Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for February 28, 2021. We will be continuing on in the new Lenten worship series entitled, Purple Theory. Today we will be discovering the importance of reading Scripture as a daily practice, which makes us healthier through connecting us and drawing us closer to God. Let us not forget about the power of the Bible!
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In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.
This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM the Bible as a means of grace for us in our daily lives. In this episode, Pastor Todd will discuss how to know which translation to pick, how to read the Bible and why it is important to make reading Scripture a part of our daily routine.
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!’” (John 8:58, NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 157: The Word. When you think of the Word of God, what do you think of? My guess is that most of you think about the Holy Bible, made up of 66 books (39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament). When we read Scripture in our churches, many of us end with the following, “The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God for this word.” The Bible is most often called the Word of God because in it are the words that teach us about the nature of God, human nature, and the way we receive God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. As John Wesley once put it in his Popery Calmly Considered, “The Scripture, therefore, being delivered by men divinely inspired, is a rule sufficient to itself: So it neither needs, nor is capable of, any farther addition.”
But according to Scripture, in the Gospel of John to be exact, the Word of God is NOT the Holy Bible. Sure, it is Scripture and is God-breathed (or divinely inspired); however, it was written by people. The ancients understood that and never said otherwise. For early Christians, the Word of God was not the written words etched on papyrus scrolls; rather, it was Jesus Christ, which was God’s Word made flesh. That Word existed long before people wrote words down onto paper, and it is through that Word that all that exists was created.
The Greek word used in John is actually logos, which was the divine creative force of the cosmos. John tied this Greek philosophical and metaphysical concept to the Genesis narrative where God spoke creation into existance:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:1-3, NLT)
John, playing off of Genesis 1, opens his Gospel with a poetic prologue, which echoes the first creation account in Genesis:
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” (John 1:1-3, NLT)
The Greek concept of logos was used by John to show different groups who opposed the Jesus movement the true revelation of Christ. To the Rabbis who claimed that the Torah was pre-existent, John shows them that it is rather the logos (the Word), not the Torah (the Law), that was preexistent to creation. To the Gnostics who denied Jesus came in the flesh, John shows in the prologue that, indeed, the logos became flesh and made his dwelling place among us. To the followers who stopped with John the Baptist, John shows that the logos was the light of the world. The Baptist merely proclaimed and paved the way for the logos.
The logos, according to John, “was God” but was also distinguishable from God the Father, for “the logos” was also “with God.” Thus, in Jesus we have the living incarnation of the logos who is both God and human, and is also a distinuishable person from God the Father. The logos is God the Son and came to be Immanuel, God’s presence with us. In John, we learn that Jesus (the logos) is not just the Word, but is also the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, The Door of the Sheep, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth, and the life, The Vine, the One who preexisted Abraham and all of Creation.
That’s a lot to process right? The challenge for us is not not only process this with our heads. Much heady commentary has been written about Jesus’ I AM statements in John and that certainly has its place in theological discourse; however, the challenge for us is to process this with our hearts. Have you come into the presence of the Great I AM?
Have you experienced the Word made flesh, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, The Door of the Sheep, the Resurrection and the Life , the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the Vine? Have you met the One who preexisted all there is and has ever been? Have you met the Word who came, lived, died, and resurrected for your sake? If not, my prayer is that you will open your heart to the One who is seeking you out this very minute. My prayer is that you will let him in so that he may become your Lord and Savior.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” – Jesus Christ (John 14:6, NLT)
Lord, reveal yourself to me. You are my Lord and Savior and I wish to serve only you. Amen.
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
I have written a bit about the importance of developing spiritual discipline in our lives as a people of faith. A great spiritual practice to get into is to read the Bible. Today many people take the Bible granted as something that’s there if they need it, but not to be bothered with otherwise. But that is a luxury only this modern Western world really affords. For many, throughout history, the Bible was something that the common person was not permitted read and, even if they were, they weren’t literate enough to read the Bible anyway. Many people gave up their lives to ensure that EVERYONE could read the Bible for themselves, and many have given their lives, and still are, to ensure that people have equal opportunity in education.
But history aside, many people in today’s age do not read the Bible and, for those that do, many do not even know where to begin. Should they start in Genesis and read through Revelation? Should they just randomly open up the Bible and read the first thing they come to? What should they read first and in what order should they read the Bible? The truth is that there is no right or wrong way to read the Bible. It is not a book that is compiled in the order that the books were written and the books don’t always follow chronological order in terms of connecting stories from previous books with the stories they are telling. Thus reading the Bible from front to back is not the only way to read the Bible and, in fact, it probably isn’t even the best way to read it.
What complicates things even more is that the Bible was not written in a vacuum; rather, it was written in a specific time, place and context. Thus, reading the Bible goes beyond just reading the words, but digging deep into the historical, socio-economic, and political contexts of the times the texts were written. It is also important to note that the Bible was not written by just one person, but that the Bible is actually a collection of books written by different people, and those books often have many more than just one author. In other words, behind a lot of the books in the Bible are narratives, histories, poems, songs, wisdom teachings, prophetic writings, and theologies written by many different people pulling from different sources that span over the course of thousands of years.
This is not to scare you off from reading the Bible, but is an invitation to more than JUST reading the Bible. It is an opportunity to do some time travel, to take a journey back into worlds and worldviews that are foreign to us. The Bible is actually a world full of adventure awaiting for you to unlock and unleash its mysteries. If you can take off your twenty-first century glasses off and put yourself, to the best of your abilities, the shoes of the people writing the texts, you will be awakened to a whole new world (thank you Aladdin) of opportunity when it comes to understanding who God was to the ancients. Once you have that understanding, you can then pull that understanding into our own time and context and make it real for us today. Of course, not every word or edict will be applicable to your life, but the basic spirit behind ever word in the Bible will come to life in you, and you will be writing your own chapter (figuratively speaking) by living your faith out today.
So, read the Bible! You’ll be amazed at how alive the texts become when you begin to engage them from all angles. There’s a reason why the Bible has been referred to as THE LIVING WORD…because it is rich with context and deep in meaning. It points to a people who are foreign to us and yet similar to us at the same time. It points to us, and it calls us to live a life devoted to our timeless God who created us all, ancient or not. Read the Bible, you won’t regret it. If you are looking for a place to start, try the Gospels. They will be the topic of the next devotion.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.” – Harper Lee
“Lord, spark in me a desire to engage the Bible with humility and in a way that not only gives me understanding of your people in the past, but also transforms who I am in the present. Amen.