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December 2016 -January 2017


Beyond the Walls


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one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids

by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists


The Gift That Keeps on Giving

I preached my first sermon August 12, 1970. The Bible I used that evening (pictured below) had been presented to me by my parents on Christmas day 1962, when I was nine years old. It was a plain, King James Version Bible, a “red letter” edition with a few artists’ renderings of key biblical events interspersed throughout. It had no reference helps or study aids…not even a concordance. It had very small print and cost $2.95.

I still have vivid memories of Christmas morning 1970. After all the family Christmas gifts had been distributed and opened, my mom retrieved one last package that had remained inconspicuously out of view behind the tree. She said, “This one is for Keith.” Needless to say, my curiosity was aroused, and my imagination shifted into overdrive. I wasn’t all that impressed by its size, but I was surprised by its weight. It was heavy.

I remember carefully removing the wrapping paper and lifting the lid to the box. I couldn’t believe my eyes—a new Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible. The gift was a young preacher boy’s dream. With an air of disbelief, I struggled to find the appropriate words to express my appreciation. I still recall the pleased look that came over my parent’s faces as I said “thank you” repeatedly.



To this day, that copy of the Scriptures remains one of my prized possessions. It was special for a number of reasons. First, for a 17-year-old, it was like having a complete minister’s library in one volume. It had an amazing cross-reference feature. Besides pointing to related verses throughout the Bible, the reference numbers were arranged in alphabetical order in a general index. Charts, maps, and overviews of certain Bible characters were listed in the back. It had a good concordance and even an archaeological supplement.

That Bible was special, because it motivated a young believer to take seriously the reading and study of God’s Word. Although I had always honored and respected the Scriptures, I had never actually read through the entire Bible. But that changed. Somehow, inexplicably, this Christmas gift inspired me to make the long journey from Genesis to Revelation. It was the first time I ever read the Bible from cover to cover, and I did it using that old Thompson Chain.

But perhaps the thing that made that Christmas gift most special was the handwritten message on the front flyleaf. It read, “Keith, we hope you have many, many good sermons and many souls saved through your lifetime of preaching. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 1970—Dad and Mother.”

My parents are both in Heaven now, but their legacy lives on. That little message captured the essence of what they considered most important in life—preaching the Bible and seeing people saved. I hope I can pass along those same priorities to my children. Thank God for that old study Bible. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.


About the Column

One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.


©2017 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists