My dad was a pastor. Anyone who knew him realized he was born to lead, and born to lead in the context of the local church. He loved the local church. The two congregations he served--one for 13 years and the other for nearly 17 years--both grew numerically and had significant impact in the cities where they were located. Probably his most profound gift to the church was inspiring and encouraging young leaders who would later become pastors of congregations all over the country.
I will never forget the time I asked my dad a question that surprised him. The question was: "Dad, when you have finally preached sermons on every book of the Bible, what will you do next?"
It was becoming clear to me in my 15th year of life on earth that Dad would soon run out of material and need to find another job, which might mean we would have to move, start over in a new school, in a new neighborhood, make new friends, and learn a new city.
My question allowed my dad to teach me a life lesson about the power of the Bible. He told me that every time he read through the Bible, he saw different things that he hadn’t seen before. He told me there would never come a day when he was "finished" reading, studying, and learning the vast teachings of the Bible.
I was relieved. We wouldn't have to move. There would be no new school, no new neighborhood, no new city, no new friends. But even more than relieving the worries of a 15-year-old, I learned a valuable lesson that day about the Bible: we will never come to a place where we've mastered it, learned all there is to learn, and understand everything it means.
I am very fortunate to consider the David Green family in Oklahoma City my friends. They are the founders of the extremely successful Hobby Lobby and all its various entities. Even though they are more than adept in their businesses, they are known locally for their humility and kindness. One of their most significant endeavors and one they will be most known for throughout all time is the building of a world class museum a few blocks from the White House called The Museum of The Bible. This museum will stand as a testimony to the truth of God's word until Jesus returns. Their motto is: "this book is alive!"
Kim and I recently attended an event at the Children's Center, which is a premier hospital that provides extremely high quality care to children who have significant injuries and handicaps. Kim serves on the Board of Directors for the hospital. At the event, Mart Green, David Green's son and also a board member at the hospital, led the opening prayer and scripture reading. Mart shared his life passion and motto as he led the prayer.
It is contained in one sentence: "this book is alive!"
It was last week that I was brought face-to-face with a new discovery in a very familiar passage of scripture. I was reminded of what my dad said about never being finished learning all the lessons of the Bible. I was reminded of the reality of Mart Green's simple statement.
My sermon series for the month of October is entitled “Overcome.” The first few chapters of the Old Testament book of Daniel seemed to be an appropriate place to start discussing the idea of overcoming impossible situations.
That cast of characters includes King Nebuchadnezzar, who was more than perplexing; he was either all in for God, telling Daniel in one verse, “truly your God is the greatest of the Gods.” or threatening to kill people who did not bow down to his manmade gold idol. Three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to bow down to the golden idol and were then thrown into what may have been the hottest furnace fire on the planet.
I’ve been through that text many times in my life. But this time, I saw something I had never seen before. Talk about a book being alive! The three men were thrown into the furnace “bound together” but were soon observed walking around in the furnace unbound. The text tells us that the three men walked out of the furnace without anything burned and not even smelling like smoke. There was only thing that changed while in the fire: whatever had them bound went away, burned up, or came off.
I think I’ve been so taken by the three men walking out of the furnace I didn’t pay much attention to the details. They demonstrated a level of faith rarely seen on planet earth and God showed up and spared them from being burned alive.
But nobody was walking out of that furnace while tied up. On previous passes through the text, I just didn’t pay much attention to that detail. Now, I’m embarrassed to tell you that I didn’t give that detail much thought. Whatever bound them was the only item that went into the furnace that didn’t come back out.
Seeing this detail for the first time rocked my soul. Could it be that we often fail to notice the power of what has us bound? Is it possible to be in prison without noticing the locked cell doors? Is it possible to be “bound” by an addiction without realizing the power of the drug, whatever that might be?
Yes. Yes, it is possible. It is possible to be bound by things that seem irrelevant, immaterial, or harmless.
The Bible is alive. It will reveal things to you and about you in the various seasons of life. You can read this book cover to cover every year and each year you will see something you’ve never seen before.
“God’s word is alive and working and is sharper than a double-edged sword. It cuts all the way into us, where the soul and the spirit are joined, to the center of our joints and bones. And it judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts.” Hebrews 4:12