[This sermon is contributed by Hal Seed of New Song Church in Oceanside, California and of www.PastorMentor.com. Hal is the author of numerous books including The God Questions and The Bible Questions. If you are interested in The Bible Questions Church-wide Campaign, please visit and watch Hal’s video at www.PastorMentor.com.]
What Can the Bible Do for Me?
The Bible Questions, Part 1
For Bumper Video: https://vimeo.com/48489274
Special notes to the pastor/teacher:
1. We’ve placed pictures throughout the sermon. Where these pictures are available on a website, we’ve placed the web address directly under the picture so that you can access it in a format and bandwidth that is best for you.
2. This is the first of six sermons in The Bible Questions Campaign. It’s designed in conjunction with “The Bible Questions” book, which contains daily readings and weekly Bible studies for the Campaign.
Good morning New Song! Good morning to everyone online and at our Bonsall campus!
Welcome to The Bible Questions!
Are you ready to do some learning today?
For the over 3,500 years, people have been touched by the Bible and we are going to be touched deeply by it over the next six weeks.
For this series you are going to need a Bible. If you didn’t bring one with you today, there should be one under your chair or under a chair near you. Would you all take a Bible and hold it up for me for a minute?
If you don’t own a Bible, or know someone who doesn’t, we are selling Bibles for a dollar at the Fuel Bookstore in the lobby this morning. Please take advantage of that.
How many of you have ever had questions about the Bible? [Raise hands.] In a recent poll, 85% of Americans said they wished they read the Bible more.
My goal over the next six weeks is to give you the inspiration and tools to enable you to do that.
But let’s be honest: The Bible is such a big book that everyone who has ever heard of it or come in contact with it has had questions about it.
We are going to explore this book [hold up a copy of The Bible Questions]on weekdays, learn about this book [hold up a Bible] on weekends, and meet in small groups once a week to share what we’re learning with others in the adventure. I guarantee you this: if you will read each chapter, attend each weekend, and participate in a small group, six weeks from now you will have an appreciation for this book and be well on your way to mastering it. Not only that, you will have the time of your life.
So over these next six weeks, if you have to miss a sermon, do your best to watch it online as soon as possible. If you get busy and have to miss a day’s reading – which will take you less than 12 minutes a day, then do your best to catch up the next day. The book isn’t hard; many people have read the entire thing in one day.
Without wanting to be overly dramatic, what I want to say is: What we are doing may be the most important learning you’ll do in your entire life.
So, if you’re ready to do some learning say, “I’m ready!”
Say this out loud: Lord Jesus [Lord Jesus]
Speak to me [speak to me].
[Prayer] Father as we enter this series, inform us, inspire us, encourage us and transform us, in Jesus’ name, Amen!
Open your Bible to Psalm 19, page 390 in the black Bible from under your chair.
While you’re turning there, I heard recently about a guy who said, “When I die, I want to go out like my 90 year old grandfather, peaceful and in his sleep… not like the five screaming passengers with him in his car.”
Abraham Lincoln once said “I believe the Bible is the best gift God ever gave to man.”
That’s kind of a lofty statement, wouldn’t you agree?
When you think about the beauty of the Grand Canyon, or the Rocky Mountains, or of the love of a man for a woman, or the love of a fan for the NFL, it may sound like a ridiculous statement.
“The Bible is the best gift God ever gave to man.”
• You can argue that everyone ought to own a Bible because it’s the best-selling book of all time.
• You can argue that everyone ought to read the Bible because of its great influence on our world.
• And you can argue that everyone ought to know the Bible because it’s changed more lives than any other piece of literature in history.
But can you really say that it’s the best gift God ever gave to man?
Let’s look at what the Bible says about itself. Psalm 19:7…
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.
11 By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
The Bible makes some lofty claims for itself. Write this down quickly with me. From this Psalm,
[A. The Bible claims it…]
1. The Bible claims it can revive your soul when you’re feeling discouraged. – Ps. 19:7a
2. The Bible claims it can make you wise. (even if you’re a simpleton) – Ps. 19:7c
3. In Ps. 119:99, it claims that it can make you smarter than all your teachers.
4. A few verses later (Ps. 119:105), it claims that it will guide your life, like a divinely-assembled GPS, if you will let it.
5. The Bible claims that if you’re feeling dirty, it can wash your soul from sin. Eph. 5:26.
6. It claims that if you’ll memorize it, it will keep you from sin. Ps. 119:11.
7. It claims that it can enlighten your eyes to how life really works. – Ps. 19:8. – How great a benefit is that? (Knowing how life really works. – Remember the Mel Gibson movie, “What Women Want?” The Bible claims to be able to show you what everybody wants.)
8. It claims that it will reveal truth to you about yourself. – Heb. 4:12.
9. In Deuteronomy 32:46-47, it claims that it will prolong your life, if you live by it.
10. If that’s not enough, in Isaiah 55:11, the Bible claims that whenever Scripture is spoken, it does something that God wants to have done. Its exact wording is that it “will not return void,” but accomplish what God wanted and achieve God’s purposes.
If a book could do what this book claims it can do, how great a gift would that be?
Well, making claims is one thing, but can the Bible back it up? Is there any evidence to suggest that the Bible can actually do what it claims it can for you?
That’s what I want to talk you about today. As this series begins, I want to walk you through what the Bible has done for people like you and me for the last 3,000 years. Because if you can see this, I think you’ll say to yourself before you leave here today, “THIS is a great gift. And I want to read it, and know it, and participate in this series and bring as many friends with me next week so they can get in on this too.”
Now, turn in that Bible to Joshua 1:6. It’s on p. 151 in the black Bibles under your chairs. Because I want to show you one more claim the Bible makes, and then tell you how it came true in the life of Joshua.
The Bible claims that it will help you meet life prosperously and successfully.
The back story behind Joshua chapter 1 is that Joshua had just assumed leadership of his nation. He and the Israelites are standing on the east side of the Jordan River, about to invade the land of Canaan.
In Joshua 1:6, God says to him,
6 “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.”
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful”. – Joshua 1:6-8
God tells Joshua to do three things in order to experience prosperity and success.
[B. The Bible Offers Prosperity and Success to those who will (Josh. 1:8):]
1. First, he says, Keep talking about this book.
2. Second he says, Keep thinking about this book. Think about it frequently – day and night, and deeply – that’s what “meditate” means.
3. Third, he says, Keep doing what you find in this book. Do what it says. Live it out. Put it into practice.
“Joshua,” God says, “if you will live by this book, you will be prosperous and successful.” – How many of you would like to be prosperous and successful?
Joshua’s never led a people before. But over the next 7 years, he conquers 31 tribal nations.
At the end of his career, the “land of Canaan” has become “the land of Israel.” He and his people settle in houses they haven’t built and eat grapes from vines they haven’t planted. And Joshua’s final word to the people is, “…every good promise of the Lord has come true…” Joshua 23:15.
The family I was raised in went to church, but we never opened the Bible. The priest who led our services read from Scripture, but he never asked us to open a Bible for ourselves. So the first time I ever actually touched a Bible was when I went to a Christian coffeehouse meeting with my swim team coach and some friends.
I was 13 years old at the time. For weeks I had watched my friends leave swim practice for this coffeehouse meeting with Bibles under their arms, so on the first night I went with them, I went into the den of our home and I got out the family Bible. I didn’t dare tell anyone I was taking it, because I was afraid they wouldn’t let me touch it. But, I knew right where it was: right there with all the great works of literature - right between Dante and Shakespeare.
And somehow I knew that when I picked up this book, it was different than all other books. – We’ll talk about that next week because I want you to know how unique and special this book is.
I took that book off the shelf and blew the dust off of it, and when we got to the coffeehouse meeting, I pulled that baby out of my gym bag and was so proud that I fit in with the group because I had a Bible just like they all had Bibles.
I had no idea what an adventure I was beginning that night. After opening that Bible for the first time, I asked for a Bible for my birthday, which was just three weeks away. Since the first day I opened the Bible, I have read it almost every day since.
In this book he promises prosperity and success. I’ve read it. And because of it, I’ve never missed a rent payment or mortgage payment. I came out of college debt-free, came out of graduation school debt-free, came out of my doctoral program debt-free. I own two cars, both paid for, and a house, partially paid-for - which makes me wealthier that 97% of people in history. I’ve been married to the same woman for 30 years. We have two children who love God and have never rebelled in any significant way. I have a job I love and a future that is bright. And I give all the credit to God, and to his book.
It’s one of the best gifts God ever gave man.
So if you’ve ever wanted to be prosperous and successful, I want to make a suggestion to you today. I want to suggest that you read the Bible. That you read and keep reading. That you talk about it, think about it, and do what it says. If you do this, God says you will be prosperous and successful.
Turn to a neighbor and say, “You oughta read the Bible.”
Say, “You oughta read it every day.”
Talk about it…
Think about it…
Do what it says…
God’s Word proved its claims in Joshua’s life. It’s proven its claims in my life. And the Bible not only helps individuals, but whenever a group of people turn to it, the Bible helps the whole group too.
One of my favorite stories in The Bible Questions is the story of the Motilone Indians of Columbia, South America.
Say, “Motilone” (Mow-til-oh-ee).
In the 1960’s, the Motilones were Stone Age headhunters feared by all their neighboring tribes. They had killed every white man who trespassed into their territory.
Some Catholic Priests tried to make contact with them, but were macheted to death. A seventeen year old kid named Bruce Olson tried to enter their tribe, but was shot in the leg with an arrow. For some reason, the Motilones nursed him back to health and allowed him to enter their tribe. He spent five years learning their language.
One day a tribesman told Bruce a legend about a prophet who would come carrying a banana stalk that would speak the words of God to them.
Olson couldn’t quite understand the idea behind the legend. “Why look for God to come out of a banana stalk?” he asked.
The Motilone showed him a banana stalk. Another tribesman bent down and swatted the stalk with his machete, splitting it in half. Olson said, “The two halves looked like pages from a book”.
Bruce grabbed his pack, took out his Bible and started flipping through the pages. He pointed to the leaves of the pages and the leaves from the banana stalk.
“This is it!” He said. “This is God’s banana stalk!”
Within weeks, hundreds of Motilones gave their lives to Christ and Bruce taught them from “God’s banana stalk”.
Within five years, instead of hunting and eating their neighbors, Motilone tribesmen learned about medicine and began providing medical assistance for their neighboring jungle tribes. Today they hold positions in the Columbian government and are helping to protect other tribes from encroachment by outside forces.
I have a friend named Francis Kamau. Francis felt led to plant a church in the city of Nairobi, Kenya. Francis decided to plant his church in a part of the city packed with bars and brothels.
I preached for Francis a few years ago. And as we were leaving his church, my driver turned to me and said, “You see this boulevard? When Bishop Kamau first started his church, it was filled with prostitutes. Today many of them are members of our church and now the street is filled with music and wholesome businesses.”
How many of you have seen the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty”?
The Bounty was a real ship, with a real mutiny. In 1790, when the mutineers realized they would be hanged for their crime if they were caught, they persuaded some Polynesians to join them and settled a mis-charted island called “Pitcairns Island”. (Say “Pitcairns.”)
When they arrived at Pitcairns, they started brewing alcohol, and pretty much stayed drunk 24/7 after that.
Fights broke out. Two massacres took place. One person committed suicide. All the Polynesian men died, and so did all but one Bounty crewmember. His name was John Adams.
One day, Adams found a Bible in Fletcher Christian’s sea chest and began to read it. He led himself to Christ and began to teach the women and children what he was learning in the Book.
Several years later some British ships discovered Pitcairns Island. When they saw what was going on there, they recommended to the King of England pardon everyone. They said the culture on the island was “like a Golden Age.”
Lincoln said, “The Bible is the best gift God has given to man.” Maybe it’s true!
One more story:
If you’ve read anything by Charles Dickens, you know how terrible conditions were in 18th century England. There were no child labor laws, so children as young as age four were put to work up to 12 hours a day in dangerous factories and sent into the corners of coal mines that were too narrow for adults to reach. If you’ve seen the musical “Oliver,” you know that hunger was rampant. Tuberculosis, diphtheria and cholera outbreaks were common. School was only available for the children of the rich.
In 1738, Jonathan Wesley starting forming little Bible studies around the country. He was so keen on using methods to teach the Bible that people called his followers, “Method-ists”.
By 1798, there were 100,000 Methodist Bible studies in England.
One of those Bible Reading Methodists was Samuel Plimsoll. Say “Plimsoll.”
Plimsoll thought it was wrong that the merchants overloaded their ships and then shrugged it off and collected large insurance claims when their ships sank and the crews drowned. Plimsoll invented a symbol that marked a line on the ship to indicate its safe loading level. This line has saved thousands of lives and is still called “The Plimsoll mark” to this day.
Another Bible Reader was Robert Raikes. Say “Raikes.”
Raikes saw that poor children couldn’t attend school because they worked six days a week. So he invited “Sunday school” to teach kids to read, by reading the Bible.
Other people from this Bible reading movement formed orphanages, mental asylums, hospitals and prisons.
Florence Nightingale developed the nursing profession.
William Wilberforce brought an end to the English Slave Trade.
Bible Readers fought and won women the right to vote.
William and Catherine Booth formed the Salvation Army.
Wesley’s 18th century Bible-reading revolution changed people’s character. It lifted so many English people’s work ethic, care ethic, and sense of personal trustworthiness that, by the 19th century, England had become the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth.
The same thing happened in America. The religious low point of our history was the 1850’s. Then revival began happening all around our country in 1857. People began reading the Bible. This was before gas or electricity. So after dark, families would gather around a few candles at the kitchen table. While mom and grandma sewed and repaired clothes, the father of the family would read the Bible, by candlelight, for an hour or more every evening.
And like in England, work-ethics rose, along with integrity and initiative and care for the poor. The Civil War broke out, in part, because Bible-readers determined that slavery was a sin. America’s 19th century Bible-reading made us the most prosperous and successful nation of the 20th century.
And I’d like to see that happen again.
So this week, friends, we are launching a Bible Reading Revolution together. And here’s what I’m asking you to do:
[C. How to Launch a Bible-Reading Revolution:]
1. Get a Bible.
If you don’t have one, pick up one for a dollar in our bookstore.
2. Join a Bible Questions Small Group.
You can register on the sheet in your Program today, or stop by the Small Groups table in the lobby, or register online.
3. Pick up a copy of The Bible Questions for each adult and teen in your family.
You won’t get as much out of it if you try to share. The Bible Questions is designed to be read every day for 20 days, and if you have to share, you won’t be able to mark your copy and you may not be able to read it when you want to because someone else is reading it.
And then, apply the principle of generosity Mark Williams taught us last week by…
4. Consider getting 10 copies and using them to invite friends to join us.
One of our members about 125 copies and is giving them to everyone at his workplace.
If your friends are near, invite them to church and to your group. If your friends are far away, ask them to start a group with their friends and neighbors. They can participate in the full 9:30 a.m. Sunday services with us live, or they can watch the message once it’s posted, which should be by Tuesday night every week. And they can do the study along with us in their homes.
Other things you might do are
• Spread the word by posting a review of The Bible Questions on Amazon.
• If you have a blog, blog about it.
• If you have a Twitter account, tweet about it.
• If you have a Facebook account, post about it there.
Are you with me? Besides Jesus, this is the greatest gift ever given to man. Who wants to be part of a Bible Reading Revolution?
Turn to someone near you and in 10 seconds or less, tell them what you’re going to do to fuel the Bible Reading Revolution this week.
Before we pray, let me read Psalm 1 to you.
The psalmist writes:
1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Read those last four words with me:
“Whatever he does prospers.”
That’s God’s promise to those who talk about, think about and do what’s written in the Bible.
The adventure begins in earnest next week! I can’t wait!
Pray this out loud after me:
I want all your Bible promises
to come true in my life.
Use me to help launch a Bible Reading Revolution.
And start the Revolution in me.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Bible Questions Campaign Kit is available at www.pastormentor.com.