My central goal as your pastor is simply to help you, the people I serve, deepen your Christian faith and provide direction for your faith journey. What I long for is that each member of this congregation will be continually formed in Christ; be shaped into someone who speaks, acts and behaves as Jesus. An important part of this is the daily reading of the Bible.
Occasionally the honest and sincere question is asked, “Of what value can I expect from the daily reading of the Bible?” Nearly always the question is asked by left-brain, practical people. The question is not asked to be argumentative or simply to be incorrigible. It is asked by persons who always watch the bottom line in life, people who take a hard and careful look at the returned value of every decision to act. After all, time and energy these days is a scarce commodity. Both must be used wisely. Reading the Bible carefully and thoughtfully takes both time and energy.
I propose that there are at least three benefits to the daily reading of the Bible. First, the regular reading of God’s word delivers us from anxiety. Our own little world may be coming unglued by family strife, illness or financial strain. The regular, disciplined reading of the Bible reminds us that we are not alone; reminds us that we live each day in the observant care of a great God. What we are reminded of every time we return to the Bible is that ultimately we belong to God. This knowledge has a tremendous capacity for settling anxiety.
Second, we are delivered from self-consciousness. Ours is a culture that in subtle and less than subtle ways calls us to stare at ourselves. Magazine covers and cosmetic ads seem to impress upon us that value comes from beauty – and the dollars spent striving for that beauty is staggering. For most of us we will never look like Jennifer Aniston or Brad Pitt. What is unfortunate is that in our striving we eventually feel defeated. Reading God’s word each day counter-balances the message of the culture that we must look beautiful. The Bible reminds us that we are at this very moment precious to God regardless of what reflection we see in the store window when we walk past.
Third, the regular reading of the Bible delivers us from conceit. Certainly there are people who don’t struggle with a positive self-image. Theirs is another struggle. They look marvelous in that suit or evening gown, point to educational credentials on the office wall and seem to have the resources to purchase anything at all. With every step they take the air surrounding them is filled with self-importance. Ultimately it all adds-up to emptiness. That is because we were wired – created – for relationship; relationship with one another and with God. The Bible read well and closely reminds us of that. It is living into community with others, loving and being loved that life finally makes sense.