Christianity is all about being honest, and if most of us were honest with one another — say, about reading the Bible — more of us than we think would have conversations like this:
“I know I should read the Bible, but I really don’t. It bores me. It’s too hard to read.
“But I do listen to the sermon every Sunday.
“And I have a devotional that gives me a verse or two at the top, and then explains it. I do that, and it’s okay.
“Do you think God’s mad at me?”
He’s Not Mad at Us
We spend a lot of time worrying about if God is mad at us. In a Father/Child relationship on earth, this would be considered dysfunctional, but within Christianity, it is the unfortunate norm.
No, God isn’t mad at you because you don’t read the Bible, but He does want you to read it for the simple reason that you can’t know who He is and what He’s like unless you get to know Him through this Book He gave us. If you’re not into reading it on a regular basis, let’s make it easier:
Get Your Sleep
1) You don’t have to get up at 4 a.m. I know, I know, we’re “supposed” to set aside a designated Quiet Time, but if that hasn’t worked for you by now, then it probably never will. That’s not how you operate.
Me? I sit down and just read the thing, generally at night, usually with people milling about the room. We’re all quietly reading or writing or drawing or doing homework. Without my arranging it this way, an evening reading of the Bible has become part of my life, simply because I haven’t made a big deal out of it.
It’s a Book
2) Just read it. Once you mention “Bible Study,” people will foist all sorts of books on you instructing you how to do this inductively, or deductively, or whatever -ely they come up with. While you may choose, someday, to sit down with notebook and highlighter and markers and do all sorts of cross referencing and note-taking, this is not someday.
Yes, it’s important to grow and study Scripture deeply, but if you don’t even start because the process sounds too difficult and time-consuming, then the end result is that you’re not reading the Bible at all.
Pick a book, any book, preferably one that is fairly straightforward and easy to read: Genesis, for example, reads like a story, while Isaiah, or Job, are filled with poetry and symbolism — a bit more difficult, that. Start, literally, at the beginning and read Genesis, as if you were reading a story. Then move on to Exodus as the story continues, and feel free to skip past all the instructions for building a tent-style tabernacle. Jump around. It’s not a sin.
3) A Study Bible is nice — one with notes below and introductions to the individual books, giving you an idea of when the action took place and where, who wrote the book, and why. Cross referencing verses take you to passages that relate to one another.
Try to avoid Bibles with notes and commentary written by a single (or multiple, actually) celebrity Christian, since you’ll effectively be learning from one man’s (or woman’s) perspective, and that’s never been God’s intention. And even when the notes are written by a composite team (I use the 1985 New International Study Bible), remember that while the Bible is inerrant, the notes are not.
Archaic, or Contemporary?
4) Speaking of Bibles, get something you can understand. There are many people out there who swear by the King James Version, but I’m not one of them. My daily e-mail features a Bible verse in KJV, and most of the time I have to look up the verse in my NIV to figure out what is being said.
I don’t speak, or write, in thees and thous, and faced with a Book full of them, I wouldn’t read it either. At the same time, the KJV comes highly recommended for its accuracy to the original, which is more than can be said for new, cool editions replacing God the Father and Jesus the Son with gender-neutral and politically correct language in the name of making the book “easier to read.”
To some extent, the Bible will never be “easier to read,” and if you dumb it down to the third grade level, you will lose nuances, meaning, and accuracy. In your average bookstore, you’ll find a wide variety of versions. Spend a little time with each version’s introduction, researching who put it together, and, as in item 3, stay away from products with a celebrity Christian on the front.
It’s Not All About You, or Me
5) Don’t worry about applying everything you read to your personal life. While the Bible is our guide to living, not every single verse is applicable to your life and situation, and if you only read it to find these verses, you’ll miss a lot.
Read the history in the Old Testament; steep yourself in the language of the Psalms; listen, truly listen to Jesus’ words in the Gospels. What you need will come back to you when you need it.
It’s True. Really.
6) Blow your mind. Approach the Bible with this thought: “This stuff is true. It’s not symbolic, it’s not a bunch of stories, it’s not incompatible with real life, because it is real life.”
The historical elements in the Bible — the parting of the Red Sea, Elijah raising the widow’s son from the dead, Jesus feeding 5,000 people — really happened, and for many of these miracles, there is not natural explanation other than that they are miracles.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to read the Bible, and when we’re stuck on that thought, we move nowhere, and read nothing. Do what works for you, but do something.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage believers to seek God, and not worry about other people’s methods for doing so. God’s ear is inclined to our cry, and He’s not the one making everything so difficult.
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