A few weeks ago, I finished reading through the book of Luke in the Bible and started reading the book of John. I've been working through the Gospels after reading several epistles, just working through one chapter (or half-chapter in some cases) a day. It's been the reading plan that's been working the best for me recently and I've been learning a lot.

Except that day a few weeks ago, when I started reading John, I got a few verses into a very, very familiar opening and had the thought: What is this nonsense?

I struggled in my heart for several minutes with it. It felt like I was reading about a cult-leader. It was all mixed up and crazy-sounding and seriously out there. I almost immediately had the thought following: I've been spending too much time with the wrong influences.

I kept reading and the doubts kept nagging at me, even as I prayed about them (kinda). Then a few days after that, Adam suggested (wisely) that we start having an evening prayer time together and stick with it. It's also been turning into a time for us to discuss what we're reading in the Word and what's going on with us in our days. I told him about the nagging doubts I'd been having. I assured him, with honesty, that I still truly believed that Jesus was the Son of God and that He had died for me. But I couldn't shake the weirdness of that one encounter with the beginning of John and lingering doubts about my faith. I also told him that I thought part of the problem was that I'd been spending too much time with the wrong things. Evil things? Not necessarily. But I'd been giving them too much time, too much attention.

Adam agreed, but also said that something else was going on. The beginning of the book of John, as familiar as it was, had sounded a bit like nonsense. He reminded me that it is just that-- foolish nonsense-- without the revelation of the Spirit and that for some reason, I'd been allowed to have a glimpse of what that looked like in a way I never had before. There was a weight on my heart when we were talking, a kind of fear or dread that was overwhelming and drove me further into prayer and more aware of both the power of God and the need to be seeking Him and serving Him with my whole heart. Later, I remembered the verse from Proverbs about the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom, but in that moment and right after, I had the thought, This is what the weight of the Lord's glory feels like, just in a small part, and is it not a mercy that I can approach Him so freely?

Then yesterday, I had another even briefer moment where I looked out the window of my car and briefly wondered, "Do I really believe one God created all this?"

The answer is yes, I do. I thank God for a faith that requires me to believe crazy, impossible things and then also cares for me in so many little, practical ways. I cannot comprehend or fathom how much God really manages and yet I know He does. I know this, too: He has worked my salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Son, who is also God.

I'm spending more time in prayer and more time in scripture. I cling to the cross. It offends, it is foolish, and it is perfect and true. Sometimes, I just need to remember what the Gospel is and I need to fill my head and heart with that daily.

This is the Gospel:
We are a broken, screwed up, hurting people. We cannot heal or fix ourselves, even for all our good intentions, and time isn't doing us any favors, either. Jesus came to the earth not to condemn but to heal, to mend, to save. He died and carried the punishment of all the terrible things we do to each other and to ourselves and then rose from the grave, because death could not hold him down. And then He offered to save us, too. Not so we could be rich on earth or feel good about ourselves, but because we could never be perfect enough or worthy enough on our own to dwell with a Holy God-- a God who loves us and wanted us to be able to dwell with Him and worship Him. A God who desires, still, to heal our hearts and mend those things within us we cannot escape. Because to live without God is miserable and to be separated from Him forever is hell. And God made a way for us to escape that, even at the price of His own Son's death. This Gospel is joy.

Praise be to God.