I have owned many Bibles throughout my life. Leather bound, hard cover, Study Bibles, Thinline. But one thing I have found is that every Bible falls apart. Sometimes the binding breaks apart, dropping out the whole book. Other times it has been a slow process. First losing Revelation – which makes the New Testament shorter and easier to understand. But soon the epistles leave and Exodus earns its name. I have duct-taped Bibles. I have bought Bible covers to hold the pages together.
I am sure part of this is a conspiracy by the Bible makers. An effort to get us to buy more bibles. And when you look at the price, I have often wondered how God will react when Bible makers arrive in heaven. Profiting off scripture may be a table turning moment …
But I also wonder if Bible makers are really concerned with making books meant to be reread and reread. Any book on my shelf would probably fall apart if read daily. And the Bible, it seems, is not made to be different. But shouldn’t it be?
Reading the Bible is not difficult, but it can feel daunting. The stories are different than our normal life. The book is set up unlike any written today – by the very fact that it is actually many books billed as one book. Added to this is the pressure of spiritual experience, life transformation that is supposed to occur when we read the Bible… And so many Christians never discover the inadequacies of the Bible publishers – because Bibles last a long time sitting on the shelf.
But, as I wrote, reading the Bible is not difficult. So here are some keys that will help you not be intimidated:
1. Pastors, speakers, missionaries, etc will talk about deep encounters with God as they read the scripture. And these moments are true. But they are not always the norm – even for these leaders. As with anything, we share about the times the scriptures opened up and impacted our lives. We do not mention the day before when scripture, sometimes the same passage, left us confused.
2. Scripture requires imagination. This is true of any book – we read watching through our mind’s eye. But it is essential with scripture. When reading the narratives (like the Gospels) we need to imagine ourselves in the story. And do not imagine yourself just as the good characters – we become the pharisees, disciples, sick, but also as Jesus (He is what our life should become!). When reading a letter (like Romans) we should imagine it was sent to our church. This is the first stage of imagination – to envision ourselves in the pages of the Bible. The second stage is to take the stories and imagine them as our current life. How can we apply them to our lives today? How could we live the story today? (This is key, the Bible is not a book of knowledge, but life change. Apply the passage to your life!)
3. Always read scripture over and against your personal life. If you are reading scripture and constantly seeing how other people should change… well, you have missed the main point. Scripture will first call you to change. It is very rare that God delivers something for someone else. Much more often I am called to change, and then I realize others may need to hear the same message.
4. Start in the New Testament, because that is the fulfillment of the Salvation Story. The scripture is God’s message to us. His message to tell the story of our salvation. Jesus is the key to interpreting everything!
I could write a thousand more things – there are books to fill libraries just about the Bible. I could talk about history and context and … but in the end none of that matters. As I wrote, the Bible is His story, so He holds the true interpretation. Read the book asking Him to reveal truth. Go read consistently, pray constantly for understanding and He will honor your faithfulness.
Slowly, as you read day by day, the Bible will open up before you. Somedays will be confusing. But another day will bring a word that stops you in your tracks. That changes your life’s course. The day after that may be back to questions. But all the while God will be drawing you down the path of salvation.
Then, if you find your Bible binding breaking, you can know are on the right course.