Last evening, we began our second week of our class entitled, "Equip: Bible Study." These classes are focused on practical ways to grow in our discipleship. In particular, we are focused these next seven weeks on how to grow in our reading of Scripture enabling us to feel more confident in understanding the Bible. The Bible can be an intimidating book to read. And yet, with a variety of tools, it can be very accessible. Moreover, therein is a depth of understanding which leads us further into the life of God. With this in mind, I wanted to share a little of what we discussed last evening in hopes it may encourage you to delve deeper into the Scriptures as well as feel confident in reading them. Some of us have been reading the Bible for a long time; yet, a new method may unlock depths to the Scriptures.
The first lesson last evening was discussion on beginning to read the text and how important it is to read the text slowly. The method is simply called survey. Often we read the text quickly in order to get a quick meaning from it. Yet, the slower we read it, the more questions arise which leads us toward deeper discovery. Basically, the first lesson was the art of reading a text slowly and allowing the text to speak for itself. Below is a simple path to follow:
I personally find the last part of the "Survey method" quite helpful. The more questions I ask, the further it pushes me for discovery. Moreover, one of the other things that caught my attention was how I was moved by questions others had. Often when we read in community, people help us see parts of the Scripture we miss. Thus, I would encourage you when you pick up your Bible next time, slow down, read a passage, and simply ask questions of the text. Don't rush through the process. In doing so, it will push you to discover part of the text you might have easily glossed over if going too fast.
As the years go by, it is interesting how they affect our thoughts and actions. Just yesterday we welcomed in a new year, 2020. In doing so we entered a new decade. That word struck me as I watched the news, the Rose Bowl Parade, and football. Such is the unspoken tradition of our house on New Years Day. All the anchors and TV personalities kept referring to the new decade beginning. I guess I wasn't quite prepared for that word. I hadn't really thought about this being a new decade. Before yesterday, my thoughts were just about a new year. But the word decade casts a much larger net around time.
For one, the word caused me to think beyond just last year and reminisce about the past 10 years. An entire decade has come to a close. In 2010, I was finishing my first year of ministry in Arkansas and celebrating a year of marriage. I had finished paying off the first car I ever bought on my own. Moreover, throughout the next nine years, much would change in my life. I moved appointments from Asbury UMC Little Rock to Vilonia UMC, and then here to Jacksonville First; all in the span of ten years. I experienced and led a church through a major tornado. We bought our first home. Lynn and I had our first and only child at this point, Eleanor. We lost loved ones. We gained friends. Over the course of the past decade much has happened. Most of which I find myself grateful to God for such gifts. (I could have done without some of the heartache and difficulty, but such is life).
I also look back upon the past decade with some regret. There are dreams that have died and projects left unfinished. There were silly hopes which never materialized as well as unnecessary desires which consumed. There were opportunities ignored and friendships left behind. There were also times to love and restore relationships which have now long past. All to say, here I stand as a result of all these experiences. I am struck with a thought as I enter this new decade. I could let those regrets live on or let them go as well. A new decade allows the opportunity to begin afresh and anew. Those past regrets can become memories of the past rather than constant companions in our hearts. I can choose to learn from them or let them continue to hold me down. We might do well to hear Paul's words from Philippians on the precipice of a new year, "Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:13-14).
Moreover, the start of a new decade not only gives us opportunity to let go, but it also gives us the opportunity to set directions. Not simply for a year, but for a much longer span. As individuals, we can look forward to the course of our life in the coming ten years and make decisions as to who we shall be in this decade. We can restart, give ourselves permission, let go, and set a course. Certainly we don't know what shall transpire; but if our course is set at the beginning, we can weather whatever storm may come. As a Church, the same is true. Who shall we be in ten years? Not all of us will see the end of the next decade in this congregation, but many will. And yet, imagine the impact we can make today if we set our direction faithfully for the coming decade. What are the needs of the community in Jacksonville? How might we stand in the gap? What does God require of us in the next ten years? May God open our imagination as we enter this next decade. Most of all, may we be found faithful!