Keep It Simple: Let the Word Do Its Work

I received the most marvelous testimony of the power of God’s word from a pastor friend of mine, Dr. Mark Johnson. On January 8, he wrote to his Baltimore congregation:

    Dear Friends,
    Welcome to the second newsletter of 2017. Some might question the point of emailing a newsletter on a weekly basis to the members and friends of Mt. Olive United Methodist Church. … The fact is, I want you to have the “Daily Bible Reading Plan” in your email each Sunday morning.
    I am what some may call a cradle Christian. Maybe you are, too. I started attending worship as an infant and Sunday School as a small child. You probably did, too. When I was 14 or so, I was recruited onto a church committee and at 16 I was a delegate to Annual Conference. You can probably make a similar claim. I, just like you, was baptized, communed, and confirmed. But for me there was still a big void in my life.
    One Sunday – I was probably in my early-30s at the time — I was sitting in choir loft on a Sunday morning. It came time in worship for the Gospel reading and we all reached for a Bible. For whatever reason, there was only one Bible in our row. The fellow next to me handed me the Bible and said, “Here, you probably need this more than I do.” I took his remark as a friendly jab, took the Bible and turned to the morning’s lesson. As I began to follow along, I was transfixed. The story spoke right to me and even though the Liturgist stopped reading, I continued. I finished that chapter and went on to the next. I continued reading through the sermon. When I got home, I found my Bible and picked up reading where I left off. I felt like God grabbed my heart and soul and wanted me to know – to be – something.
    There are lots of reasons to read the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” There is a lot to consider in those two verses but let’s look at “all scripture is inspired by God” and why that is important.
    We might define “inspired” as influenced, motivated or encouraged and might say that a favorite teacher inspired our love of reading. But such a definition of “inspired” does not do justice to what the author, Paul, was getting at when he wrote about the inspiration of scripture. Paul used, and perhaps coined, the term “theopnuestos” which we translate as “inspired.” It is a combination of “theo” (God) and “pnuestos” (breathed). “Pnuestos” is related to the word, “pnuema” which means both wind and Spirit. Paul is telling us that the Bible is “God-breathed”; that is, God’s Holy Spirit flows through the Biblical text to interact with the faithful reader.
    That kind of makes the Bible sound like an enchanted object straight out of a Harry Potter book, doesn’t it? Really, the actual physical Bible is just ink, paper, and binding. But the stories, histories, songs, poems, letters and revelations within the Bible have been recognized for thousands of years as authentic and authoritative remembrances of the Holy at work in the lives of faithful, and some not so faithful folks, like you and me. As we read, hear, study, and tell scripture the Holy Spirit moves within us in ways that reveal God’s self to us. As God reveals God’s self to us, and we make our lives open to God, a deep and life-changing relationship is built.
    I can point to that Sunday in the choir loft when God grabbed me — heart and soul — as I read the Bible as the day my life changed. My journey with Jesus began when God-breathed scripture connected my life to our living LORD.
    This newsletter is first and foremost an invitation through daily Bible reading for your life to shaped, formed, and illuminated by God. Really, could anything else be more exciting? See you in worship.
    Pastor Mark

Here’s the rest of the story from my perspective, and I share it with his permission. Fast forward 20 or 30 years, and I taught a simple method for time with God to Pastor Mark and his staff at a church in Colorado Springs. At our next meeting, Mark said, “I was really excited to practice what we had learned, so I got up the next morning and sat down to read Romans with my Bible, journal, commentary, and Greek New Testament. After a couple days of this I realized that’s not what Bob asked us to do. So I put away my Greek New Testament and my commentary and worked through the process: read, reflect, respond, record. And I said to myself, ‘This is insanely simple.’”

It appears that Mark’s seminary tools had temporarily distracted him from the simplicity of taking in the God-breathed Word that he had been so excited about.

Keep it simple, folks. God wants to speak to us. And thank you, Mark, for the stunning reminder of the power of the Word. Your congregation is blessed.

PS Clicking on the method link gets you the short version of a simple method. Or, click on the Join the Adventure tab at the top of this page and order my book! I discuss time with God in detail in the middle section.

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