Have you made out your summer reading list yet? Are looking for a good thriller, an engrossing biography, a gripping account of a unique time in history? Perhaps you are looking for some inspirational reading to provide you with some hope to empower you, or perhaps you are looking for a book to give you some practical advice, which will make your life healthier and richer if you follow it. If you want one book that has all of these things and more, I would recommend you put one more book on your summer reading list, the Bible. Perhaps you just might have something new happen in your life as God speaks to you through the words of its authors.
Mix it up!
If your Bible reading has fallen by the wayside, or your devotional life has gotten stale perhaps you should try a new translation. When you go to bookstore or search on Amazon, you will usually see a translation identified by its initials, which are usually printed on the spine. If you are looking for a basic translation of the Scriptures the New Revised Standard (NRSV) and New International Version (NIV) are reliable translations written about at an eighth grade reading level. The New Living Translation (NLT) is a less wooden and more accessible translation (I read this one with my 3rd Grade daughter); the New Century Version (NCV) and the Contemporary English Version (CEV) are also in this class. If you want to experience the English language in
all its poetic glory then the King James Bible (AV or KJV) is the way to go, but be careful, English grammar and many of the meanings of the words we still use have changed dramatically since it was translated in 1611. Finally if you want the most readable version of the Bible out there today try The Message by Eugene Peterson. His translation reads like a novel and one can meet the Bible in a new and unique way.
Essential Reading: the letter to the Romans
I ask you this summer to pay attention to one particular book of the Bible: Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul wrote this letter to introduce himself to the Christians gathered in the various house churches of Rome. Much like a minister today would write a statement of faith or testimony to introduce her or his ministry to a congregation, Paul wrote out a comprehensive statement of his teaching and how he would apply it to the situation of the time that the Roman Christians lived in. In the letter Paul outlines the core principles of his faith in the crucified and risen Christ, how one can be a part of the hope that Jesus provided, and what implications and applications this faith has for the daily life of ordinary people of faith. It is the only letter or book of its kind in the Bible. It has been the most influential book of the Bible for the development of the basic teaching of the Faith. Nearly every great Christian leader has used this resource to help lead and teach others in the faith.
Often summer reading lists contain some classic literature that one never got around to reading, I would like you to consider this an opportunity to do the same for your faith. This letter will help you re-examine the hope of your calling in Jesus Christ, know God in a new way, and find concrete ways to live out your life a as a Christian disciple. I will be reading through the book with you this summer and in the sermons each week I will be highlighting the themes of the major sections of the letter. It is my hope that through the power of the Holy Spirit we can use the gift of the summer to mature and grow in our faith and discipleship of Jesus Christ.
The Core Mission
Paul introduces the letter and his theme by reminding the Christians of Rome of their common mission to their Savior. Through (Jesus) we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in (him). You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ! (Romans 1:5-6 the Message).
These words are as true today as when Paul of Tarsus planned his trip and thought about what it would be like to board the boat and start his journey to what awaited him in Rome. May God inspire and lead you in the hope of your calling as you prepare for the next stage of your journey following your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Keep the Faith,