I once had this impression that a hundred years ago, the preaching of the Word was dry and didn't apply to people's lives. I think I got that impression from the culture we live in--old is bad and new is good. Hymns = bad. Modern worship songs = good. At least that's what I thought until a few years ago when God placed my husband and in a traditional, hymn singing Presbyterian church. As we struggled with the style of our worship and our misguided beliefs that what was most important about worship was how we enjoyed it, my mother in law sent us an issue of Moody Magazine. The August 2002 issue was titled "Is there a Right Way to Worship?"
This is a quote from an article by Rowland Forman from that issue, titled The Rest of the Service.
"Worship is realizing God's supreme worth, followed by a response that reflects His worthiness. It is declaring, by word or action, what we believe to be true about God. It means giving God all He's worth...What this means to us as we attend a typical worship service is that we are there to focus on God. any reading, song, prayer, testimony, or sermon that makes us center on God can potentially elicit heartfelt worship. That releases us from the need to grade the quality of the music or the style of the songs. Worship is also the overflow of a grateful heart in response to God's grace in Christ...In this new chapter of my worship life, I am being released from my selfishness and a critical spirit, as I ask, not "what will meet my need?" but "What kind of worship does God delight in?" and "How can I best serve and bless the people around me?""
The article I've quoted from affirmed what I felt God teaching me. Going to church isn't about me. It's about God. It isn't about the right songs or the wrong ones. That was eight years ago when I read that article. Just as I should read the Bible not to keep my eyes on myself, but to take them off of myself and put them back on God.
At the time that I felt engulfed by the idea that modern worship songs are the best way to worship, I also saw that evangelicals were moving towards a pragmatic, application oriented service. The old practice of preaching through the Word was displaced by thematic preaching. Many books have been written about meeting the needs of people in order to draw them to Christ.
But, it is not us who saves. It is God who saves.
That is what I began to see as I drew back from popular Christian culture. A sense of concern grew in my heart as I watched our culture from afar and saw the shelves of Christian book stores fill with Christian self help books--some that didn't even quote the Bible. After I read one of the most popular Christian books ten years ago, I realized that only three verses were sited and only one of them was in the text. It really made me start to think about the books I was reading and question whether the books I was reading were pointing me to God or to myself.
For several years, I struggled with reading Christian books and then I read a book titled Seeing Through Cynicism by Dick Keyes. It helped me understand what I was struggling with. It also helped me see that I needed to fight the cynicism that had grown in my mind when it came to Christian books and culture. So, I came up with a plan. I would stay out of Christian bookstores and stick to authors that I had found over the previous years that I could trust. And then... God had a neat plan.
I started reviewing books. I started reading again. A lot. I was taken by surprise as I began to read a lot of wonderful books that really encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. Along the way, I also came across some yucky books that weren't edifying. But, all of them have made me think about what I read and think.
Which leads me to my main point in this post!
A few years ago, I read through the whole Bible. I can't say that I did it in a year. I think it took me a bit longer than a year actually. I have been wondering what I would do when I finish reading Becoming a Woman of Simplicity this week and I figured it out yesterday! I do better with a guide--a plan to hold me accountable. I just received a copy two weeks ago of The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study by Starr Meade. It is a four book Bible study that will take you through the whole Bible. It is written for Middle and High Schoolers, but it would be great for adults too. Starr Meade has a way of not talking down to kids. I've noticed that she's great at distilling the Truth and big theological concepts. I'm going to write a review of this study in my next post.
Reading the whole Bible can help us see the Big Picture better--and get to know God better. When we pick and choose and only read our favorite books of the Bible, sometimes we can miss out on the context and misinterpret passages.
I am looking forward to starting at the beginning again and remembering many of the things that are stuck in the attic in my brain, as my daughter would say. I find that I forget so many things amidst teaching my kids and all that I have to do each day. It's good to be reminded of the basic truths of the Bible so that I can better explain and teach my children.