasn't a faithful updater, and partially because I was slow in transcribing the journal (I take notes and journal by hand). I posted entries for about two years, off and on. I tried to restart it once (and some of those entries may have trickled over to Facebook around the time I started here, via my RSS feed), but again, my slowness at transcribing (combined with a computer crash that lost a sizeable portion of the typed version of the journal, which subsequently had to be retyped) led to my abandoning it again.
But I don't have an excuse anymore. Just last week, I finished the transcription of the entire journal.
I don't know if its vanity, or a feeling or wanting to connect with people, or just a love of digging into the scriptures and sharing that with others -- but I have decided to start posting it again.
So, starting a little later today, I will begin with Galatians 1:1, and continue.
I think it will be a good catharsis for me, in my current situation. In that respect, I ask you to bear with me. I hope to share some insights with you as well.
I thank any and all of you who bother to read any of this for your patience in advance.
John R. Russell
p.s. this will also be cross-posted to my xanga site (www.xanga.com/soxfan59) and my Facebook page, for those of you who participate in those forums.