The main aim of the sermon series we are currently in, The Whole Story, is to inspire you to read through the whole Bible over the course of about eighteen months, which began in January 2018. A foundational reason for this is that we believe that on this journey we will experience, week by week, the exciting truth that the Bible is a unified story that points us to Jesus.
If you’ve been with us for most of this year, you know that our goal has been, in most cases, to cover one book each Sunday morning when we gather as a church family. Now, as the Bible is made up of books of varying lengths — from one chapter (e.g., Obadiah) to one hundred and fifty chapters (Psalms), it means that our reading homework each week varies as well.
Take the last three weeks as an example. We went from Isaiah (66 chapters — whew!) to Hosea (14 chapters) to Joel (3 chapters). In two weeks, we’ll be in Amos (9 chapters), and for the following six Sundays after Amos, no book will be longer than four chapters.
This last week, I had the opportunity to ask a friend if he had completed the three chapters of Joel (it was Thursday). He said he hadn’t, because he was wanting to stretch it out over the course of the week. I suppose that’s OK, but I’d like to suggest a different approach to you for your reading over the next few weeks, as I did to him, borne out of my own study of these prophetic books.
It’s quite simple, really.
Read the whole book every single morning.
I’m often blessed to hear someone say to me, “I’m amazed at what you see in the story that I didn’t see in the story when I read it.” Would you like to know my secrets to such discoveries?
Well, first, it’s prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God in order to understand (and proclaim) the Word of God. That is a must. A non-negotiable. When you sit down to read, ask him to open your eyes, that you may see wonderful things from his Word (Psalm 119:18).
Second, it is simply reading the text over, and over, and over again. Doing so with a pencil in hand, and a Moleskine right next to my Bible. It is circling words and phrases that are repeated, that seem emphasized, that I don’t understand and am prodded to study further. It is underlining things and drawing arrows and making lines that connect ideas. And the only way all of that can happen is by immersing myself in the text, by saturating myself in the story.
You see, I’m certainly not smarter than you. I don’t have access to a greater power than you. We all have the same Bible, the same Father, the same King, and the same Holy Spirit. That same GOD is there with you, eager to reveal his truth to you, and to answer your prayer for eyes that are open.
Imagine if you did this for the coming book of Amos. As I will be traveling this week to attend the graduation of our oldest son from Minnesota State University, I will not be preaching Amos until Sunday 13 May. So if you start reading Amos every day today, that means you will have read this book thirteen times before you walk into our Sunday morning gathering that day.
Imagine what God will reveal to you! I was still making new discoveries this last Sunday morning in the book of Joel when I read it before heading to the church campus for our gathering. So imagine how ready you will be for the preached word — the questions you may have, the observations you yourself will have drawn, the applications to your life you have already begun to work on, the points that you would love to discuss with your family or community group.
And all from simply asking God to help you understand his Word, and then applying yourself — in a workman-like manner — to immersing and saturating yourself in that word. Trust me, friend, these two simple practices will transform your walk through The Whole Story of Jesus.
But there is one more secret to share with you. One more tool that we have in common.
And that is our friends over at The Bible Project. A great way to start your weekly reading of a book that we are working on (or to review it after the sermon) is to visit their website. For example, if you’d like to study further on the book I preached from this last Sunday, Joel, visit the page on Joel. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this small but power-packed prophetic word.
One more important thought before I let you go. We must continue to remind each other why we are doing this, why we are going through all the books of the Bible in eighteen months, the core and heart of this journey through The Whole Story.
And it is this:
We want more of God.
The Psalmist says it this way in Psalm 119:2 —
Blessed are those who are preserving his testimonies [i.e., his Word],
with the whole heart they are seeking him.
Do you see? The goal of the psalmist is not the testimonies, or the Word, itself, but where the Word is taking him. To whom the word is taking him. The reason he is preserving and spending time in the Word is because his heart is consumed with seeking and knowing its Author. He is found in the Word not for the sake of the Word, but because in that Word he meets his God.
Dear friend, that is my prayer for you this week as you read Amos. That you will enter Amos’s book, and his world, because you want to see more of our Father, and his Son, by his Holy Spirit, and having spent time there, you will be satisfied with more of this amazing God.
Confident he will open our hearts and enlighten our eyes,
Day Thirty: Vistas of Wisdom
I am very near the end of this little writing experiment called “31 Proverbs.” While I’m unsure how helpful it has been to how ever many have read it, I know that the process of sitting down six days each week to read, ponder, and then ponder some more by plunking on a keyboard has helped me grow in my understanding of wisdom.
Day Thirty-Two: A Mother's Wisdom (part two)
Yesterday, we heard from what was likely King Solomon’s mother imparting worthy words of wisdom in the area of leadership. For the sayings of wisdom we find here are those “which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). And she now turns her attention to the search for a woman of virtue and noble character, suitable to be a wife and mother.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.
Day Twenty-Six: A Morning Conversation With King Solomon
A conversation that happened this morning as I came upon a visitor in our fireplace room….
Day Nineteen: God Chose Her, Not You
The doctrine of God’s rule and reign in and over all things comes crashing into the human conception of the self-made man. We are tempted to think we have so much to do with our happinesses. But the wisdom found from James speaks a wakefulness into the pondering of our circumstances—the good gifts we have come not from our own hands, but by the grace and providence of our heavenly Father. And the wisdom of Solomon makes clear—one of man’s greatest gifts is something only God can give, an understanding wife.
Day Seventeen: The Great Gain Of Godly Contentment
We live in a world where the temptation is constant to believe the amount of our wealth and possessions directly translates to our joy and happiness. The Bible, once again, confronts our culture and holds out another possibility. Namely, “better” does not imply “more,” “bigger,” or “expensive.” It suggests that the reason you still haven’t found what you are looking for is because you’ve been searching in all the wrong places. Wisdom opens our eyes and hearts to deeper wells of contentment.
Day Fifteen: I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me
I always feel like somebody's watching me. And I have no privacy. Woh, I always feel like somebody's watching me. Tell me is it just a dream? So sang Rockwell in the dawning of my high school years back in 1984. All the cool kids were singing it at the time, and its the tune that sprang to mind when I read this similar sentiment this morning: Yahweh is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3, New Living Translation)
Day Fourteen: Death By Living
For those of us desirous to live a good life, we’ve known since the very beginning of this book that it begins with a healthy awe, reverence, and trembling before the God of the universe whose name is Yahweh (Proverbs 1:7). And here we are again reminded that this humble posture before the Holy One is a fountain overflowing with life.