Ministry of Love

The intention of this blog is to share Biblical messages at least on a weekly basis. Any response is appreciated. I do not expect everyone to agree with my interpretation of Biblical passages. I will try to respond with love and thoughtfulness.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Whole Bible?

Do You Read the Bible? How much? How well? These are three questions I asked myself many years ago, and I was not happy with the answers. I knew it was easy for a minister to fall into the habit of preaching the same thing over and over again perhaps changing the text, but preaching the same sermon. I was worried that I was doing that, or that I would fall into that habit.

I had already discovered that the sermon well runs dry from time to time, and it may take a lot of prayer before God gives a message. I wondered why that was true. Then it seemed to me a voice whispered in my spiritual ear, "When do you have the most ideas for messages?" And I knew it happened when I read a lot of Scripture. That's when that same whisper said, "Your Bible is full of messages." It's not original with me, but there is a story about a young minister who was shopping in a Bible Bookstore. The clerk asked him if he could help him find anything. He said, "Yes. I'm looking for a good book of sermons!" The clerk went back to a shelf and brought him a Bible. The minister glanced at it, and said, "No thanks. I preached through that three years ago!" When in need of a message, I read the Bible.

Sooner or later, God's Spirit impresses my heart. It's "like a fire shut up in my bones!" (Jeremiah20:9). That desire to preach is so strong that I can understand how a minister without a church congregation has a hard time containing himself. Having that fire will not make you an eloquent speaker, (and I've never been one), but it will assure you that God's will for the hearers will be plain. His Spirit will see to that.

Of course, if you only read the same Scripture over and over, you will still be preaching similar sermons again and again. I made a schedule for reading the whole Word of God every year. I discovered I could complete it if I read just four chapters a day every day. The problem is, there are a lot of days when we just have so much to do, perhaps preaching, or teaching, or visiting, or illness, or maybe vacation, that we miss some days. To take care of that, I try to average four chapters a day. My aim is to read six chapters a day. At the moment I am writing this, I am 126 chapters ahead of schedule. If I miss some days, I won't need to make them up, and at the end of the year, I will have read the whole counsel of God! That's really important to me, and I believe it is important to the church I serve.

It helps, of course, to have an easy to read translation. I struggled with the King James, which I love, for many years. When Taylor's paraphrase came out, I sailed through it with ease. I graduated from that to the American Standard the next year, and then eventually to the New International Version which I use all the time now. I don't consider any translation better than another. They are, after all, translations, not exact duplicates of the original. No one has the original either! We must depend on God's Holy Spirit to guide translators as they prepare God's Word in the language of today's people. The original scrolls were written in the language of the people to whom they were addressed. Paul was certainly fluent in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. When he wrote to the Corinthians, he didn't use Hebrew. He used Greek. That was their language. Every generation needs a translation that fits their language. We should expect either a constantly updated version, or a new version for every generation. Our language and our ideology change constantly, and we need God's Word in the language we understand. I will never forget when a church member approached me after a message and said, "Pastor, you spend more time explaining the King James than you do preaching!"

Would you like something to help you read God's Word, whatever version you use? When I started on this pilgrim journey, I formulated a number of different "helps" to keep me on track. I remembered that in a sales class I attended years ago, when a salesman was making his presentation, there was the sound of a loud kiss! Everything stopped, and everyone looked for the source of that kissing sound. The instructor said to the speaker, "Young man! Always remember "KISS!" It means, "Keep it simple, stupid!" Simple is better, and eventually I came to a very simple system. I use and prepare this one new each year, and that's simple because, all I need to do is change the year at the top. It contains a listing of the Books of the Bible in order with every chapter numbered. If you print it out, you can mark through a chapter when you read it. If you have it on your computer, you can erase a number or numbers as you read. By having it this way, you can read from any section of the Bible at any time, and still get it read by the end of the year.

If you choose to do this, don't wait until January 1. Start immediately. You can just mark the date down, and you will know you will be through by that date next year. You'll find an address below where you can send an e mail, and I'll send the file to you, or you can just make up your own form. God be with you as you read His Word consistently!

One of my addresses is: I will happily send you one for this year, and for 2007. You can change them any way you like. Please put "Bible form" in the subject line. I hope that will keep me from considering your request as spam.


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