The Church – Organic or Institutional

I can’t remember how often I have said, “The Church is an organism and not an organization. Yet, although we are an organism, we can still have some structure and organization as needed.”
When a baby is conceived there is no structure – just life. And, it is the lift that is important and eternal. A baby can be born minus a hand or a finger due to something being wrong in the DNA. That baby will survive and grow up to be an adult because he or she has life. Life is the key.
As the baby grows in the mother’s womb we see structure form. The structure includes internal organs, a spine, a head, arms, legs. But, again, it is life that is key. So, the only structure that is needed and is essential is the structure that encourages the life to keep growing and developing.
When the baby is born – there is a structure that has kept the baby alive for nine months. A structure that can now harm the baby and destroy the life. So, the structure must be removed. We are talking about the umbilical cord. The structure was important and good as long as it continued to encourage life. As soon as it was no longer needed it was removed.

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The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Five

A number of thoughts about the Church I see today in the nations where I work…

1> One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the Church

We are keeping the Christians so busy with all the good things going on in and around the church building that they don’t have time to breath. They are so active that “being still and know that I am God” is simply a verse in the Bible and not a living reality. Believers are so engaged in church activities and relating to each other that they are not building relationships with non-believers in their neighbourhood, where they work, and where they play. 

As a result, they live insulted, secure, and safe lives. As a result, they fail to reach out and share the Gospel of the Kingdom. As a result, people are not coming to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ – disciples are not making disciples. As a result, we are out-of-touch with the world we are suppose to impact. As a result, people misunderstand who we are and what we stand for in the world today. 

We need to release believers to engage in their world and become light and salt as the Bible states we are to be.

2> The Gospel that saves us from work saves us to work

We are saved by grace through faith and not by any ‘works’ that we might do and accomplish (Ephesians 2:8-9). But, once saved, there is work that we are called to do for Jesus. These tasks are unique to each one of us and have been set out for us since before the foundation of the world itself.  

Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

A believer without a ministry to the unsaved is not a true believer. There is too much that passes as ministry in the Church. Really what we do for one another in the church is not ministry , it is maintenance. Ministry, true ministry, happens outside the church enclave. And every person that is saved needs to pick up a ministry to the lost. 

3> The Word does the work

When I was saved 42 years ago there was a cute but true saying. It was, “The Word works if you work it.” I believed that back then and still do today.

We are saved by the Word of God. 1 Peter 1:23 states, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…”

The Bible also states that the Word of God is living and active working to change each believer. Change them from the inside out. Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

So, my point, the Word does the work. 

4> Building the right church depends on using the wrong people

God chooses some very odd people to build His Church. Paul reminds us of this when he wrote to the Church in the city of Corinth. 

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 “But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame. What the world thinks is worthless, useless, and nothing at all (of no value) is what God has used to destroy what the world considers important.”

God uses ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. God uses people who are very down to earth (natural) to do the supernatural. God uses those who are not super intelligent to confound the wise in their earthly wisdom. 

God rescues those who are losers and makes them winners for His Kingdom.

5> We are living – and longing – for the end of the world

We are living for the ‘end.’ So, we are longing for and praying that Jesus will come back soon…

1 Corinthians 16:22 “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Come Lord, come!”

ASV – “If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema. Maranatha.”

Our lifestyle should indicate that we are living as those who believe the end could be near.

We are not ‘in love with the things of this world’ but live in such a way that our lifestyle shows others our love for the Master and each other – including the lost.

And, we are telling others about the wonderful news of the Gospel of the Kingdom because we know that every person on the planet must hear the good news before the end can come and Jesus returns…

Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

6> We are selfless followers of a self-centred God

We need to decide what life is all about. As believers we should live selfless lives as we worship and serve our loving heavenly Father – our God.

Are we willing to lose our lives or are we busy sipping our lattes?

Will be serve our God – the God who exalts God?

You know, God does not need us 

The reality is: Our God is a self-existent, self-sustaining, self-sufficient God

He does not need me

He does not need this church

He does not need you

He does not need our plans, programs, prayers, love

The truth is that without all that we have created and do – God can still make a great name for Himself upon the nations

God does not involve its in His grand, global purpose because He needs us

He involves us in His grand, global purpose because He loves us. 

So, we are selfless followers of a self-centred God because He created everything for His glory.

1> One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the Church

2> The Gospel that saves us from work saves us to work

3> The Word does the work

4> Building the right church depends on using the wrong people

5> We are living – and longing – for the end of the world

6> We are selfless followers of a self-centred God

I feel a sermon coming on….

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Four

There is such a confusion in the Church today about what we are to believe and why. As I work with young people in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) it is obvious that both believers and non-believers have a lot of confusion about what we, the Christians and followers of Jesus, really believe and why we believe it.

A lot of the confusion comes because we are mixing Old Testament and New Testament together as if they were equally important for our walk with the Lord and our maturity as believers. Because of the amount of teaching rooted in the Old Testament we have people believing for things that were only promised to Israel of old – God’s people back then. Christians are being taught to live by Old Testament principles and laws that were for Israel and not for God’s chosen people today – the Church. 

Two nights ago as our church plant met in Toronto I received a message asking me about “blessings and curses.” This, of course, is found in Deuteronomy 28 but is referring to the ground rules that the Israelites were to follow as they lived for their God in the wilderness and then in their Promised Land. It is not something for Jesus followers today because Jesus died on the cross and removed the curse from those who believe. The Old Covenant was completed and fulfilled by Jesus during His brief life on our planet. He stated, “It is finished” as He hung on the cross and died for our sins. The Law is finished – we are living under grace and take our clues for life from the New Testament. 

Believers today are mixing Old Testament and New Testament together and ending up with confusion. The Old is a record of God’s interaction with the Jewish nation. It is the OLD Covenant. We are the Church, God’s chosen people today. And, our Scripture (inspired writings) are the 27 books of the NEW Testament. The Old Testament is good for a historical understand of God’s interaction with the human race. It also contains the prophetic voices that forecast the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus. So, it is important as background and history. And, it is inspired. But, we are living in New Testament times and should focus on reading and living the New Testament writings.

Paul said it clearly when he said, “…but we preach Christ crucified…” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and “I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2). If anyone could have preached from the Old Testament it was Paul. He was a Pharisee and well versed in all of the Old Testament writings. But, as a believer and leader in the Church, he chose to preach Christ.

This is our message. And, we need to go back to teaching on the King and His Kingdom; the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14). 

Joshua and the people of Israel walked around Jericho every day for a week. The seventh day they walked around seven times, shouted, and the walls came down. So, now leaders tell us to walk around our city and pray so that spiritual walls will fall and the city can be taken for Jesus. Really! God spoke those specific directions to a specific people at a specific time and place. He did not speak them to the Church. No where in the New Testament do you see the believers walking around their cities.

God said to His people that they were to fast and pray, humble themselves and that He would heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). Christian preachers teach on this all the time and have their people fast, pray, humble themselves … But those words were not spoken to the Church. They were spoken to God’s people, Israel, and are not for today. They are not a current promise that the Church, believers today, can glibly pull out of context, claim, and confess as a promise that God made to them. Nope. Not real!

And on and on the example could go. Let’s preach Christ and Him crucified. Let’s live in the New Testament – the book for the Church as it is the New Covenant made between God and followers of Jesus. Let’s stop confusing believers and non-believers alike. Let’s get back to the basics and watch what will happen as people discover the bare and basic resurrection power of Jesus without all the “religious” trappings. 

Rise up Church and be the Church!

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Three

A friend of mine moved to a city north of where I live and took over a struggling Spirit-filled church. He is a good leader and he quickly built a new leadership team to help him as the church began a tough journey to becoming healthy.

He made a lot of changes – the music, the worship, the preaching, the way things function. He dreamed and cast vision and then worked hard to bring things into line with that new vision. He successfully transitioned the church and it began to grow. And, he added a new Saturday night service for the youth. Those that are known as Millennials (born between 1980 – 2000). They are a generation that is less ‘religious’ then previous generations and although interested in the supernatural and often believing in Jesus, they have little interest in or use for the church. See the notes at the end.

As time went on the Saturday evening service began to see substantial growth. Very similar in format and in preaching content to the Sunday morning service. However, a little livelier, a little louder, more informal, with an opportunity to discuss the teaching after the basic content was presented. As this new service began to grow it soon saw several hundred in attendance. It was amazing. New life for an older church; growth where there had been a steady decline in numbers; life and optimism replacing the pessimistic outlook of previous years. Saturday night became the key service for this church as it reinvented itself.

I asked a number of Millennials why they attended the Saturday services on a regular basis. Their answer did not surprise me. The stated two reasons: First, they came to be with others their own age to talk and relate. The world would call this building relationships. We would call this fellowship. Second, there was good quality coffee available in a relaxed setting where people could simply drink coffee and talk. No mention of the worship – which was better than good. No mention of the teaching – which was engaging, relevant, and on topic for Millennials. Fellowship with like-minded, same-age group and good coffee in a relaxed atmosphere. Hum! Starbucks with a spiritual overtone.

When pressed about the music and worship they all agreed it was better than good, in fact, some thought it was amazing. When questioned about the teaching of the lead pastor – again, everyone thought that he did an amazing job presenting truth and engaging their hearts and minds. But, they came for the coffee and the fellowship. 

My point: The message we preach does not change. However, we need to be in touch with the current trends in our culture and society. Then, address the never-changing message to them in a viable, relevant, understandable way being sensitive to their understanding and approach to life and the Christian faith. 

If we are going fishing for wide-mouth bass we use different bait then we would use to catch a walleye. So, we need to be aware of who we are trying to reach, what they believe, how they view life, and what the key elements of their social relationships are. Then, we use the right bait – the appropriate methods – to present the never-changing message of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

This is what my friend did when moving to an older church in a mid-sized city and he successfully touched a generation seeing many come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Wikipedia states…  

Millennials, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y, are the generational demographic cohort following Generation X and preceding Generation Z. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years. Millennials are sometimes referred to as “echo boomers” due to a major surge in birth rates in the 1980s and 1990s, and because millennials are often the children of the baby boomers. Although millennial characteristics vary by region, depending on social and economic conditions, the generation has been generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.

Peter Pan generation: American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis labeled millennials as the Boomerang Generation or Peter Pan generation, because of the members’ perceived tendency for delaying some rites of passage into adulthood for longer periods than most generations before them. These labels were also a reference to a trend toward members living with their parents for longer periods than previous generations.[146] Kimberly Palmer regards the high cost of housing and higher education, and the relative affluence of older generations, as among the factors driving the trend.[147] Questions regarding a clear definition of what it means to be an adult also impacts a debate about delayed transitions into adulthood and the emergence of a new life stage, Emerging Adulthood. A 2012 study by professors at Brigham Young University found that college students were more likely to define “adult” based on certain personal abilities and characteristics rather than more traditional “rite of passage” events.[148] Larry Nelson noted that “In prior generations, you get married and you start a career and you do that immediately. What young people today are seeing is that approach has led to divorces, to people unhappy with their careers … The majority want to get married […] they just want to do it right the first time, the same thing with their careers.”[148] Their expectations have had a dampening effect on millennials’ rate of marriage.

Religion: In the U.S., millennials are the least likely to be religious when compared to older generations.[158] There is a trend towards irreligion that has been increasing since the 1940s.[159] 29 percent of Americans born between 1983 and 1994 are irreligious, as opposed to 21 percent born between 1963 and 1981, 15 percent born between 1948 and 1962 and only 7 percent born before 1948.[160] A 2005 study looked at 1,385 people aged 18 to 25 and found that more than half of those in the study said that they pray regularly before a meal. One-third said that they discussed religion with friends, attended religious services, and read religious material weekly. Twenty-three percent of those studied did not identify themselves as religious practitioners.[161] A Pew Research Center study on millennials shows that of those between 18–29 years old, only 3% of these emerging adults self-identified as “atheists” and only 4% self-identified as “agnostics“. Overall, 25% of millennials are “Nones” and 75% are religiously affiliated.[162]

Over half of millennials polled in the United Kingdom in 2013 said they had “no religion nor attended a place of worship”, other than for a wedding or a funeral. 25% said they “believe in a God“, while 19% believed in a “spiritual greater power” and 38% said they did not believe in God nor any other “greater spiritual power”. The poll also found 41% thought religion was “the cause of evil” in the world more often than good.[163] The British Social Attitudes Survey found that 71% of British 18–24 year-olds were not religious, with just 3% affiliated to the once-dominant Church of England.[164]

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Two

Why is it that church people seems to want to park where they are at in their journey with Jesus? Or worse, they want to retreat into the past as seen by the number of stories they tell about ‘the good old days’? 

I was recently in a meeting of leaders from one specific church. As we discussed some aspects of the life of the church I suggested that people today are not looking for what is being offered in the majority of churches on an average Sunday morning. That the current generation we are called to reach are simply not relating to the way we are “doing church” and that something needs to change. The message is always the same but the ways in which we share and celebrate that message should be open to change. Methods are not sacred – the message is established but the methods must remain flexible.

Well, we ended up in a decent conversation but I (and the other leader who came with me) were not really heard. The leaders determined that the problem was with the people. They were not hungry enough. They did not love Jesus or love Him enough. They were not engaging in the worship experience being offered. They were too busy with things in the world. They were passive and not willing to be become involved. Then, in defence of their own leadership, they spoke of the anointing on their lives, the things God had done in the past, the one small highlight of the past six months. 

Well, when it is all ‘their fault’ and we are not willing to look at the way we are packaging the precious message that we are to share; when it is ‘the others’ who need to change and get serious about Jesus and the church; when we think what we do on a Sunday is biblical and thus ‘sacred’; When we continue to do what we have always done – we will always get what we have always got. Someone once said, “that doing the same thing we have always done expecting different results is simply insanity.” I agree.

Today we live in a world where people can find better worship and better bible preaching on the internet than they will in the local church on a Sunday. And it is available when you want it.

Today we live in a world where we Google our questions, Facebook our friends, find news in a format we prefer and it is instant and live, and we microwave our food. The world has changed. And, we need to learn how to relate to this new reality.

Today we live in a world where people want to dialogue and not just listen to 30+ minutes of a ‘talking head’ no matter how good he or she may be. They want to be able to ask questions and wrestle with answers. They want to exchange ideas with others.

Today we live in a world where “the Bible says…” means nothing because the majority of people today – young and old – no longer see the Bible as their only authority or even as one of many places they go to seek truth.

Today we live in a world dominated by politics, sports, and economics. The center of life,  the reference point to life, is no longer the Church or the Bible. 

Today we live in a day when the sports bar is ‘attended’ more often than the church building.

Today we live in a time when ‘fellowship’ is found over a cup of Starbucks coffee or over a beer in a local brew pub and not the church.

Today what people think and feel is what they see as truth – and people no longer look to or even consider the Bible to be truth or even contain some truth.

Today we live in a time when people are questioning what 50 years ago was simply considered as truth and never questioned.

Back to the meeting I was in recently – I was blown away when the leaders commented that their church bible studies still used the King James Version. Really!

The world has changed and is continuing to change at a rapid pace. Things are not as they were 50 years ago – or even 5 years ago. Leaders need to understand the culture and society in which they live. They need to relate to the people around them whose lives are so different than they were even a few years ago. As leaders – as believers wanting to fulfil the Great Commission and see people born again – we need to understand how the people around us are living, what they believe, and how they are thinking. Then we can present the gospel – the message that never changes – in a way that it can be understood and received.  

To do so we must be open to changing a lot of what we do and how we do it and still hold true to the faith once delivered to the saints. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part One

I have just returned from a trip where I am working to plant a church in a major Canadian city and helloing to replant a church in the United States. While in the United Sates I inquired about two leaders in an area near the capital city who had stated churches. I learned that both churches (church plants) had ceased to exist. One had grown as large as several hundred but had failed due to internal conflict. The other simply did not attract the people support it needed to continue. I have been thinking about these situations and the two I am involved in as well.

Generally when someone goes to plant a church or wants to have a growing church there are a number of needed factors. Right up front, let me say that I don’t believe this is the way to plant a church today nor is it biblical.

First, we need a good performance. In an entertainment-driven culture, we need someone who can captivate the crowds. If we don’t have a charismatic communicator, we are sunk from the get-go, from the start. Even if we have to show him on video, we get a good speaker. And, for a bonus, we surround the speaker with quality music and arts.

Next, we need a place to hold the crowds who will come. This usually means investing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in a facility to house the performance. The more attractive the environment, the better. And, of course, foundational to a good environment is a “Starbucks level” coffee corner.

Then once the crowds get there, we need something to keep them coming back. So we start programs – first-class, top-of-the-line programs – for kids, youth, and families, for every age and stage. And in order to have those programs, we need professionals to run them. That way parents can drop their kids off at the door, and the professionals can handle ministry for them. We don’t want people trying this at home.

There it is: a performance at a place filled with programs run by professionals. The problem, through, is the one ‘p’ we have left out of the equation: The people of God, the priesthood of all believers.

This brings to remembrance a comment from my first mentor many years ago. He said, “It is easy to attract a crowd or run a three-ring circus (constant flow of entertaining speakers and music). It is hard to build a church.”

Where did we get the idea that all of this is necessary? Certainly not in the Scriptures. The early church did not have professionals running their churches. There were no professionals. Just believers in love with Jesus. They did not have buildings as they were meeting in homes and, in most cases, were persecuted and thus met secretly to fellowship and pray. And, programs were not needed as they simply celebrated their new found freedom and forgiveness, eating meals together, praying, fellowshipping, and studying the words that Jesus spoke. Simple enough. And, powerful in its own simple way.

“And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47b)

Personal Reflections – The Church

God, our heavenly Father is after a people who live for one purpose – His ultimate passion. These are people of faith who do not feel that they are special or elite in any sense. They understand that without Jesus they are nothing and can accomplish nothing of any eternal significance. However, these people do believe and stand in a strong faith that forms a solid foundation for all that they do. These people form the Church of Jesus Christ.
Many today are simply cultural Christians. They have a head knowledge of the Gospel but it has not touched their heart. Their lives have not been impacted by the life-changing power of the Spirit. They live life from their soul realm and do not walk in the Spirit. The same was true in Paul the apostle’s day. So, in 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul talks about believers testing themselves to see if they really are in the faith… really born again.

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When the Word No Longer Speaks To You – Part Two

We are looking at breathing new life into your Bible reading and Bible study times. Last time we saw:

1> Move to a different section of the Bible

2> Switching translations

I mentioned this one in an earlier series of blogs. This is a sure fire way to bring new life to your daily time in God’s Word. Often the words of the version we are reading – even their placement on the page – becomes so familiar to us that we simply don’t see what we are reading – really see it. It has become too familiar and routine. And, although we are reading it, it has stopped speaking to us.

Switching versions gives you the same truths expressed with different words – spoken of in a different way. The message has not changed just the words and phrases used to express and communicate the message have changed. 

I recently put my old Bible back on the shelf. It is an ESV and has been overseas at least a dozen times. It has gone everywhere I go every day for a number of years. It was written in, underlined, and seriously falling apart. I then picked up The Message Version which I had read years ago. When I finished that I switched to a New Living Translation which I am currently reading. From there I plan to go to a CEV (Contemporary English Version).

Here are some decent translations you can consider moving up to…

The New Living Translation – great for easy reading and clarity

The Amplified Bible – excellent for drawing from the original language all the shades of meaning

The Message – reads very easily, reflects great insights, jolts you by its up-to-date language

The Good News Bible – basic English and easy to understand

The New Century Version

The Passion Version

The Voice Version

And, on the list could go. The idea is to begin reading in a fresh version.

3> Read chronologically

This is not something I have done often but it is an interesting way to read the Bible and remove white noise or that blank page feeling.

There are a number of “chronological bibles” available today. This is where the various stories in the Bible are put in chronological order and are taken out of the traditional setting of individual books. So, You may read a piece of Scripture from 1 Kings followed by a piece from 1 Chronicles. Then a piece from a minor prophet within the reading of a major prophet (Ezra within the text of Isaiah). Then the “story” is read in order of the time that it happened regardless of which book the verses originate from.

There are a few editions of the Bible in this format:

The Chronological Study Bible (New King James Version)

The Chronological Life Application Bible (New Living Translation)

And the one I cut my teeth on:  The Chronological Bible (King James Version)

More next time…

When the Word No Longer Speaks To You – Part One

There is a social movement today called “white noise.” There are web sites regarding it; apps you can download and program to your own tastes. I don’t make use of any of these things. However, it seems that it is quiet background music or nature sounds that help you to relax, sleep better, and generally live your daily life in a better frame of mind and spirit. It is simply ‘nice noise’ / ‘white noise’ playing in the background but it is not disturbing you nor does it draw your attention away from whatever you are doing. It is simply there and it is not trying to “speak to you” in any way and it does not contain a message that you need to hear.

Well, sometimes when we are attempting to read and understand the Bible it does not speak to us. If we were being honest we would admit that Bible-reading has become a chore rather than a delight. During these times, the words seem dry as dust. Your mind wanders. The pages are blank. White noise.

This is true for preachers as well. You go to the Scriptures to find food for God’s people, only to discover that the well seems to have run dry.

What do you do when you open your Bible and all you hear is white noise? God’s voice seems silent.

In this series I want to address this very common problem. I have personally known, over my 42 years of walking with the Lord, long seasons when I would open my Bible and hear only white noise. God apparently was not speaking to me. At least, not through His Word and not in a way that I was hearing Him. 

However, over the years, through prayer, discussions with a number of my mentors, long walks with my accountability partner, reading books, experimentation, and trial and error I have discovered a number of things that have helped me greatly when my Bible was no longer speaking to be and all I heard was white noise. Hopefully these ideas will help you if you are currently in a dry place. My prayer is that they might revolutionize your reading of Scripture.

Bible reading and studying God’s Word has a lot to do with the condition of your heart. The Bible is a divine book – inspired by God – and it is not just another piece of good literature. It is spiritual. It is life (John 6:63) and can go deep into our hearts and souls (Hebrews 4:12). In fact, we are born again through this powerful Word (1 Peter 1:23).

So, we need to approach God’s Word with a right heart. If our heart / spirit is not right with God, we will undoubtedly misunderstand the text and miss the riches that the Scriptures contain. I don’t want to address this issue. In this series I am assuming your heart is right before God, there is no unconfessed sin, and you are acting in love towards God, yourself, and all others. This series has to do with the strategies that we use when approaching God’s Word daily. Bible reading and Bible studying strategies.

I leave the condition of your heart up to you and the Holy Spirit.

Change #1: Move to a different section of the Bible

The Old Testament if divided up into three parts: The Law (which contains the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch) ; the Prophets (which includes Kings, Chronicles, the Historical books, and the Prophetic writings); and the Writings (which include Proverbs, Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes).

The New Testament is divided up into the Gospels and Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation.

One of the first things we should do when there is white noise – the first line of offence for a mute Bible – is to stop what you are presently reading and switch to a different section of Scripture.

So, if your Bible turned to dust in the Law, move over to the Epistles (letters) and begin reading there.

If the Scriptures turned silent in the Prophets, move over to Acts.

Is the Gospels went out of tune, then start with Proverbs. 

I remember when I first learned this truth. I was a “read the Bible from front to back” person. After all, that how I read every book I own. I specifically remember the day when the Spirit of God spoke and quietly said, “The Bible is not a book – it is a library of 66 books.” So, as I thought about that I felt the freedom to move around in “The Book.” I soon realized that the order of the books found in the Bible was not chronological anyways. So, I was not going to get “the story” all mixed up by not reading from the first page through to the last page in order. 

Now, I read more New Testament than Old. I read through the whole Bible twice a year. I choose one New Testament book each year and do an in-depth study of the text. I read Proverbs every day – getting through that amazing book of wisdom once every month. I read chapter 1 on day one of the month and so on. I have discovered a rhythm that really helps eliminate the white noise and the dry seasons. Not entirely but it is much, much better.

More next time…

Bible Reading Revisited – Part Three

We are looking at thoughts about revitalizing our time, as believers, in God’s Word and some of the common errors we make as we read and study the Word of God, the Bible. In the past two blogs we have seen some of our errors…

1> Reading the Bible without prayer

2> Getting confused or bogged down by the things you don’t understand

3> Reading too fast, as if you are reading a novel or other fictional writing

4> Reading the Bible in a state of unrepentance

5> Applying Old Testament laws and rituals and promises that were spoken to Israel and that have been done away with, or fulfilled in the New Covenant

6> Reading the Bible out of context

7> Reading the Bible without taking it personally

This is a problem all believers encounter when our rational approach to life is also the way we approach the Bible. This is a mistake that even Bible teachers and preachers make. We go to the Bible to look for information, to look for a promise God has made to His people (you), a principle that you can apply to your life, a “now” word from God to meet a crisis that you are facing. This is a ‘looking for information’ or rational approach where really the Bible is a living Word” and thus can be transformational – changing our lives from the inside out. 

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

For preachers and teachers we go looking for sermon material, or material for a message that applies to other people. So, we need to slow down and take what we are reading personally, applying it first to our own lives.

A note to teachers and preachers: The secret to ministry, the secret to effective ministry, is to take that which has applied to you in your own life, that which you have experienced, and that which has become food to you, to give to other people. So, reading it personally first is very important.

8> Not switching versions of the Bible once-in-a-while

One of the things I have found very helpful is switching versions every once-in-a-while. I normally read the ESV version of the Bible (English Standard Version).However, after a year or more of reading and studying God’s Word in this version (my favourite version) I switched to the NLT (New Living Translation). Because the wording is different and the way each verse is expressed differs from version to version I find that the Word comes across fresh and new once again because of the different way verses I know so well have been expressed. 

There are a good number of decent versions of the Bible available today in English at a decent price. So, just about everyone should be able to switch versions of the Bible every 12 to 18 months to “jolt” their senses as they read the same truths expressed in a slightly – and sometimes majorly – different way. There are many versions that are free online and can be used on desktops and laptops as well as cell phones. So, cost should not be a factor. 

So, wrapping up this small series on “Bible Reading Revisited…”

One of the key ways that we receive spiritual nourishment is by reading the Scriptures. However, there are times that all of us experience when reading the Bible becomes a chore, rather than a delight. And, during such times, the words seem as dry as dust. Our minds wander. We open the Scriptures, and the words do not speak to us. What do you do when the Word is simply silent?

More on that in the next series of blogs starting next time…