Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Blowing Dust Off The Bible

Recently I was considering a friend's comments about the need for "solid convictions" and a creed to live by. What came to my mind first was that believing the Bible is the Word of God, and that Jesus Christ is Who He says He is, are two very solid convictions upon which to build our lives. "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." [I Corinthians 3:11 NKJ] Jesus Himself said that hearing and obeying His words is like building a house on solid rock. [Matthew 7:24-27 & Luke 6:47-49]

After that conversation, I had a mental image of a person blowing dust off a Bible. It was a good-sized Bible, leather-bound and well-worn, which spoke to me of someone who was not new to reading the Word and had perhaps carried their Bible to church or elsewhere many times in the past. This Bible also had a small flimsy lock on it, like you would see on a little girl's diary - not much of a barrier, not even fully closed - it was something easily opened. That lock reminded me of the phrase "treasures of God's heart," and also something I'd heard Bill Johnson teach, that "God doesn't hide things from us, He hides things for us." Like a parent who doesn't try too hard to conceal himself when playing hide-and-seek with a young child, our heavenly Father enjoys us and wants us to enjoy discovering Him through His Word.

As I thought about this picture for a few days, part of the meaning seemed obvious, while other interpretations seemed to develop over time (like a photo in a darkroom). For example, if your Bible is gathering dust, well, you might take this as a message to pick it up again - that would seem somewhat obvious. However, I also remember hearing a Texas preacher say, "We've been accustomed to reading the Bible like it's an old, old book that ain't hardly so" and we need to stop doing that! I sense that, if God was speaking to me through that "mental picture," He might be encouraging more than just reading the Bible more regularly - perhaps He is also inviting us to allow Him to renew the scriptures for us, to unlock the treasures of His Word in a fresh way.

A few of my own Bible reading experiences are described below. It's not a checklist of things to do - I simply hope that one or more of these thoughts may inspire or "blow dust off the Bible" for some of you:

A Time and Place
Someone told me that if you will make a time and place to meet with God, He will always show up. Like many of us, I like a cup of coffee (espresso) to help me wake up in the morning. I used to stop by my local Starbucks for a favorite concoction before work, timing that trip so I could spend about 10 to 20 minutes reading the Bible over a latte before I continued on to the office. Now I have a little espresso-maker at home, so I can settle into my recliner and spend up to an hour with God's Word while I'm still waking up. I never used to be "a morning person," but over the years this has become my favorite time of day. I also used to have trouble "settling down" before going to sleep at night, and I find that a little evening time in the scriptures brings peace.

A Fresh Perspective
Having read the Bible daily for about 28 years, I find I'm tempted to skim too quickly over scriptures I "already know" because I've read them so many times before. Slowing down (of course) or picking up a different translation of the Bible can help me "blow the dust off" so I read with a more open mind and heart. I like the New International Version and New Living Translation for clear and understandable language, and The Message paraphrase often gives a fresh perspective on familiar passages. Sometimes I enjoy reading the introductions to each book to get a sense of when, where, why, who wrote those chapters, etc. While I don't like to over-intellectualize, it certainly adds greater depth of understanding to consider more than a few verses taken out of context!

A Balanced Plan
As for a greater sense of the whole... how many of us have determined to "read the Bible in a year," starting with an ambitious reading plan in January, only to get bogged down in Leviticus or Numbers? For several years, I enjoyed reading the One Year Bible in New Living Translation. Daily readings include Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms & Proverbs - so I got a sense of the sequential flow of each book, with enough variety each day that I didn't get "stuck" and give up too soon. During the first year, I fell in love with God's Word like never before - as Gloria Copeland has said, what we give our attention to will determine our hunger. In fact, I so enjoyed having read the entire Bible that I continued to read this way daily for 5 or 6 years in a row. Once I'd read cover-to-cover the first time, I no longer felt pressured to "get it done" - I was able to slow down and meditate more thoroughly, sometimes taking 3 or 4 days to finish a "daily assignment." It's more important to allow God to speak to us through His Word than to simply "finish the book," so most Bible-reading plans allow the reader to take 2 or even 3 years to finish if necessary. Nowadays my plan is even more simple: morning & evening, I read wherever I feel inspired to read, usually at least one chapter (about a page) each day.

“You are what you eat” In Matthew 4:4, Jesus overcame temptation by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." As surely as physical food nourishes our bodies, scripture feeds our spirits or "inner man"; and what we ate last week or last year isn't likely to sustain us now - we need to eat pretty much every day. Both Ezekiel (ch.3) and the apostle John (Revelation 10) were told to eat a scroll that tasted like honey, and then go prophesy to others. As food builds cells in our bodies, consuming God's Word so that it becomes part of us builds strength into our spirits so we express God's truth in our thoughts, words and actions.

Reading with a Friend This might be the most important point of all: since the Greek word "pneuma" means both breath and spirit, it seems to me that Holy Spirit Himself might want to "blow the dust off" by revealing God's truth as we read prayerfully with Him. In John 15:15, Jesus defines our relationship as "friends" in terms of sharing with us what He learned from the Father. In John 16:13-15, He promises the Holy Spirit will guide us into "all truth" which proceeds from the Father and Jesus. John 14:16-17 says that the Spirit of truth will be in us and with us forever - what a faithful Friend! So why read the Bible as if we were orphans [v. 18] who have to figure it all out for ourselves? Let's pray and ask Him to reveal what He wants to say to us, and let's not be afraid to ask Him honest questions as we read - the Bible is God's love letter to us, after all.

Take It With You
Not only do I usually have a Bible with me (in my car, suitcase, kitchen or bedside table), but - as mentioned above - Jesus taught that hearing and doing the Word of God is what builds a solid foundation for our lives. James 1:25 (see below) likens reading the scriptures to looking at ourselves in a mirror - do we remember our true identity and live God's truth continually as we go out to work and play in the world around us?

In closing, I thought I'd let a few scripture verses speak for (and about) themselves:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV

"For the Word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are." Hebrews 4:12 NLT

"But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." James 1:25 NKJ

"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward." Psalm 19:7-11 NIV

"I run in the path of your commands, for your have set my heart free." Psalm 119:32 NIV

1 comment:

  1. As usual Gina, thank you for your words of encouragement. "His word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." I use public transportation a lot and I use that time to do most of my reading and reflection.