One of the temptations for pastors is to engage the Bible only for sermon preparation. Because we preach most every week, we are always looking for fresh content for our preaching. As a result, one of the challenges for pastors is reading the Bible personally as a Christian rather than simply reading it as a pastor looking for sermon material.
Today I want to share a practice with you that has been very helpful in my journey. First, let me give you a little background. I grew up in a Christian home where the Word of God was loved and studied. There was great respect for God’s Word. And to this day I believe that the Bible is inspired, infallible, and inerrant.
And most of my life, I have approached the Bible informationally, not relationally. When I approach the Bible informationally, my goal is to elevate my knowledge. But when I approach the Bible relationally, my goal is to elevate my affection and love for God.
Growing in knowledge is important, but knowledge without relationship is dangerous. That was one of the big issues Jesus had with the Pharisees. They had biblical knowledge but their heart was far from God.
In recent years, when I sit down with my Bible, I try to remind myself that this is not just a book with great truth and accurate information. Behind the book, is a personal God. I am meeting with the God of the universe, not just reading a book. And he wants a relationship with me, which makes the Bible different than any other book ever written.
Hebrews 4:12 (NLT) says
"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires."
The Word of God is alive and powerful because God is at work in it and through it. He energizes His Word and applies it to my life.
So, before I start reading Scripture, I usually start with a simple prayer… “Lord, today I want to meet with you and I want to deepen my relationship with you. So, speak to me. I am listening.” I am reminding myself to read the bible relationally, not just informationally. As a pastor, my default mode is to come to the Bible looking for truth that I can use in a sermon. The irony is that I can come to the Bible looking for truth and actually be disconnected relationally from the truth-giver.
There is an old story about a group of at a dinner gathering. At the dinner was a well known orator. That night he was asked to recite the 23rd Psalm. He masterfully recited that most well known of Psalms and everyone in the room was impressed. There was also an older pastor there that night and someone asked him if he would also recite the 23rd Psalm. But instead of the people being impressed, they were moved. Afterward, someone commented, the orator knew the Psalm and the pastor knew the shepherd.
I don’t want to be a pastor who simply knows the psalm. I want to deeply know the shepherd.
When my wife and I started dating 40 years ago, we were in college. The problem was that we lived 600 miles apart. And, it was before the days of cell phones, e-mail, and text messaging. We were poor college students but we were in love and had a deep desire to connect with each other.
So, we worked out a plan. We would do all we could to see each other once a month. Then, we would call each other once a week. That was all we could afford. But, every single day we wrote a personal letter. For over a year, every day I wrote a letter to Connie and she wrote a letter to me. I was the envy of all the guys in my dorm because I received a love letter every single day.
When I would go to my mailbox each day and pull out that letter, I want to tell you that I never read them informationally. I always read them relationally. I never did a greek word study from her letters. I never created an outline for teaching. I knew that behind those words on the page was a person that loved me and that I was in relationship with.
That’s how I want to read the Bible. So, in all your efforts to grow your church and preach great sermons, don’t forget to pursue a love relationship with God. I suspect there are some of us who need to return to our first love. We need to be reminded that our first priority is the Great Commandment before the Great Commission.
A minister once asked Mother Teresa how to best live out his calling… “spend one hour a day in adoration of your Lord and never do anything you know is wrong, and you will be all right.” This week may you grow in adoration of the Lord Jesus.
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