When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? (John 11:33-37)
THIS IS ABOUT JESUS TARRYING UNTIL HIS FRIEND, Lazarus, had died and was buried. It contains the shortest verse in the Bible: Jesus wept. (Verse 35.) It is powerful and has spun sermons and books and has comforted millions of hearts to know that the God who made us and came down among us: had a heart for us and could weep for one of us. He cares for me when I am sad.
NOT ONLY IS IT THE SHORTEST VERSE IN THE BIBLE, it is also─a phrase (a small group of words standing together as a conceptual unit). Human beings think in phrases, not by sentences or paragraphs or by Bible verses. These larger units of knowledge are broken down into phrases.
AS WE LISTEN TO SERMONS and Scripture being read, we retain phrases from those experiences. Church-going people know more Bible than they think, but it is not indexed with a chapter and verse attached to the phrases that make up their knowledge. All the phrases that stick to us have meaning or they would not have been retained. We recall them when there is a mental need to recall them. I want to share some things out of my personal journey that may help you in your journey.
I HAD FINISHED FIVE YEARS OF TEACHERS TALKING TO ME and giving me tests. I still didn’t get it: The fact that one of the greatest gold mines of the Scriptures is its phrases. The Bible is made up of the Old and New Testaments; of books, chapters, and verses. We can also study the subjects, characters, locations, and events of the Bible. These units furnish us a starting place and perhaps a framework for study and greater understanding. We memorize verses and a few chapters, and attach the location to them: i.e. John 3:16. I never heard of anyone advocating the memorizing of Bible phrases.
DR. BROWNLEE DID A MASTERFUL JOB OF TEACHING us Old Testament Survey. Other Bible teachers led us through books of the Bible. (“It must be that the greatest Bible treasure is found in studying the books of the Bible,” I assumed to myself.) Of course, there are many Bible study helps such as dictionaries, concordances, and commentaries. These all have their important place.
I DISCOVERED THIS CLASSIC BOOK: The Strategic Grasp of the Bible by J. Sidlow Baxter (1903-1999) This giant of a pastor and Bible teacher was born in Australia and raised in England. He wrote over 30 books but the most practical of them is probably The Strategic Grasp of the Bible. When my niece lost a baby to crib death, she was angry at God and questioned everything she knew about Him. I gave her a copy of this book. It helped her out of her dungeon. I recommend it for your personal growth in the Bible. But a big change was taking place in me. My understanding of how we process Bible truth was changing.
WHEN I WAS 18-19, I BOUGHT A "VERY USED" COPY OF A BOOK OF SERMONS by C. H. Spurgeon. It was an original print from the 1800’s, printed while he was alive. As I read through it, I was mesmerized by his style of writing. He knew how people think. The title of one sermon was: SHE TOLD HIM ALL.. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. (Mark 5:33) I read it several times and still enjoy reading it. No wonder Spurgeon’s books still sell well today. He lifted a phrase out of that verse and explored what it can mean to “tell Him all.” I want to tell you, that phrase is a stick of dynamite!
ABOUT THE SAME TIME, I WAS BEING TUTORED by the sermon titles of Dr. Lee Roberson. I didn’t know I was being tutored. I was absorbing something that would one day turn on a light bulb for me. I listened carefully to all his sermons, all the way through. But, early on, I was impressed by the titles of his sermons. They were short and riveting. Before this time, I had not heard many preachers announce a title as they began their sermons. He was a master at writing sermon titles and building a short outline under them that would serve as a framework for a 25-minute sermon.
HE WORKED ON SERMON TITLES IN AIRPLANES AND MOTELS; always working on sermons and speaking notes for meetings. You can get an idea of his work at: http://www.biblewalking.com/be-filled-with-the-spirit---lee-roberson.html (This document has had an accident and has converted itself into all capital letters. But, it is still readable if you care to read it. It is due to be repaired.)
AFTER I HAD LEFT SCHOOL, our paths crossed down in Georgia at a pastor’s meeting. Instead of asking me about the weather, he said: “How do you prepare your sermons?” Shock! Was he checking up on me or was he still looking for ways to improve his own sermon preparation? I never knew. I made it short and to the point and told him what I did. I felt like I was standing there in my pajamas, barefooted. You see why I don’t want to talk to James (brother of Jesus) when I get to Heaven? He might tell me: “Show me your knees.” I don’t have callouses on my knees like he did.
AS I CONTINUED TO READ THE BIBLE and to memorize key verses, I discovered another writer: Arthur (A.W.) Pink in the library of Pastor Bert Singletary in Pensacola, Florida. Out of Pinks several books I attached myself to his book: ELIJAH. Pink was a master of Bible phrases. He had a gift of spinning Bible phrases into beautiful and meaningful Bible tapestry. I read the paperback edition of ELIJAH until the book fell apart and promptly replaced it. I kept the tattered version because it contains all my underlining and marginal notes. I try to read Pink’s ELIJAH through every year.
THE PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE is to alert you to the genius of the phrases in the Bible, in case you have not already discovered it. When you read the Bible, keep a black, ball-point pen in hand to underscore the phrases that jump out at you. I’ve been doing this for many years. In the margin, you can add to the emphasis by making a small circle and filling it in with your pen. When you finish reading a chapter, quickly scan it and see if you have marked it like you want to leave it.
WHEN YOU FINISH READING THE BOOK, go back and scan the phrases you have underlined. Meditate on the phrases. See if there is anything you should obey; anything you should make right in your life; anything you want to talk to the Lord about.
MANY PHRASES ARE RICH AND POWERFUL PRAYERS that can be prayed back to the Lord. Praying the Bible back to God is one of the richest things you will ever do in your life. It’s not the lighter parts of speech that are heavy-laden with meaning. There are phrases and there are words in the phrases that are heavy with meaning. Let’s take Bible reading seriously and look for the phrases that generate understanding and power in our lives to walk with God. Ω
Read Through the Bible in a Year
JANUARY 10, 2018 – WEDNESDAY
A.M. Genesis 25-26 P.M. Matthew 9:1-17
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A Good Verse To Memorize:
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Song for Today:
Break Thou the Bread of Life (2:19) (Acapeldridge)
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