I Picked Up A Bible The Other Day

I started reading the Bible again a few days ago. I’ve been thinking of doing so for quite some time, but always holding back. Yet, here I was, staring at Romans Chapter 1. That was then. I’ve reached Chapter 5 now. Hardly setting the world alight but I’ve read a little every day. About grace and faith and sin. Words I struggle with on many levels. I find it hard to express myself when it comes to such concepts, such ideals, such realities. Paul says it so much better than I ever could.

I’ve been angry with God for a while now. I even started to doubt if he existed but a small kernel within me insisted that he must. For otherwise, what is the point…of anything. There must be something, there has to be something. Plus, how can you be angry with a God that doesn’t exist? So I concluded there is a God and I am angry with Him. But the more I thought about it I realised it’s not Him I’m angry with. I’m angry with others.

During my church years, as I like to refer to them, I always wanted to fit in, to be the best possible ‘Christian’ I could be. I compared myself to others and always ended up coming off second best. This would annoy and frustrate me. I felt like an outsider, the odd one out, as if there was an invisible screen between myself and the rest of the church family. Hmmm…family. That’s how they described themselves but I felt an outcast, a fake, the black sheep of this whiter than whites family.

I fell away, lost interest, turned my back on it all. I didn’t experience their 24/7 optimism, their shiny happy mentality. I still got fed up, felt miserable and struggled. My mental health had improved inordinately and I enjoyed reading the Bible and other supporting texts. But I didn’t enjoy church, especially the social times before and after the service. I dreaded them, truth be told, and I smiled awkwardly amidst their hypocrisy and my own gaping inadequacies. So I stepped away from it all.

The hypocrisy of it all still annoys me. But the penny dropped. Was Jesus a hypocrite? No. So why am I tarring him with the same brush as some of his supposed followers? Why am I allowing a handful of people to stand between my relationship and understanding of Him? I enjoy reading about his life, I want to learn more of the history and context of the period. I still have issues with sections of the Bible but I’m prepared to wrestle with them.

So I’m starting again, stripping it all down to basics. I’ve selected a few key texts which started me on my spiritual journey and I’m reading them again. Authors such as C.S. Lewis, Nicky Gumbel and Lee Strobel. I’m going to listen to the songs of Lacey Sturm and Flyleaf again. I’m open to learning and debate. But I don’t want to go to church, I don’t want to hang out with other believers, I don’t particularly consider myself a ‘Christian,’ which, in itself, is a man made concept.

What am I then? A follower of Jesus? I’m not even sure about that as how can you follow someone you don’t 100% believe in? How can I obey the Word of God when some of it seems indecipherable and wrong? Other sections are tedious beyond belief, full of contradiction and confusion. Do I want to teach it, spread it, sow the seed? Not really as I need to practice what I preach first. I need to focus on me, learn to walk before I run. That’s where I went wrong the first time around.

So I’m reading, studying, taking it in. I might even blog about it on occasion. I’m not sure I want to talk about the contents of this post so please don’t be offended if I’m quiet in the comments section. It could all derail after a few weeks and normal service will be resumed. I have no targets, no lofty ambitions. I just want to see what happens. My faith is fractured, flawed and fragile. I will continue to slip and slide. But isn’t that what Paul forewarned all those years ago?

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 17 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

76 thoughts on “I Picked Up A Bible The Other Day

  1. I can relate. I don’t like church for many of the same reasons, and, to be candid, I don’t 100% believe “it” all either. How can anyone believe with all certainty something so uncertain? I do have faith. Not once did anyone or anything destroy that. I can’t look at the intricacies of life and believe God doesn’t exist. I hope you find peace in your reads.

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  2. Very encouraging post. It really is people who mess up the whole thing. But, I think that’s a river that runs through the pages of the Bible. I’m not familiar with Gumbel, but Lewis and Strobel are familiar with the struggles you so eloquently describe. You have done a great job of putting into words the frustrations many feel. It’s unfortunate, but not uncommon to ask, “If this is how Christians act, why do I want to be one?” Reading Paul’s letter to the Romans was a meaningful time for me as I returned to an active faith in God.

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  3. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 8:4) we all have doubt in our lives at one time or another, as well as stop going to church God understands we live in a fallen world. When I hear the news from doctors that my oldest daughter has Lupus (and now other rare diseases) I was angry at God and yelled at him and ask Him why, and then in my Spirit I heard this than why my Son in your place at Calvary then I understood how God understands my pain. I have seen the burial cloth of Christ (Shroud of Turin) and I know that my Savior lives. God has never promise to any of us once we accept him as our Savior we will not have trials in this world he did promise: Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) and he has walk with my family through the difficult times of having a daughter who is chronically ill.
    Blessings as you journey with our Risen Savor

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  4. I hope you do in fact write some blogs about your reading. I for one appreciate your honest questions and concerns about the Scriptures and my hope is that some of your many readers will join in the journey with you.
    Blessings,
    Chuck
    PS: I was thrilled to see the Autumn release date for Book 2!

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  5. I relate to so much of what you say here, and have recently gone back to reading the Bible too. I find Jesus to be so very different from even Paul (who I think showed a lot of his Pharasaical background in his teachings) and the church as an organization. If I’m honest with myself I also know quite a few Christians who are true followers of Jesus, and are caring loving people (as well as all the other less Christ-like people I’ve encountered.) I wish you all the best in your search …

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  6. Thank you for sharing this with us, your anger with God and others and how you’re dealing with it now. It’s strange to me that you’ve started reading the Bible at Romans of all places!

  7. I thank God that you are reading His word again! He will supply you with everything that you need. He is good, faithful, loving and forgiving. I pray that He manifests Himself to you in an incredibly eye-opening manner and that your life is never the same, but oh so much better, for His glory! So thankful to God for your openness. I always liked to start and encourage others to start in the book of John. ❤ God will lead you. Be blessed. I know sometimes when we get hurt in the flesh from other believers it is hard to come back to the Lord. We have a tendency to take it out on Him for their failures. God help us all not to be stumbling blocks but rather stepping stones, leading in love to the Fathers feet. Hugs, in Christ, Donna Marie 🙂

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  8. Hi Stephen! I’m glad you’ve started reading the Bible again, and I hope you want to share more in future. I really do understand your frustration with church. My church experience has not been the way Jesus intended church to be, and I can say I’ve never felt that I have a church family in my church. But just because people aren’t perfect doesn’t mean that I can’t have a good relationship with God.

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  9. My Dad had a different relationship with each of us seven kids. He knew us and the way we thought and felt and reacted. He knew sometimes we needed time. He knew how to bring out the best in us. He put up with a lot from us. I am thankful to have had a great Dad because it helps me to think about our heavenly Father.

    I have learnt not to let the imperfections of myself or the imperfections of other members of the human family let me forget how patient and kind my Father is to keep giving to those who love him and even those who despise him or think he is fiction.

    To me the scriptures are like breathing fresh air rather than the smog around. I see a very candid account of human history since the start and see an incredibly patient Creator who has put into place everything needed to undo the pain caused and is longing to fix all the damage.

    I see a Father who wishes his children would get on and live healthy lives, because he wants them to be happy and to thrive. I see that he will not tolerate those who have no regard for goodness and greedily exploit others. But when he acts he will do so in a way that is just. Just because he is more powerful than the wicked, I am sure the way He uses His power will be completely righteous. I have every confidence that He will act at the right time and will not allow things to happen that He cannot heal.

    I think I could write a very very long account of how I feel about Him…but I will leave you in peace as this is already a long comment ❤

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  10. Honest questions and valid, too. I look forward to reading more. I did read somewhere at some time that doubt is actually a gift because it helps us draw nearer to get the answers. Faith itself is a gift we can ask for. I first started following your blog because of its title as my faith was also fractured. I was raised in the Catholic church but as I grew older I came to question many of its man-made teachings that seemed to have no anchor in the word of God. I continue to search for meaning, especially during these times of violent upheaval. I wish you well on your journey.

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  11. This is good news, that you are reading and talking/listening to a loving and alive God. My experience is much like yours. Church was part of my life up until the last 2.5 decades when tough things happened and I left for reasons similar to yours. God has never ceased to be part of my life though, I would not have survived life without him. I’ve been praying for you, that you would experience him like I have. He loves me deeply, he knows every detail of my life, even the repressed memories and abuse. I can be honest with him and he can handle it. And, when I relax in his presence he speaks back to me and I feel loved.
    God looks at you the way you look at your kids. Someone famous, many times has said… God is CRAZY about you, if he had a fridge your picture would be ON it.
    I will keep on praying. 🙂

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  12. May the Holy Spirit breathe new life into you, Stephen!! I encourage you to read the Gospel of John – especially the farewell discourse to the end. There you will find a God that embraces us and seeks us out in times of fear and challenge and lack of faith and rescues us from this world. He is with you now. I will keep you in my prayers on this journey.

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  13. I share with you a devotional I receive from Richard Rohr – I think it speaks well to your experience.
    Alternative Community
    Common Ground and Purpose
    Sunday,  May 31, 2020
    Pentecost Sunday

    It’s sad to say, but for centuries the Christian vision was narrowed to what we have today—a preoccupation with private salvation. Our “personal relationship with Jesus” seems to be based on a very small notion of Christ. We’ve modeled church after a service station where members attend weekly services to “fill up” on their faith. We’ve commodified the very notion of salvation.

    People want something more from church than membership. They long for a spiritual home that connects with their whole life, not just somewhere to go on Sunday morning. Church is meant to be a place that nurtures and supports individuals along their full journey toward the ultimate goal: a lived experience of the communion of saints, a shared life together as one family, the Reign of God “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

    Too often, the formal church has been unable to create any authentic practical community, especially over the last half-century. In response, we see the emergence of new faith communities seeking to return to this foundational definition of church. These may not look like our versions of traditional “church,” but they often exemplify the kinds of actual community that Jesus, Paul, and early Christians envisioned. People are gathering digitally and in person today through neighborhood associations, study groups, community gardens, social services, and volunteer groups. They’re seeking creative ways of coming together, nurturing connection, of healing and whole-making. The “invisible” church might be doing this just as much, if not more, than the visible one. The Holy Spirit is humble and seems to work best anonymously. I suspect that is why the Holy Spirit is often pictured as a simple bird or blowing wind that is here one minute and seemingly gone and then nowhere (John 3:8).

    It’s all too easy to project unrealistic expectations on any community. No group can meet all our needs as individuals for emotional, mental, and physical well-being. The human psyche needs space and healthy boundaries and not co-dependent groupings. I certainly learned this lesson myself through my participation in the New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati in the 1970s and 80s, and even earlier as a Franciscan brother. Almost any community can serve as an excellent school for growth, character, and conversion, even though it may not be a permanent “home” for many reasons.

    So what makes a good community? The remainder of this week we’ll look at a few of the factors that contribute to healthy, whole communities. Our very survival as a faith tradition, not to mention a species, might just depend upon this. Remember, the isolated individual is fragile and largely helpless to evoke long-term change or renewal. By ourselves, we can accomplish very little. We must find common ground and common purpose to move forward. It was Jesus’ first and foundational definition of church and even divine presence—“two or three gathered together” in the right spirit (Matthew 18:20), and “I am there”—just as much as in bread or Bible!

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  14. I felt like this when I was younger before. I was not interested in going to church and I hated to study and through the years Ive learned “It is not by power nor by might, but by my Spirit saith the Lord of Host.” (Zec 4:6) One thing I lacked and it was the Holy Spirit. Man born of woman, his days are few and filled with trouble (Job 14:1). Whether a believer or not trouble is coming. If you ask in faith to receive the Holy Spirit, then you will receive Him! (Luke 11:13) Keep asking, keep believing for everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

    It’s impossible to believe God’s Word without the feedback and witness of His Spirit. God bless you all! Amen.

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  15. I am truly sorry for the pain that you went through.
    I have heard this over and over again. For myself I do not attend any congregations. I just study at home and do my best for the Lord.
    There really is a problem for some congregations, at least in North America, they have the attitude like belonging to a country club. It is truly shameful that this exists.
    Then there is the other end of the spectrum where going to church actually looks, feels, sounds like a rock concert, including a smoke machine.
    I think that the Lord must cry at what He sees.
    I would encourage you to keep reading your Bible. If you want a daily devotional take one chapter of Proverbs a day. It will last exactly thirty one days.

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  16. Hey thanks for sharing. Ur experience echos mine in terms of feeling like an outcast and mistreated by some many that claimed to follow a God of love and his Messiah. I’ve noted however…My studies in healthcare repeatedly back up the fact that we are designed and support teachings of scriptures (subject of a number of my blog articles). We study at our house, rotating between each other’s house. Our only interest is learning and living scriptures. No need for a building, no need for a paid minister, no need for offering plate (we give to who we can in terms of needs on our own, as we can) no need for youth pastors and the weirdness that often goes on there. Just people with bible trying to understand it and apply it.

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  17. I can really relate to this idea because I moved over 5 years ago and have had to rebuild my life and find a church that I feel comfortable in.
    I thought that I had found one and we had a testimony meeting to celebrate the birthday of the church and everyone said that we were family.
    We had a meeting in the evening and my partner came along with me and we sat on our own even when we were having refreshments and infact we left.
    So much for the feeling of family.

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  18. Hi Stephen,

    I understand how you feel about not wanting to deal with those who call themselves Christians because their actions and behaviors show otherwise. It can be very disheartening, especially when people use the name of God or the “Christian” label to prey on or scam others (I think I watch too much “American Greed,” LOL). I haven’t attended a church in years because I felt the focus was always on money; I also felt like some of the people were not genuine (the Holy Spirit will warn you when you encounter someone who may tell you one thing to your face but has something different in their hearts). In addition, us Christians/followers of Jesus also have a lot of growing and maturing to do, which takes a lifetime; there are also those who claim to follow God but don’t really know Him at all. However, this doesn’t excuse how you were treated. We live in a pretty messed up world.

    I have also felt like others mistreated me, thought of me as a joke/someone to laugh at, etc. and I thought something was wrong with me. I’d tell myself “Maybe if I was more outgoing, etc., things would be different.” And I was so angry about it for long time to the point I could feel the anger burning inside my body; it was always on my mind and I would get colds because of it. I had to ask God to help me to forgive them (and when I say forgive, I don’t mean referring to how they treated you as okay because it’s not. And it doesn’t mean that you have to hang out with them, be friends, etc. or anyone that acts like a jerk).

    This walk with God isn’t easy and there are some people who want to portray it that way probably because they are afraid to share what they’re really going through.

    Tell God how you feel (trust me, there have been MANY times when I had to vent my frustration about something I was going through or question Him about why He was allowing such and such). When you’re doing your studying, ask the Lord to help you understand what you’re reading. Ask Him to show you who He truly is. I pray that you are comforted, your faith strengthened and that you gain clarity during this experience.

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  19. A beautiful and honest post, Stephen. Don’t worry about ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’, and overthinking it. Savour being close to Him, as you are now, and let Him lead you.

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  20. Thank you for your honest words. They speak my truth as well. I have found The Bible Project material as well as John Walton’s books helpful as I try to make sense of the Bible and the God I want so desperately to understand. It’s a rocky journey. But I hope it’s worth the wrestle! Keep writing!

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  21. Good on you Stephen. Reading Romans is like reading the last two chapters of a historical novel. Even with that, it still has deep meaning. If you are Jewish, I would read the whole thing, otherwise, the message to church (people) behavior starts in chapter 12. The entire “old testament” (there is no old testament) is about Jesus….all of it. The story of Jesus is all about us and how Jehovah has reached out to us as only He can.
    It’s a journey.

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  22. Remember, Jesus fell three times on the way to the cross. We will have a lifetime of fractures and falls, but we have our faith (not necessarily people) that will never leave us, that will always love us and that will give us the grace to keep going. St. Paul says ‘it is when I am weak that I am strong.’ I have spent years meditating on that. No exaggeration. Anyone who seems shiny and bright 24/7 are lying to themselves. Look within to find God, not ‘without’. You are here for the man on the cross, not the people pontificating over coffee. God bless you in this journey.

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  23. Yes, Paul said the (right) thing he wanted to do he did not do and the (wrong) thing he did not want to did, he did, and so while he was in Christ, he was still in the flesh, so while the blood of Christ saved him, he was still apt to sin.

    Another nice book though not strictly theological is Jack’s Life, a biography about C.S. Lewis by his stepson, Douglas Gresham.

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  24. I appreciate your honesty 😊

    If you have Netflix, check out the documentary the American Gospel In Christ Alone. It points out a lot of issues with false teachings and why people are struggling as false believers.

    I recommend Mike Winger on YouTube. He covers so much in depth and does a lot of research. I’ve also learned a lot from Justin Peters. Preachers I enjoy Paul Washer, Lenonard Ravenhill, John Bunyan are some. Fighting 4 Faith also on Youtube has taught me a lot. He gets a little sassy. Same as Wretched on YouTube.

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  25. Best of luck with your journey. I have a daily Bible I’ve been going through slowly. I have a hard time wrapping my head around parts of the OT sometimes, but I’m hanging in there. Cheers. 😊👍

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