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By BILL BLANKENSHIP
One of the temptations for pastors is to engage the Bible only for sermon preparation. Because we preach most every week, we are always looking for fresh content for our preaching. As a result, one of the challenges for pastors is reading the Bible personally as a Christian rather than simply reading it as a pastor looking for sermon material.
For most of my life, I have approached the Bible informationally, not relationally. When I approach the Bible informationally, my goal is to elevate my knowledge. But when I approach the Bible relationally, my goal is to elevate my affection and love for God.
Growing in knowledge is important, but knowledge without relationship is dangerous. That was one of the big issues Jesus had with the Pharisees. They had biblical knowledge but their heart was far from God.
In recent years, when I sit down with my Bible, I try to remind myself that this is not just a book with great truth and accurate information. Behind the book, is a personal God. I am meeting with the God of the universe, not just reading a book. And he wants a relationship with me, which makes the Bible different than any other book ever written.
Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) says “for the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
The Word of God is alive and powerful because God is at work in it and through it. He energizes his Word and applies it to my life.
So, before I start reading scripture, I usually start with a simple prayer: “Lord, today I want to meet with you and I want to deepen my relationship with you. So, speak to me. I am listening.”
I am reminding myself to read the Bible relationally, not just informationally. As a pastor, my default mode is to come to the Bible looking for truth that I can use in a sermon. The irony is that I can come to the Bible looking for truth and actually be disconnected relationally from the truth-giver.
There is an old story about a group of at a dinner gathering. At the dinner was a well-known orator. That night he was asked to recite the 23rd Psalm. He masterfully recited that most well-known of Psalms and everyone in the room was impressed. There was also an older pastor there that night and someone asked him if he would also recite the 23rd Psalm. But instead of the people being impressed, they were moved. Afterward, someone commented, the orator knew the Psalm and the pastor knew the shepherd.
I don't want to be a pastor who simply knows the psalm. I want to deeply know the shepherd. My prayer is that you do as well.
Bill Blankenship is pastor of North Tongass Baptist Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.