Tag Archives: Bible reading

Thank the Lord for People Who Preserve the Bible


Be grateful for people who do the important work of protecting and preserving the Bible for future generations. This is a photograph of the oldest known copy of Romans 4-5. Some people have risked everything to protect copies of Scripture in order to assure the every generation is able to possess it and read it. Even today, people take great risks to assure that Christians in countries such as Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, and China are able to read the Bible for themselves.

Tell Me the Old, Old Story

Open Hymnal

1. Tell me the old, old story,
Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,
Of Jesus and His love;
Tell me the story simply,
As to a little child,
For I am weak and weary,
And helpless and defiled.

Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Of Jesus and His love

2. Tell me the story slowly,
That I may take it in—
That wonderful redemption,
God’s remedy for sin;
Tell me the story often,
For I forget so soon,
The “early dew” of morning
Has passed away at noon.

3. Tell me the story softly,
With earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner
Whom Jesus came to save;
Tell me the story always,
If you would really be,
In any time of trouble,
A comforter to me.

4. Tell me the same old story,
When you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory
Is costing me too dear;
And when the Lord’s bright glory
Is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story:
“Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”

By Katherine Hankey (1834-1911)
Text is in the public domain
Source: https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/1075

  • Contemporary secular thinkers accuse Christians of child abuse for telling their children that they are sinners. One atheist man sued a Bible publisher for printing biblical texts that declared homosexuality to be sin. What does the hymnwriter think about the human condition? Where did she get that idea? Can you think of one or more Bible verses that underlie verse 1?
  • What is the old, old story the hymnwriter wants to hear?
  • Ms. Hankey wanted to hear the story slowly and often. What faith practice will enable every Christian to hear the story slowly and often? What common work of Christians is another way to hear the story often?
  • People who advocate abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and the sale of body parts of dead babies resent any statements that accuse them of immorality. The writer of the hymn asked to be told when she had transgressed God’s law. What is the root of the difference in attitudes? Do you want to be told when you have sinned?
  • What do secularized Christians receive that orthodox Christians do not receive? How do secularized Christians justify views that conflict with the revealed truth in the Bible? What do secularized Christians lose when they modify their teachings to conform with the evolved principles of the culture? In the end, what is the important reason that the hymnwriter does not want the “old, old story” changed?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Open Hymnal
License: CC BY-NC-SA




Your IQ is Fine for Bible Study

Open BibleMany people avoid personal Bible study, declaring themselves not “smart” enough to understand the Bible. This attitude shuts people out of God’s revelation of himself to all people through Scripture. Jesus Christ our Savior is God’s living Word to us, and the Bible is God’s written word to us. God inspired people to write the many different books, letters, and poems that make up the Bible, and his purpose was to give people something they could read for themselves in order to know his will and his way. The Bible is our guide for faith and life, and the Bible is for everybody.

Too many people talk themselves out of reading the Bible, because they hear scholars and preachers speak eloquently of the teachings therein, and these people fear they simply will not understand it. If you feel that way, take heart. God wrote the Bible for everyone.

Think about a familiar Bible story, one that is often told to children: the story of Jonah.

Children identify with this story because Jonah acts like a three-year-old. God tells him to do something he doesn’t want to do, so he pouts and runs away. Like a loving parent, God captures the runaway, gives him a timeout, and then gives him a second chance to obey.

Any child can learn from this story that God is patient and loving, even when we are disobedient.

There is a lot more to the story, but a child can absorb the child’s portion of the story. The beauty of this and many other Bible stories is that there is so much more, and it is accessible to people of all ages. The person who read and learned from this story at age 5 will find more to learn at age 9, and age 17, and age 45.

The story reminds us that people have not changed much in the thousands of years since Jonah lived. For adults confronting a culture that talks about evolving morality and the steady improvement of humans, that lesson about the persistence of sinful human nature is valuable.

The story reminds us that when we undertake to obey God, our failures do not result in the failure of God’s purposes. Jonah did eventually go to Nineveh, but the story says he only barely got inside the city before he proclaimed his message and then went off to see what happened. God wanted him to tell all the Ninevites, not just the ones he passed the first day he arrived. Yet God was there in the words Jonah spoke grudgingly, and God used those words to prick the hearts of person after person, all the way up to the king. The best Jonah could manage was a half-hearted, half-done job, but God used it anyway and achieved his purpose for Nineveh.

You don’t need a high IQ to notice these things in this story. You don’t need a degree in theology or rocket science or ancient languages. You need to do one thing: read the story.

As I mentioned in the first post of this series, many people don’t read the story, because they claim they do not have time. I recommended that you consider whether it might be good stewardship of God’s gift of time to set aside just five minutes in each 24 hours for prayer and Bible study. That is how you get the time. Lack of time is no reason to fail to read the Bible.

In this post, I have showed you that you can use your own common sense to read the Bible and learn from it. You have the intelligence to understand the simple words of Jonah’s story and learn from it. The Bible is full of stories you will understand readily if you simply read them. Lack of Bible training is no reason to fail to read the Bible.

In posts yet to come, I will help you get past some of the other ways you may be justifying to yourself your failure to read the Bible. You know that you need God’s help every day. You experience frustration, fear and anger as you are jolted by the daily chaos. You know that the Bible is God’s gift to guide us in faith and life. There is only one way to get past your failure to read the Bible. Just do it.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Open Bible
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOpen_Bible.jp
Attribution:  By Wnorbutas (Own work)
License:CC BY-SA 3.0

The State of the Bible Reveals the State of the People

Recently Barna Group reported on a survey called “The State of the Bible.” Barna Group is a reliable source of information about the culture and changing cultural attitudes toward religion. This report included a statement that should motivate every Christian to personal prayer and meditation. The results of the survey show that “while the Bible’s place in America as a cultural icon endures, it’s not always perceived as a transformational text.” The phrase “transformational text” is key. If the Bible is not a “transformational text,” then it is no more significant than the myths of Krishna or the sayings of Buddha. It is less significant than “The Sayings of Chairman Mao,” because the people who studied that famous little red book believed that Mao’s sayings were powerfully transformational.

The study also indicates that respect for the Bible in the US is declining, although a significant number of people still express respect. In 2011, 86% of respondents considered the Bible to be sacred, a level that declined to 79% in 2014. That number looks significant, but it does not in any way declare reverence for the Bible or any sense of obligation to follow its teachings. If anybody took a day to survey everyone he met, he might discover that everybody he met considered the Bible sacred. Yet he might also discover that not one of those people had opened the Bible even once in the past week. Many people consider the Bible sacred and keep it around for the same reason they might preserve a wedding dress. They no more intend to read the Bible than they intend to wear the dress. Both are special and memorable, and the special memories are best sustained by keeping the objects untouchable, stored in a safe place.

This is the attitude explains another comment on the Barna survey: “Even as Bible ownership remains strong, readership and engagement are weak.” Owning a Bible rarely leads to reading a Bible. Reading a Bible rarely leads to internalizing its teachings.

This survey appears to show clearly that many people who regard the Bible as sacred do not regard it as God’s revelation of himself. It is obvious that people can regard the Bible as sacred without regarding it as relevant to their daily lives.

Christians who ask why the culture is trying to suppress and diminish the influence of Christianity need to read these surveys. They need to recognize that “respecting” the Bible as a “sacred” book is a very different thing from considering the Bible to be God’s revealed guidance for faith and life. The survey makes it clear that even though 79% of the people consider the Bible sacred, only 19% of the people read it regularly with a view to living by its teachings. It might shock some Christians to discover that even though 79% of the people consider the Bible sacred, only 26% of the people who think morality in the US is declining believe that inattention to the Bible has anything to do with that decline. Apparently, in most people’s minds, the Bible is not the ultimate moral authority. In fact, most people appear to believe that the Bible has little or nothing to say to the everyday problems of human beings.

A look at the culture confirms the study. The 19% who attempt to shape their lives by the Bible see the Bible as the revelation of absolute truth, part of which is an absolute moral code. The number of people with this view of life is declining. Secular thinkers teach that there is no absolute truth, and secular thinkers teach people to look within themselves for guidance. The number of secular thinkers is increasing. It should not be surprising that the survey shows that people who are already sceptical about the Bible do not believe that morality is declining. Rather, they see positive progress in the fact that the culture now accepts as normal many behaviors considered immoral in the past. Careful reading of the statistics, especially the data for Millenials, indicates that there is a widening disconnect between those who follow a morality based on the Bible and those who shape their moral code on some other basis.

Christians who read the survey may well ask if there is anything to be done about it. They may mourn the loss of Christian influence in the culture. They may want to look back to a Norman Rockwell reality, forgetting that reality does not reside on a canvas. Christians who read the survey and conclude that things are getting worse and may never get better are guilty of not putting their faith in the God who revealed himself in the Bible. If the survey makes Christians despair, they are mistaking the real meaning of the survey. Nothing about the survey changes any truth about God or the Bible.

The information in this survey is, however, beyond the capability of any Christian to “fix.” Christians cannot take the survey and use it to plan a better strategy for teaching people to read their Bibles. The survey itself reports that people like to read the Bible on screens rather than paper, but they really don’t make time to read it, and when they do, they don’t take it to heart. Designing a more attractive Bible reading plan will not fix the statistics.

The only thing that will change the statistics is an increase in the trend for people to encounter the God revealed in the Bible and be changed by that encounter. Like Paul. Like Cornelius. Like the Philippian jailer. Christians must first be transformed by the Christ revealed in the Bible, and they must share that transformational Christ with others. The Bible is transformative, but God’s transformation is not a passive experience. People must read the Bible with hearts open to hear God speaking in the words of the Bible. If people read the Bible as ancient sacred literature, a relic of primitive thought, they will not be transformed. Only a faith conversation with God triggered by the words of the Bible will produce transformation.

This survey may be a prod for Christians to engage with the Bible in a transformative way. Christians who claim they are “too busy” to read the Bible will not experience it as transformational. They will experience respect for the Bible the way they feel nostalgia when viewing a perfectly preserved wedding dress. It is an attitude that does not permit, let alone invite, transformation. It sounds like a truism, but people are busy if they decide that they are busy. The always have time for the things they value. Christians who so not have time for the Bible, do not read it. People who do not read it will not be transformed by the God revealed in the Bible. They will always be part of the statistic that says 79% of people consider the Bible sacred, but 60% don’t consider it relevant to their daily lives.

Each Christian must examine himself or herself and ask, “Am I among the 19% who know the God revealed in the Bible and follow the Bible as my guide for faith and life?” Jesus told his followers from the very beginning that very few would find the narrow gate and hard path on which he walked. In order to walk that path they first need to dump self. Self says, “I need to do a lot of things in order to fulfill myself and look good.” When the fulfillment of Self is more important than the God revealed in the Bible, the Bible will take a distant last place in priorities. If anybody wants the statistics to look better next time, he must submit to the transformation that will make him part of the few, the 19%, the engaged. Programs will not change the statistics; only transformed people will change the statistics.

Did You Try It?

Did you try setting aside just five minutes for Bible reading and prayer? This single decision can seem really huge when you are trying to make the time. It can seem like a real frustration if you decide to do and then fail the first or second or third time you try. A mere five minutes seems like something you ought to be able to do just any time.

Unfortunately, “any time” never comes.

When you think you could carve out five minutes whenever you like, so you never commit to anything, you will discover that there is never even five minutes you can take for yourself.

How do you isolate and protect just five minutes? I know it is hard. It wasn’t easy when I started, but I learned. The first step is to commit to do it. Promise yourself you will find five minutes. It hurts when you make a promise to yourself and don’t keep it. So promise yourself.

For many people it is easiest to find that five minutes at the start of the day. Some people find it easier to set aside time right before they go to bed. Some even find it during their lunch break. Know yourself. Pick something and commit to it.

For many people, having a consistent location helps. When I was traveling for work, it was hard to have anything very consistent. After a while, I developed an unpacking routine, and part of that routine was to set my Bible and my devotional book on the table beside the chair in my hotel room. Every time I was in the room, I saw them lying there. As soon as I got out of bed in the morning, I saw them lying there. While I made coffee I laid out my clothes for the day. When coffee was ready, I poured a cup and sat down for my five minutes. It isn’t important what routine or what location or what time you pick. The important thing is to figure out when to do it and how to prompt yourself to do it every day.

If you have been thinking that you need to read your Bible more, you are right. If you have told yourself you need to pray more often, you do. You don’t have to make a huge change in your life in order to start. The big changes happen later, after you get to know God better. For now, think of it as a five minute visit with the One who loves you so much that He died for you.

Let me know how it goes.