A Father’s Notebook to His Kids
This book was never supposed to be written.
I wrote it for my three kids, Jake, Sam, and Julianne.
Here is the backstory.
In 2016, three friends invited me to listen to the Gospel of John with them over the course of a week. Even though I had grown up in the church, that sounded like a very big project for me because I had never really “read” the Bible, much less listened to it. So, I accepted the challenge. I lasted two days. I have a very short attention span and I get distracted quite easily and I absolutely do not process information by hearing it. Ask my wife, Jean, and she will confirm! I told my friend that I would read the gospel while they listened to it. I was surprised to learn that the Gospel of John is only about 30 pages, depending on your Bible. I think I believed the Gospels were a lot longer than they really are. Reading the Bible the first time, word by word, was quite a challenge for me. In truth, I finished that exercise with more questions than answers. I thought to myself, “I wonder what else is in here.” I decided to read Matthew, Mark, and Luke as well. While it was a gratifying experience, I can’t say that I enjoyed it all that much the first time I did it. It just felt like something I was doing because I said I would do it. When I finished the Gospels, I figured it only made sense to keep going. So I read the rest of the New Testament. I must say that the first time I read all of Paul’s letters in their entirety, I was moved. The depth of his commitment, despite being imprisoned, beaten, and tortured was so inspiring. I began to enjoy the process of reading scripture, so I thought I would start all over again. This time, I decided to make notes in the margin of my Bible as I read through the New Testament for the second time. What I found is that it is exactly like your favorite movie that you have seen so many times that you can’t turn it off when you see it on TV. (I’ve seen Shawshank Redemption at least 50 times!) I was surprised to see how much more I enjoyed my second trip through the Gospels and Letters more than I did the first time. And my Bible was filling up with notes. I read it again, and again, and again. And my Bible had even more notes in it. Between 2016 and 2020, I read the New Testament 12 times. Please know, I don’t share that statistic with you to brag. (“None is righteous, no not one.” Romans 3:10) I share that statistic because I found every time I read a story, I picked up things that I never saw before. The colors got brighter, the messages from Jesus resonated stronger. And most importantly, the story of Jesus got so vivid, I couldn’t take my eyes off the story. So I kept reading. As I thought about my Bibles (I had two) that included all my notes, I said to myself, “Someday, I’m going to give these Bibles to my kids, so they know what I thought about all of this.” The Covid-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020, and it shut the world down. For the first time in our lives, we were told so many things we could not do, like go to work, go to school, go to shops or restaurants, or travel. I posted something on social media that essentially said, “In this moment of being told the things we can’t do, here are 10 things you can do.” One of those things was encouraging people to read the Bible. I was blown away to discover that this post got over a million views. I asked myself if I’m encouraging others to read the Bible, and I’ve done that, what should I do? And then it hit me. “What if I actually wrote all of this down? All of it. Then I could give THAT book to my kids.” I’m a person that learns by doing, watching, reading, writing, speaking, and listening, in that order. Writing things after I read them helps me comprehend and stay focused. So, in January of 2021, I decided to rewrite the New Testament. I started in Matthew Chapter 1, and I rewrote verses, summarized stories, and shared quotes from Jesus from all 26 Books in the New Testament. (This book does not include Revelation because I’m still trying to figure it out!) I felt like Forrest Gump when he ran across the country and just kept “running and running and running.” I just kept “writing and writing and writing.” By the end of that year, I had written 630 handwritten pages and filled two complete journals and had completed my 13th trip through the New Testament. What I learned is that the journey of reading the Bible gets better every time, without exception. It starts out as a challenge to read it, and it becomes a habit, then it becomes something that you can’t live without because it is so fun, so enlightening, and so important to your daily life. No matter how many times I read these books in the Bible, new things jump off the page every single time. It is like food and water, which Jesus told us it would be. After decades of people telling me what Jesus said, and what they thought about what he said, it was so nice to actually read what he said. There is no need to speculate as to the life of Jesus. It’s all written down.
I told a few people I was writing this book for my kids, and they told me that I should publish it. And I told them that I couldn’t because it was just for my kids. Folks continued to push, as did my family. So I asked my kids, Jake, Sam, and Julianne if they minded if I published something that was supposed to be a gift from me to them, and they gave me a resounding “yes”. I am grateful for their permission. So here we are.
Please keep these things in mind!
This book is a notebook, and it reads like it. Pretend you are watching a football game and one person is the play-by-play announcer and one person is the color commentator. In this book, the real story is the book I am quoting and summarizing and that is the New Testament. That is the only story. I hope folks read this book once, and the New Testament 1000 times. My comments are only the color commentary, and you should know a few things about those comments.
- In no case did I knowingly change anything. The story is the story and no revised version of it is anywhere close to the real deal. Maybe like you, I had so many voices in my head about who Jesus was, I finally realized that I needed to eliminate those voices and go straight to the source to hear the real voice and find the unfiltered truth.
- This book does not include every story in the New Testament, although it includes most. It includes the stories that resonated and touched me as I was reading them.
- I tried to write “in the spirit.” What that means is I wrote whatever was moving me at the time I was writing it. Some comments in Luke might feel different than my comments in Hebrews. I can’t explain it, it was just what was moving me at the time I wrote it.
- Very rarely did I knowingly make this about my opinion. This book is not about my opinion on these stories, nor should it be for anyone. I learned that it is about learning the truth rather than me trying to out-think God. And this book does not make me an expert. It just means I’m a guy on a journey.
- Many of my comments are in short words and street talk. Just my “in the moment” translation. You will see a lot of “wow,” “amazing,” and “incredible” to lead off my comments. Sometimes you might even see an incomplete sentence. That’s just because that’s how I think, and this is a notebook. So, you get my notes.
- Sometimes I just ask a question. Other times I said, “I don’t know what this story means.” I hope that adds some authenticity and transparency to your reading.
- Sometimes I underlined things, sometimes I used a bolded font. I had a choice to bold the quotes from the Bible or bold my comments, and I chose to bold some of my comments. Because the story is the Bible, not my interpretation of it, and you can’t bold an entire book!
- There is definitely some repetition, both in the Gospels as well as in my comments. That’s because some of the gospel stories repeat, and some of my takeaways from those stories are consistent. This book is designed to connect the dots of those stories to build the case for the impenetrable truth of the story of Jesus.
- This book is not about religion. It is about faith, and there is a difference. I hope this book is a bridge for those that believe that Jesus was the Son of God, not a wedge to divide us by church. The Body of Christ and the kingdom of God are the family of believers and we are more alike than different. And while Jesus encouraged us to bond together in love, he never required anyone to go to any specific church.
- The quotations included come from the NIV Bible. (New International Version)
This book is a gift to my kids from their dad. Salvation is a gift from Jesus, and I pray they will embrace it forever, and someday share that gift with their families.