I have read a Bible passage every day since I took religion seriously, some seventy years ago. In my teens, like most youngsters , I questioned and rebelled, until, on Young People's Day 1947, the preacher challenged us all to take Jesus seriously - and I felt I was being confronted by Jesus Himself. The conviction came upon me that as far as life is concerned, the Jesus way is the only way to live, whether you are old or young, no matter what race or colour, no matter what social class or period of history. The Jesus way is the only civilised way for responsible people to live - quite a realization!
I then started reading the Bible, guided by notes published by the Bible Reading Fellowship, and I have read my daily portion ever since.
I've had my ups and downs in the Christian life (like everyone else), my doubts and apprehensions, my timidities and my boldnesses, my triumphs and my failures - but I have always come back to the declaration Peter made to Jesus, "To whom else can we go, you have words of eternal life" (John 6:68), and so, through the years, I have clung to the conviction, "You can't get better than Jesus".
When I was in the army I wasn't quite bold enough to kneel at my bedside to say my prayers (surrounded by 23 other lads!). Instead I would sit on the bed and unobtrusively say my prayers and read my Bible. Lads would sometimes come up to me and say, "What are you reading, Count?" (My nickname was Count because, at that time - 1948/1950 - the Secretary General of United Nations was a Swede named Count Bernadotte!) So, "What are you reading, Count?" - "The Bible" - "Oh aye", and that was often the end of that; but sometimes it would lead to interesting, and at times profound, conversations about life - and religion - but never to ridicule or abuse.
The helpful thing about using Bible reading notes is that you are led into parts of the Bible you would miss if left to your own preferences, and you receive help in understanding difficult passages.
For instance, on June 27 this year, the passage was Isaiah 50:4, "The Lord has given me the tongue of a teacher that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word ... morning by morning he wakens ... my ear to listen ".
Isaiah is a prophet preaching to keep people near to God in difficult times, and here we have an interesting connection between the TONGUE OF THE TEACHER and THE EAR TO LISTEN. Many of the troubles in life spring from the disconnection between speaking and hearing. So often we are more ready to speak than to listen.
We preachers can be more ready to speak FOR God than to listen TO God - but then, isn't the world full of people who prefer their own words rather than the words of God, and their own ways rather than the ways of God?
Just as the touchstone to understanding the Bible is Jesus, so also the touchstone to understanding the heart and ways of God is Jesus.
This is clearly demonstrated in a beautiful hymn by F W Faber (Hymns & Psalms 230). Without even mentioning His name, we are drawn into His presence, we glimpse the very heart of God, and we find ourselves speechless in wonder, love and praise.
"There's a wideness in God's mercy ...
v1 There's a wideness in God's mercy, Like the wideness of the sea; There's a kindness in his justice which is more than liberty.
v4 For the love of God is broader than the measures of man's mind; And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
v5 But we make his love too narrow by false limits of our own; And we magnify his strictness with a zeal he will not own.
v6 If our love were but more simple we should take him at his word; And our lives would be illumined by the presence of our Lord.
Rev Bernard Dodd, July 2015
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Written by the Minister & Members