Search the Scriptures

I grew up reading something from the Bible most days. We would often read a few verses as a family around the dinner table. I would read bits of the Bible as I headed to bed each evening. Sometimes I would find help from reading guides or devotional books that drew application from the Bible passages or gave explanations as to their meaning.

My first Bible was a Revised Standard Version given to me by my grandparents, and I shifted to a Good News Bible in my teens. This gave way to a New International Version when I started university and began exploring the Bible in more detail. These days I have multiple translations available and a Bible App on my phone and computer that allows me to read the Bible in any version.

Reading the Bible is both similar and different to reading other books. Most books are intended to be read from cover to cover. You start at the beginning and follow the plot to its conclusion, usually on the final page. However, when it comes to the Bible very few of us read it this way. The Bible is one book, but it is also a compendium of sixty-six books. There is a coherence to each book in the Bible and an overarching coherence to the Bible as a whole. There’s a kind of dialogue that takes place with each part informing the overall picture and the overall picture informing each part. Some parts only start to make sense after we’ve read other parts and the key to understanding it all is discovering the central place of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament points to Jesus Christ and only makes sense once we recognise that all God’s promises find their fulfilment in him. The New Testament spotlights the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and explains how this good news transforms people’s lives for eternity.

So, let me ask you, have you read the Bible? Not just sampled it—but have you really read it? Have you searched the Scriptures to discover God’s word to you, God’s purpose for life, God’s love for his world, God’s hope for our future? Have you delved deeply into the Word that brings life, and have you done this with regularity, and purpose, and effort, and humility? Have you drank deeply from God’s Spirit-inspired Word? 

Why not make 2022 the year you either begin or get back to searching the Scriptures? Some years back I made the decision to do exactly that. I found a plan called Search the Scriptures that would help me read the whole Bible in three years. It took me close to five years as I would keep missing days! It provided a plan that led me through the whole Bible and let me move between Old and New Testaments. It didn’t spoon-feed me answers or give me inspirational stories. It just kept me on track by asking helpful questions of each section of the Bible and I’d write my answers in a notebook.

When I first bought Search the Scriptures it came in three volumes — one for each year. Now you get the whole three years packaged together into one volume. You can even get an English Standard Version of the Bible with the Search the Scriptures questions inserted into the text. This might be helpful if you were travelling and only wanted to carry one book, but I prefer to keep my notes separate to my Bible.

Over the years I have given away dozens of copies of Search the Scriptures. And I’m still getting feedback that it genuinely helps people to read the Bible for themselves. Why not give it a shot?

Worth reading

NIV_blueWe’re not all natural readers, but my experience is that reading brings great reward. I struggle to read the great novels or works of fiction. But I’m a fan of sports biographies, and works on leadership, people, organisations, and new ways of thinking and doing. But hands down the most instructive, life-changing, and liberating book I’ve ever read—and continue to read is the Bible.

Apparently it takes less time to read than Game of Thrones and not all that much more than Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. And while these are great stories, the Bible is so much more. If you’ve never really dipped into the Bible, can I recommend you give it a shot. Grab a modern translation—replace the old King James with a New International Version or the Holman Christian Standard Bible—and give it a read. Maybe start in the second part, the New Testament, and discover the extraordinary account of Jesus. It’s a book of life and hope and, contrary to popular opinion, extraordinary relevance and applicability to life now.

If you’d like to read the Bible with someone else, this can make it easier and more fun. Let me know and I will see if I can arrange a reading buddy or even a reading group.

For those of you who have read the Bible—’have’ being the operative word—and want to dip into it again, here are a few suggested approaches to get you restarted.

  1. Read the whole Bible through in one year. A good option is to get a Bible reading plan and follow it. Such plans are available on line or on smart phone Bible apps.
  2. Listen to the Bible on your mp3 player as you travel to and from work, go on holidays, or exercise.
  3. Use some Bible study guide, such as those produced by Matthias Media, which help you through an entire book of the Bible. These provide some commentary and ask questions to assist your understanding and application of the passage.
  4. Get into a routine Monday to Friday that fits with work and other regularities. Don’t worry if the weekend doesn’t fit the routine – do something different on weekends.
  5. If you know another language then, after you have looked at the passage in English, read through it again in the other language. This with help you give more attention to the meaning.
  6. Read with a friend and discuss what you have learned. Or both of you read on your own and then make contact to discuss it together.
  7. Read the Bible out loud to yourself.
  8. Use Search the Scriptures – a three year Bible reading program. You can take this at whatever pace you desire. Maximum benefit is gained if you take the time to write your answers to the questions.
  9. Follow Don Carson’s For the Love of God to read the Bible over one to four years. Excellent commentary by Carson. Available free on the Gospel Coalition website.
  10. Keep a journal of what you have learned and intend to apply from your reading.
  11. Prepare for sermons and Bible studies by reading over the passages beforehand.
  12. Read a passage with a view to giving a very brief talk which explains it, illustrates it and applies it. Then you can talk to me about finding an opportunity to give it!
  13. Try the S.O.A.P. approach. Read or write out the passage of Scripture. Note your observations and questions of the text. Decide how you are going to apply what you’ve learned. Pray that God will give you understanding and enable you to put it into practice.
  14.  ‘Manuscript Discovery’ is a term given to the study of the text of the Bible without chapters, verses, paragraphs or headings included. This means you have to do more work, with the result that you learn more. You can do this yourself simply by printing out the text of the Bible from Bible Gateway and removing all added numbers and headings.
  15. Commit verses to memory.
  16. Type out the entire Bible.
  17. Come up with your own ideas… share them with others

Making the most of the Bible

My youngest son received a wonderful parcel in the mail this morning – four copies of Making the most of the Bible sent by its author, John Chapman. One for him, another for his sister, one for Fiona and I, and another to give away. Thanks so much Chappo!

This is a great little primer for getting the most out of reading the Scriptures. It’s warm and engaging without wasting words. It’s more about attitude to the Bible than any special approach to reading. It’s only 66 pages short, I read it between breakfast and morning tea, and it’s the first book I’ve been able to read all year without glasses (nice large print)!

Chappo begins with the importance of faith. Reading the Bible should be more than an academic pursuit. We read it to discover the joy of trusting God with our lives. The Gospels reveal Jesus to be someone who can be completely trusted. He is reliable and always keeps his promises. As we read the Bible we have two choices: (1) either we approach it with hard hearts, only accepting what fits with our own desires and dismissing what doesn’t, or (2) we open our minds to discovering who God is, what he’s like, with a willingness grow in trusting him. Our attitude will make all the difference.

Making the most of the Bible focuses upon Jesus understanding and use of the Scriptures. This is an excellent approach, because anyone claiming to follow Jesus will surely want to see how Jesus treated the Bible. If we’re going to follow him with our lives, then we’ll also want to follow his lead with the Bible.

What was Jesus’ attitude to the Old Testament, what do we make of Jesus’ own words, and what was Jesus’ view of the New Testament?

The first thing we discover is that Jesus treated the Old Testament as having authority because he believed it to be God’s own words. He submitted to these words and called others to do the same. Jesus resisted the ancient temptation to doubt God’s truth and goodness, instead placing his full confidence in God’s promises. Jesus also claimed a special relationship to these words. He declared that the whole Old Testament points to him, and finds its fulfilment in him. These are bold claims, and they offer us the key to understanding the whole message of the Bible. After his resurrection, Jesus explained his life and ministry to his followers in these words:

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  (Luke 24:44-45)

It’s common for people to grab hold of some of Jesus’ teaching, without any intention of following him personally. Chappo reminds us that Jesus’ person, works and words are all tied together. Jesus’ life and teaching reveal who he is and his words calls us to follow him. Jesus claims to reveal God to us and backs this up with all he says and does. We might not appreciate this today, but at the time the religious authorities recognised the magnitude of his claim and they killed him for it. As Jesus reminded one of his followers at the last supper:

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  (John 14:9-10)

Jesus also explained why the New Testament should be accepted as God’s word. The apostles are the key. Jesus had spent time teaching them before and after his resurrection. It was his plan that they would pass on his message, and do it with an inspired accuracy. He promised the apostles that God’s Spirit would oversee this happening:

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”  (John 16:12-15)

Chappo takes us to the heart of the Bible’s message, drawing us to God’s awesome offer of forgiveness and life with him for eternity. These promises are rooted in the Old Testament and find their full expression in Jesus. My heart was warmed as I was reminded of some of the wonderful promises contained in the Bible:

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;  (Psalm 103:11-13)

34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:34)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
(Revelation 21:3-4)

What an awesome God! What wonderful promises he makes! What a beautiful hope he offers all who will take him at his word and put their trust in the Lord Jesus.

The final sections of this little book, highlight how to respect the Bible as literature and read it with understanding. They address commonly held concerns over the reliability of the Bible, confidence in the transmission of the manuscripts, and evidence for Jesus’ divinity.

Making the most of the Bible is an excellent introduction for people who want to understand what the Bible is about, why it matters and how we should approach it. I recommend it. Read it and think about who you can pass a copy to. Christmas is coming! I’d give this book to my two teenagers… but Chappo has beaten me to it!

The Jesus Storybook Bible

jesus-story-book-bibleThis afternoon I sat down and read the Bible from cover to cover. Well, not the whole Bible precisely. It wasn’t the King James or the New International Version. It wasn’t exactly the full text or even the actual text of the Bible. What I read was The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. It’s a paraphrase of the main message of the Bible. It’s a birds-eye view of the whole landscape with stopovers to take in the major landmarks along the way. It’s written with younger children in mind and offers a wonderful summary of the Bible’s big idea. The words are excellent, the pictures are delightful, and it was cool to be able to read 350 pages from beginning to end in one sitting! I loved it!

What makes this so awesome is that the author understands that the Bible is ultimately a book about Jesus. The Old Testament points to Jesus and finds it’s fulfilment in him. The New Testament showcases Jesus and the impact he makes on others. It’s one coherent story about God’s big rescue plan, where Jesus ultimately comes into the world to bring people home to God.

Obviously the complete message of the Bible has been dramatically condensed to create this storybook Bible. What I appreciate are the wise selections of what’s been put in and what’s been left out. You come away from reading this with a good handle on the overall message of the Scriptures. It hangs together, it builds momentum, and it reaches an important climax. In reading the full version of the Bible we’re not dealing with a book of independent short stories, but an historical narrative with a coherent message. It’s one story. It’s God’s story. It’s his-story.

Let me try to summarise the summary! We start with God, who creates an awesome world, makes people who relate to him and all is perfect. The people are quickly deceived into not trusting God, things fall apart, and life seems hopeless. God promises to put things right, he works through a family line, he overcomes every setback, and we keep looking forward in anticipation to his coming into our world to rescue us. This is half the story, what gets described as the Old Testament, and it’s desperately waiting for its conclusion.

The second half, or the New Testament, announces the arrival of God in the person of Jesus. We learn the significance of the Christmas story, see the extraordinary things he does, hear his amazing words, and marvel at the way he treats people. We discover that the cruel execution of Jesus is actually essential to the plan. Easter is the climax. Jesus will rescue people by dying in their place and God will raise him to life, opening the way for us to return to God. God gives his Spirit to Jesus’ followers, they’re transformed by the message of Jesus, and the news of what God has done begins to spread throughout the world. An awesome story and it’s true!

I love lots of things about The Jesus Storybook Bible. You truly get the sense of promise and fulfilment. The heart of God to rescue, rather than destroy, his people comes through at every point. The pictures are wonderful, but it’s the love and generosity of God that really colours this book. The best thing is that this storybook accurately communicates that the Bible is a book about Jesus. He is the focal point of all God’s purposes. He’s the key to understanding ourselves and God and the purpose of life.

One of the great dangers of many kids Bible books is that they can reinforce the misunderstanding that the Bible is a book of cute and not-so-cute stories and that Christianity is a message of ‘doing the right thing so God will like you’. These ideas are false and dangerously misleading. The The Jesus Storybook Bible steers us away from such errors. It stays on message, that the Bible is a book about God’s amazing grace revealed in Jesus. Consider these words…

“It’s not about keeping rules!” Paul told the people. “You don’t have to be good at being good for God to love you. You just have to believe what Jesus has done and follow him. Because it’s not about trying, it’s about trusting. It’s not about rules, it’s about Grace: God’s free gift – that cost him everything.”
What had happened to Paul? He met Jesus.  (p340)

Lloyd-Jones uses a wonderful refrain throughout the book speaking of…

God’s Never Stopping
Never Giving Up
Always and

I highly recommend this storybook Bible. Adults will benefit from reading it through in one sitting. So will teenagers. But its intended audience is young children from 3 or 4 up to the end of primary school. I’d encourage parents and children’s ministry leaders to get a copy. Read it through first and then take it a chapter at a time. It’d be worth reading through with your children at least once every year. Each chapter also has a reference to the passages of the Bible that are being described. It’d be worth the adults reading over these texts before they read the storybook version to the children. Maybe read the full version in the mornings and then read to the kids before bed.

For adults who want to explore the overall message of the Bible for themselves, I’d recommend following a guided Bible reading plan. It’s also helpful to read According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy or God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts. These books give excellent Bible overviews. You might also like to download a series of talks that offer a 10 week overview of the Bible’s message or work through the 8 studies in Full of Promise by Phil Campbell and Bryson Smith.

Come to think of it, there are many contexts where this book would be an excellent gift. If you’re invited to become a god-parent, then why not buy a copy for your god-child? Grandparents, add it to your Christmas list. Pastors, grab copies to offer parents at kid’s clubs or when they enquire about getting children baptised. Maybe, you could buy a copy for your kindergarten or primary school library. Get your children’s ministry leaders to read over it and use it for a training weekend. Use your imagination!

Alive and active

No, I’m not talking about myself. I’m not that active, but it’s sure good to be alive! This is how the Bible gets described in Hebrews 4:12…

bible_picFor the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

It’s not how many people would describe the Bible. Maybe, ‘dead and dull’ or ‘outdated and boring’, but certainly not alive and active. I’ve got a few books at home written in the 1800s, even some written in the 1500s and 1600s. I even have a few editions published two centuries ago. They are truly old! But the Bible was written two to three millennia ago! That makes it truly ancient!

And yet, I agree with these words. It is alive and active. It’s every bit as relevant today as when the quill first hit the papyrus. It’s no accident that it continues to outsell every other book. There’s good reasons why people read it and study it, discuss it and teach it.

I’m persuaded that the Bible is more than a human manuscript. I believe it is God’s word and that he continues to speak through it today. So it obviously makes sense for me to pay it a lot of attention. I enjoy getting to know God as I read his words. I’ve spent many years seriously studying the Bible, and I haven’t begun to exhaust it’s wisdom. I keep working to understand and apply it to my life, and to explain and teach it’s relevance to others.

But I don’t think you necessarily need to believe that the Bible is God’s word for it to be worth your while reading it. You can gain massive insight into the human experience through this book. It’ll help you understand our culture and many others. It may even help you understand yourself. But most importantly, it’ll introduce you to arguably the most influential person who ever lived, Jesus. There is so much value in patiently discovering all you can about Jesus, and asking questions about who he was, what he taught, and whether he’s relevant to you, today.

I’d urge you to add Bible reading to your to do list for a while. You could put it on your bucket list, but then you might never get to it! Perhaps, begin with the New Testament and, if you need help focusing, try asking three questions:

(1) what does it say about who Jesus is?
(2) what does it say about what he said and did?
(3) what does it say about how I should respond to him?


A legacy of words

Words can be very powerful. They’re how we connect. They’re the way we get to know one another. The absence of words makes relationships very difficult. They reveal what’s on our minds, what’s on our hearts, what we’re thinking. Sometimes they express our feelings and emotions. They’re a vehicle for revealing our values, our beliefs, our convictions. Care must be taken with words because once offered they’re hard to take back. Words can be weapons that wound or even kill. Words can offer healing and forgiveness and kindness and love. Words, whether written or spoken, can leave an important legacy long after their author has gone.

Over the past month I’ve read a number of deeply helpful books written by people dealing with serious illnesses. Each of these books have been inspiring and I’ve wanted to review and promote them so that others can be blessed by them also. With three of these books, I described the authors, their experiences, their attitudes and their words in the present tense. I just assumed each one was still living and continuing with the challenges and struggles they described in their books. I was wrong.

Lori Hope, the author of Help Me Live, who had lung cancer, and who had written to me only weeks before, had died the day before I read her book. Rhonda Watson, the author of Remember, who lived with Motor Neurone Disease, had died only weeks before. And I discovered yesterday that Jim Stallard, the author of You owe me dinner, a quadriplegic who battled with diabetes and other disabilities, had died only last year.

The news of each of their deaths was very sobering for me. Once again it reminded me of the future. One day every one of us will take our last breath. We can’t escape this fact. And for those of us with serious illnesses that day may well be sooner than we’d like.

Each of these people have no doubt left many important legacies. I haven’t met any of them personally (other than an email from Lori) but I feel that I know each one, at least in part. I’ve got to know them through their books, through their words. I feel I’ve had a glimpse of each person, something of what they’ve been through, what they believed and hoped for. They continue to speak to me, even in their absence. And, in my heart, I thank them for their words.

I added it up the other day. Just under 80,000 words on this blog since March. Ouch, that’s a lot of words! I’ve sought to give a window into my experience, what’s been on my mind and heart, what I care about and appreciate. I’ve attempted to highlight the valuable words of others as I’ve reviewed books on a range of topics. And I’ve often quoted the words that matter to me more than any others – the words of the Bible. I’ve been amazed at the reach and impact of some of these words, and have been blessed by many wise words in response. My prayer is that I will leave a legacy with these written words.

In my case, I can do more than leave a legacy of words on the page or screen. I’ve been a preacher and Bible teacher my entire working life. This means that there are cassettes, CDs, and mp3 recordings of my talks. No vinyls or reel-to-reels! Without exaggeration, that adds up to hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of talks. Some might say, if I’d kept them shorter there’d be a lot less! People can go to our church website and continue to listen to my words. The digital footprint I leave will mean that I will be able to continue speaking for years and years to come.

Big deal, you might well say! Words, words, words! Lot’s of people have written books. Lots of people have left recordings. Lots of people get quoted, but far more are simply forgotten. And I agree with you! It’s not the volume of words or the fact that they’re recorded that matters. It’s the message they contain.

I’m keen to leave my children, and my children’s children, a legacy with my words. It’s kind of nice that each of them currently follow the blog and they’ll be able to read back over things once I’m gone. It’s pretty special that they’ll even be able to listen to my voice if they download talks. But it’s the content of what I say that’s important. My prayer is that I’ll leave a legacy that flows from my words and is supported by my life. I desire to point beyond myself to the one and only God who loves each one of them. I want to share the good news of Jesus, his life, his words, his death, and his resurrection, and show them why I believe it. I want to speak about the goodness of God in the face of suffering and evil, and show the true joy that comes from confidence and contentment in God.

I know that even if I were to write books and archive my talks in the safest of places, there will come a time when my words are no longer remembered. That’s just the way things go. But there are also some words that will never be wasted, words that will always achieve their purpose, words that will endure and live forever. The Apostle Peter wrote to Christians in the first century…

23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God24 For,

“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25     but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.
(1Peter 1:23-25, my emphasis)

He quotes words that were spoken by God through the prophet Isaiah 800 years before. He speaks about the message of Jesus. He describes the impact of the message of Jesus on other people years afterwards. This is the same Peter who was a close personal friend, an eye and ear witness witness to Jesus, who had one time spoken to Jesus saying…

68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  (John 6:68-69, my emphasis)

This very same message continues to change lives today and it will tomorrow. I’m persuaded that God’s words are life-giving and life-transforming. I can testify to it personally, and I’ve seen it it countless others. The legacy I want to leave my children and my children’s children, is not ultimately my words, but the true words of God himself.

An alternative to reading the Bible

bible_picAs someone who has read the Bible most days of his life, studied the Bible at undergraduate and postgraduate level, taught the Bible to anyone who would listen, and encouraged others to read the Bible for themselves… you might be wondering what has changed so that I am now suggesting an alternative?!

The answer is nothing has changed. I still believe that the Bible is God’s word. I’m persuaded that by reading it we can discover the meaning and purpose of our lives. The Bible shines a light into our being. It reveals the matters that matter most. It’s not a book of rules. It’s not a religious artefact. It’s a life-giving word because it makes us wise for salvation through trusting in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:15) I can’t think of too many things more worthwhile than sitting down and reading through the New Testament Gospels, with an open mind to discovering all you can about Jesus.

But, for today, I want to commend an alternative to reading the Bible… listen to it. Have someone else read it to you. You don’t have to open your Bible. You can shut your eyes if you want. Just listen to what it says. If you do that, then you’ll find yourself in good company. Before the printing press was invented, very few people had access to reading the manuscripts of the Bible. They depended on it being read out loud by those who did have access. In more recent times, I met some people who lived in Ethiopia for years when it was illegal to have Bibles. They couldn’t be seen in public with Christian Scriptures. From time to time churches and Christian groups were discovered with Bibles and they were punished severely. So what did they do? They privately memorised huge sections of the Bible, so they could share it with one another when they got together.

Now you might be able to find someone who’s willing to read it out loud while you listen, but they’ll probably give up fairly quickly and there is an easier way. Get yourself a copy of the Bible on CD or mp3, put it on your iPod or phone and you can listen to it anywhere. If you’re connected to the internet then you can find audio versions of the Bible to listen to. Bible Apps such as You Version and sites such as Bible Gateway are a good place to look.

I’m not suggesting you stop reading the Bible, but I think there can be advantages to simply listening. It’s a great use of time when you’re out and about. Plug in your earphones and listen to the Bible while you commute to work or drive down the coast. If you’re walking the dog or riding your exercise bike you might be able to listen to a book of the Bible each time. Perhaps you could make up a play list of Bible passages, instead of music, to listen to now and again.

Our church is about to start a teaching series on the book of Jeremiah. We’re covering the whole book over the next 9 weeks. It’s a long book with 52 chapters and the danger is that we’ll get lazy and not bother reading it at all. We’ll get bits and pieces in the talk on Sunday, but not really get the full picture. Listening to the Bible read out loud will get it into our heads.

I’ve taught through the 66 chapters of Isaiah in 16 weeks and the 48 chapters of Ezekiel in 8 weeks. And I found it so useful to listen to the words. I remember one day walking up and down Black Mountain, Mt Ainslie, Mt Majura, past the airport, and around North Canberra as I listened to the whole of Ezekiel. Another occasion I listened to 29 consecutive chapters as I drove to Bateman’s Bay. I did this over and over and I came to know and understand these books better and better.

In fact, some things became so much clearer as I listened. You try listening to Ezekiel 40-48 with chapter after chapter describing measurements and details of the new temple. It’s almost deadening in the detail! But then, after all the names and places and numbers are given, you hear these words… And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.  (Ezekiel 48:35) It doesn’t seem like much as you read it off the pages but, having heard the entire book read, and knowing the story that has gone before it, I can tell you it was WOW!

So if you’re about to embark on studying the book of Jeremiah, let me seriously suggest listening to it as well. If you’re not much of a reader but you’re interested in finding out what the Bible has to say, let me recommend getting an audio version. If you want to fill up some otherwise dead time, then why not stick the Bible on your phone or computer or put a CD in the car and listen to the Word of God. Who knows, it might even help you to read it more as well!

The Biblical way to dodge death

As I opened the Canberra Times over breakfast this morning, I was intrigued to read an article on the Bible. Stories about the Bible are rare in the papers, but this one’s rather special. The Bible belonged to Lance Corporal Elvas Jenkins. He placed it in his shirt pocket and it took a bullet for him at Gallipoli on May 7, 1915. It’s a great story. The lead shrapnel bullet from the shell of a 75mm field gun went through the Psalms and lodged in the Gospels! The Bible literally saved his life… that is, until he was killed a year later while heading a reconnaissance party on its way to the Battle of Somme. Now, nearly a hundred years later, this little Bible has come to rest in Canberra!

Very cool to be saved by a Bible tucked into your shirt pocket, and a testimony to God’s kindness to him that day. But then, it could have equally been a tobacco tin that saved him, or a pocket watch, or something else that could withstand the shrapnel. These days, I guess it would be more likely a kevlar jacket, or some other piece of high-tech armour. So why get excited about this pocket Bible saving his life that day?

I think it’s because of the strong associations with something bigger and more profound. The Bible has saved many people, countless people, from death. Not the ‘dodging bullets’ kind of death (only to die later), but from spiritual death that is separation from God for eternity. Arguably, the most famous words in the Bible, give us this life-saving message:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

The Bible offers real hope to the dying. The evidence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus shows us that death doesn’t have the final say. Life beyond the grave or the crematorium isn’t just an empty wish, but a rational expectation based on the evidence of Jesus Christ who has made it possible. It’s worth grabbing a Bible and reading one of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John – to find out more.

(You can read the Canberra Times article here.)

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