This morning I would like to continue in the light of my last few sermons. I’ve talked about the Bible as one of the most important history books that we have. I’ve been leading a Wednesday morning study that looks at some of the Patriarch’s as historical figures, rooted in the times and culture of their origins.
I have asked you to look to your Bible in a new way, to challenge you to read even the most difficult passages with new interest.
The Word of The Lord
Psalm 119:97 O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Your precepts. 101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word. 102 I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, For You Yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. 106 I have sworn and I will confirm it, That I will keep Your righteous ordinances. 107 I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word. 108 O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, And teach me Your ordinances. 109 My life is continually *in my hand, Yet I do not forget Your law. 110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts. 111 I have inherited Your testimonies forever, For they are the joy of my heart. 112 I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes Forever, even to the end.
113 I hate those who are double-minded, But I love Your law. 114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word. 115 Depart from me, evildoers, That I may observe the commandments of my God. 116 Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope. 117 Uphold me that I may be safe, That I may have regard for Your statutes continually.
This mornings message is entitled the Unread Bible. And I wanted to remind you that we all have favorite passages, we all have favorite books, books that we tend to open when we feel the urge to read God’s word. And this is good, it’s late at night, the house is quiet, the Bible is right there, so we open it and began reading. But do we open it at random? Or. Do we make some choices? Perhaps we start with a random passage but then we flip to our favorites until we are finished.
This is repeated day after day, week after week. So, what I’m asking is. Have you read your Bible? And yes you have. Second question, what have you read? The same things I always read, “I like those passages, they give me comfort, solace and wisdom. Don’t you know that I see different things almost every time I read the passages that I like!”
Well, that probably is true, and that’s a good thing, because if you considtanlty read your Bible in this fashion it could be a really short read. You might be looking reducing the number of pages by 9/10s. Maybe a hundred pages. Well loved pages, but only a hundred.
Our self selection is our mostly limiting feature of our spiritual life. If we regularly go to only those verses that we like, it is because they are the only ones that we are comfortable with. It’s not God’s intent, He doesn’t want you comfortable, He wants to raise you up. he wants to to understand every piece of the Bible. His word in 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
It doesn’t say those passages that you agree with, it doesn’t say those passages that I find comforting, or those passages that I return to over and over again. What I am talking about is breaking a good habit. There are lots of tricks and lots of motivations that goes into breaking bad habits. Not so many that works in breaking a good habit. After all, you are reading the Bible! You know that this is a good thing.
You know the statistics, the Bible is the most popular book in the world. In 2000, Gallup Poll discovered that six out of every ten Americans read it at least occasionally, that’s about 160,000,000 people in 2000 and probably 185,000,000 in 2013. That’s about the same number that defines themselves as Christians.
According to Gallup, about 59% of Americans say they read the Bible at least on occasion, with the most likely readers being women, nonwhites, older people, Republicans, and political conservatives. Readership of the Bible has declined from the 1980s overall, from 73% to 59% today. And the percentage of frequent readers, that is, those who read the Bible at least once a week, has decreased slightly over the last decade, from 40% in 1990 to 37% today. About one American in seven reports an involvement that goes beyond reading the Bible.
Only 14% currently belong to a Bible study group. In terms of frequency of readership, 16% of Americans say that they read the Bible every day, 21% say they read it weekly, 12% say they read the Bible monthly, 10% say less than monthly and 41% say that they rarely or never read the Bible, although many still define themselves as Christians.
Sixty-five percent of Americans agree that the Bible “answers all or most of the basic questions of life.” Almost half of people who believe this about the Bible read it at least weekly. Interestingly, 28% of those who agree with this say they rarely or never read the Bible. Those with more education are less likely to think that the Bible is a comprehensive guide to life than are the less educated. Forty-six percent of those with a postgraduate degree say the Bible answers basic life questions, compared to 72% of those with a high school education or less.
A recent researcher asked a poll question ” what is your favorite book?”
Psalms won handly with 32%
Some else came in second with 27%
A Pauline letter cam in third with 21%
A Gospel came in fourth with 15%
And Genesis came in fifth with 6%
The same researcher asked, “who is your favorite female in scripture?”
Mary Magdalena, 9%
Many Americans report that they would like to learn more about the Bible. Thirty-five percent say they are “very interested” in deepening their understanding of the Bible and 40% say they are “somewhat interested.” Twenty-four percent of respondents report no interest in learning more about the Bible. Those who report the highest levels of interest in the Bible include women and people from the southern part of the United States.
Since these trends have been fairly steady, you can increase them about 5% from 2000.
We have a nation that is reading the a Bible less, with less understanding. The more educated, the less likely to read the Bible, we can speculate that the more effluent, that also the less likely to read the Bible.
What are we to do? Well, first, we need to know about the problem, define the edges, know as much as we can about the trends. We need to support a healthy bible based community. We define ourselves as a Bible based church, but we need to move way from the comfort of being a “favorite passages” Bible based church. Note that there is nothing wrong with favorite passages, it is good, but god is asking for more.
There are several practical things you can do, to change the good habit. Find a new way to read the Bible completely through, in a set timeline, the whole Bible in a year is very popular. One that I looked at recently is reading the Bible in chronological order. Reading it in timeline can open your eyes to seeing passages in a whole new light.
Joining a Bible study group that is very dedicated to studying book by book, carefully spending many hours on just a few verses at times. Obviously taking notes during sermons that may leading to new passages and verses. Come to the early morning Sunday school that may help to break you out of the familiar and go into some of the other important areas.
There is a great Unread Bible out there, right between the covers of the Bible that you already own. Read it!
The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’
Adonai will kneel before you presenting gifts and will guard you with a hedge of protection, Adoni will illuminate the wholeness of his being toward you, bringing order, and he will beautify you, Adoni will lift up his wholeness of being, and look upon you, and he will set in place all you need to be whole