Great Theologians  

About 450 AD, AUGUSTINE - PRE-CATHOLIC:  "Antony, a just and holy man, who, not being able to read himself, is said to have
committed the Scriptures to memory through hearing them read by others, and by dint of wise meditation to have arrived at a thorough
understanding of them."   (
On Christian Doctrine:  Preface, Point 4)  

About 1536 and 1543, JOHN CALVIN - REFORMED CHURCHES:  "All may observe the legitimate order appointed by the Church,
for the hearing of the word...and public prayer....It is added 'Gather the people together, men, women, and children...in their hearing.'  to
this end, therefore, did God desire the doctrine of His Law to be heard; viz., that He might obtain disciples for Himself....declares that He
is not duly worshipped, except He shall first have been listened to." (
Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, 8:34;and
Commentary on the Last Four Books of Moses, Deuteronomy 31:9-10).  

About 1721, MATTHEW HENRY - PRESBYTERIAN:  "The reading of the scripture is very proper work to be done in religious
assemblies; and Christ himself did not think it any disparagement to him to be employed in it....The Book is...to be brought before the
congregation and read to them....Reading the scriptures in religious assemblies is an ordinance of God, whereby he is honoured and his
church edified" (
Commentary, Vol. V, Luke 4:16 AND Vol. II, Nehemiah 8).  

About 1871 and 1875, CHARLES SPURGEON - BAPTIST:  "It is God's word, not man's comment, but still it is true that the majority
of conversions have been wrought by the agency of a text of Scripture...Child of God, your portion is the whole word of God....Christ is
yours, life is yours, death is yours, everlasting glory is yours.  There is yours.  It is very sweet to give you your royal meat.  The Lord gives
you a good appetite.  Feed on it; feet on it." (
Sermons in the Metropolitan Pulpit, London, 1871, pg. 589, and 1875, pg. 92).  




Oh God, thank you for all you did over the centuries and millenniums to save mankind from our own sins.  It took you all that
time to straighten out the mess we made after Eden.  It took you all that time for us to see just how far we had fallen, how
serious our plight was, and that we could never lift ourselves out.  Thank you for your Bible that explains all this.   

He wanted to get his driver's license.     The first thing the officer said was, "You have to take a road test."  

"No sweat!" the young man replied.  "I can drive circles around everyone else."  

So the young man showed how well he could act like a good driver:  He could make left turns that kept the car within the proper lines, he
could parallel park, he knew which direction to turn the wheels when parking on a hill, he could bring his car out of a skid.  

Further, this young man was so good that he knew all about how cars worked.  He had a degree in automotive engineering and could build
a powerful and efficient engine from the ground up.   

This young driver also knew how to get more mileage out of the gasoline, more mileage out of the tires, and more mileage out of the
brakes.   

To top all this off, he knew how to paint a car and polish it and make it shine so well that you can see your face reflected in it.  

So, when he got done with his road test, he reported in, got out his money, and began to pay the fee to he could get his driver's license.  

"Sorry, I have to turn you away," the licensing agent said.  

"You've got it all wrong," the young man replied, a little edgy.  "I can drive better than most people I know; I can build a car, get the best
out of a car, and make a car look good."  

"Sorry, I have to turn you away," the licensing agent repeated.  

"Now wait a minute!" the young man replied, growing impatient.  "You've got it all wrong.  You have to give me a driver's license."  

"No, I don't have to give you your driver's license.  You don't qualify."  

"Why?  Do I drive that bad?"  

"No, you're a good driver.  But you haven't passed the written test.  You don't know what's in the book."  

"Of course I know what's in the book.  Ask me any question," he replied desperately.  

"When you make a right turn and your blinker isn't working, what should you do?"  

"Uh, well...."  

"What is the minimum speed limit on the expressway?"  

"Well...."  

"If you are in an accident, what should you do?"  

"Uh...."  

"If you run out of gas and have to leave your vehicle beside the road, how should you mark your car?"  

"Um...."  

God, I always went to church and sang the songs and gave to the poor and prayed.  I never thought reading the Bible would
make me any better.  It's just a book.

                                       Judged by the Bible  

On the day of judgment, we will be judged by several books, one of them being the Bible.  Psalm 139:13 talks about God listing all the
members of our body in a book.  Philippians 4:3 refers to names of the saved in the book of life.  Malachi 3:16 mentions a book of
remembrance "concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name."  

Will we pass the examination on that day?  Do we have any idea what the standards are he wrote out for us?   

Deuteronomy 29:19b-21 warned, "When such a person...thinks, 'I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.'...the Lord will
blot out his name from under heaven...according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law."  Revelation 1:3 said we
are blessed if we read, for judgment is near.  And in 22:18f, we read, that if anyone adds to the book, God will add its plagues to him, and
if anyone takes away from the book, God will take away his eternal life.  

How are we supposed to know what the curses and blessings are if we don't read about them in the book?  

Jesus said in John 10:35 "the Scriptures cannot be broken."  Paul warned in 1 Corinthians 4:6, "Do not go beyond what is written."  
Hebrews 4:12 says "the word of God...judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."  

How are we supposed to know what scriptures not to break if we don't read them?  

So, what is the word of God?  Romans 2:2 says, "Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth."
And John 17:17 explains, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."  

You mean, when all those preachers preach different things, I can find out for myself by reading God's word, the truth?  You bet.  

Romans 10 works backwards from salvation to how we are saved.  In verses 1 and 2 Paul said he wanted the Jews to be saved, for they
were zealous, "but their zeal is not based on knowledge."   

Knowledge of what?  That Jesus is the Son of God, and that we are to confess this truth to others (verse 9).  But how can we prove Jesus
is the Son of God in truth?  Verse 17 says the knowledge that leads to faith in this truth and confession comes from the word of Christ.  

Jesus said in John 12:48, "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will
condemn him at the last day."  

How are we supposed to know what Jesus said if we never read it?  

He also warned that the saved must do the will of God.  How do we know the will of God?  By reading it.  Jesus said in Matthew
7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who
is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and
perform many miracles?'  Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!' "  

Paul warned in Acts 17:30 "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."  How
are we supposed to know what to repent of?  What things are sin?  We read God's word.  

One of the last things God said to us is in Revelation 20:12-15 through the apostle John.  "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing
before the throne, and books were opened.  Another book was opened, which  is the book of life.  The dead were judged according to
what they had done as recorded in the books....If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of
fire."  

Oh, God, always took for granted whatever anyone told me was your will.  But now I'm seeing I will be judged directly out of the
Bible.  Am I ready for that?  I've never read it completely through cover to cover.  God, this is scary.  

                                          Is It Worth It?  

Years ago a man named William McPherson lost his hands and eyes in a dynamite explosion.  He even lost the feeling in parts of his face.  
He found it difficult to face a world of darkness.  God's Word became extremely important to him.  

He wanted to read the Bible, but he couldn't master Braille with artificial hands.  He tried to read the raised letters with his lips, but the
dynamite had seared them until there was no feeling left in them.  

One day he discovered he could distinguish the letters with his tongue.  As he sought to learn the Braille system, his tongue became sore,
and so raw it bled.  He would stay up all night just to learn one new letter of the alphabet.  He prayed to God for grace and help to learn.   

Over a period of 65 years spent in darkness, William
READ THE BIBLE FROM COVER TO COVER FOUR TIMES WITH
HIS TONGUE.   

How many times have we read the Bible through from cover to cover?  

George Barna reported in
What Americans Believe:  An Annual Survey of Values and Religious Views in the United States, only
15% of people who consider themselves Christians read the Bible one day a week, and only 12% read it daily.  One-fifth of them never
even pick up the Bible at home.  

Only 47% of Americans, whether or not they attend church, strongly agree that the Bible is the written words of God and is totally
accurate in all it teaches.  Astonishingly, the figure is not much different for regular church attenders:  52 percent.  

Without the Bible, the only standard for right and wrong is in our own wills.  James Patterson and Peter Kim learned and reported in
The
Day America Told the Truth
, 52% of Americans believe the Bible had some right to tell them what is right and wrong.  Even then, only
37% said they accept its moral advice.  Some people see the Bible and religion separately.  The same percent believe the Bible had some
right to tell them what to do, but only 34% live their lives by it.  

The church has even less authority over our citizens than the Bible.  Is it because people have read enough of the Bible for themselves to
see some discrepancies?  Only 44% of Americans say the church has any right to tell them what was right and wrong, but only one-fourth
of Americans apply what the church says to their personal lives.  

When I was a child and would hear discussions about God bringing in the spiritual sheaves at the harvest of souls, I thought the adults were
talking about bringing in the sheeps.  Children sometimes speak of Pilate, the final judge at the trial of Jesus, flying his airplane.  Some
children have understood in their immature minds that Jesus died, was buried, and low in the gravy lay.   

But are these any worse than the misunderstandings about the Bible adults have?  Most adults, even those who go to church, do not know
there is an Old and New Testament, don't know who came first ~ David or Moses, and think the Bible contains a few cute stories but no
rules for our lives.  Most adults don't even know for sure what things are sin.  Test your own congregation to see if these things are not
so.   
Yet these same adults don't know that they don't know, and the thought of reading right out of the Bible seems either baffling or boring.  
When cornered and not wanting to admit our dilemma, how many of us think, "Don't confuse me with the facts!"?  

What is going to church all about?  Where did the church get its information on how to worship?  Did it just come out of someone's
imagination?  Who came up with the idea of meeting on Sunday?  Why sing?  Who is this God or god everyone prays to?  Did someone
just think up a name ~ Jehovah, Jesus, Adonai?   

Without the Bible we may decide anyone can worship God any way they want as long as the people like it.  We could decide that
apparently God doesn't care as long as we're sincere.  And, of course, that's exactly what has happened in today's Christian world.  

Even if the Bible is mentioned by name during a worship service, we might think it is some sort of confidential top-secret book made
available only to a certain cloistered group of leaders.  After all, no one ever actually reads out of it in front of the whole congregation.   

How can we take the Bible for granted and let it just sit hardly ever read, even in church?  A lot of us don't even take a Bible to church
with us.  Many congregations do not have pew Bibles, and if they do, they are not referred to.  And even when they are, it is assumed
everyone in the audience knows what a Zechariah is and that it's on page 592.  Assumptions.  Assumptions.  So many assumptions and so
much taking the Bible for granted.  

God, the Bible is too long, too full of fine print, and too confusing.  Surely you meant for only the clergy to read it.  Didn't you,
God?  Is that what you meant done with it?  

                    Taking It For Granted  

There was a big, muscular logger (lumber jack) out west who had to get up at 4:00 AM every day to go to work.  This big guy was a
Christian and wanted to read his Bible every day.  But when?  By the time he got home from the woods, it was 6:00 PM or later, then he'd
eat and go to bed.  It took a lot of courage, but he began taking it up into the woods with him in his lunch bucket.  At noon, he'd sit on a
log, eat his four sandwiches and read out of his Bible.  

You can easily guess how he was treated.  One day this Christian guy found a page out of PLAYBOY magazine in his lunch bucket.  So,
having figured out who had put it there, he got an old Bible, and the next day the other guy found a page out of the BIBLE in his lunch
bucket.  

But harassment grew.  They either refused to talk to him any longer, or they taunted him, or they picked fights with him.   

The loggers parked their cars at a parking lot on the edge of town and rode "crummies" (beaten up vans) up the back roads into the
woods so as to not wreck their own cars.  One day on their way down the mountain the harassment got so bad the Christian knew he
would fight them if he didn't get out.  He ordered the crummie stopped, got out, and walked several miles back to his car.  

Months later another logger went up to the Christian in private and said, "You read your Bible.  You know about God and things.  My life
is a mess.  Would you help me know God too?"  Months after that, another logger felt he had no where to turn.  So he turned to the
Christian.  "I know I've harassed you about that Bible, but secretly I admired you.  You've got guts.  My life is falling apart.  Can you help
me?"  

Oh, the power of God's Word!  

In 1968 the USS Pueblo and its crew of 82 men were captured by the North Koreans and imprisoned for eleven months.  Lt.
Commander Stephen Harris, who was the chief intelligence officer aboard the ship, returned for his Bible "in the confused moments when
capture seemed imminent."  It was immediately taken from him at the point of a bayonet.  

The Pueblo prisoners decided to make a Bible. "Snatches of hymns, elements of worship services, precious bits of scripture were written
on left-over scraps of paper.  This unorthodox, but living, vital document, became known as the 'Pueblo Bible'.  

"In our unchurched, unlearned way we turned to God."  Harris said when the Pueblo Bible was discovered, he received a new set of
bruises, but he was "brought out of despondency" by the memorized scripture.[1]  

In the mid-1970s when Bibles were still illegal in the Soviet Union, my niece helped smuggle Bibles into Moscow, the heart of the atheist
world.  This group of young people hid their Bibles under an artificial floor in their van.   

They would play in a park and whenever they saw someone sit on a nearby park bench with a certain kind of shopping bag, one of them
would go over there with an identical shopping bag with a Bible in it, and say the first half of a predetermined phrase.  If the other person
replied with the proper second half of that phrase, the young person would get up and carry the stranger's shopping bag away; the stranger
would get up and leave with their newly acquired shopping bag and a precious Bible.  

Not only were Bibles illegal in Russia, but meeting to worship was also.  True, there were official churches they could attend.  If they did,
they often lost their jobs, were not waited on in the markets, and so on.  But if they met secretly and were discovered, they were either
shipped off to a concentration camp in Siberia or shot.   

The young people stayed all summer.  That fall they learned from the American Embassy in Moscow that some of the Christians were
discovered meeting together and all were shot.  Did they believe it was worth it?  Obviously they did.  Even at the risk of their very lives?  
Oh, yes.  

Then there are all those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the language of the common person so the common person could
read it in our own language.  Common people like you and me.  How can we take it for granted?  

God, I didn't realize so many people went through so much to get a Bible.  But they were different.  Most people aren't like that.  
We're just not.    

                Cost of the Commoner's Bible  

Around 650 AD, Pope Leo I wrote, "It is not permitted...to think concerning the divine scriptures otherwise than the blessed Apostles and
Fathers declared and daughter."  [2]   

In 1299, Pope Innocent III warned the people that, though the desire to study the Scriptures was commendable, it was wrong to study
them apart from the Church's teaching authority and to presume themselves superior to the priests in Scriptural studies. [3]   

In the 1378 John Wycliffe of Yorkshire, England, began translating the entire Bible into Middle English, at first releasing various portions as
tracts.  Thereupon, anyone found with such a tract had it tied about his neck and the person and the scriptures were burned at the same
time.   

Their translator Wycliffe was excommunicated from the Roman church and died six years later.  But 41 years after that,  his grave was
broken into, his bones were burned, and his ashes thrown into the river. [4]  

Did these people take the Bible for granted?   

Around 1525 in Wales, William Tyndale was extremely distressed when told by a bishop, "We were better to be without God's laws than
the pope's."  To this Tyndale replied that if God would spare his life, a few years hence he would cause even a boy driving a plough to
know more of the scriptures than this clergyman.  

Tyndale declared that if the Bible was translated into common speech, even the poor could read and see the plain Word of God.  He felt
the main reason for the heresies in the church was that the Scriptures of God were hidden from the people's eyes.  

In 1525 William Tyndale printed his first copy of the New Testament in English.  Cuthbert Tonstal, Bishop of London, with Sir Thomas
More, plotted to destroy "that false erroneous translation."  The bishop of Antwerp decided to purchase every copy of Tyndale's English
New Testament "for I intend to burn and destroy them all at Paul's Cross."  

The bishops and prelates convinced the king of England to declare the English New Testament illegal.  In the town of Vilvorde, Tyndale
was betrayed, arrested, and imprisoned.  Then in 1536 he was sentenced to be executed.  Tied to a stake he cried,"Lord!  Open the king
of England's eyes!"  Then he was strangled and burned by fire.   

In reaction to having the Bible in common language, ten years later, the Roman Catholic Council of Trent formally stated, "the Council
declares that no one, relying on his own ingenuity, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the development of Christian doctrine, should
distort Sacred Scripture to suit himself, contrary to that sense which the holy Mother Church has held and continues to hold, whose place it
is to judge concerning the true sense and interpretation of Holy Scriptures."  

At that same Council of Trent where the canon of the Bible was discussed, it was decreed that the traditions on faith and custom that "have
been transmitted in some sense from generation to generation down to our times" were to be accepted "with as much reverence as Sacred
Scripture."  

In 1564, according to the
Catholic Cyclopedia, "indiscriminate" reading of the Bible with independent interpretation apart from the
Mother Church was forbidden by Pope Pius IV because "Bible reading...is not necessary for salvation." [5]  

On December 13, 1898, Pope Leo XIII granted specific indulgences for reading the Scriptures.  [6]  Indulgences were initiated in the
early 11th century as a fleshly punishment due to sin, the guilt of which is already forgiven.  

God, I appreciate all they did to get the Bible to me in English.  I have a copy in my home and even look up the 23rd Psalm
whenever someone dies.  My priest marked it for me a long time ago.  

                    Paying With Their Lives  

Beginning in the early 1200s the Roman church tracked down people who, among other things, "read the Bible in the common language"
along with those who read pagan writing or who were magicians.  According to
Fox's Book of Martyrs, such "heretics" who refused to
repent were tortured and burned alive; those who repented were imprisoned for life.  In both cases, their property was taken over by the
church.  Many accounts over the next centuries are left of the suffering, torture and death of countless Bible readers.  

In 1415, Jerome of Prague was arrested for having translated much of the Wickliffe's Bible into his own language.  For this he was
arrested as an opposer of the pope, enemy of cardinals, persecutor of prelates and hater of the Christian religion.  Sentenced to death and
tied to a stake where they began lighting the fire behind him, he cried out, "Come here, and kindle it before my eyes; for if I had been afraid
of it, I had not come to this place."  As the flames consumed his body, he was last heard to cry out, "This soul in flames I offer Christ, to
Thee." [7]  

Did he think it didn't matter what was in the Bible?  

In 1418 in Great Britain, Sir John Oldcastle was imprisoned and then taken to Lincoln's Inn Fields for execution for reading Wycliffe's
translation and then applying it to worship.  Observing the crowd assembled to watch, he exhorted them to "follow the laws of God written
in the Scriptures, and to beware of such teachers as they see contrary to Christ in their conversation and living" (Fox, pg. 191).  Then iron
chains were placed around his middle, and his body was set afire.  The few minutes he survived the flames he praised the name of God.
[8]  

Did he feel reading the Bible was dull and boring?  

In 1507 at Norwich, England, Thomas Norris was burned alive for testifying the truth of the Gospel. [9]  

Also in England in 1532, Richard Byfield, a former monk, was converted by reading Tyndale's version of the New Testament.  In prison
he was tied up by his arms until his joints were dislocated.  He was beaten several times until most of the flesh on his back was gone.  Then
in "Lollard's Tower" (named after the followers of Wycliffe) in Lambeth palace, he was chained by the neck to the wall and beaten once a
day.  Finally he was burned at the stake in Smithfield. [10]  

Did he think he had better things to do than read the Bible?  

That same year, John Tewkesbury was arrested for reading Tyndale's translation of the New Testament and burned at the stake.  [11]  

Did he entrust Bible reading to the clergy?  

In the Piedmont Valleys in Italy, the Waldenses had the New Testament and a few books of the Old Testament in their own language.  
Thousands suffered persecution for this "sin" in the early 1500s.  Under the direction of the archbishop of Turin, one Waldensian leader
was ripped open, and his bowels were pulled out and placed in a basin in front of him until he died.  Others were flayed alive, and others
burned for having the scriptures and not following religious traditions as a result. [12]  

Did he think he didn't have time to read the Bible?  

In 1546, Peter Chapot brought Bibles to France in their own language and sold them publicly.  Within a few days he was brought to trial,
sentences, and executed.  Thereupon it was expressly forbidden for laity to read the sacred scriptures in France.  [13]  

Did he make fun of other people for reading the Bible so much?  

In Bononia, Italy, John Mollius presented the Apostle Paul's writings to the church in Rome to the people in their own language.  One of
the things he objected to was the church of Rome holding services in an unknown tongue (Latin).  He was arrested under the direction of
Pope Julius III, hanged, and his body burned to ashes in 1553. [14]  

Did he feel like God was beating him over the head with the Bible?  

In the mid 1500s, great persecution arose in Germany.  Henry Voes and John Esch were arrested for reading Luther's translation of the
Bible.  When representatives of the church of Rome asked what they believed in, Voes replied,  'In the Old and New Testaments. '  When
asked if they believed in the writings of the church fathers and decrees of the church councils, Voes replied,   "If they agree with Scriptures.
'  Thereupon, they were burned at the stake. [15]  

Did they care what their friends said about them reading the Bible?  

In 1544 in Scotland, George Wishart shared the Epistle to the Romans with the public in a sermon at Dundee.  When interrupted by an
antagonist friend of the archbishop of St. Andrews, Wishart replied, "I have offered you the Word ofsalvation.  With the hazard of my life I
have remained among you."   

Next an attempt was made on his life by a priest with a dagger but was thwarted.  In Montrose the cardinal arranged for sixty men to lie in
wait to murder him, but this too was thwarted.  Finally Cardinal Beaton had him taken into custody where he refused to recant his beliefs
which were based solely on the written gospel.   

He was then led out to his execution.  There, he fell to his knees praying, "Oh thou Savior of the world, have mercy upon me!  Father of
heaven, I commend my spirit into Thy holy hands.  I beseech thee, Father of heaven, forgive them....I forgive them with all my heart."  Then
several bags of gunpowder were tied to different parts of his body, he was tied to a stake, and the kindling at his feet was set fire to, thus
setting fire to the gun powder. [16]   

Did he think he had better things to do than read the Bible?  

In 1554, John Rogers, who backed William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale to translate the Bible into English which they called, "The
Translation of Thomas Matthew," was put under house arrest by the Bishop of London and later was sent to Newgate prison.  Then in
February, under orders of Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, he was led out and torched to death.  [17]  

A few days later, Lawrence Saunders was led to his execution.  There he said, "The blessed Gospel of Christ is what I hold; that do I
believe, that have I taught, and that will I never revoke.";  Then he walked slowly to a stake where a fire was about to be set.  He grabbed
hold of the stake and said, "Welcome, thou cross of Christ!  Welcome everlasting life!"  Then he was set fire to and burned to death. [18]  

Did they care what their enemies said about them reading the Bible?  

The following July, Dirick Carver of England was sentenced to be burned alive.  Arriving at the stake, his Bible was thrown into a barrel.  
He reached down into the barrel, pulled the Bible out, and threw it into the crowd.  Thereupon the sheriff of Lewes commanded in the
name of the king and queen that anyone picking up the Bible would be executed.  Then the Bible was thrown back into the barrel.   

Being tied then to the stake, Carver prayed, quoting from the Bible, "O Lord my God, Thou hast written, he that will not forsake wife,
children, house, and everything that he hath, and take up Thy cross and follow Thee, is not worthy of Thee!  My soul doth rejoice in
Thee!" The fire was lit and he was burned alive. [19]  

That same year Thomas Cranmer of Northampton, England, was sentenced to execution.  Some twenty years earlier he had begun saying
that the Bishop of Rome had no authority to dispense with the Word of God.  In 1537 he had encouraged a friend, Ossiander, to publish a
Harmony of the Gospels.  Cranmer also translated parts of the Bible into English.  By the following year, the Bible in English was openly
sold and people crowded into churches to hear it read.   

When led out to the place of his execution, Cranmer was chained to a stake and the kindling around him set fire to.  As the flames then
began to engulf his whole body, he lifted his eyes up toward heaven and quoted Stephen in the book of Acts, "Lord Jesus, receive my
spirit."  [20]  

Did they hide the Bible under blankets, magazines, or in closets?  

In 1557, Joyce Lewes of Manchester, England, refused to go to mass and receive the communion from the bishop.  "If these things were in
the Word of God, I would with all my heart receive, believe, and esteem them."  The bishop replied, "If thou wilt believe no more than
what is warranted by Scriptures, thou art in a state of damnation!"  Although she was faint while being led to the stake, once chained to it,
her countenance became cheerful.  Set on fire, she raised her hands towards heaven until the flames destroyed them. [21]  

In 1558, a Mrs. Prest of Cornwall knew the Bible so well she could tell in which part of it a particular scripture was found.  Having been
arrested, various clergymen sent for her to quote scriptures to them in answer to their questions, and then taunted her as a mad woman.  
Finally condemned to the flames, she announced, "This day have I found that which I have long sought." Her last words before being
consumed were, "God, be merciful to me a sinner."  [22]         

Did they get the Bible out only to look up the 23rd Psalm?  

In the Netherlands about that same time, Wendelinuta, a widow, refused to recant her exclusive belief in the scriptures apart from church
creeds.  When a friend tried to dissuade her in prison, she responded by quoting scripture:  "For with the heart we believe to righteousness,
but with the tongue confession is made unto salvation."  At her place of execution, a monk tried to get her to kiss a cross and she replied,
"I worship no wooden god."  She was strangled and her body burned at the stake. [23]  

Did she think reading the Bible was too hard?  

In 1560, Nicholas Burton, an Englishman in Spain, was arrested for telling people what was in the Bible in their own language.  His tongue
was forced out of his mouth and a stick fastened to it so he could not tell what was in the Bible again.  Thereafter he was tied to a stake
and burned alive. [24]  

Shortly after, George Scherter of Salzburg, was imprisoned for instructing his congregation with knowledge of the gospel, and then
beheaded. [25]  Also in the Netherlands, in 1568, a Mr. Scoblant was set afire at a stake.  As his flesh burned, he quoted the Lord's
Prayer from the Bible and sang Psalm 40 from the Bible.  Numerous others died in similar manner. [26]  

Did they think Bible reading was only for weak sissys?  

That same year, Coomans of Antwerp, the Netherlands, whose two imprisoned friends had already died for the sake of the Gospel,
proudly confessed to his beliefs and proved the Scriptural part of his answers from the Gospel.  The judge told him to recant or die, but he
replied, "I am not only willing to die, but to suffer the most excruciating torments for it; after which my soul shall receive its confirmation
from God Himself, in the midst of eternal glory."  He was then executed. [27]  

Did they think the Bible was a waste of time?  

In the late 1500s in Islington, England, forty people were assembled to pray and read the scriptures.  They were invaded by Catholic
soldiers of Queen "Bloody" Mary.  Several escaped.  Two died in prison, and thirteen were burned at the stake. [28]  

The duke of Savoy in the mid 1600s sent troops to the Piedmont Valleys of Italy to arrest anyone who read or owned a Bible.  At first
their houses were burned and possessions taken from them.  Then they were kept from being schoolmasters or holding any position that
brought a profit to them.  Then their children were kidnapped and objecting parents murdered.  One leader, Sebastian Basan, was
imprisoned 15 months and then burned at the stake.  The rest were driven from their homes in mid-winter to die of the elements and
starvation.  Those who did not flee were murdered.  [29]  

Did they think the Bible was for goody-goodys?  

In one town where people commonly read the Bible for themselves, 150 women and children were killed by beheading the women and
dashing out the brains of the children.  In the towns of Vilario and Bobbio anyone over age 15 was crucified upside down.  The numerous
other tortures are too hideous to print in this book, but are found in chapter six of FOX'S BOOK OF MARTYRS. [30]  

God, I don't understand all this.  How could anyone want their own Bible enough to let themselves be tortured and killed for it.  
Why couldn't they just leave it up to the clergy?  What was the big deal.  I don't understand.  

                        The Mind of God  

If people willingly gave over their bodies to be mutilated and destroyed for the freedom of having a Bible in their own language so they
could read it for themselves, how can we today take the Bible for granted?   

Furthermore, how can we truthfully tell ourselves it's okay to trust other human beings - be they minister or whoever they are - to tell us
what is in the Bible?  What is it about us that trusts our souls to other people, regardless of how holy they act and how much they smile at
us?  Don't we want to know for sure what is in it?  

We are so lucky that God shared his mind with us.  No other religion in the world other than Mohammudism claims they have a book
written by God through men.  In every other religion in the world, people have to guess what their imaginary god is thinking and expecting
of them.  They have to guess and imagine and wonder.  In most of these other religions, their god never makes direct contact with them.  
They cannot know for sure what he is or what they are.  They cannot know for sure who he is or who they are.  They cannot know for
sure how to reach him.  Or if their god even cares.  

In these other religions of the world, heaven is a vague state of being and their god is a vague state of being.  Nothing is anywhere in
particular, and no one is anyone in particular.  How terrible to have to go through life like this.  Always wondering.  Always searching.  
Always failing to find out anything for sure.  

How can we possibly take the Bible for granted?  Have we ever read the entire Bible through in a year?  It only takes about 20 minutes a
day.  Or have we ever looked up everything the Bible says on important spiritual subjects so we can have God's entire opinion rather than
man's opinion?  All we have to do is get a concordance (complete index to the Bible in large phone book size) from any bookstore, and
find out for ourselves.  

How can we leave it up to other people to determine our eternal destiny?   

Jesus said "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light" (Luke 16:8, KJV).  He was talking about
people using more common sense in doing business in this world than in preparing to live in eternity.  Do we read the fine print before
signing documents?  Have we ever read the fine print of the Bible?  

What kind of example are we getting in our worship services?  Are we learning just a few scattered things, or are we learning the entire
Bible?  A man who identified himself only as "Thomas" wrote this a long time ago.  

"I was baptized...on a relation of my 'experience' as a Christian.  Of my conversion there was no doubt entertained by our preacher....Our
preacher generally explained a whole VERSE in one sermon; though I have known him sometimes explain only half a verse in one day's
preaching.  During nine years I had explained to me one hundred and eight texts - equal to two chapters in Matthew.  

"About two years ago I became a warm anti-reformer...I was a delegate to the Dover [Baptist] Association in 1831, and was consulting
with some of my brethren on the best ways and means of putting down the reformers.  Meanwhile I had a conversation with a very pious
sister who I thought was quite orthodox; and in the course of her remarks she asked me for a reason of the hope which I entertained.  I
related my conversion.  'But,' said she, 'what do you hope for?'  'My salvation,' said I.  'Salvation from what?' she asked again.  I hesitated;
but finally said, 'From sin.'  'And,' said she, 'is the hope of salvation from sin, the hope which you now entertain?'  

"I felt myself confounded....I was afraid to commit myself by any assertion; for I felt my ignorance of the Scriptures...determined on
changing the subject.  'Indeed,' said I, 'the Reformers have ridiculed this thing called Christian experience so much...it is now more than a
year since I told my experience.'  'Well,' said she, 'I have never heard a reformer ridicule, or speak improperly upon Christian
experience....Do you recollect what Peter has said on the subject of the present and future salvation?''  

"I was struck dumb.  I knew nothing about Peter's view in particular; and could not even tell to what part of the Testament she
referred....to get out of this difficult I said, 'Don't you, sister, lean a little more towards the Reformers than you did some time ago?'  'I
always leaned to my Bible,' she rejoined....'I associate with all the brethren and sisters in the neighborhood and would advise you to read
the Acts of the Apostles several times....'  

"Our preacher preaches miraculous conversions and quotes Young and Milton twice for once Paul or Peter is honored with a place in his
discourses.  He is very fond of harmonious sentences and is smitten with the love of poetry.  It throws such an air of fiction around his
whole subject that his prose appears as visionary as his verse; and, therefore, the admirers of Sir Walter Scott are better pleased with him
than any other preacher in our country.  I have become a Reformer; and now I can pray with my wife and children, and I begin to delight in
reading the oracles of God." [31]  

God, I have my favorite verses just like everyone else.  Those are the important verses.  Why do I need to know any of the rest?  I
know all I need to know.  Don't you think so, God?  

             Why?  Just How Important Is It?  

In the days the Bible was originally written, it was called "scriptures."  During the days of Moses who gave the Ten Commandments and
about 600 other laws to the Israelites/Jews, he quoted God in Deuteronomy 4:2, "'Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract
from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.' "  

Proverbs 30:6 says that adding to the Bible makes us liars.  Yet there are many of us who can lie with a straight face, and even fool
ourselves.  How are we to know they are lying if we don't read it for ourselves?  

Ezekiel was told by God to pass on his words.  Ezekiel didn't want to do it because he would become unpopular.  How did God answer?  

"When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man
will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not
do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself" (Ezekiel 33:8-9).  

It is popular today to show God as one-sided.  A God who smiles all the time is not really loving.  If we never got angry at our children
when they were doing self-destructive things, we would not really love our children.  If we never got angry at people who treated the
innocent wrongly, we would not really love rightness.  We must protect ourselves and others from wrong.  This one-sided always-happy
God concept in so many congregations is leaving many people empty.  

What did God tell Ezekiel to say to the people?  

"Son of man, say to the house of Israel, 'This is what you are saying:  "Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away
because of them.  How then can we live?"'  Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death
of the wicked, but rather than they turn from their ways and live.  Turn!  Turn from your evil ways!  Why will you die, O house of Israel?'"
(Ezekiel 33:10-11).  

People may say that God is not just to punish people.  But God has a reasonable answer to this too.  

"Yet your countrymen say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.'  But it is their way that is not just.  If a righteous man turns from his
righteousness and does evil, he will die for it.  And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will
live by doing so" (Ezekiel 33:17-19).  

God would not be a good God if he let people continue to do wrong and hurt other people any time they want.  And there are very few
sins that don't ultimately hurt someone else besides the sinner.  Yet we lie and have worship services that talk only about the side of God
that loves everyone in their sins (which he does), but never tell them how to turn from those sins.  By withholding God's word on any
subject, we are lying by omission.  

Centuries later, the Apostle Paul told Christians in Rome that those who refused to recognize Christ as the Son of God were lost.  In the
following statement he referred to the Jewish unbelievers:  "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may
be saved.  For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge....Consequently, faith
comes from hearing [reading], and hearing [reading] by the word of God" (Romans 10:1,2,17).  

Paul wrote to the church in Galatia (today's Turkey), "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the
grace of Christ and are turning to a DIFFERENT GOSPEL ~ which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you
into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.   

"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we [apostles] preached to you, let him be eternally
condemned!  As we have already said, so now I say again; if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him
be eternally condemned.  Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?" (1:6-10).  How are we supposed to know any of this if
we do not read the Bible for ourselves?  

We still face our Day of Judgment.  On that day we cannot pass the buck to our minister, our bishop, or parents, our spouse, or anyone
else.  God is going to say, "Why didn't you read my last will and Testament for yourself?"  

How in the world are we supposed to know whether a sermon is scriptural if we don't compare it with scripture?  Paul wrote the young
man Timothy, "All Scripture is God breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man
of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  What makes us thoroughly equipped?  What people tell
us is in the Bible?  No, what we read for ourselves.  

Have we convinced ourselves that God does not really have a will for us to do?  Is God mindless?  

In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus warned that, just because we go to church all the time, we aren't necessarily saved.  He said, "Not everyone
who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom  of heaven, but only he who DOES THE WILL of my Father who is in heaven."  

Jesus went on to say, "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out
demons and perform many miracles?'  Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!' "  

That's heavy!  How are we ever going to know for sure we're pleasing God?  We can know for sure by not trusting our knowledge of the
will of God to other people.  We can know for sure by reading the Bible for ourselves.   

The Apostle Paul warned about religious rules "based on human commands and teachings.  Such regulations indeed have an appearance of
wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility...but they lack any value" (Colosians 2:20-23).   

Believing Jesus is the Son of God is not all we must do to be saved.  Jesus' own brother and later an apostle warned, "You believe that
there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that - and shudder" (James 2:19).  

Timothy who worked along side several apostles was told, "If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction
of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceiting and understands nothing"(1 Timothy 6:3,4).    

The church in Rome was warned to "watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the
doctrine you have learned.  Keep away from them.  For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.  By smooth
talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people" (Romans 16:17,18).  How are we supposed to know whether we're being
deceived if we do not read the Bible for ourselves?  

Jesus warned, "Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?  ....You have let go of the commands of God and
are holding on to the traditions of men.  You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own
traditions....Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down." (Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:8,9,13).   

How are we supposed to know whether our traditional worship is according to God's command if we never read the Bible?  If we're
depending on our minister to do it, we must remember that our minister will not be judging us.  The same God who judges us will also
judge our ministers.  

The apostle Paul warned, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human
tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."  We may think this isn't so important as long as everyone acts holy
and is sincere.  But in Acts 5:29, Peter and John said, "We must obey God rather than men."  How are we supposed to know any of this if
we don't read the Bible for ourselves?  

Later the church in Rome was warned about Judgment Day, "for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there
will be wrath and anger....Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves?" (Romans 2:5-8, 16).  

Paul was greatly upset by a congregation who was blindly going along with whatever their leaders were telling them:  "You foolish ones!  
Who has bewitched you that you should not obey?  ....You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the
truth?  That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you....The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the
penalty, whoever he may be" (Galatians 3:1; 5:7-10).  

Why do we allow so much time for talking ABOUT the Testament and so little time reading directly out of it?  It doesn't make sense!  

Jesus said, "If you love me you will obey what I command" (John 14:15).  How are we supposed to know what Jesus commanded directly
and through his apostles?  He said, "Your [God's] word is truth" (John 17:17).  Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing [reading],
and hearing [reading] by the Word of God [not imagination]" (KJV).   

David said in Psalm 19 that God's word appeals to our logic, for it includes laws, statutes, precepts, commands, ordinances and warnings.  
Then it appeals to our feelings, for it is perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, sure, and precious.  The result is that is revives us, it makes
us wise, it gives us joy, light, endurance, gives us simple eyes and heart, and provides a sure reward for our souls.  

David further said in Psalm 119:32 that God's commandments set his heart free.  Knowing God's commandments eliminates all the guess
work.  Knowing God's commandments is the only way to bring us peace.  Knowing God's commandments ultimately leads us to an
intimate relationship with him, and an end to our loneliness.  

But God, no one ever told me Jesus had any laws besides just believing in him.  I believe in what others said about Jesus.  Isn't
that all I need?  They've never read the Bible through either.  You do understand, God, don't you?

                      Divide and Conquer  

The Bible is full of commands that seem to contradict each other.  In one place it tells us to offer animal sacrifices.  In another place it tells
us Jesus is our once-for-all-time sacrifice.  In one place it tells us that only men of the Levite clan can be priests.  In another place it says all
Christians are priests.  What's going on in these 66 books called the Bible?  

If we divide up the Bible, we can understand and conquer it.  Imagine mankind as a person going through infancy, toddler, preteen,
adolescent, apprentice, graduate and adult ages.  Dividing mankind up by these ages helps us conquer our confusion with the Bible.   

Infancy - Early Genesis (Book 1):  

Mankind was innocent, not even knowing evil.  That was our Garden of Eden Age.  We were Adam and Eve.  We lived only in a small
corner of Persia/Iraq.  This age was around 6000-7000 years ago.  

Toddler - Mid & Late Genesis (Book 1):  

Mankind started exploring and getting into a little trouble.  So God gave us just a few rules, but not many.  God just wanted us to treat
each other fairly and for heads of families to sacrifice to him occasionally.  This was our Patriarchal Age.  We were Abraham, Isaac,
Jacob, and the 12 descendants (tribes) of Jacob also called Israel.  We covered Persia, Syria and Palestine.  This age was around 5000
years ago.   

Pre-Teen Age - Exodus-Samuel and Job-Song of Solomon (Books 2-10; 18-22):  

Mankind started getting into major trouble.  We subdivided ourselves into nations but were not very civilized.  Actually we were quite
barbaric with each other.  So God gave us a lot of rules called the Law of Moses.  It started with just ten commandments, but expanded
into some 600 commandments.   

It governed what we ate, who we married, how we did business, when-where-how we washed ourselves and our clothes, how far we
could walk on Saturdays, who was allowed to be priests, and minute details on how to worship either weekly or annually.  We tried to
keep all those complicated laws, but it only made us feel like failures.  This was our Mosaic Age.  We were Moses, Aaron, Joshua,
Gideon, Samson, Samuel, Kings Saul, David and Solomon.  This age was around 4000 years ago.  

Adolescent Age - Kings-Esther (Books 11-17):  

Mankind became outright rebellious and out of control.  We invented all kinds of imitation gods - gods of our imagination.  Hardened, we
broke every one of the Laws of Moses plus the laws of common decency and we loved doing it.  No one was going to tell us what to do -
not even God.  This was a continuation of our Mosaic Age.  We were a multitude of kings who divided our country by a civil war and then
made us wallow in every invention of our imagination.  This age was about 3000 years ago.  

Simultaneous - Isaiah-Malachi (Books 23-39):  

Mankind got so rebellious and headstrong that God sent many prophets to warn the Jewish people to return to the Law of Moses he had
given.  Sometimes they did a short while, but always they returned to getting into trouble.  He also sent prophets to other nations to at least
be respectful toward each other and God.  Sometimes she did a short while, but always they returned to getting into trouble too.  

By the end of this period, most of the great kingdoms of that era either became powerless or disappeared completely - Babylonia, Assyria,
Egypt, Israel, Persia, Greece.  This was a continuation of our Mosaic Age.  We were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and many other
prophets sent to the kings of the world and turned away by them.  But finally, after spending a lengthy time in captivity, some of us were
released to return to Jerusalem and try all over again to do better.  

Apprenticeship - Matthew-John (Books 40-43):  

Mankind had settled down and gotten more civilized.  We went back to following the Laws of Moses and became radical about it.  Even
then, we failed.  No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't keep that law perfectly.  

So God sent his son, Jesus, to live in human form and show us how to live that Law of Moses perfectly.  We tried, but we couldn't keep
up with him.  Finally the experiment with the Law of Moses was over.  Someone had to pay the penalty for all those centuries of breaking
the Law of Moses.  The innocent Jesus stepped in and said, "Punish me."  So he - the perfect Lamb of God - laid himself on the altar of
mankind, shed his blood, and died in our place.  Then he came back to life.   

Jesus had shown us how to live, how to die, and how to come back to life.  Then he said, "Just forget the Law of Moses.  I'm giving you a
new law of faith in me."  This was the end of the Law of Moses.  We were the Twelve Apostles, the 5000 miraculously fed from a few
loaves and fishes, the lepers healed, Pilate, Mary and the thief on the cross.  This was about 2000 years ago.  

Graduate - Acts of the Apostles (Book 44):  

Mankind was ready to go through the transition from childhood to full adulthood, from living physically to living spiritually, from living by
works to living by faith in Jesus.  Graduation day was for the 3000 on the day of Pentecost, and later the Ethiopian Eunuch, Saul (later
called Paul) Lydia, Cornelius.  This was the beginning of the Christian Age.  Graduation day for all of mankind is whenever each of us
personally becomes a Christian.  

Adulthood - Romans-Revelation (Books 45-66):  

Mankind now left behind the "childish" Laws of Moses and were given fewer but more responsible laws by Jesus.  Jesus' life and teachings
were expounded by his Apostles as well as James and Jude, his half-brothers.  

It was easy to become Christians.  The hard part was living the Christian life.  Many letters were written to us explaining how.  We were
found in Rome of Italy; Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus of Turkey; Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica of Greece.  We were Timothy, Titus,
Philemon.  We were the seven congregations of the province of Asia in Turkey.  The Christian age - mankind's adulthood - is good.  

That's it, God?  That's the theme of the whole Bible?  I never knew that?  Now I know why I was so confused.  I was applying
things from mankind's toddler age to mankind's adolescence.  And I was applying things from the Mosaic Age to the Christian
Age.  No wonder I was confused.  Why didn't anyone ever explain this to me?  I'm anxious to learn more God.  What a story!  

                          Enough Time

Henry Halley in the now 50-year-old edition of his Pocket Bible Handbook, said that "widespread neglect of the Bible by the
churches...is just simply appalling.  Oh, we talk about the Bible, and defend the Bible, and praise the Bible, and exalt the Bible.  Yes
indeed!  But many church members Seldom Ever Even Look into a Bible."  [32]  

Regarding the place of the Bible in our Sunday-morning worship, Halley said, "The scripture lesson, as commonly conducted, is given a
very minor place, while the whole service is built around the sermon.  What a mistake!  The sermon the big thing!  The Scripture lesson
very insignificant!  Usually, just a few verses read as a sort of lifeless form in the opening part of the service with the droning close, " 'May
the Lord add his blessing to the reading of his Word.' " [33]  

Years ago ministers used to say, "Here are the scriptures I am referring to in my lesson.  Write them down.  Go home and read them for
yourself.  Check on me.  I may be wrong.  But the Bible is never wrong.  If you think I am wrong, come show me the scriptures and
explain them to me so I may correct my error."  Preachers today don't say that much any more.  Perhaps because there aren't many
scriptures in their sermons.  They need to.  And we need to hear it.   

Preachers usually not only know how to preach, but also how to read aloud.  Some even take courses called, "Oral Interpretation of the
Bible," meaning how to read the Bible aloud with proper feeling.  

Most if not all preachers today take a single short passage from the Bible and expound on it.  But in today's world, people don't know
enough of the rest of the Bible.  This pick-and-choose method only exposes people to a very limited part of the Bible.  

Instead, the preacher could read an entire book of the Bible for the sermon, with brief explanatory comments as he goes.  Look at how
short 17 of the 27 books of the New Testament Are.

When this is done, don't stop with announcing the book, chapter, and verses; announce the page number in the pew Bibles.  Give people
time to get their Bibles out and read along with the oral reader.  Hearing and seeing both enhance absorbency.  

Another approach is for the preacher to look up every verse in the Bible on a certain topic, have all the verses typed up together, then read
from the pulpit from God's own mouth everything he has to say on that topic.  The congregation would be swept off their feet!  

When doing this, the preacher may wish to show the verses on an overhead projector so people can read along.  There are also slides out
giving every verse in the Bible, but they are expensive.  

The most effective and memorable sermon I ever heard was some 45 years ago.  I still remember it so clearly.  This man got up and
quoted directly from the Bible about creation and Adam and Eve, major events in the Old Testament, the birth of Christ, major events of
his life, the death of Christ, how the apostles told people to become Christians from the book of Acts, how to stay a Christian from some
of the writings of Paul, and then Revelation describing heaven.   

Finally he quoted Jesus' own words, "Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy ladened and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28
KJV).  Then, without a single word of his own, he raised up his hands to indicate the audience stand.  We stood and sang an invitation
song, encouraging people to come forward and become Christians.  

How many sermons do we hear today that are in large part quotations from the Bible?  People hunger for the actual word of God.  People
hunger to learn how to read the word of God for themselves.  

Another suggestion, if time permits, is to have a theme for the day centered around the selected scriptures.  Then teach one passage from
the Bible on that topic to be repeated periodically by the audience throughout the service until it is memorized by them.  

For those who have not taken a course in how to read aloud, here it is in a nutshell.   

1.         Read as though you're surprised.  It won't sound that way to others, and will add excitement and vibrancy to the words.   

2.         Read slooooooly.  As children we read aloud fast to prove we can do it.  But as adults, we need to read as though we're trying to
explain something well enough the hearer(s) can soak in each word.  

3.         Pause between sentences.  This, too, helps the hearer(s) absorb the sentence that was just read.  Time is then given for meanings
to be absorbed that were never thought of before.  

God, all this time I thought the Bible could only be understood by the clergy.  Now I know different.  Knowledge is power.  Has the clergy
been keeping us in the dark so they could feel more important and smarter than us?  We could still respect them if they'd share your actual
words with us.  We'd respect them more.  Please, God, make my preacher want to share right out of the Bible more.  

                         Undeniable Proof  

Thirty-seven percent of America's church attenders believe that the God of the Buddhists, Muslims, and other world religions is the same
God, even though the Bible describes a different God than the rest of the world religions have.[34]  Thirty-five percent of church attenders
say Satan is not a living being, even though the Bible says he is. [35]  

Either we believe in all the Bible or none of it.  The same God who said to love our neighbors also said the miracles were true.  If part of
the Bible is myth, it all is.  

Is it possible to know for sure the Bible is true?  There are three ways to prove it is true.   

First, it is scientifically accurate.  Things were written in the Bible centuries and millenniums before scientists knew these things.  For
example, the Bible said about 2500 BC that the earth hangs on nothing (Job 26:7) and there is fire inside the earth (Job 28:5); about 1000
BC that there are current "paths" in the ocean (Psalm 8:8); and about 600 BC the earth is round (Isaiah 40:22).  

Second, it is historically and archaeologically correct.  Lost cities and civilizations have been discovered by following descriptions given in
the Bible.  More ancient manuscripts have been found of Bible writings than any other document in the world.  Inscriptions of pagan
nations attest to the existence of many of the characters of the Bible.   

Third, its prophecies always come true.  Predictions of the destiny of well-known nations were written centuries before they occurred.  
The existence of the Persian Empire, Grecian Empire and Roman Empire were all predicted before their existence and in the correct.  One
king, not even born yet, was predicted generations earlier by name and exactly what he would do.  

The exact year Jesus would begin teaching was predicted.  The city he was born in, the fact that babies would be killed at his birth, the
exact amount of money he would be betrayed for, how he would be executed at the hands of foreigners, how he would be buried in a rich
man's tomb, and many many other events in Jesus' life were predicted with inhuman accuracy.  

God, I'm so ashamed.  I have not only not read the Bible through even once, but I've never encouraged our minister to read it
aloud before our congregation.  Maybe that's what it will take to get us reading.  

                  God, Forgive Our Ignorance  

The last thing Jesus ever said to his followers through all ages was this:  "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, AND teaching them to OBEY EVERYTHING I have commanded" (Matthew
28:19-20).  

There is no possible way we can teach others to obey everything Jesus commanded unless we ourselves know what he commanded.  We
cannot rely on other people to do this for us.  We must all read the Bible for ourselves so we can teach people for ourselves.   

How are we supposed to do that unless we know directly from him what he commanded?  How do we do that?  By reading the accounts
of his life written by eye witnesses, and by reading the other books of the New Testament written also by his eye witnesses, his apostles.  

Too many of us are relying on "he said" and "she said," or "Well, that's what my creed says," or "I think it's in the Bible somewhere."  Jesus
did not tell us to teach what he and she said. He did not tell us to teach what is in our creed.  He did not tell us to teach what we think is in
the Bible.  He did not even tell us to teach just part of what he commanded.  We are to teach EVERYTHING he commanded.  

We cannot rely on other people to do our reading for us.  We cannot rely on our parents, our spouses, our teachers, or minister.  We must
read it for ourselves.  Otherwise, we will not be able to obey Jesus' final command to us.  Remember, Jesus said, "If you love me, you will
obey what I command" (John 14:15).   

Jesus' commands are not grievous; he gives them to us to offer us his freedom, his peace, his salvation.  His commands are not any more
grievous than our commands are to tender little children.  They are given out of love.  

The purpose of our Sunday-morning worship is two fold, as explained in Hebrews 10:25.  We are to encourage each other to have love
and good works.  Who are we to love?  It does not specify here.  But the Bible as a whole says we are to love God, love each other, and
love God's enemies - the unsaved.  

In our public worship, we remind each other of God's love and try to impart that love to each other and our visitors.  Visitors - or even
regular attenders - who do not really understand God's love and have never really become Christians (in the saved sense - not the generic
sense), cannot know God's love unless they know what he has to say to them.  God poured out his heart to us in his Bible (Proverbs
1:23).  

We in North America have access to the Bible.  Why would we want to accept a second-hand message?  Why would we be satisfied with
just "he said" in classes and sermons?  Comments about the Bible and how to apply it to our lives are good.  But they are never and can
never be substitutes for God's very own words!  

The whole thing of talking ABOUT what God said is like trying to have a friend with communication only from a mediator.  The intimacy is
not there.  We want the intimate conversation ourselves.  There can be no substitute to either Christians or the lost in our assemblies for
hearing word for word what God has to tell us.  This is what will capture the lonely heart.  

"God actually said that?" the unconverted and lonely might comment silently.  Well, there it was right in his word, read aloud for everyone
to hear.  "How amazing!" those people may think who never heard much out of the Bible before.  And it's personal.  Personal to the
saved.  Personal to the unsaved.  Personal to the lonely.  It says so right in John 10:3 - God knows us each by name.  

Ultimately, we could tell people ABOUT the Bible and ask them to have faith in us so they can in turn have faith in God so they can in turn
become Christians.  That's wrong.  We must take people directly to the Bible so they can have for-sure faith in God so they can become
Christians.  

Why are we so round-about in reaching the lonely and lost?  Are our egos so large we are willing to put our words above the actual words
of God?  The gospel is the power for the salvation of everyone (Romans 1:16).  God's word - not ours - is that "word of truth, the gospel"
(Ephesians 1:13).  

Ultimately, would you want to hear what your best friend said always through a mediator with a few quotes thrown in now and then?  You
certainly would not remain best friends for long.  Being best friends means direct communication.  God talks to us through his Word.  We
talk to God through prayer.  That is what will make best friends for God of the lonely and lost.   

If we truly believe this, we will set aside significant time in our worship for letting God - nay, insisting that God - talk directly to us.  

In order to change our private lives and our private habits of Bible reading, church leadership must lead the way by reading the Bible when
we are assembled together for worship.  It must be read and re-read and re-read.   

Paul told Timothy in his instructions on how a congregation should be organized said, "devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture" (1
Timothy 4:13).  

We must take time.  We must make time.  Otherwise, we are worshipping the God of our imaginations.  Some day Jesus will say, "I never
knew you" because we indeed never did really know him.  We did not know the Bible or believe it was important enough to follow.  

Oh, God, forgive me.  Forgive our congregation.  We have taken your Bible for granted.  We've wasted so much time.  This is your mind
poured out to us.  This is your heart laid open.  From now on our congregation is going make Bible reading the center of our worship.  

                         Our Only Bible  

In the book, In the Presence of Mine Enemies, Howard Rutledge, who had been a POW for seven years in Viet Nam, wrote:  "Now the
sights and sounds and smells of death were all around me.  My hunger for spiritual food soon outdid my hunger for a steak.  Now I wanted
to know about that part of me that will never die.  Now I wanted to talk about God and Christ and the church.  But in Heartbreak Hotel
solitary confinement, there was no pastor, no Sunday school teacher, no Bible, no community of believers to guide and sustain me....  

"It took prison to show me how empty life is without God, and so I had to go back in my memory....If I couldn't have a Bible and
hymnbook, I would try to rebuild them in my mind.  I tried desperately to recall snatches of Scripture, sermons, children's songs, and the
hymns we sang in church.  The first three dozen songs were relatively easy.  

"Every day I'd try to recall another verse or a new song  

"....Most of my fellow prisoners were struggling like me to rediscover faith, to reconstruct workable value systems.  Harry Jenkins lived in
a cell nearby during much of my captivity.  Often we would use those priceless seconds of communication [tapping on the wall] in a day to
help one another recall Scripture verses and stories.  

"One day I heard him whistle.  When the cell block was clear, I waited for his communication, thinking it to be some important news.  'I
got a new one,' he said.  'I don't know where it comes from or why I remember it, but it's a story about Ruth and Naomi.' He then went on
to tell that ancient story of Ruth following Naomi into a hostile new land and finding God's presence and protection there.  Harry's urgent
news was two thousand years old.  It may not seem important to prison life, but we lived off that story for days, rebuilding it, thinking
about what it means, and applying God's ancient words to our predicament.  

"Everyone knew the Lord's Prayer and the Twenty-Third Psalm, but the camp favorite verse that everyone recalled first and quoted most
often is found in the Book of John:  

"'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life' (John
3:16).  With Harry's help I even reconstructed the seventeenth and eighteenth verses....  

"How I struggled to recall those Scriptures and hymns!  I had spent my first eighteen years in a Southern Baptist Sunday school, and I was
amazed at how much I could recall; regrettably, I had not seen then the importance of memorizing verses from the Bible or learning gospel
songs.  Now, when I needed them, it was too late.  I never dreamed that I would spend almost seven years (five of them in solitary
confinement) in a prison in North Vietnam or that thinking about one memorized verse could have made a whole day bearable.  

"One portion of a verse I did remember was, 'Thy word have I hid in my heart.'  How often I wished I had really worked to hide God's
Word in my heart.  I put my mind to work....Remember, we weren't playing games.  The enemy knew that the best way to break a man's
resistance was to crush his spirit in a lonely cell.  In other wars, some of our POWs after solitary confinement lay down in a fetal position
and died.  All this talk of Scripture and hymns may seem boring to some, but it was the way we conquered our enemy and overcome the
power of death around us. [36]





                The Second-Century Church Accounts

Justine Martyr wrote about 150 AD in Apology I, 67:  "We always remember one another.  Those who have provide for those in
want....And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a city or a rural district.  The memoirs
of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.  Then when the reader ceases, the president in a discourse
admonishes and urges the imitation of these good things."  [37]  

Tertullian wrote about 170 AD in
Apology xxxix:1-5:  "We are a body with a common feeling of religion, a unity of discipline, and a
covenant of hope.  We meet together in an assembly and congregation....We meet together in order to read the sacred texts, if the nature
of the times compels us to warn about or recognize anything present.  In any case, with the holy words we feed our faith, we arouse our
hope, we confirm our confidence.  We strengthen the instruction of the precepts no less by inculcations; in the same place there are also
exhortations, rebukes, and divine censures.  For judgement is administered with great authority, as among those in the presence of God."
[38]  

Clement of Alexandria said about 200 in his
Miscellanies V.xiv.113.3:  "Always giving thanks in all things to God through righteous
hearing and divine reading, true inquiry, holy oblation, blessed prayer, praising, hymning, blessing, singing; such a soul is never separated
from God at any time." [39]




                              END NOTES

[1]..   Harris, Stephen R. Harris [Lt Cmdr] with James C. Hefley, My Anchor Held, Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1970.

[2]..  McDonald, William J., Editor in Chief, New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1966, McGraw-Hill Book Company, pg. 514.  

[3]..  
Catholic Cyclopedia, 1960, Vol. 2, pg. 250 and 261  

[4]..  Forbush, William B., Editor,
Fox's Book of Martyrs, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI., 1968, pp. 135-139.  

[5]..  
New Catholic Encyclopedia, pg. 514.  

[6]..  
New Catholic Encyclopedia, pg. 451  

[7]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 144-146  

[8]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 190-191  

[9]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 191  

[10]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, p. 193-194  

[11]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 195  

[12]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 94  

[13]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 46  

[14]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 102-103  

[15]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 166-168  

[16]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 199-200  

[17]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 209-210  

[18]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 210-211  

[19]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 230  

[20]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 240-249  

[21]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 261-262  

[22]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 275-279  

[23]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 172-173  

[24]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 64-67  

[25]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 173  

[26]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 174-475  

[27]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 174-175  

[28]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 263  

[29]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 94-100  

[30]..  
Fox's Book of Martyrs, pg. 108-110  

[31]..  Campbell, Alexander, Editor,
Millennial Harbinger, 1833, Confessions of a Regular Baptist, by Thomas [No Last Name],
December 1833, pg. 588-589  

[32]..  Halley, Henry H.,
Pocket Bible Handbook, Henry Halley Pub., Chicago, 1952, p. 714  

[33]..  
Pocket Bible Handbook, pg. 738  

[34]..  Barna, George,
What Americans Believe, Regal Books, Ventura, Ca., 1991, pg. 210  

[35]..  Barna, pg. 206                      

[36]..  Rutledge, Howard and Phyllis,
In the Presence of Mine Enemies 1965-1973:  A Prisoner of War, Fleming Revel, New Jersey,
1973, pg. 34-37  

[37]..  Ferguson, Everett,
Early Christians Speak:  Faith and Life in the First Three Centuries, "The Christian Assemblies," Sweet
Publishing, Austin, 1981, p. 67-68  

[38]..  Ferguson, p. 82  

[39]....  
Ibid    
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