Sunday, June 22, 2008

Help Reading the Bible.

It is often the case that one doesn’t know where to begin with the grand gift of God in the Bible. The Bible is that it is a gift from God, and it isn’t quite the white elephant it seems to be at first glance. The bible can seem like a white elephant, a burden on one’s soul. A friend may have given you a copy once long ago. You know you should read it, you feel guilty for the dust that covers it. It sits there on the nightstand big and intimidating. You would like to read it, but you don’t know where to begin. You are afraid to touch it. It might trample you. And it very well could! The word of God is heavy. His law can come down on you like a ton of bricks, and lead you to despair. Or worse yet, it could lead you into a life of smug self-righteousness. If the yoke isn’t fitted properly it becomes a heavy burden. But Jesus assures us: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30 (ESV) So pick up the Bible, but get the yoke properly fitted. Often times a good devotional book that helps explain the concepts and context in modern terms is helpful in getting that yoke properly fitted. You will find the yoke to be much easier than the current monkey on your back.
God spends a lot of time training some of us to be his under-shepherds, Christ, the good shepherd, is the true shepherd. He is the shepherd that laid down His life for the sheep. That is He laid down His life on the cross to save YOU from the ravenous wolves of sin, death, and the devil. Christ, however, uses under-shepherds to feed us, even to feed us under-shepherds. As He told Peter “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17) In saying this he set his disciples apart to be pastors, or shepherds of his sheep. They in turn appointed others to follow and be shepherds after them. “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:1-5 (ESV)
“Shepherd the flock of God,” that is feed them with the green grass of grace in the word of God. For man does not “live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” This is the task of a pastor, to feed the sheep their proper portion, so they don’t bloat, or choke, or become malnourished. So us pastors spend a lot of time sorting through the food God has given us with which to feed the sheep, the word of God the Bible. We break it down into manageable chunks. We cut the twine from the hay bail. We understand when the sheep want or need help reading the word of God. We take time to explain it, to expound on it, and to guide the sheep through God’s pasture. That is our job. We know the law is needed, but to much will cause one to die in despair, and that the Gospel the forgiveness of sins is even more needed, but is even sweeter and healthier when contrasted with the law’s bitterness. God doesn’t want the blind leading the blind, so he trains pastors to guide.
Us pastors do that in many different ways. Sometimes we stop by and visit. Sometimes we have a Bible study. We answer a question when someone asks. We preach from the pulpit, and we write, or recommend devotionals. In my case I translate devotionals. Devotions are great because they can be there when we can’t. There like a map of the pasture we can give someone that they can take with them. I recommend that if you want to read the Bible but don’t know where to begin, get a devotional. I might add though that not all devotionals are the same. Some are better than others. Stay away from the ones on sale next to the “National Enquire” as a rule. If you will allow me a shameless plug, I will recommend “To Live with Christ” by Bo Giertz, a book I helped translate that has just come off the press. This is a book that has served me well, and I know it will do the same for you. You can order it here! (another way to distribute God’s green grass to the sheep) by clicking here .

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