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Pick it up and read it..........

Why Read the Bible?

The answer is quick and simply, from my point of view:  It is essential for spiritual growth. Period.

I recently read the longest chapter in the Bible—Psalm 119.  My favorite part of this is at the beginning where the Psalmist asks: “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:9-11, NIV)

Two things came to my mind as I think about “hiding His word in my heart”. One was the memory of the last USA Presidential debates in 2016. All of us who watched it on TV were clear about what we heard and we were clear on how we determined the candidates performed. But at the end of the debates, the network commentators, who were listening to the exact same debate we just heard, began to explain to us what was really said, as if the rest of us were “morons”, and that only their sophisticated minds could discern the truth.  In my opinion, we really don’t need people on TV to explain to us what we can plainly see and hear.

Why, then, do we read books about people that have read the Bible and listen to their opinions, rather than read the Bible for ourselves? Why do we trust to others with what God has clearly said? Anyone of us could easily pick it up and read it.  On the other hand, why do we listen to those that condemn the Bible but have not read it?  We accept the authority of agnostics, atheists or non-believers when they disparage the Bible and then find out that these experts rarely, if ever, read the Bible.

The second thing that came to my mind is the real truth about the Bible: It is God’s living Word—that should mean something not just to me, but to all mankind. If it is God’s Word, why would I not spend time in it—daily—so that His Holy Spirit might speak mightily and appropriately to me?  I have found in the Bible a powerful tool, ally and weapon with which to fight the enemy—the “one” that desires to discourage, confuse and hamstring me. Truly, His word is light as well as a love letter from God…to me.

And so, without sounding too “preachy”, I wonder if you read the Word of God…or do you allow someone else to read it for you? None of us would ask for another adult to read to us a novel or the newspaper, so why are we so hesitant to read the very words of God Almighty or listen to the words of Jesus as He told parables? 

My mornings begin with an espresso and the Bible—seven days a week—and I know that I am a better man because of it. This message is to convince you to try it if you are not reading it—you’ll like it.

So, do you read the Bible?  Do you  understand it?  Do you believe it?  

1. Read the word each morning—-before you start your day.  If you don’t read the Bible you will remain a spiritual pygmy for the rest of your life and you could be easily swayed by any lunacy preached or taught. 

It contains God’s intention for us. It’s the operating manual for a full-filled life. Paul said that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God …” 2 Timothy 3:16. The Bible is inspired by God Himself and it’s His email..text letter to us.  It is our food for our souls and we cannot grow without it. We will be stunted and unable to run as  Christian athletes should.

But it also helps us understand the world and gives us discernment. The author of Hebrews writes, “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.

The Bible tells  me how to live the way I was created and imagined to live.  Have you ever wondered why the authors of the  owner’s manuals tell you how to change the oil, or keep the machine dry or avoid certain chemicals?  It is because the manufacturer knows what it takes to keep the machine functioning at it’s best. But also imagine using a weed-eater for a blender or a leaf blower for a hair dryer?  It might work, but the machines were not designed or engineered for that purpose!  The Bible is the owner’s manual for how to live and enjoy an abundant life written by the one that created and engineered us. He knows what He’s talking about when it comes to how we live and how we fuel our souls. “How can a young man cleanse his way?” David asked. “By taking heed according to Your word.” Psalm 119:9. The Bible contains all the instruction that we need to come to a life that meets the standards of its manufacturer—God Almighty.  It teaches us how we can follow Christ in truth. It contains words and examples from heroes of faith, prophets, apostles, Jesus Christ and God Himself! What better teaching, what better instruction is there for those who want to live a life that is well-pleasing to God our Creator?

The Bible contains power and helps us overcome the things that want to drag us down.

We will still experience temptation in our lives —and even more temptations as we grow closer to Him. Satan makes use of the good things that God has given us to tempt to us either be greedy for those good things, or to abuse or pervert those good desires. He tries to get us to disobey God’s will, by offering things that appeal to us naturally.  He did the same thing to Jesus, so don’t think that being tempted is a sign you’re drifting away from God, it might be a sign you’re getting under Satan’s skin!  But what was Jesus defense each time Satan tempted Him?  The Bible. Think of it: The Son of God used the Bible to fend off temptation. “Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”’”….. “Away with you, Satan! For it is written ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” (Matthew 4:1-11, NIV)

2. Second, understand the Bible by setting aside a time each morning to read it. It is full of God’s  extraordinary promises.  Those promises might not be needed in your life now, but as you grow older, or heartache or hardships come, the promises you have studied will come back and give you peace and hope…….so:

a. Pray before you read. It is the Holy Spirit that opens our eyes to the living Word of God.  It is not possible to grasp all that is in the Word short of divine assistance. Each time I read the Bible He shows me new truth and new pearls I’ve never grasped before. Pray for illumination.

b. Don’t just read a verse—read the chapter or, better, the whole book. The books of the Bible were written to be read in only a few sittings. In fact, it is a rather modern idea (o take isolated verses or passages and apply them to our lives; books of the Bible were often read in large chunks. Paul’s letters, for example, were read aloud in their entirety to churches. Again, set aside the best time of your morning to read it—-not the time left over at the end of the day.

3. Do you believe that it is true and God-breathed?  Then read it that way. It is the authentic, infallible Word from God and it foretells and proclaims the coming of Jesus and what He, as God's Son, has done to redeem mankind.   It tells the same story, about the same God, about the same expectations, with the same truth.  It is faultless and a divine treasure that is the best seller of all time with no rival in all literature with billions  in print.

Did you know that in the Bible, for example, there are over 300 prophecies that point directly to the  coming Messiah. The prophesies are precise——such as He would be born of a virgin, and when killed none of his bones would be broken, and so on.  The Christian apologist Chip Ingram, wrote that, “Mathematics & Astronomy Professor Peter W. Stoner has made the statement that the chances of just 8 prophecies (like these) coming true by sheer chance is 1 in 10 to the 18th degree. That would be equivalent to covering the whole state of Texas with silver dollars two feet deep and then expecting a blindfolded man to walk across the state and on the very first try find the ONE coin you marked. And if we were to add only 8 more similar prophecies, for a total of 16, the odds would be 1 x 10 to the 45th degree! Using the same type of illustration as above, if we were to press this many silver dollars  into a ball and place the center of this ball where the center of our Sun is, this silver ball's outer edge would be in approximately the same area as the orbit of Neptune. One man fulfilling all 16 prophecies by sheer chance would be like sending a blind-folded person out to find one specific silver dollar that has been marked and has been mixed up somewhere in this huge ball and actually finding it the first time!" So think about what 300 prophecies would be?

Parts of the New Testament have been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work—in this world there is no comparison.  There are over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages.

Do you believe that words recorded from Plato are from Plato? His works earliest manuscript was recorded 1200 years after he wrote them. 7 ancient manuscripts have been found.

Do you believe that words recorded from Aristotle are from Aristotle?: His works earliest manuscript was recorded 1400 years after he wrote them. 49 ancient manuscripts have been found.

Do you believe that words recorded from Homer are from Homer?: His works earliest manuscript was recorded 500 years after he wrote them. 643 ancient manuscripts have been found.

But do you believe that the words recorded from New Testament are authentic? The earliest copy of the entire New Testament manuscript was recorded only 125 years after it was written. There are over 24,000 ancient manuscripts.

I am having my own book of daily devotions published right now by Zondervan Press.  It’s just me writing this book, so it’s pretty consistent and easy to follow. But the Bible had:

40 authors

With 20 occupations

Living in 10 countries

Writing over 1500 years

In three different languages

Dwelling  in 1550 places

Writing about 2930 different people

66 books

Comprising 1189 chapters

With use of prose,  poetry, romance, biography, science, history, parables.

—-and yet it consistently tell us about a Holy God that loves us.

Let me give you this thought to hold to in terms of believing the Bible:

As you read it you will find that it says some things that you don’t like or find surprising.  If man wrote it to man, it would all make sense and the editors and redactors would remove anything from the Bible that offended our ears.  But as you read the Bible and it feeds your soul, you’ll realize this is not meant to make us merely feel good nor is it a fairy tale where “everyone lived happily ever after”, or the heroes never made a mistake or failed in their mission. It’s a book about God’s love for you and me—-and men and women just like you and me—-flawed, imperfect, mortal men and women.

Saint Augustine's life as a young man was characterized by loose living and a search for answers to life's basic questions.  He would follow various philosophers, only to become disillusioned with their teachings. For nine years he was associated with the Manichean sect. But he gradually became aware that Manicheism was unable to provide satisfactory answers to his probing questions. At this time, Augustine was teaching rhetoric in Milan. He went to hear the preaching of Saint Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan. At first he went only to hear Ambrose's eloquent style of speaking. But the Bishop's preaching led Augustine to a new understanding of the Bible and the Christian Faith. Some time in the year 386, Augustine and his friend Alypius were spending time in Milan. While outdoors, Augustine heard the voice of a child singing a song, the words of which were, "Pick it up and read it. Pick it up and read it." He thought at first that the song was related to some kind of children's game, but could not remember ever having heard such a song before. Then, realizing that this song might be a command from God to open and read the Scriptures, he located a Bible, picked it up, opened it and read the first passage he saw. It was from the Letter of Paul to the Romans. Augustine read: “Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” --Romans 13: 13-14  Reading this scripture, Augustine felt as if his heart were flooded with light. He turned totally from his life of sin. He was Baptized by Ambrose during the Easter Vigil April 24, 387. His friend Alypius and his son Adeodatus were Baptized at the same time. Later, reflecting on this experience, Augustine wrote his famous prayer: You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. He went on to become a powerful influence on the spirituality and theology of the Christian Church.  He is arguable the most important theologian and thinker in Christianity since the Saint Paul—-no one compares to this man’s influence.  But, he had to pick it up and read it.

….have you?

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