Last week Sam gave a great talk on prayer.  Let me explain why it was so good.  Sam stayed away from tips and techniques and talked about relationship.  Sam did something unique.  He shared with us what Jesus said before Jesus gave us the Lord’s prayer.  Sam brought out that Jesus knows our struggles and our insecurities.  This is how we know.  Before Jesus teaches us how to pray, Jesus says, don’t make a performance of it.  Don’t draw attention to yourself.  Don’t be a showoff.  Just be yourself.  Why would Jesus say that?  Because Jesus knows we struggle with prayer.  Jesus knows we are a mess, and we struggle to be ourselves.  We are insecure about how people view us.  We are insecure about how God views us.  So, when we pray, it can come out weird – right?  We don’t know if we should stand or kneel.  We don’t know if we can pray for ourselves.  We don’t know if God wants to hear from us or how often we are allowed to talk to Him.  This whole issue of prayer becomes so clunky and weird.  What does Jesus tell us?  Does Jesus give us tips and techniques?  Nope.  Does he hand out best-selling books on seven tips to success in prayer?  Nope.  Does Jesus drop knowledge and make it complex?  Nope.  He says, get alone, be yourself, be honest, and focus on God.  That’s beautiful.  Doesn’t that sound like a healthy relationship you would have with people?  Hang out, be yourself, be honest, and focus on the other person.

Let’s read what Jesus said.

Matthew 6:6-7 Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. MSG

Not only does Jesus make it simple, but Jesus trashes those who make prayer complicated and offer formulas.  Why would God enter earth and make things so simple?  Because God is so in love with you.  I want to read what Sam shared last week.

1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  NIV

I don’t know who your father was to you.  But what we know is this.  How you view your earthly father, in general, is how you will probably view your heavenly Father [God].  Regardless if your father was a good father a harmful father a missing father, God wants to step into your life and be a good Father to you.  So, God comes in the form of Jesus to offer you a pure and intimate relationship with you. He offers the Holy Spirit to walk with you every day.  How do we enjoy that relationship?  We surrender our lives to Him.  We pray.  We read the Bible.  And we live it out.  That’s what it means to be a Christian.

And as we walk through this godless world ruled by Satan, we must be in that relationship with God.  That relationship gives us spiritual power and courage to live each day.  And if we are not in that relationship, without realizing it, our spiritual passion dies, and we will fall in love with what the world has to offer us.  Over time, because our spiritual passion dies, we end up in bad spots.  We can be selfish, fearful, negative, people pleasers, and on and on.  We will lack spiritual power and courage to live out each day.

To be even more clear, let me explain what I mean.  If I am not praying or reading the Bible I am disconnected from God.  I’m not in a relationship with God who gives me spiritual power and courage to live each day.  I’m not in a relationship with God who brings me spiritually alive.  Instead of enjoying God, I slowly begin to focus on myself and this world and all it has to offer me.  I slowly begin to focus on, these are the words of Jesus, ‘worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun.’  Those are the words of Jesus when Jesus shared the parable of the four seeds.  Jesus shared that when the gospel hits people’s hearts, like a seed hitting the soil, people respond differently.  He said some seeds fall on hearts but don’t grow because they begin to look at this world and begin worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun

Being disconnected from God means, we are spiritually dead.  We can still pay our bills, mow the yard, go shopping or hunting, go to church, and get the kids to the right sports fields but our souls will be empty and spiritually dead.  We won’t have God’s love flow through us.  We will probably stay in our routines of being negative, critical, insecure, and fearful.  And we have all the reasons why we can’t do what Jesus asked of us.

Last week Sam taught on prayer.  This week I want to talk about the bible.  Why read the bible?

Hebrews 4:12 The word of God is alive and powerful. NLT

Hebrews 4:12 Whatever God says to us is full of living power. TLB

The power you are looking for to change everything in your life is God’s voice.  God’s voice has been recorded and written down.  We call it the Bible.  How do we know this?  Scripture says,

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed. NIV

The Bible is different than any other book.

Do you want the power to change?  Do you want the power to be yourself?  Do you want the power to be at peace and have courage?  Do you want the power to overcome fear and insecurities?  Do you want the power to focus on others more?  Do you want the power to have more love and joy?  Then allow God to speak to you through the bible.  Do you remember what Jesus said?

Jesus answered, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ESV Matthew 4:4

Jesus here was referencing when the Children of Israel were in the desert.  They were 100% dependent on God giving them manna each day to live.  Please hear me.  As dependent as the Children of Israel were for manna every day, we are spiritually dependent on God’s voice in the bible.  That’s why Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life.’

Remember the video we just showed?  It’s why Christians across the world would walk 8 hours to get a Bible.  It’s why Christians go to court and face death.  It’s why Christians are imprisoned with threats of being hanged.  It’s why families are completely transformed.  The Bible IS God’s voice recorded and written down.  It’s alive and full of power.  Is that not beautiful?

I want to share six things about reading the bible.  First.  The Alpha video we sent out is excellent.  It talks about how God wrote the Bible through people.  It talks about suffering in the Old Testament.  It talks about science vs. faith.  There is a lot in that video.

Second.  It’s never been easier to read the Bible.  There are so many different translations that help us read and understand the Bible.  For example, you can get a bible that is word-for-word accurate, thought-for-thought accurate, or a paraphrase.  They are all great and helpful.  Some Bibles are study Bibles.  Some Bibles have commentaries that help explain what the verses mean.  You can download the YouVersion Bible App which has so many options.  One option, you can even have the Bible read to you.

Third.  There is proof that reading the Bible has a direct impact on your life.  A survey was done by The Center of Bible Engagement. They call it the ‘Scientific Evidence for the Power of 4’.  They polled 40,000 people and asked them what happened when they read the Bible.  What they discovered was this.

When someone begins to read the Bible, day 1 or day 2, there isn’t much difference.  People who engaged the Bible one to two days a week indicated the same effect on their personal lives as those who did not engage at all.  This led to something interesting.

The folks putting the survey together discovered people reading the Bible very little led them to feel good about their activities without any sustainable results. They think they’re being “good Christians,” but their lives are no different than people who aren’t Christians at all.

However, for those who engaged the Bible 4 times or more a week, there was a profound difference in their lives.  Here is what happened.  Loneliness went down 30%.  Bitterness went down 43%.  Anger went down 32%.  Alcoholism drops 57%.  Sex outside of marriage drops 68%.  Feeling stagnant drops 60%.  Viewing pornography drops 61%.  Sharing your faith jumps 200%.  Discipling others jumps 230%.

Again, this isn’t a surprise.  It just verifies that the bible has power because it’s the recorded voice of God.

Fourth.  It doesn’t matter how you read the Bible.  You can read a big chunk each day.  You can read a chapter a day.  You can read a verse and think about it.  You can do a Bible study.  There is no wrong way to read the Bible.  That being said, if you are new to reading the Bible, probably the best place to start would be books of John or Psalms.

The one practical thing in reading the bible is this.  When you read the bible, ask yourself, ‘God, what are You telling me – how does this impact me?’  Here is why you ask God that question.

Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. NIV

I wanted to give you a personal story about reading the Bible.  When I was in my 20s, that is when I gave my life to God as an adult.  I began reading the Bible off and on.  I remember one day reading Numbers 32.  That is the passage where the Children of Israel were getting ready to go into the Promised Land.  The first generation who were freed from slavery died in the desert because they rebelled against God.  It’s now the second generation preparing to go into the Promised Land.

Two tribes, Rueben and Gad, went to Moses and said, ‘Can we stay here on this side of the river, we like it here.’  Here is what happened.

Numbers 32: 1-14 The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said, the land the Lord subdued before the people of Israel – are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”

Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the Lord has given them? This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh to look over the land. After they went up to the Valley of Eshkol and viewed the land, they discouraged the Israelites from entering the land the Lord had given them.

In other words, they were comfortable.  And because they were comfortable, it was good enough for them.  They didn’t want to go where God was leading them.  And if they made that choice, it would have discouraged everyone else from following God.

It struck me.  God made it so clear to me.  My personal choices matter.  How I live out Christianity matters.

The Lord’s anger was aroused that day and he swore this oath: ‘Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not one except Caleb and Joshua, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’ The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.

“And here you are, a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers and making the Lord even more angry with Israel. If you turn away from following him, he will again leave all this people in the wilderness, and you will be the cause of their destruction.” NIV

When I read that, I felt God saying to my heart, ‘Ken, not following me, not going further with me, is rebellion.’

I must tell you that Numbers 32 played a huge part in God shaping and molding my life.

Fifth.  Reading the Bible is not always a mountain-top experience of warm fuzzy feelings.  It’s a relationship.  In any relationship you have, there are moments when you laugh and when you cry.  There are moments when you are talking and listening.  There are moments when it’s super fun and boring.  Reading the Bible can be all of those things because it’s a relationship.

Lastly, there is a connection between reading the Bible and praying and your relationships.  If we are not connected to Jesus in a relationship, we can expect from people what only Jesus can give us.  One of the problems we have seen in relationships and in the North American Church has been people replacing their relationship with Jesus with their relationship with people.  There are things that only Jesus can give us.  Only Jesus can bring us spiritually alive.  Only Jesus can fill us with love, joy, and peace.  People can’t bring us spiritually alive.  People can’t give us permanent love, joy, or peace.  They can help us, support us, and encourage us but they can transform us spiritually.  Not your husband.  Not your wife.  Not your family.  Not your pastor, neighbor, friend, and others at church.  Only Jesus.

When we are not in a relationship with Jesus, we can begin to expect from others what only Jesus can give us.  What happens?  We expect more from people than we are able to give them.  We become self-focused wanting our way all the time.  We become people pleasers – that means we do things to keep people happy with us – that creates a fake community.  People become so disappointing to us because they never measure up to who they need to be for us.  We are easily hurt because no one is giving us what we need.  We begin thinking, I need to make a change.  I need a new spouse.  I need a new job.  I need a new church.  I need a new neighbor.

I love community in church but the one thing that will ruin a church community is when people are not in a relationship with Jesus, praying and reading the bible, while at the same time expecting from others only what Jesus can give.

I want to close with this.  How beautiful is it that God makes our relationship with Him so simple?  When we pray, we just need to be ourselves.  When we read the bible, God speaks to us.

Couple questions.

Was it modeled for you to read the Bible?  How did that impact you on how you understand what it means to be in a relationship with God today?

Do you think what I am saying is slick marketing?  Do you think it’s something I have to say because all pastors say this?  Or do you think this is real?

Is it normal for you to not read the Bible?  If the answer is yes, are you expecting from people what only God can give you?  Do you find the people in relationships with you disappoint you?

Do you believe the Bible is God’s recorded voice or is it just words?

Have you ever thought that reading the Bible gives you the power to change?  Power to be spiritually alive and full of courage?

Based on today, what decision do you need to make starting now?

Please hear me today.  The power you are looking for to change everything in your life is God’s voice.  God’s voice has been recorded and written down.  We call it the Bible.