I’ve been reading and studying the Bible for most of my life. I used to view it as just a book of commands and fun-robbing rules; stories that happened centuries ago that couldn’t possibly apply to my life today. How wrong I had been. It was–and still is–a Book I don’t totally understand. But as Mark Twain so aptly said:
“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”
And that is why I continue to read it and read it and study it. Between its covers lies an abundance of stories, proverbs, psalms, poetry, and teachings that have changed my heart. I read it now, not so much to learn the “mysteries” of life, but so that its life-giving power will get into me, that my soul might resonate with the indwelling Author behind it.
So why don’t we enjoy this great Book more? I think it comes down to a matter of perspective and understanding. Here are a few things I’ve come to learn that have helped me better appreciate God’s word:
- The privilege. The Bible’s not something we have to read; we get to read it, a Book handed down to us from the Creator of the universe. If we believe God, let’s believe Him all the way. Is this really such a hard thing for Him to do?
- The standard. God’s word provides an objective standard for our faith. Otherwise, we’d walk around like little “popes”, claiming dogmatically that we had a divine “inside scoop” or “new” information from God. We could also fall into a grievous error–creating a customized image of God. Or even worse: “Creating” God in our own image.
- The map. In his writings, CS Lewis compared the Bible to a map. Some may say, “I can experience God in nature. Why do I need the Bible?” Or similarly, “I can experience the Atlantic Ocean on my own. Why do I need a map?” But the map has been plotted and charted by hundreds that have gone before us. The Map gives us tremendous insight and advantage. It’s there for our convenience, not as a hindrance.
- The love letter. How many of you have saved that special love letter from the past? We get goose bumps just reading them. Why? They are addressed specifically to us and they seal or affirm our relationship with the sender. God doesn’t show His affections for us solely through nature or the universe; He wants His intentions to be unmistakably known. He wants us to know that He loves us and is for us.
So, how can we read the Bible and enjoy it?
- I attempt to read the Bible through each year. Find a good reading plan. There are tons of them out there. Many people seem to like the One Year Bible.
- If you’re new to the Bible, I’d also suggest a companion book, What the Bible is All About, by Henrietta Mears. Mears will help you see the big picture and show the common threads woven through the Bible’s assemblage of books.
- Highlight or journal the scriptures that speak to you. Meditate, memorize and see how God’s word will penetrate and transform your life.
- Or highlight the verses you don’t understand yet. Don’t get stuck or discouraged about something that doesn’t make sense. But don’t stop questioning the Bible’s meaning either. This will lead you into Bible studies, which are different from just casual reading.
- Use a translation you like or easily understand. For reading, you might use a paraphrased version and for Bible study a more accurate translation.
- Occasionally, put the reading aside and listen to the Bible on audio. Sometimes when using another sense, you might discover something you’ve been overlooking.
- Get others involved. Challenge your family or small group to read through the Bible with you. My daughter just finished reading the Bible and what amazing discussions that has generated.
- The longer you read the Bible and delve into it, the more you will see the common themes running through it. It just keeps getting better, so hang in there.
Many of you already know the importance of getting grounded in the Bible, but I hope I’ve left the impression that God wants us to find joy through reading His word. I love these words from Psalm 19:7,8:
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
What about you? How do you enjoy spending time with God’s Word? What do you recommend that will help the Scriptures get into us?