In some of my sermons, I’ll ask near the close, “Are you getting anything out of this?” Confession #1 is, that’s a fall-back I tend to use if I haven’t been able to think of a boffo, climactic ending. But in all cases, I truly hope you get something out of these blog posts, such as hope and inspiration to draw closer to the Lord. But there’s an important point I need to make, which leads to Confession #2.
You’ve seen that I use a lot of Bible quotes. That’s the source of my inspiration, after having come to the realization that I’m not that smart. Confession #2 is:
I DON’T HAVE FORMAL THEOLOGICAL TRAINING
I’ve never gone to divinity school, my university degree is in English Literature, and some denominations wouldn’t think of ordaining me because I’ve been divorced and re-married. The BC Government puts “Rev.” in front of my name, because another Pastor with the International Association of Ministries sees who I’ve become in Christ and had no problem supporting my application for licensing. But as far as scholarship and academia are concerned, I don’t show up on the charts.
I say this because when someone is able to talk about a topic with a fair bit of confidence, one can tend to think, “Wow! They know so much! I’m obviously inferior in this area!” I know I feel that way around physicists, medical doctors and commentators on sports-talk shows, although it’s a feeling that was deftly skewered when the humorist Richard Armour noted, in Twisted Tales from Shakespeare, that if you quote the first line of a sonnet and then say, “etcetera, etcetera,” you get credit for knowing the whole thing.
But here’s how this confession of mine applies. Some people might feel intimidated or out-of-their-league because I pull out quotes from the Bible and offer insights, but the reality is, anyone can do that. The reason I’ve been able to do it, is that I read the Bible voraciously. I think I’ve read it three times, all the way through (which puts me a mere 9,997 times behind Billy Graham), but I’ve also plunged in at spots where I feel I should be studying, and I can’t count how many times I’ve done that.
And anyone can do that. OK — you don’t have to be voracious: that was just how I am about some things. But God gave us His word in a way we can understand (what Jesse Duplantis calls “Jesus Christ in paper form”) so that we, ourselves, can find out what He’s about, meditate, ask questions and get answers.
IMPORTANT NOTE: for years, I relied on others to tell me what the Bible said about certain issues. And that’s dangerous: I stumbled upon a passage that showed that one of these people had misquoted a portion, and I pushed ahead to see what the Bible really said. Also, don’t be overly impressed/intimidated by people who can quote book-chapter-and-verse off the top of their head: the devil can do that, too. (I have a couple of really great concordances that I use to find relevant passages.)
Anyway, the more I read the Bible for myself, the more it rang true.
Reading the Bible for yourself also insulates you against charlatans. There are people who have fallen into cults because they took someone else’s word about what it says, and (in extreme cases) wound up drinking Kool-Aid in Guyana.
I don’t mean to disrespect scholars — more about that on Mondayu. But the Bible is to be read, savoured and enjoyed by all, and you don’t need no stinking badges for that!