Scripture: An Encouraging Word

THE PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION We approach God’s Word and that the Holy Spirit, will open our lives to encounter the Living Christ. Join me in a moment of prayer.

Lord of light, shine your light on us now.  As you spoke your word of creation in the beginning, speak your creative word to us now.  As you gave us your word through prophets and teachers, give us your word in our worship this day.  As you yourself read the scroll and claimed its promises, read your word into our hearts and claim us with your promises.  As your disciples, we gather around your word, in your name.  Amen.

SCRIPTURE READING                 John 8:31-38                                                   True Disciples

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”


THE MESSAGE                    “Scripture: An Encouraging Word”



The 4th Mark of Discipleship – Read and Study the Bible. To me this one might be the most important. As Presbyterians, reading and studying Scripture is essential to Christian growth. But, I think unless we worship weekly, pray daily, and develop Christian friendships, we will have little desire to read and study God’s Holy Word. It just won’t make sense to read and study Scripture.

I came across a blog, by Matt Moore a pastor in New Orleans entitled, “God’s Book of Weird Things.”  Moore describes when he began reading Scripture six years ago, his postmodern brain encountered what he considered weirdness. He found it very difficult to wrap his mind around the supernatural power of God revealed in the Biblical narrative. He read with great skepticism the stories of parting seas, burning bushes, water walking, and resurrections. His secular mind struggled to embrace a Christian worldview of God’s activity.

Eventually, the Holy Spirit obliterated his resistance. An internal response to God’s message moved him into a new reality. Moore researched and googled as the Lord helped him find answers to his questions, grasp eternal truths, and he began to understand the wonderful picture of God’s love and grace. The Spirit illumined his path to deeper understanding and trust over a couple of years.

I’ve been regularly, almost daily reading Scripture for close to 30 years. And I’m still amazed at the wonderful world of God’s activity in Scripture and our lives. While, I’ve only read the Bible from cover to cover once, it is a great exercise that produces fruit of faith. Mae Leger, a longtime member, who was on her 7th time when she died.

I’ve read certain passages multiple times, for personal devotion, teaching lessons, and preaching. No matter how many times I read these familiar passages, even the Christmas narrative, God speaks fresh, new, and interesting insights. Scripture truly comes alive with each reading. As the Living Word of God, we hear different aspects of God’s truth, when we encounter God’s Holy Word.  God’s Word doesn’t change, our lives do, each day the Spirit changes how we look at Scripture, God’s encouraging word.

In the handout from the Chapel by the Sea, I’d like to lift up the clues to Read and Study the Bible.

1. Find a good Bible!

2. Remember the Bible is a library of several books, not a single book.

3. Pick a time and place

4. Variety is the key to enjoying the Bible.

Find a good Bible - So find a good Bible that suits you. Some enjoy the KJV, the first authorized English translation. For many the poetic Elizabethan language is like a familiar friend, because they remember the phases of their childhood. I personally, don’t understand the language and style and prefer a more modern translation that also reflects 405 years of Biblical scholarship since 1611. I do like my NKJV Study Bible that keeps some familiar language and also makes it less poetic for modern minds. I grew up with the Revised Standard and some passages that I memorized in Sunday School still ring in my mind. My 27 year old Study Bible is the New International Version. I also enjoy reading the fresh translation of Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” the contemporary language to grabs our imagination.

 The Bible - a library of several books – You don’t need to read it cover to cover. There are books that are easier to read and understand. Christians who start, “In the beginning” of Genesis get bogged down half way through Exodus and often give up reading more in Leviticus. If you start with the personal letters of Peter and John, you complete a book and feel accomplished. The familiar Gospels take a little longer, but you can discover great insights when you read the details and reflect on these stories. By the time you get to difficult books of the Old Testament or challenging sentence structure of Paul, you have confidence that God will speak to you in new ways.

Reading from a Study Bible can also help you interpret challenging passages. You can also find links to other books of the Bible and discover connections to God’s continuous interactive story with us.

Pick a time and place - We make time to read the paper daily. We schedule time to do activities we enjoy or consider important. So there is time to read our Bible if we make it a priority. Some find first thing in the morning while others make it part of their bedtime routine. While some take time over breakfast or lunch. Over the years, my time has changed as life changes. So find a time that works for you during this current season of life.

Variety is the key – I’ve used different versions over the years. I use different translations for my personal study and preparation for preaching. I encourage different versions in Bible Study, for beyond each member using a version they are comfortable with, we discover deeper meanings as various translators use different English words to express the meaning of a Hebrew or Greek word. As mentioned before, a variety of times and places may be need to adjust to our lives.

In an article in Christianity Today, Carmen LaBerge states “What is needed is re-introduction to the actual content of the Bible and the author of them.” God’s encouraging Word will transform the world, when Christians invest their time to devour, ingest, reflect, and live by the very Word of God. TGBTG. Amen

  January 2018  
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