The Primary Text


I have been a lover of books my entire life. A good deal on a worthwhile book is a bargain impossible to resist. But my tastes have changed over the years. In my youth, it was all about the basic doctrines of our denomination, evangelism, and the deeper life as described by Watchman Nee. As a young man, I was hungry to know about Revival and the Gifts of the Spirit, but 50 years ago good books on Pentecostal themes were few and hard to find. While pastoring I feasted on a steady diet of Church Growth, positive self-help books, and the benefits of rigorous spiritual disciplines. David Yonggi Cho, Robert Schuller, and Peter Wagner convinced me I could grow my little church to a congregation of 20,000 (yeah, not so much.) Larry Lea improved my prayer life. Since I was in the pulpit three times a week, I also read books that would help me better teach and preach.

I was young once, and now I am old. Today I slowly savor books on Christian monastic spirituality and contemplative disciplines, as is appropriate to my station and my call. The more exciting stuff I leave to younger men and women with the strength and vision for the task. Concerning the church, all I know is that I don’t know it all; in fact, I don’t know very much. At each age and stage, I benefitted from the books I read. And they helped lead me here, to the most blessed and privileged time in my life. God is good.

We have to
test every word
we read by
what we read
in the Word.

But with this life long love for the printed page, I have learned one thing above all. It is vitally important that we let The Primary Text have the pre-eminence. We have to test every word we read by what we read in the Word. But more than that, I believe it is of extreme importance that the Bible, the Word of God, be our primary, our first and foremost reading material each and every day of our lives. Not reading about the Word, or reading someone’s thoughts inspired by the Word, but reading the Word of God itself.

Easy Access

Not an easy task. Gone are the days when good material on topics of current interest is rare. We have magnificent authors and speakers, too numerous to mention, continuously presenting amazing, life-giving content in attractive easy to access and use formats, on every subject of interest. These articles, books, podcasts, and videos all compete with the Bible for our time and attention. The concepts have been mined and great spiritual truths presented in a more palpable, easy to digest format. We are abundantly blessed by it all. And to be honest, for even the most passionate and sincere among us, sometimes it is easier and it takes far less discipline to enjoy them than it does just reading the Word itself. Bible reading can be hard work.

Hard Work

And then there is time. And distractions. We reach for our Bible but decide to check our email and without even thinking we have spent an hour on Facebook and Facetime, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest, going from one thing to another . . . when we meant to spend twenty minutes in the Word. These cultural diversions can be the thicket of thorns that choke the Word out of our life completely. We are lost in a bramble of cyber busyness. God help us. Again, all of this is hard . . . and hard work.

But it is hard work well worth the effort and the discipline. It is imperative that we know the Word for ourselves. That we mine our own truths from its sublime depths. That we learn to hear the voice of God through the Word of God. That we take the time and make the effort to make the Primary Text our primary text. Get to better know Adam and Eve, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hear the thundering of the Old Testament prophets. Listen to David emote in the Psalms. Learn the wisdom of Solomon in the Proverbs. Thrill to the story of the church in Acts. Sit at feet of the Apostles and learn from their Epistles. And, wonder of all wonders, walk with Jesus through the Gospels. The Bible. There simply is nothing better!



The Primary Text (PDF)


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