I Can Read the Bible
I have a saying that applies to many things in life and faith. It goes like this,
'It's better to start small than not at all.'
This is so true when it comes to reading the bible. I remember one of the first times I tried reading The Book. I started right at the beginning and was bored stiff in about 15 minutes (sorry I said that Lord). Every time I ever tried to start reading, it was at or near the beginning of the Bible.
For me, that was a horrible place to start. The chapters just became a jumbled combination of meaningless words and I just couldn't relate, especially to some of the stories, laws, lists and rules. It made me walk away every time and I wouldn't be surprised if that hasn't happened to some of you.
Well, if you look back at my previous post titled "I Can't Read the Bible", you'll see that the first book I ever read was Philippians, which is in the New Testament (NT). Now what I am about to say is coming from someone that really struggled with reading the bible and who finally found a way to make it a part of his life.
Try starting in the NT. That statement comes with a disclaimer. I am in no way telling you not to read the Old Testament (OT), because it is all God's word and I have to tell you that I have started to venture more into the OT and it's getting better. I loved the book of Job and Genesis and Exodus were much easier to follow.
Get a version that's easy to read, or has more modern wording. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is what I started in and is what I read most at home. I really like it. Others which are easier to read include the Good News Bible (GNB), which is my phone's bible app, (you have to get a bible app., they're awesome), the New International Version (NIV), the New Living Translation (NLT) and The Message, which has the most up to date language I've read, is way different from "your parents bible" and is my bedside bible of choice, just to change things up. These versions are much more palatable, I believe, especially for someone new to The Book, or someone like me that struggled to get through one chapter. Getting back to my point of starting small.
Read some of Paul's letters, many of which are only a few chapters and maybe just a chapter or two at first. Don't be surprised if after a few ventures into Paul's letters, you start reading more than a chapter or two. His words are so inspiring, encouraging, heartwarming and at times, challenging. On a quick sidebar, if you want challenging, read the book of James, which is another short book that I have read countless times.
Any way, getting back to Paul's words. They truly spoke to me in a way that I've never experienced. I was enjoying his letters so much, I actually took my bible to my mechanics garage one day and read Romans (which by the way, might be my fave book) while my car was being repaired. I also planned ahead of time to read Hebrews on my flight to Florida a few weeks ago. If I was told some day I'd be doing stuff like that, I would have laughed right in your face, but I believe that's what the word of God does to us. It changes us in a way we never expected, in a way we never saw coming and in a way that can turn things upside down, in an amazingly good way.
I started journaling during and after I read certain books and still do so now, or I just write directly in my bible. Many times before I read, I ask God for His guidance and that He might reveal to me whatever it is that He wants me to see. Just be careful with that prayer. It has been a real eye opener at times and extremely challenging as well, but it has also brought me to some of the most peaceful and joyful times of my life.
God's word changed me in a way I have a hard time describing or even putting into words and it most definitely changed the way I live my life, though I still have my own personal struggles.
I ask that you give this a try. And if you need some support, talk with someone you know who regularly reads the bible, or your minister, or you can write back to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you and all correspondence will be kept in confidence. You can also comment on this post or any others right here on this site. I am praying right now for any of you that are going to try this and will be placing you on my personal prayer list.
I hope that His word will truly reach out and grab you, touch your heart, pull you in and never let you go!!
Question of the Day: Where will you start?
Here are seven reasons I came up with for not reading the bible.
The Short Version. I have to backtrack and give you the shortened Christian time table of my life. I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools for 12 years and for the most part, hardly ever missed church. Before I say anything else, I want to make it clear that I am in no way bashing the Catholic church. In fact, being raised Catholic was what kept me out of trouble, for the most part, into my early 20's, not to mention an amazing Mother and four loving sisters. My early church upbringing and my family taught me right from wrong in the most basic and important of ways, as well as things like compassion, humility and loving others. They were also my moral compass.
Any way, looking back now some 25 plus years later, I realized that the bible was never a focal part of any portion of my life. Whether that was in church, in my schooling, or at home. I fault nobody for that, I think that's just the way it was and it really wasn't a big deal to me. Then Wendy brought me to our church in 1986. And though I attended adult Sunday School, taught 4th and 5th grade Sunday School with Wendy for years and even adult classes on and off, I was still a non-bible reader. I really only read the bible when I needed to lead a lesson, but otherwise, I just didn't read it. That's sort of embarrassing to say, but I want you to know exactly where I was in my life at that time and let you know that if any of you are in a similar place, it's possible to change your situation. That is, if you desire to make that change.
How did I become a bible reader? How do I now write about something I never wanted to read? Well, I'm going to try to tell you my story in an extremely condensed version.
I will be 52 in July and up until I was nearly 48, I was still standing pat with my I don't read the bible attitude. Then one day I was in the church office and saw some Upper Room devotional booklets. I don't know why I grabbed one, but I did. When I got home, I found a bible with about six inches of dust on it (just joking) and placed it on the nightstand next to my bed with the Upper Room booklet. That night I read the devotional and the bible passage that went with it and I don't remember it doing anything for me, but since it only took a few minutes, I did it the next night and continued to stay with it.
Then a few weeks later, the devotional passage for that day was from the 4th chapter of Philippians. After I read it, I just felt different inside. It's hard to explain, but it made me want more. I went back and read the entire book of Philippians, which is by no means an amazing task, due to it being only four chapters, but for me it was a huge step, as I actually read my first book EVER in the bible in one sitting, from start to finish.
From then on, I was hooked. I actually was reading two different devotionals a night and eventually read other short books of the bible as well. Then I realized that almost everything I was reading was a letter from Paul. His words were the words that finally reached out and touched me. I could understand the bible for the first time. Granted, not all of it. Not nearly all of it, but some of it. It was an extremely liberating feeling and one that truly lit a fire inside me.
I have never looked back since. I still have difficulty with the OT, but instead of using that as an excuse to not read the bible, I stayed with things that related more to me and it worked. There's a lot more to the story, including bible study group and lengthy bible conversations with some friends, but that's for another day.
So now what? Do I go into a long dissertation about reading the bible? Do I tell you how wrong I was and how wrong you are if you don't start reading? Do I come off sounding holier than thou? No way!!!! I want you to come to The Book, not make you run away from it, therefore, I am going to lay something out that worked for me and ask that you give it a whirl. If it doesn't work, that's OK, it won't require much time or effort and in the meantime, reading a few bible passages can't hurt, right? That's all for now. I'll be posting my follow up soon titled, "I Can Read the Bible".
As Christmas gets closer and closer, stress levels for many get higher and higher. The list of things that stress people out at this time of the year are mind boggling, therefore, I am not about to list them because our minds tend to get "boggled" enough just with every day stuff. However, I am going to touch on one of the "biggies" and that is, what in the world am I going to buy for _____________? You fill in the person's name.
Well, I am going to relieve some of that holiday stress and give your bank account a break all at the same time. I have the perfect gift to give someone this year and it's extremely inexpensive. Sit down and write a letter to someone that has played an important part in shaping any aspect of your life. Maybe it's someone that influenced you to succeed in your chosen profession. Maybe it's someone that turned your life around when you were younger and made you realize you were special, you did matter and you could do anything. It might be your parents, or your significant other, or even that person who caused you to truly see the light and opened up your eyes to all that God and Jesus want to give to you. It could be anyone and be pertinent to anything in your life. I am positive that almost everyone of you already has someone in mind as you read this. This is a practice I started a few years ago and though it is most definitely a work in process, I continue to try to improve. In fact, when I spoke in church a few weeks ago, that was sort of a little thank you letter to so many of you in the church that helped bring me to where I am today in my faith. Except I didn't get to send it to you, I had to read it out loud. Send yours for now and just trust me on that.
I'm going to tell you a short (hopefully) story and in doing so, it will end up being one of my letters to someone. As I wrote this, I started thinking about the many who brought me along in my faith, well maybe brought isn't the correct word, it was more like pulled, dragged and pushed. It's easy to remember those most recent, especially as I get older and my memory gets worse by the minute. What I really did was look back. I thought of my Mom first, then my sisters, followed up by my upbringing in the Catholic church, but when I got into my late teens and early 20's, I started drifting away, even though I still attended church, which was really about all I did. I could honestly say that at times, I walked around with a little chip on my shoulder and had that "the whole world has it out for me" mentality. I wasn't always like that, but definitely had my days. I could be a little bit of a hard?ss (hope I can sort of say that word in a church blog). Around that time is when I met Wendy. Always happy, never in a bad mood and pretty much liked everyone. As we started dating and into our married life, she corrected me often, as a "good wife" does. Many of the things she let up on, as did I with her, as we began to figure each other out, but one thing she never let up on was those times when I acted like a tough guy, or a hard?ss, or give it any name you want. She was relentless, always telling me I was wrong when I acted like that, even though I didn't think I was and continually doing it until one day I must have finally heard her. That is when I started to change. And as I write this, I now realize that she was the one!!!! The one who really softened up my hardened heart The one who did the prep work. The one who got me ready for that next step. It's exactly what we as Christians are supposed to do. When you see that opportunity. When you hear that call, you have to respond. We have to be always on the ready. We don't know when that opportunity may come, but if we aren't ready, we'll miss it. In life, there will be some who are behind us and some who are ahead of us. Wendy didn't leave me behind, she reached back and pulled me ahead with her until I figured it out and readied me for that next step in my walk. So there's my story and my first letter. I can honestly say that Wendy has never heard that and won't until she reads this post.
So there you go. You now know something bad and good about me and I also gave you an idea of how this letter thing works. Don't wait until tomorrow, or next week, or after Christmas, do it now. I promise you that you won't regret it and the person that will receive the letter will be blessed. It's the season of celebrating the greatest gift any of us will ever receive, Jesus!! And I can't think of a better way of doing so than to reach out to someone and tell them how much they mean to you and how thankful you are to have them in your life.
I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the most spiritually prosperous New Years ever!!
I read something today in a daily email I receive from a Christian web site. It talked of 5 Things That Cause Us To Drift Spiritually. (You can read the entire article HERE)
I have experienced every single one of the things mentioned in that article. #2 really hit home, especially when I look back at the crazy life Wendy and I lived when our kids were at home and "overly active". I also have experienced the other four as well, many times over. One common thread I noticed was this, when things go from bad to worse, don't turn away from God, but run - no sprint - towards Him and don't stop until you get to Him. And once there, do everything in your power to stay there as long as you can!! The better I can get at that, the better things will be in all aspects of my life, whether things are going good or not so good.
Have a great rest of the week. You will be in my prayers.
Dave is the Discipleship Czar at Girard 1st. His unofficial title was given because of his love for Christ, and his consistent encouragement for people in their spiritual walk.