A Pastor's Hope for the Church in 2017

To the best of my knowledge, my dad never read a book from beginning to end. My memories of my dad’s consumption of the printed word begin and end at the kitchen table where he would thumb through all the ads in the Sunday paper, nursing a cup of strong, black Hills Bros. as he glanced at the pictures. After the headlines atop each section of the paper, the black letters on the white pages garnered no attention from him. I doubt my dad ever read a complete magazine article. I know he never read a blog post, including mine, and his Facebook practices were limited to liking my kids’ pictures and playing Candy Crush. My dad was not unintelligent, but he was simple, and his reading habits reflected as much. That’s what an eighth grade education delivers.

Most of you are not like my dad as evidenced by the fact that you are reading now. To some extent you appreciate the information gained by consuming the word on the page. Some of us appreciate a little, and a few of us appreciate more.

If my dad were still with us, I’d go back and try to help him, not to read the whole of a newspaper article, but in the reading of his Bible. How do you fare at Bible reading? Do you know what your Bible can do for you?

You will help yourself by reading your Bible. Your victory over temptation will become more frequent. Your capacity to act wisely in given situations will increase dramatically. Your decision making will no longer be regrettable as you look backward. You will be a lot less moody when the Bible settles your thoughts and emotions throughout the day. Coffee can't do this for you, but a diet rich in the Bible will. Your estimation of God’s greatness and grace will grow exponentially.

You will help your family by reading your Bible. Your love for siblings, parents, children and extended family will grow as you read of God’s love for them. Your positioning of their interests above your own will become more natural and less intrusive. You will become a more patient and just parent. The Holy Spirit will carry the advice you offer to your children to their hearts. You will position your family for generational faithfulness to our Lord. Years from now one of your descendants will offer, “Remember how grandpa would say, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart?’”

You will help your church by reading your Bible. Your Sundaycorporate worship will flow from your daily Bible reading encouraging the worship of those gathered with you. Your participation in conversations will bless those in your small group or circle of close church friends as you offer, “Well, I was reading in Jeremiah the other day and God says…” Your spiritual maturity brought abought by the long term reading of God’s Word will contribute to the protection of the church when it is tempted to deviate from the Word of God in its doctrine or its methods. Your love for the church will grow as you read and witness our Lord’s love for the very same church of which you are a part.

You will grow in your desire to see people saved by reading your Bible. You will read of hell and weep for those condemned to a Christless eternity. You will see the self-consumed in the community and wonder not about their status but about their eternal destiny. You will read in the gospels the stories of the demonically oppressed and cry out to God for the release from the bondage of sin on display anywhere teens and college students gather. When you read your Bible for months on end, one day you will find yourself giving the gospel of Jesus Christ to someone in the most natural of conversations and afterward wonder, “What just happened?”

You will mature both in the content of your prayer and the frequency of your prayer by reading your Bible. Prayer is hard for those who do not read their Bibles. That makes sense. Without reading the Bible, knowledge of God is minimal. What knowledge does exist is second hand, what your pastor told you about God or what you parents said sometime long ago. As your intimacy with God grows from your reading what God says to you in his word, the natural result will be a prayer capacity you never knew possible. Bible readers become serious prayers who experience God’s power in answered prayers.

A while ago someone asked me about goals for our church in 2017. After some consideration and at the top of my list is this: our church needs to read the Bible. We have not conducted any surveys of our membership on the subject. The only information I have is anecdotal. The stories that make their way back to me suggest we don’t read our Bibles. We just don’t. But we can, we should, and we must for all the reasons listed above.

Often when I gather with our men to pray, one of them will offer, “Help our pastor as he leads us…” Sometimes I wonder what that means, as I lead us where? I’ll let you in on a little secret; there are times when leaders lead less than certain that the direction they are championing for the group is the way to go. On this one, though, I am quite certain. We need to read our Bibles.

But you don’t need to wait until January 1, 2017. You can start reading your Bible today. Read Proverbs 13, the proverb of the day. Or read Psalm 1, occupying the first position in the collection of the psalms for a reason. Or read Luke 1 in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. Or read Romans 8, one of the most important chapters in all of the New Testament. Or read Revelation 21 and marvel at what God has in store for us when this world ends.

Friends, you need, we need more of the Bible. Will you read it…a lot…often…more than you think you need?

As always, I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.