Kate Short encourages us to read 'Before You Open Your Bible' by Matt Smethurst and join the book discussion at 8pm on Thursday 11th June...

We live in a world which offers quick fixes. If you take a look at the front page of magazines or TV adverts, we’re sold false promises that whatever problem we have can be solved in just a few short steps or in one product. 

As we approach the Christian life, I think we quite often like to find the ‘one solution solves all’ book or sermon that is going to drag us out of spiritual lethargy and set our faith ablaze; the podcast that will re-energise our often weak prayer lives or poor Bible reading habits.

I don’t think those sermons or books exist. I think we all know that deep down our lukewarm attitude in our relationship with Jesus is a heart issue - our prayer lives and Bible reading habits are weak because we don’t treasure Jesus and because our hearts are so easily distracted and enticed by other things. 

But, if there was ever going to be a book that would provide the answer to our lazy Bible-reading, then I think it’s this one.

Matt Smethurst takes us through nine heart attitudes we should aim for when approaching the Bible. We can be so familiar with lots of the Bible’s content that we have lost the wonder and astonishment of knowing that it is God choosing to speak to us, choosing to communicate. We see in its pages God ‘choosing to forfeit his personal privacy to befriend us’. We have intimate access to the mind of God and his plan to rescue his people. The book wows us again with the privilege it is to be able to see some of the Creator’s thoughts and plans, especially given that our hearts are naturally bent against him. 

The book is short, but in it Smethurst targets our heart issues directly and practically. He calls out our lackadaisical, lazy minds but in doing so reminds us that the Author of the Bible wants us to flourish, he wants us to live lives filled with joy, no longer enslaved but free to live for and know him as we were originally designed. He reminds us of God’s eternal, miraculous and abundant grace and this reminder is the fuel for consistent, joy-filled Bible reading. 

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I’ll let you read the book yourself and we can chat about it on Thursday, but if you’re feeling dry in your relationship with God’s Word, you’re finding it difficult to fit into your day or you are easily distracted when reading, then please can I urge you to read it. God’s Word is a ‘recurring feast’ and the more we read the more we experience this; ‘Before You Open Your Bible’ prepares our hearts to unpack and discover the banquet.

Have a think about some of these questions as you read:

1. What is your relationship with God’s Word at the moment?

2. What stops you from reading the Bible?

3. What encouraged you in the book?

4. How has it re-oriented your view of Bible reading?

5. What challenged you in the book?

5. How would you like to change as a result of reading it?

I’d love to see you again for a casual chat about the book over Zoom on Thursday 11th June.

Judith has written an encouraging post for us to read and reflect on:

We have been reminded in recent sermons to, 'live by faith, not by sight'. But what do we do when we are so overcome by fear and doubt that we panic that our faith might be failing? It’s as if we are floundering and crashing around in a sea of fear, grief, uncertainty and possibly guilt.

The well known story of Jesus calming the storm which was read to the children in our service recently has taken on a fresh meaning for me. We know it so well – Jesus and his disciples in a small fishing boat crossing the lake when a surprise storm breaks. Huge waves, hurricane force winds, maybe thunder and lightning. The disciples, experienced as they were in fishing and controlling boats in turbulent waters had never encountered anything like this. They were failing to gain control and were terrified. Does that panic and anxiety sound familiar? Where was Jesus? We know He was there, with them, right there in the boat. But He was asleep!

One night early in the pandemic I found that I was unable to sleep. Eventually I got up and read this story – not in my Bible but in the adult version of the Children’s Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Of course we know that this is not just a made up story for children but it’s a true historical account of a real event. So, what did the panic stricken disciples do? They cried out for help – they called on Jesus to rescue them. I wonder what they expected to happen. We know, of course that the storm subsided but how did Jesus do it? By speaking just 3 words, 'Quiet, be still'.

That sleepless night I was aware of a very real fear in my heart but as I re-read this familiar story I became aware of God speaking to me, too. The paragraph in the children’s story which I now find myself returning to frequently reads: 'Then Jesus turned to His wind-torn friends. “Why were you scared?” he asked. “Did you forget who I am? Did you believe your fears instead of me?"'

My heart was quietened and stilled. I was greatly comforted but also challenged because I was giving in to my fears instead of crying out to Jesus and exercising the faith that God had already, by His amazing grace, given me. My faith is weak but my Saviour is strong. The title of this chapter in the book is, 'The Captain of the Storm'. The storm was too big for the disciples but not too big for Jesus.

Begone, unbelief

My Saviour is near,

And for my relief

Will surely appear;

By prayer let me wrestle and He will perform;

With Christ in the vessel,

I smile at the storm.

I've been reading the book of Ecclesiastes, and if you're a regular at the Village Church you've been receiving (and maybe reading!) my emails, which have included some thoughts on the opening verses of this Old Testament wisdom. We've seen that life is short and that life is slippery, and that a life lived for Christ is what really matters. Below is a poem called Only One Life by C. T. Studd which helpfully reflects on these themes...

Two little lines I heard one day,

Travelling along life's busy way;

Brining conviction to my heart,

And from my mind would not depart;

Only one life, 'twill soon be past,

Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,

Soon will its fleeting hours be done;

Then, in 'that day' my Lord to meet,

And stand before His judgment seat;

Only one life, 'twill soon be past,

Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only onle life, the still small voice,

Gentle pleads for a better choice;

Bidding me selfish aims to leave,

And to God's holy will to cleave;

Only one life, 'twill soon be past,

Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,

Each with its burdens, hope, and fears;

Each with its clays I must fulfil,

living for self or in His will;

Only one life, 'twill soon be past,

Only what's done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,

When Satan would a victory score;

When self would seek to have its way,

Then help me Lord with joy to say;

Only one life, 'twill soon be past,

Only what's done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,

In or sorrow Thy word to keep;

Faithful and true what e'er the strife,

Pleasing Thee in my daily life;

Only one life, 'twill soon be past,

Only what's done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervour burn,

And from the world now let me turn;

Living for Thee, and Thee alone,

Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;

Only one life, 'twill soon be past,

Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,

Now let me say, 'Thy will be done';

And when at last I'll hear the call,

I know I'll say, 'Twas worth it all';

Only one life, 'twill soon be past,

Only what's done for Christ will last.