Something interesting happened this morning which, sadly, my photo does not do justice too.
My wife, Paula, was setting up the song and reading boards (yes, we still have them) when she called me to come from my office to look at something, “just look at that” she said. I took a look at it and, in the half light of the building, I was amazed to see that the white card background stood out brightly in contrast to other cards used. Paula then explained to me how difficult it had been to put the name card into the runners “I don’t think it has ever been used before”, she commented.
I don’t know the age of the cards but, I do know that it has not been used for at least 10 years because, that’s how long I have been in Clacton and I have never preached on the book of Ezra before.
I first began to think about Ezra at the end of last year and, at first, I just couldn’t get my head around what we could possibly learn from that book. From a historical point of view I could see that it was contemporary to Nehemiah. I could see the overall picture of the book but, what I could not see was how this could possibly fit with the context in which I am called to preach.
Eventually, after a lot of prayer and study, a few ideas began to emerge and I saw something within the book of Ezra that I had not seen before. Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to be sharing that with the folk who attend the fellowship where I minister.
Like many preachers, I draw inspiration from different sources. However, I guess I am not alone, when I say there is always the temptation to preach from those bits of the Bible that I like and leave aside those parts that I struggle with. The Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy says;
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 vs. 16 – 17)
All means the bits I like and the bits I don’t!
As I write this I am painfully aware of the damage that people can do with the Bible too. Some, seek to use parts of scripture as a justification in holding onto certain attitudes and values and I believe this is an abuse of scripture. I use that strong word, deliberately.
To read the Bible as a text book and leave aside the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, is a dangerous thing to do. You see, Paul talks about “God-Breathed” and we need that breath of God blowing into our hearts and minds as we look at scripture. We need to not only read words on the page but, to know the heart of Him who inspired them to be written.