Reading Whole Books of the Bible

Permit me to ask you a question? Do you ever sit down and read whole books of the Bible straight through?

There are of course many different ways in which we can read the Bible e.g. a chapter at a time or a section of the scriptures each day. Some people like to focus on one particular verse and meditate on that. Whilst others might like to study a theme e.g. love and focus on verses in which that is mentioned.

Over the last few months I have increasingly become convinced of the importance of reading through whole books of the Bible and when possible doing this at one sitting.

You might be someone who, as mentioned above, prefers to study a chapter at a time. My suggestion to you would be to read the whole book through a few times before you start your study to get an overall high level view of the book. For example if you decide to undertake an in depth study of 1 Peter read it through every day for a week before you commence your study.

If we take the New Testament letters, they were written to either churches or individuals and often address specific problems that were being faced. By reading straight through the letter at one sitting we can get a feel of the whole letter. It is very unlikely that the original recipients of the letters would not have listened to the letter being read straight through.

When we read a book straight through it is harder to take verses out of context and apply a meaning to them that was not the original intention of the author. We see the context in which these verses were written and how they form part of the narrative of the book.

If someone writes me a letter (or email) I would not read half of it today and the other half tomorrow. So why would I not apply this to my Bible reading?

I know not everyone finds it easy to sit down and read. I am not an avid reader myself but if I find an enjoyable novel then it’s no problem for me to read 50 pages at one sitting. If I can do this with a novel why should I not do this with my Bible reading?

For anyone who has never read straight through a book in the Bible at one setting there are plenty that can be read in about 20 minutes, e.g. Galatians or Ephesians.

Why not make it your ambition to try and read straight through individual books of the Bible and see how it enhances your reading of scripture.

No One Likes Change

Let’s be honest we don’t really like change do we? Most of us are normally quite happy with the status quo and like things to remain exactly as they have always been.  We like what we are comfortable with.

I’m reminded of the character Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory who always has the same food on a set night each week e.g. Monday night is Thai takeaway, Friday night is Chinese takeaway etc.  If anyone attempts to change this routine then they meet fierce resistance from him.

I find myself worryingly adopting similar tendencies when I visit local restaurants. In each restaurant I always have a favourite that I select each time I visit. If a restaurant removes my favourite item from the menu it throws me into total confusion! In fact I stop going to that particular restaurant. How dare they change the menu!

CHANGE AT WORK

There have been many changes in the working world over the last few years. The world of work has changed beyond recognition during the time I have been working.  When I first started work we did not have PC’s. We recorded the number of transactions we did by hand in a big ledger. I wonder what today’s young people would make of that.

I remember a number of years ago when I first encountered spreadsheets. Back in those days we used Lotus 1-2-3 and my initial reaction was resistance to them. One of my colleagues was very good at writing formulas in Lotus 1-2-3 and I was not. This was a change I did not like!

Now fast forward to the present day and I really enjoy working with Excel spreadsheets and trying to find quicker ways to complete tasks! I couldn’t imagine a world without spreadsheets now.

Technology has brought many changes to the workplace over the last 20 years. I suspect that there will be many more to come. How will I embrace these changes? Will I be willing to change and be adaptable or will I yearn for a return to the old ways?

CHANGE AT CHURCH

The following story of a conversation between a new vicar and a church warden illustrates the problem we have with change in churches:

Vicar: “How long have you been coming to this church Fred?

Church Warden: “I’ve been coming here for over 20 years.”

Vicar: “You must have seen a lot of changes over those 20 years.”

Church Warden: “Yes I have and I have resisted all of them!”

This year my church will be merging with one of our sister churches to form one new church. Both churches currently have very different styles of worship. The plan is to hold two services which will reflect the differing styles of worship that both congregations have at present.

Both churches at the moment meet for worship at 10am. However, going forward that is going to have to change, probably for both churches, as we will need to fit in two services during the morning. I personally like worshiping at 10am. It’s very convenient for me! I would rather we kept worship at 10am but that is unlikely to happen and I will have to accept this change.

We are in the process of advertising for a leader for our new merged church. Whoever gets this position will be responsible for ensuring that this merger goes ahead and planning how this is done.

There will no doubt be a number of changes over the forthcoming months and years. Some of these changes will be well received and some I expect will probably be resisted. What will my response be going forward? Will I resist every change and long for a return to the ways things are now? Or will I embrace change and prayerfully accept changes including those that I do not like?

As Christians we must always be open to embrace any changes that God wants to do in us. In John’s 15: 1-2 Jesus says

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Jesus will prune the branches. Change is both good and necessary.

Change is for us. Don’t let yearnings for the past hold us back from change