Thursday, October 20, 2005

How to Approach Reading the Bible (Part 3)

5. Read the Bible like a story book, not a cookbook.
What I mean by this is that our lives are stories, not recipes. We have a tendency to want to make everything simple. We want to read about three easy steps to health, wealth and success in life – add a cup of this and a pinch of that and presto! – the results you wanted. But the stories aren’t like that in the Bible and they aren’t like that in our lives either.

Have you noticed? Marriages don’t always work. Children don’t always turn out the way you planned. We don’t always get the perfect job that solves all of our financial problems. But what’s true of every story in the Bible is that God is there. God is there in the midst of the pain and the problems. And God wants us to know that that can be our story too. If we will start to acknowledge God in our presence then our circumstances may not change but our sense of turmoil will. With our hand in God’s hand, suddenly life is not so threatening and we can see more clearly and breathe more easily.

Let the Bible conquer you instead of you trying to conquer it.
Part of approaching the Bible with humility is understanding that no matter how much you read or how much you know, it will always be bigger than you are. You can’t master the Bible like you can some other book. The Bible is too deep to master. So rather than try to master the Bible, why not let it master you? Let it transform you by doing what it says and not just reading what it says. I bet there are a lot of people in Bible schools and seminaries today who have the wrong motivation in their study. They want to become “experts of the Bible” but God is simply calling them to become “experts at life” and wants them to read the Bible as their guidebook.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

How to Approach Reading the Bible (Part 2)

I make attempts at playing golf. People in the know tell me that how you approach the ball has alot to do with how well you will hit it. I'm not talking about how you walk up to the ball but how you position your body in relation to the ball...the distance between you and the ball, where the ball is in relation to your left or right foot, your posture, etc.

I think the same can be said about approaching the Bible. What you get out of it has a lot to do with the attitudes that you bring to it. Here are my next two points (out of ten)...

Read for quality, not quantity.
I think it’s great when people get ambitious and decide to read the whole Bible in a year. Or they decide to read a chapter a day. That can be good to give you the big picture of what’s going on. But it can also make you miss the point of why you are reading the Bible in the first place. Our goal is to hear from God so don’t be afraid to just read a few words or sentences and meditate on them until they become relevant to your life. Let the words be a mirror, giving you insight into your own heart and then ask God what he wants to tell you about what you see. (Hint: God's voice is encouraging, not condemning.)

Read for questions, not just answers.
Some times people say things like: The Bible will answer all your questions about God and life. No it won’t. If it could then it would only prove that either the Bible is false or God doesn’t exist! Nothing can answer all your questions about God because God is too big to be reduced to words. So, when you read the Bible, expect to have questions and don’t worry if you don’t get them answered right away. Questions stimulate us to want to know more about God while too many answers tend to make us think that we’ve got God all figured out.

part three to follow...

Monday, October 17, 2005

How to Approach Reading the Bible

The Bible has taken a lot of flack over the years for not being all that people have made it out to be but I think it's greatest claim to truth is how it speaks to an individuals heart. You see, the Bible is a book of stories, stories of people who walk with God or without God. When we compare our story to these stories we often find our heart resonating. We go "Hey, this happened 3,000 years ago but it's happening in my life today in the same way." That's because we are all human and as humans we share a lot of things in common. This resonance gives the Bible a lot of credibility to me and I think it will to you too if you just read it.

I shared seven examples of how the Bible rings true to me in my message yesterday, Can the Bible Help Me To Find Faith? I'll let you click the link to read about that but I'll share here, Ten Ways to Approach Reading the Bible, also in my sermon (loosely adapted from Brian McLaren's book Adventures in Missing the Point).

1. Come with an open mind and a humble heart.
Too often people come to the Bible with an attitude of unbelief or an agenda to prove. They come doubting everything or just wanting to justify what they already believe. But you need to check all that at the door and simply ask God to show you what is true. You can’t hear from God when you’ve got earplugs in! So come like an innocent child with fresh ears to hear what God has to say to you.

Understand and appreciate the literature forms.
This has to do with interpreting the Bible literally versus figuratively. Some times we are supposed to take the Bible literally and you need to learn when that is. Other times you need to take it figuratively so you need to understand the cues to know which is which. You see, the Bible uses a variety of ways to communicate its message. Some times it uses poetry, some times it tells a story, and sometimes it just gives commands. Sometimes the writer exaggerates to make his point. Some times he uses understatement or even sarcasm. So just be aware of these styles when you read.

more points to come...