I’m kind of particular about my Bibles. In fact, I have an entire bookcase of them. They include a small New Testament that my grandmother gave me on my 10th birthday, the Bibles that Janet and I received when we went through confirmation class in the early 1960’s, the Bible I received when I became a Master Mason, numerous family heirloom Bibles and, of course, all the Bibles I acquired when I was in seminary – including several New Testaments in Greek and a Hebrew Bible as well.
To the best of my knowledge, I have never disposed of a Bible and when people donate Bibles to my collection, I always set them in places of honor in the bookcase reserved for copies of God’s word. In fact, I have given a number of Bibles away. I used to think that it was wrong to ever take a note in my Bible. For some reason, I had the idea that it was almost sacrilegious. Please don’t get me wrong – I wanted to take notes from time to time, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. In fact, Janet is pretty much the same way.
I am also very particular about the cover stock on my various Bibles as well as the font, type size and kinds of companion notes that are included. I guess you could say that I am a tough customer when it comes to buying additional Bibles.
As a youngster in the Methodist church, Janet and I both received Revised Standard Versions of the Scripture. Of course, Grandma only read the King James and when I went to seminary, it was the only version allowed. So all my years in seminary were done in the King James. I also added the New American Standard Version (NASB) and one of my personal favorites the NIV (New International Version). I even have a copy of the Message somewhere, a New Living Translation (NLT) and the newer NET version.
As I grew in my knowledge of the Scripture, and taught more, I finally broke down and started writing notes in the margin. That graduated to copious notes on the inside covers and the use of free space wherever it occurred. More than 20 years later, I have notes in virtually every book of the Bible that help me recall important dates or promises of God and other things that are important to share with my audiences.
Several years ago my Bible literally started to fall apart. I had to be careful and not leave sections of my beloved Bible in the pulpit when I taught classes or preached at church. I started to wonder what I would do and even began to look for new Bibles that would allow me to continue my note writing in the margins.
But a funny thing happened. I didn’t want to give up my old tried and true Scripture. My close friends, Rich and Roger, knew that this was quite a concern of mine. I think they even felt my pain. Because a well used Bible is like a box of old recipes handed down throughout the generations. You recognize old handwriting or where you were when you made a certain note. Or something reminds you of a time long ago and far away – somewhere else. And Janet, who now has received the Bible her folks used, enjoys seeing her Dad’s handwriting on the pages. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving.
I have clearly been very worried about what to do – until I met Jeff. He has been saving Bibles for more than 50 years and he agreed to take my old Bible apart, re-assemble it in order and then refurbish it without losing any of my original notes. Several weeks ago, I got it back and I am thrilled. Janet’s Bible actually needed a new leather cover but Jeff helped us out with that as well. To say that we are filled with gratitude is an understatement.
Currently, I also have two Bibles on my desk that I will inscribe for other family members. I thumb through them from time to time but I want to be in the right frame of mind when I am moved by the Spirit to write a dedication in them. What an honor it is to do that – a Bible is such a highly personal possession. So… at least temporarily, my dilemma is over. I’m sticking with my old “friend.”
Our verse for tonight highlights Paul’s comment to his young pastor friend, Timothy. Paul reminds Timothy, and us, in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” It is the ultimate road map to a fulfilling God-centered life!
My encouragement this evening is that other than prayer, time spent with the Lord reading His word is the best way to grow in your relationship with Christ. My prayer is that this year we may all re-dedicate ourselves to a deeper study of the Scripture and, through the Holy Spirit, be led to a deeper understanding of God’s desire for us – even if you are using an old, well worn Bible, filled with years upon years of meaningful notes! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…