When planning, reading the instructions is a good place to start.

“Our company asks prospective employees to fill out a written application,” a man wrote in the Readers Digest.  “One question said: In one word, describe your greatest strength. This woman applicant wrote: I’m always faithful to read the directions first.”

Recently, Bertha and I voted at the church a few blocks from our house.  As you sign in, the poll workers give you a paper ballot.  Since only two races were left for the runoff, the page was mostly empty.  At the top were these instructions:  “Using black ink, fill in the oval circle beside the name of the candidate for whom you are voting.”  You were given a closed space to mark your ballot, which you then handed to a clerk who fed the paper into the voting tabulator.  Mine went through fine.  Bertha’s was spit back out.  The clerk looked at it, smiled at her, and said, “Ma’am, you put a checkmark by the candidate’s name.  You’re supposed to fill in the oval.”  She laughed, was slightly embarrassed, they gave her another ballot, and she got it right this time.

On the way to the car, I said to my schoolteacher/wife: “Honey, do you tell the students to read the directions before they take their test?”  She gave me that look.

On the drive home I said to her, “I’ve not changed the clock in this car since we went on Daylight Savings Time.  The truth is I’ve forgotten how to do it.  I’ve had the car a whole year now, so I know I’ve done it before. But I don’t recall how.”

My bride said, “Honey, look just above the clock display.  You see an H and an M.  The H is for hour, and the M for minutes.  Hold your finger on it until it’s set.”

Well, duh.

I said, “I cannot believe all this time I’ve looked at that clock and never noticed the letters above it.”

I felt like an idiot.

We were equal now.

Read the instructions. Such a simple thing to do.  

The manual of instructions for life on Planet Earth, we might say, is the Holy Scriptures.  “Everything pertaining to life and godliness.”  For instance….

If you are a new believer, here are some Scriptures for you to read and digest:

Psalm 1;  Proverbs 3:5-6;  Matthew 6:33 and 16:26;  Mark 4:40;  Galatians 2:20 and 6:9; Philippians 4:13,19;  Colossians 3:9-10; Hebrews 9 and 11:6.

Once you have checked those out, now read the larger context around them.  For instance, after reading Matthew 6:33, now drop back and read chapters 5-7 which are all part of the Sermon on the Mount.  In reading Galatians 2:20, now read the entire six chapters of this wonderful epistle.  And so forth.

If you are a new deacon, the two passages you will want to read repeatedly and always keep in mind are Acts 6:1-7 and I Timothy 3:8-13.

Thereafter, you will want to study the Lord’s lesson on servanthood in places like John 13:1ff and Luke 17:7-10.  And you will want to read all the epistles since they contain so much about service.

If you are a pastor, your instructions are the entire New Testament.  It all pertains to your calling.

Start with the qualifications for a pastor in I Timothy 3:1-7 and read II Timothy for Paul’s final instructions to this young pastor, and through him to you and me, on preaching the word with integrity.  Study Acts 20 where Paul instructs the elders of Ephesus on how to do their job, what to expect, etc.

If you are an unbeliever–or don’t know what you are–then we suggest you start with the third chapter of the Gospel of John.  Read it several times, letting its powerful and multi-faceted message penetrate and take root.  Then, I’d suggest you drop back to chapter one of John and read the entire book, all 21 chapters.  It won’t take long and the entire message John writes of Christ will be thrilling to you.

After that, start with Matthew chapter one and read the entire New Testament.  It’s not that hard to do, and I think you’re going to love the experience.  When you finish, do it again.  Read through the New Testament several times until its message becomes familiar to you. After that, get counsel from your spiritual leader (pastor, whoever) on what to do next.

“Watch how these people turn left in the intersection,” I said to my wife.  “It’s like the lead car is afraid to get into the intersection until the left turn is clear.”  I know it makes sense on one level.  But it’s not how the drivers’ manual instructed motorists to turn left.

The lead car turning left is waiting for the traffic to clear.  It’s all right to pull under the traffic light with the blinker on.  Then, either the traffic clears or the light turns to amber.  If the latter, wait until the traffic clears, then turn left.  It’s legal.  It’s how the manual teaches left turns.  (Unless they’ve changed it!)

Read the manual, folks.  Always a good idea. 


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