Tag Archives: Scripture

My how things have changed

As a young preacher (and I started preaching at age 16) I was encouraged to use lots of Scripture references in my preaching.  I probably overdid it and over time dialed things back, especially as I moved away from proof texting.

Still, I often mention different verses in a sermon, generally to give an example of what I’m talking about.

At first, I took strips of paper and numbered them in the order of verses I intended to mention.  I bookmarked my Bible with those bits of paper so I could easily find the verses.  As you can guess, it wasn’t a very good plan and sometimes left me searching, first for that numbered slip of paper and, not seeing it for some reason, for the passage itself.

My next plan of action was to type the verse directly into my notes.   That solved the slips of paper problem and worked okay.  However, at some point it dawned on me that I was going to be typing some verses many times in my preaching career.

 So, I hit upon a plan.  Every time I referred to a verse, I’d take time to type it onto a 3×5 card.  In my sermon notes, I simply included the reference.  I’d organize the cards in order for that sermon, then, after the service, I’d file the cards by book of the Bible.

From that point on a part of sermon preparation was to go through my Bible verse file and see if I’d already added the verses I wanted for the sermon.  I’d add the news ones for that sermon and then file them after the sermon.

As you can guess, after 20 years of so of preaching, I developed quite a file system.  It was so useful that it crossed my mind that the file box and cards needed to be placed into the hands of some young preacher when my preaching days were over.

Then in the mid-1990’s I added a computer to my study and things began to change.  I now had the Bible in electronic form and in multiple translations.  Inserting the text of a verse into the sermon notes was a simple copy/paste process.  My extensive collection of 3×5 cards was no longer necessary.

For years the file box remained on my desk simply because that is where it had always been.  Finally, needing desk space, I moved it to storage in the attic.  There it stayed for several years until today.

I decided it was time for me to clear out the attic and there, covered with dust, was my old file box of scriptures.  In spite of the countless hours of work represented by those 3×5 cards it was time for it to go.  I reluctantly brought the poor old filebox down, took these final photos of it, and put it all in the recycle bin.  Just awhile ago the pickup crew came, and not knowing or caring what was in the bin, carried it off.

Looking back on my system, I think I hit on a good plan.  I accomplished exactly what needed to be accomplished.  Not only that, but by typing out the passages, I became more intimate with them.

Still, over time, things change and the need for that approach is now part of my personal past.  Happily, even though the way I handled the Bible has changed, I’m glad to report that it’s message is just as current and needed as ever before.

Confession of a non-liturgical pastor

Confession of a non-liturgical (at least in the strictest definition of the term) pastor…

Several years ago as I read the history of Christianity I was taken with the emphasis on the public reading of Scripture – something specifically mentioned by Paul to Timothy.

I decided that if it we’re specifically told to do so in the Bible and since it was deeply rooted in the history of the Church that I’d add the reading of Scripture to the regular order of the service. (Note: “Order of worship” is how we non-liturgicals talk about liturgy.)

The question then became what passage to read. My first inclination was to use the passage I was going to preach from later in the service. That, though, had some limitations — really, not all preachable portions of Scripture lend themselves to the reading of Scripture in worship service.

Also, I was still challenged to lift the Scripture, itself. If I read my text early, I was really still reading it as part of the sermon. I wanted to let the Scripture, at that point, just speak for itself and be separate from the sermon.

Ultimately, I decided to go with at least a portion of the Gospel reading from the Book of Common Prayer. It gives us a bit of structure and a certain flow week by week. So each week a lay reader leads us in a responsive reading from the Gospels.

I’m not preaching from it and I still don’t use the lectionary, although I’m not critical of those who do.

By the way, sometime later I added a weekly Psalm, which I use as a call to worship. Then, more recently, I’ve added the reading of one of the wonderful Biblical benedictions to each service.

A Biblical call to worship, a responsive reading from the Word, an expository sermon, and a benediction from Scripture…nope, I’m not liturgical, I just like to use the Bible in worship.

Battle for the Bible

For years now I’ve watched from the sidelines as some church groups have fought the so called “Battle for the Bible.”  I say I’ve watched from the sidelines because I’m a part of the Church of the Nazarene and Nazarenes, from the beginning, refuse to enter into the fray.  Our founders arrived at the wise stance that the Holy Scriptures are inspired and inerrantly reveal “the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation.”  By making this one of our Articles of Faith it removed us from the endless debates about whether thus and so “really happened.”

Still, I can’t claim that we aren’t impacted by the issue.  Some of our folks get their theology as much from Christian radio and TV as they do from their local church.  Since we do “believe the Bible” arguments framed as “do you or don’t you?” cause us to unknowingly drift into the raging waters of this debate.

We Nazarenes have a Wesleyan view of Scripture.  That means, as our forefathers stated, we believe the Bible has been given to us for the purpose of revealing God’s will concerning our salvation.  Some folks read the story of Jonah and the big fish and think they have to prove Jonah really was swallowed by such a fish or the whole Bible is placed in doubt.  A Nazarene reads it and asks, “What does this tell us about God and his redeeming grace?”  The big fish may or may not have existed (personally, I’m on the “did exist” side), we’re free to believe however we conclude.  It’s what this story tells us about God and salvation that matters.  That, for us, is the inerrant part.

For some folks “believing the Bible” is about proving whatever they think the Bible is saying is factual.  To them, it’s a science-history-math-theology book.  For Wesleyans, it’s a book about God and man and salvation.  We believe everything it says is about that is hard fact, inerrantly pointing us to God and his redemptive purposes for us.