I finished reading through the Bible.

This week I finished reading through the Bible in a year. The only problem is that it took me twenty-six month to finish my “read through the Bible in a year” plan. This is my third time reading through it since I have been in ministry leadership, over thirty eight years now. The interesting thing is that two of those times have been since launching New Venture a little over five and a half years ago.

Have you ever attempted to read all the way through the Bible? Sounds a little daunting, doesn’t it. It might be something you give consideration to. Do you believe the Bible? Do you believe the entire Bible? How do you know you believe it all if you haven’t even read it? There might be something in there about puff the magic dragon or Puff Daddy and you weren’t even aware of it.

Here are a few observations from the experience.

1. It takes discipline to keep going. You will never read through the entire Bible unless you set your mind to it and stay the course. You will face numerous challenges.

2. It helps to have a Bible reading plan that you are following that includes some Old Testament and New Testament reading each day. I used the Life Journal that includes a journaling section based on the acrostic S-O-A-P. Check it out at http://www.lifejournal.cc/. Life Journals are available at the welcome center on Sundays.

3. It’s ok to take longer than the prescribed length of the Bible reading plan. Sometimes something else just got in the way. Other times I would read a different devotional book during my “God Time” other than the Bible. The important thing is to keep coming back to it and not giving up.

4. Team up whenever possible. It is good to read through it with someone else who is on track with you. That gives you the opportunity to discuss things you have read that day. Sharon and I talk about our readings all the time to each other and to others.

5. We desperately need the power of being in the Word daily. Starting a new church is a huge undertaking. The opportunity for discouragement and temptation is endless. The only way I have made it to this point, with a healthy walk with God, is my time with Him each day in the Bible. He sets my course for the day. He strengthens my steps. I’m sure you need the same thing.

As I read each day I did so with a highlighter in my hand. My entire Bible is marked up from cover to cover. I highlighted the verses that spoke to me that particular day. What I want to do now is share these verses with others. I am planning on beginning each day on my facebook page with a verse of scripture for the day. It will be one that I have found strength in and hopefully others can also. Just a verse with maybe an observation, statement or question, that’s all. It’s going to be a DAILY CONNECTION WITH GOD.

So, are you up for reading through the Bible in a year? How about twenty-six months?

promises

Without any of the marketing and media means of our times, the church in the very beginning grew, not weekly but daily, as people accepted Jesus’ offer of forgiveness, were baptized into his family and added to the church. How did they do it? Simple stories from satisfied customers. It is the most needed form of advertising both then and now.  Joe and Jane Average Christian saying, “You know that faith in God thing, I have tried it and it is working for me and it will work for you also.” We’re talking simple testimonials of their faith in God.

There is a very pointed statement in the New Testament book of First Peter that says,  “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” The need today, as it was then, is satisfied Christ followers sharing their hope with others in our culture that are living with hope in all the wrong places. Their hope amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking.

Christian hope is an optimistic outlook based on powerful promises. The world’s definition of hope is an optimistic outlook. So, if I am going to ever be able to give a reason for the hope I have I need to clearly identify the promises upon which my hope is based.

Here’s how you get prepared?  Tuck a few promises from the Bible in your heart that apply to you right now.  When your circumstances change you’ll find a couple of other promises that fit where you’re at then.  And you’re always ready to share your hope.

Have a couple simple promises that you’re holding onto in your life.  Take that promise of God and applied it to your situation and it gives you tremendous hope.  Now you’re ready to share the reason for your hopefulness with somebody else that needs it.  It’s that simple.

For me right now, and for a good part of my life, I have put my hope in promises I find in the 4th chapter of Philippians. I personally believe this could be the greatest chapter in the entire Bible. It is at least in the top three. What hope they bring in the times in which we live. I am assured, “The lord is near.” I have the presence of God to go with me. He is as close to me as I will allow Him to be. And when I take my issues to Him and give them to Him, I am told that I can have His peace that is beyond my ability to comprehend. There’s more. I have the promise also, and I have experienced it first hand, that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. That’s power. I can experience his power in my life. But the best is yet to come. I have the confidence and assurance that when I stay connected with God and depend on Him and utilize His strength that he will supply my every need. He’s my provider and no matter what happens in life or in our economy I’m covered. So I live each day in the presence, peace, power and provision of God.

These are the promises upon which I am building my life. How about you? What are the promises from the Bible that serve as the foundation of your hope? Would you care to share one?

Sawyer, Audrey, Eloise and Friends

Since I have been addressing relationship and family issues the last couple weeks in our Sunday gatherings I thought I would take a minute and say how much I have been enjoying friends and family the last few weeks. We have enjoyed a visit by our oldest son, Brady and his wife, Elizabeth and their son, Sawyer.

Last week four of our long time friend from our previous ministry in Ohio came our way to visit and help Sharon celebrate her 60th birthday. What a party it was. She seems to be aging gracefully. I will be the first one to admit that she certainly does not act her age and I am glad she doesn’t.

Then, our middle son, Timothy, with his wife, Daphane came to see us and also celebrate Sharon’s birthday. Of course they brought Audrey and her new baby sister, Eloise. They stayed for about four days and headed home this morning.

I have been talking about the most important ingredient of successful relationship as well as how to defuse conflict in relationships in our current series on Hope beyond Belief on Sundays. (For the complete message click here http://relaxedchurch.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=57) It is such a delight to have those kind of relationships with family and friends.

Here are a few pics of the friends and family visits. The full sets are posted on my facebook page. Here’s the link if you can access it. http://www.facebook.com/editphoto.php?aid=30385#/sthornton1?ref=profilebeach with sawyer, 2009018beach with sawyer, 2009036Sawyer at our place, june 09003Sharon's Bday, Timothy and Daphane, Ohio Girls 125PICT0005PICT0019PICT0004Sharon's Bday, Timothy and Daphane, Ohio Girls 135

submission

How are you when it comes to submission? What do you feel about submission? Not a very popular word in our culture, is it? It’s a word that you might find more frequently used in a Middle Eastern society or a suppressive environment. Yet it is a word that appears at different times in the Bible. On one occasion the New Testament writer of Peter says, “Wives…be submissive to your husbands.” (1 Peter 3:1) Now husbands don’t jump on that one too quickly because at another place the Bible says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) Submission seems to be a two way street, to say the least.

Are you irritated with this submission idea yet? When you hear that word is your first feeling a positive feeling or a negative feeling?  It’s a little negative isn’t it?  In fact, submission is not a very 21st century kind of word.  It’s one of those words where, if we think the Bible in any place may be a little out of date, we feel it when we hear that word.

I thought I’d take a look at some of the positive meanings that are used today behind submission.  I wanted to identify a few positive concepts for you.  It’s so easy to do that with the internet. I knew I was in trouble when I began looking down the description list. I saw words like “submission: back down, bend to another person’s will; comply; cower; crawl; cringe; give in; live a dog’s life.” Not one positive phrase.

This word submission suffers from an image problem.  A word that used to have a more positive slant to it when the New Testament was written, today it has taken on an almost entirely negative slant.

So let me share a definition of SUBMISSION, whenever you see this word in the Bible it means:  having the courage to give up my rights to meet another person’s needs. If you are looking for a more 21st century word it would be UNSELFISHNESS. How are you when it comes to UNSELFISHNESS? (To get the rest of the story on unselfishness click on this link: http://relaxedchurch.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=57. You will find it under “Our Most Important Relationship Quality.”