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,
Samuel Johnson was born on September 18, 1709, and was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer.
How Can We Pursue A Long Repentance In The Same Direction?
This last Sunday, in Calvary’s morning gathering, we studied the book of Haggai together as part of God’s Whole Story. Together we heard God speak through his prophet to his people after the exile, challenging them to remain faithful and to rebuild the temple.
The book of Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament. It has 4 oracles (think: sermons), 2 chapters, and about 1,100 words.
In the book of Jeremiah we read of God’s intention for Daniel and all of those with him who have been exiled from the land of promise.
We are in a sermon series called The Whole Story, so named because we started off with the assumption, and belief really, that the whole Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus. Each and every book is a bit like a chapter that contributes to the overall story that God is telling.
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.