Do you read your Bible regularly?


#1

Quick note: Even if this post isn’t for you specifically, if you’ve ever struggled to help other believers get into the Bible, you’ll probably love all the links in this post.


A lack of Bible literacy today

I was just looking at a LifeWay survey that concluded Americans are fond of the Bible, though most don’t actually read it. This isn’t exactly shocking news, of course. I mean, I was wrestling with trying to get church members to read their Bibles back when I was a pastor fifteen years ago.

However, I think it’s a bit unfair to simply ask, “Do you read the Bible?” and never ask, “Has anyone ever taught you how to read your Bible?” After all, reading the Bible isn’t like reading James Patterson or Nora Roberts. The Bible isn’t mere entertainment—it’s not a novel—and so, you can’t approach it like one.

That’s not to say the Bible is any less engaging than George R. R. Martin. I mean, do you honestly think people will be reading the Game of Thrones series in another 2,000 years? And even if they did, do you think they’d find anything new? I doubt it. I think anything that can be said about his books will have been said long before that.

Yet two millennia later (and even longer if you start with the oldest books of the Bible), people are not only studying the Bible, but still discovering mind-blowing revelations in it! Here’s just one example. Yes, this video is a bit long (17 minutes) but if you watch it, I can almost guarantee it’ll totally turn your brain inside-out!

For the record, I showed the above video to a Hebrew scholar friend of mine, and he completely agreed with the interpretation. (He’s never seen those patterns before, but he wholeheartedly agreed with them.) And if that video rocked your socks off, then good news! I’ve actually posted that video before, along with a few others in this post.

You can’t just read it like a novel

Anyway, back to what I was saying… The Bible isn’t a mere book. On the contrary, Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

I especially like this comparison to a double-edged sword, a sword that cuts both ways. Because, yes, even though you can draw much more out of the Bible than you can an easy-to-read, entertaining work of fiction, you have to invest more of yourself into it. For many believers, the Bible isn’t going to immediately open itself up to you. You’re probably gonna have to put in some real effort first.

I suspect many believers who’ve struggled to get into the Bible probably approached it more like a novel and less like a conversation. But that’s needless struggle. Since the Author is always with us whenever we try to read the Bible, we need to avail ourselves of his insight into his own work. I mean this quite literally. Whenever you read a verse that doesn’t click, ask him about it.

Use good Bible resources

But don’t get lazy and insist that he give every answer to you directly when he’s already spoken volumes to other brothers and sisters for your sake. That’s like the joke about the guy who kept praying for God to rescue him from the flood, but drowned because he didn’t recognize the answer to his own prayer.* The whole reason God gives a revelation to any one person is so it will be shared with the whole Body!

What I’m saying is: don’t just struggle through the Bible on your own. Make use of other resources that will help you understand it. Speaking of which, if you want to know one of my favorite resources, check out the videos from The Bible Project. In fact, here’s their series called Introduction to the Bible. If you’ve ever wanted to get into the Bible more, these are a must-watch!

Okay, one more great resource, then I’ll quit. This is one of my favorite books to use as an introduction to the Bible. It’s called 30 Days to Understanding the Bible in 15 Minutes a Day! by Max Anders. In fact, I used to teach a whole series on this book, back when I was a Sunday School teacher.

The Kindle version is only $3 (and, no, you don’t have to buy a Kindle reader to read Kindle books**) and used versions of the print edition are only $2, plus shipping. I’m not sure if the Kindle version is as good as the print or not. There were a lot of illustrations in the print version; I hope they’re in the Kindle version too. But here’s the link for anyone who’s interested.



*Here’s the joke I mentioned above:

A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help.

Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.”

The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s okay, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.”

So the rowboat went on.

Then a motorboat came by. "The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”

To this the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the motorboat went on.

Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”

To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”

To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat, and a helicopter. What more did you expect???”

My point being: If you pray for God to give you insight into the Bible, but don’t ever make use of the insights he gave to other brothers and sisters for your sake, you’re doing the exact same thing as the guy on the rooftop! Instead, use books, videos, podcasts, commentaries, study groups—whatever works—to help you get into the Bible.


**Reading Kindle books without a Kindle Reader

You don’t have to buy a Kindle reader to read Kindle books. Amazon makes free Kindle reader apps for all devices: computers, tablets, and phones. And they make them for iOS, Android, PC, and Mac. You can find all their download options on this page.



Hope you guys found this post helpful. Even if you didn't need these resources for yourself, I hope you'll be able to use them with friends!

:heart:


#2

I do read the Bible regularly, but not following a set “reading program” at this time. I often read or study something because of a question someone else has and I want to try and help them find an answer.


#3

I’ve gone through many different seasons in my Bible reading. At first, I just read it to get familiar with it and to connect with God. During that season, I wasn’t reading anything in any particular order. Through this season, I was able to really familiarize myself with the voice of God. In fact, whenever believers tell me they can’t hear the voice of God, the first question I ask is, “How often do you read the Bible?”

The only reason I can always recognize my wife’s voice across a crowded, noisy room is because I’ve become so intimately familiar with it over the years. How do you hope to recognize when God is talking until you learn what his voice sounds like? That’s exactly what reading the Bible does for us.

Anyway, after this season, I realized I had been reading the Bible for a long time but couldn’t say with any certainty whether I had read the whole thing from cover-to-cover, and I certainly didn’t have a feel for the entire sequence of events. So, I started using various Bible-reading plans and ticking off all the required boxes. This not only helped me learn the stories better, but it helped me see how one story connected to another. This really helped deepen my perspective on the overall narrative of Scripture.

Once I started teaching Bible classes, this led to searching out various resources (like the ones mentioned above) and sometimes taking a more topical approach to my studies. After this, enrolling in seminary led to studying some Bible history, and so on. This led to looking into some long-standing Christian traditions like Lectio Divina and praying the Scriptures, etc. This really helped me learn how to connect with the Presence of God more.

After leaving the institutional church, I didn’t pick up my Bible for awhile. I wanted to, and felt really guilty about not reading it regularly after having made Bible-reading part of my daily routine for so many years. But I think God wanted to free me from feeling guilty whenever I didn’t read it. I think he wanted me to read it because I wanted to read it, y’know?

When that season ended, I spent a long time doing various studies connected to unchurching, and digging into the original Greek, making lots of notes, and other nerdy stuff. This is where a lot of dots started to connect with me. Some of my best insights, and much of the content for my book, was produced through this work.

More recently, I felt a need to get back to basics and only read the red letters. In fact, I actually picked up an ebook that only contains the words of Jesus, nothing else. The older I get and the more I learn, the more I realize it’s all about one thing. One person, actually. And I don’t ever want to lose sight of that.

I’m kinda still in this season, though I often find myself using the Bible for research too. Also, I kinda feel myself gearing up to start writing another book soon, and I know that will definitely color the way I read the Bible for awhile. So, I’m very interested to see where things are going!

I say all this to say: in my long and very rewarding relationship to the Bible, I’ve learned there are many, many ways to relate to the Bible and, consequently, to relate to God through it. That’s why it always breaks my heart whenever I encounter Christians who don’t read their Bibles. They aren’t just missing out on a single kind of experience with God, but a whole world of possible experiences!

That’s why I started this post. Not to shame or guilt, but to inspire. I think we do a good job of telling people they need to read the Bible. And we do a halfway decent job of articulating some of the benefits of reading the Bible. But when it comes to teaching folks how to read their Bibles, our toolkit seems pretty sparse.


#4

I totally agree, @Richard. Some Christians and churches put a burden on people to read every day, and always be reading the Bible, but with very little training about what they are reading and how to read it.

Without some context, the Bible is very confusing. At least for Americans, it’s almost like reading about the culture of an alien race! We have very little in common culturally with the ancient near east, so we miss a lot of nuance in the stories.

I try to remember that ultimate point of the Scripture is Jesus, and within Scripture is the unfolding of the story of Creator and creation, Jesus Christ and His Bride. Understanding this overarching story-within-the-stories has helped me a lot.


#5

Amen. Very well said, my friend. Hey, if you get a chance, check out those Bible Project videos (I shared the link in my original post). I think they’re truly stellar.


#6

To me reading the Bible is like a treasure hunt! I love God’s letter to us. It is alive and relevant for today! One word has the power to change your life, and the Bible has thousands! The King James was my first Bible and I still use it today. I also enjoy the many translations from Living Bible to The Passion Translation! Occasionally I reference commentaries, however I prefer to use them after I’ve studied on my own. I do rely on Holy Spirit as my teacher, for no better reason than He knows how I learn. I also listen to teaching CDs and read lots of books. Sadly, I don’t get to share one on one Or in group settings, except on RARE occasions!


#7

Yes, that’s what I’m talking about, @Ruth_Pfiester! That’s excellent. I wish more believers would dig into the Word. Again, not out of guilt or obligation, but because of all the riches they would discover. Not to mention, we’re just blessed to live in a country where the Bible is legal! For instance, have you seen this video? It literally made me cry.


#8

Excellent stuff. Love the Bible Project YouTube channel. Especially great for new believers who are told to just “start with John and go from there.” How about we start by helping them understand what they’re reading first?!?! :slight_smile: Great resource, thanks!


#9

I just wanted to say “thanks” for posting the video about finding Jesus in Genesis 1:1 above.

Though I am not familiar with that particular video, Charlie & I attended a lecture last fall taught by a couple who are Creation Apologists called “The Signature of God” that covered this little unknown nugget quite well. They later recorded it as an audio/slide presentation (a bit dry due to lack of audience interaction but still very good information). The following is the link to where you can view the presentation, if anyone is interested.


#10

No. I’m in a season where I hardly read it at all. I much prefer to just talk with Jesus directly than read about Him in a book.