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A Letter I Can’t Read

Yes, my first grade teacher did a good job of teaching me to read using phonetics. I can read, but this week I found something I could not read.

[Note: This post is based on last week’s reading: Romans; Proverbs 1-5.]

The header on my blogsite says “a plan for reading Scripture book by book”.   But I have a problem.  I can’t read Romans.  Well, to be more accurate, I can’t just read Romans.  I have to study it.

A pencil makes the difference

What’s the difference between reading and studying? I have been told that you move from reading to studying when you pick up a pencil.  In other words, reading is passive—like listening.  We receive information through the eyes (when reading) and through the ears (when listening).  But when we start writing—jotting down notes, observations, and questions we become active in the process.  Suddenly, we begin to study.

When we study, we show an eagerness to do more than gain information. We demonstrate some desire to understand and to apply information appropriately to our lives and to our world. When we study, we enter a new level at which we analyze and reflect on the words we read. Reading speed slows to allow for this additional mental work.

In Romans, I have to interact with what I am reading.  My mind starts to move and my pencil follows.

Slow down

Like the breathtaking views on the Blue Ridge Parkway that force a driver or hiker to stop and drink in the sights, Romans presents deep, sobering truths and glorious spiritual vistas which beckon us to pause and just let them sink into our hearts and minds.

I opened my Bible to Romans chapter one. Right away I got slowed down thinking about the Apostle Paul’s identity (1:1-6).  His resume sounds more like a theological dissertation because he has become completely connected with the triune God and the gospel.  Paul sees himself as a servant of Christ Jesus.  His life revolves around doing what his Lord bids.  He was called to be an apostle—a sent one.  He was set apart for the gospel of God—the good news that will be unfolded in the pages of the letter.  It’s news but it’s not totally new.  It was promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures.

Paul is introducing himself, but he cannot tell us about himself apart from Jesus, the One he serves. As a human Jesus is descended from David, so He is of the royal line. But He rose from the dead and that resurrection is the declaration of His divine sonship made by the Spirit of holiness!  Paul’s role is to bring the obedience of faith among all the nations, including the people to whom he is writing in Rome. His love for them is evident as he goes on.

My need

Paul’s love for Christ, the gospel, and the world of needy people challenges me!  How I need to more fully find my identity in Him who gave Himself for me. How I need to love those who are His and those who are not yet His.  I sense the need for His enabling and pray as Augustine prayed, “Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt.”

At this pace, it took two sessions of over an hour to read through the letter with pencil in hand.  The theological sights there are amazing, but you need to see them for yourself, if you haven’t yet. Maybe you will agree with me, this is a letter I can’t read.

This week’s reading:   Deuteronomy 1-26

© John A Carroll 2018 Used by permission.

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