I know that Christians have mixed views on Bible reading notes. Some find them a valuable tool to aid them in their daily readings whilst others think it’s better to read the Bible without the aid of notes.
Over the years I have used a number of different Bible reading notes and found some to be very helpful. There are also others that I have found not so useful (no names mentioned!).
Since the start of 2017 I have been using “New Daylight” which is published by BRF (The Bible Reading Fellowship). New Daylight notes provide four months of daily Bible readings. Each day starts with a reading which is followed by a comment on the passage and finishes with a prayer or thought to ponder.
Although that format is the same as all the various other Bible reading notes I have used, New Daylight uses contributors who come from a range of different church backgrounds. Therefore unlike other reading notes I have used, I have encountered writings from other Christians whose church traditions are different to mine.
There are a number of differing themes in each addition of New Daylight. Some of these themes are for one week but most of them generally cover two weeks.
Amongst the themes covered in the current edition are:
Studies on Psalms 81-93
Acts 1-6: adventures of a Spirit-inspired community
Fate and free will in Mark’s Gospel
In truth and love: 2 John and 3 John
Unsung heroes of the Old Testament
Zechariah: rebuilding, God’s way
So as can be seen that is a nice variety of passages and themes. I was particularly impressed that 2 John and 3 John were featured in this edition. I suspect most Christians have not heard a sermon preached from either of those two short letters let along studied them in their daily readings!
I once heard a sermon in which the preacher said there were two ways we read scripture which he described as looking down over scripture and being under scripture.
The first one is the idea that we stand over scripture and ask what do I think this passage means? Whilst that sounds fine in reality it is not quite what it seems. When we read scripture like this we often approach with our own theological leanings and biases which then determines our interpretation of the passage. So depending on what our theological position is on a particular subject it then affects the way we interpret the passage before us.
Sitting under scripture is different though. In this approach we put aside our theological leanings and biases and ask God to open our hearts to truly understand what He is saying, even if it contradicts our theology! The obvious advantage to this method of reading scripture is that we have more chance of hearing God this way. Why you may ask? The reason is because we have not already decided the meaning of the passage by our own biases and prejudices and therefore we are more open to hearing God.
I sometimes read theological debates on line. One of the problems with theological debates can be we look for our “proof” verse to support our viewpoint and then we wade into the argument saying that we are right and everyone who has an alternative view is wrong. Sadly the arguments don’t just stop at saying someone is wrong but can generate into accusing fellow believers of not being real or genuine Christians!
This to me illustrates the problems that can occur when we come to scripture and bring our theological biases and decide in advance what a passage means. Naturally our interpretation is 100% right and anyone who disagrees is obviously wrong. Very wrong!
I have to be honest and say that I myself have done this and it can stop one from fully engaging with scripture. I guess though it is a safe way to read the Bible because if we come to it in a spirit of humbleness and openness there is always the risk that God might show us that we are wrong in a particular area. We then might have to change our viewpoint and completely rethink our theology in that area or maybe in many areas!
The True Christian hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague, resents the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be completely delivered from it.
At the beginning of Paul’s letter to Titus he lists the qualities that he expects in a person who is going to be in the office of an Elder. Interesting the requirements are mainly character based ones.
Paul does not list any of the following:
Gifted with youth work
Experienced in church growth
Keen evangelist with a passion for the lost.
Passionate worship leader
Now obviously there is nothing wrong with having any of the above qualities. I expect the majority of churches would want people with these gifts and abilities. However what Paul lists for an elder is:
An elder must be blameless (v6 and v7)
The husband of one wife (v6)
A man whose children believe. And the children are not wild and disobedient (v6).
Not overbearing (v7)
Not quick tempered (v7)
Not given to drunkenness (v7)
Not violent (v7)
Not pursuing dishonest gain (v7)
They must be hospitable (v8)
One who loves what is good (v8)
Someone who holds firmly to the truth (v9)
An encourager (v9)
Someone who refutes those who oppose sound doctrine (v9)
That is quite a list! I wonder if we will ever see a church leadership role being advertised anywhere that lists these qualities rather than the first ones I mentioned?
I personally am not an elder and to be honest do not aspire to be one. However I would like to have these qualities in my life. I think that any Christian young or old, leader or not should aspire to aim to have these godly qualities in their life.
When I post something on any social media site I have a tendency to frequently check whether my post has received any “likes”. I must admit I can get quite disappointed if there are no responses to my post! Whilst that might seem strange to some people, I’m sure there are many others who know exactly what I mean.
Leah Pearlman, co-inventor of Facebook’s Like button, said she had become hooked on Facebook because she had begun basing her sense of self-worth on the number of “likes” she had.
“When I need validation – I go to check Facebook,” she said.
“I’m feeling lonely, ‘Let me check my phone.’ I’m feeling insecure, ‘Let me check my phone.’”
Ms Pearlman said she had tried to stop using Facebook after leaving the company.
“I noticed that I would post something that I used to post and the ‘like’ count would be way lower than it used to be.
“Suddenly, I thought I’m actually also kind of addicted to the feedback.”
I think it’s safe to say that Leah Pearlman is not the only person who has sought validation through Facebook. I would not be surprised if sadly many of us know exactly what she is talking about if we are being honest with ourselves.
For those of us who understand and identify with Leah Pearlman’s comments we might ask ourselves the following questions:
Why do we look to social media for validation?
Why do we base our self-worth on the number of “likes” our post has received?
Why do we check our phones when we feel lonely?
I don’t believe that there is anything wrong as such with social media. It can be a useful tool for keeping in touch with friends and families. However we do need to exercise self-control in our use of social media. It really does not matter in the scheme of things if no-one “likes” your post. Don’t rely on “likes” to make you happy!
In Genesis 26: 7-11 there is the episode in Isaac’s life when he told everyone that his wife Rebekah was his sister. Why did he do this? Verse 7 tells us he was sacred that the men of the city would kill him as his wife was beautiful. Yet why was Isaac scared? God had told him to stay put and He would bless him. You would have thought that once he had received that promise then he would have been full of faith. However Isaac showed that he was a fallible person, just like us!
In fact if we look through the Bible we can see plenty of examples that God uses fallible people to achieve his purposes.
Interesting Isaac’s father, Abraham, had done exactly the same thing as Isaac but on two different occasions. This is the man who was commended for his faith yet still was not immune from getting things wrong.
Moses is remembered as the man who God used to leave his people out of Egypt. However he was also the same person who murdered a man and fled, hiding away for 40 years. Then when God called him he did his best to try to avoid God’s call on his life and requested that God send someone else instead (Exodus 4:14).
David is described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). He was a man who bravely defeated Goliath in battle and someone who refused to take revenge on Saul when he was being hunted by him. Yet this same man also committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah too.
Elijah was used by God to defeat the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) at Mount Carmel. Yet a short time later he was afraid and ran away and hid from Jezebel. You would have thought that after seeing the great victory at Mount Carmel he would have nothing to fear.
Jonah was the man who ran away from God to avoid his calling to preach in Nineveh. He then obeyed God’s call and preached to the people in that city. After the people repented and received God’s forgiveness, Jonah then complained and moaned at God for his generous love and graciousness. Not the best of attitudes!
Peter was the leader of the early church. He preached the gospel bodily to the crowds. Yet this was the same man who denied three times that he knew Jesus, despite saying he would never desert him.
All of the people mentioned above were fallible individuals yet God still used them. Doesn’t that sound like us? What hope that should give us. What an encouragement to us that God uses people like us despite the mess we make of things on occasions!