KENNER, La. (BP)–When we lived in North Carolina, it seemed that every other car carried a personalized license plate. Occasionally, I would ask people at the traffic light what their tag meant. One fellow’s tag read “WHUUT?” When the red light caught us, I called over to him, “What does your tag mean?” He said, “Whuut?” I said, “Never mind.”
One day I noticed a tag which said simply, “PSALM 18”. I decided if it meant 20 bucks a year for the driver to put that message there, the least I could do was go read it. I’m sure I had read that psalm before and probably preached it, but that day I rediscovered one of the great chapters in the Bible. It contains 50 verses and every one is a keeper.
In December of 1995, Elle fashion magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby suffered a stroke and lay in a coma for weeks. Finally, Bauby awakened only to find that he was completely paralyzed with the single exception of his left eye muscles. He could blink his left eye.
Bauby’s innovative wife set an eye chart before him, with the letters of the alphabet listed according to their frequency of use. She would point to letters and he would blink at the appropriate one. In this way, he would spell out words and so communicate with the world. In the summer of 1996 she hired secretaries to work with her husband in daily three-hour sessions. The paralyzed editor was thus able to dictate the text of a 137-page book, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” which told his story. In March of 1997, one week after the book was completed, Bauby died. Someone estimated he had blinked his left eye more than 200,000 times to write this book.
I found this little volume in our local public library and checked it out.
I figured the least I could do was read it.
The Bible sitting on my desk was written in several languages over a period of 1,000 years in locations ranging from Rome to Egypt to Israel. Scribes copied and recopied it by hand countless times, taking extraordinary care to be faithful. Kings and tyrants worked overtime to destroy this book, while religious leaders fought to keep it out of the hands of the common people.
Over the centuries, many faithful believers gave their life-blood to protect this book, to translate it into the language of the people, and to deliver it to our generation intact. In many cases, the very church that had preserved this book down through the centuries became the tormentor and murderer of the Bible translators. Names like William Tyndale, John Wyclif and John Huss will live in the history of the Christian church as those who paid an incredible price for the Bible on my shelf.
The least I can do is read it.
When people ask me where to start, I tell them not to do what I did. As an 8-year-old child with my first Bible, I started logically enough on page one. But page one of the Bible starts us off at Genesis, hundreds of chapters away from the New Testament where we begin to learn of Jesus and his earthly ministry.
I suggest you start at Matthew and read through all four of the Gospels. When you finish, start over. Read the accounts of the life of Jesus from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John until you practically know the story by heart. Then, you’re ready to read the rest of the New Testament, and eventually, to drop back and enjoy the Old Testament. By now, you will have proper framework to understand many of the stories and the typology and prophecies. It’s a fascinating book.
As a young pastor, I dropped in on Dixie one day. She was a senior adult from another denomination who came to some of our church functions with a neighbor. She was sitting in a rocker on the little porch at the entrance to her apartment holding the Bible in her lap. She looked up and said, “Oh, Joe, when I think that I lived over 50 years of my life before I discovered this precious book, I could just cry.”
Think of the millions of people who will never discover the joys of God’s Word. It’s enough to make a grown man weep.
McKeever is pastor of First Baptist Church, Kenner, La.