The Bible and Christians should go hand in hand. They should but the reality, certainly in my own life, is that they often don’t. The Bible is rightly described in Hebrews (one of the books) as “alive and active”. It’s there to be delved into, read, re-read, studied, shared, enjoyed and most importantly to be life changing. So often it’s placed prominently on the bookshelf but in time actual time read it’s much lower down the pecking order than the latest thriller, a cheesy but easy holiday rom-com or a huge repertoire of books explaining parts of faith and the Bible which although are often brilliant, wise and helpful- are interpreted by someone else.
The Bible is big and there are SO many pages. Some parts are easier to understand like the stories Jesus told or proverbs with fairly straightforward instructions on how to live. There are also CRAZY stories like this..“Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.” Yuk. Not only is it pretty violent in places, there are lists, and lists and lists of genealogies and family trees and WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW THIS??
There are some apparent contradictions and horrible things that have happened and sometimes God seems really, really mean. Some books are more depressing than the Channel 4 news. I so wish I could pick up the Bible and read it non-stop but it is a pretty tough read.
So what’s happened is I and so many others have become devotional dependants. A devotion is where a writer will choose one or two verses then write a blurb about it. They are often absolutely brilliant. They allow the Bible to come alive with examples of how other people have it into practice. They are quick to read, thought provoking and easy to digest. I have 3 that (on a good run) I read most days and definitely benefit from reading them. I enjoy the perspective that someone else brings to a verse shared and the simple challenge they give to how it will impact my life that day. I love a devotion and although I love my Bible it’s not been given nearly enough attention in recent years.
I’ve been a Mum of kids who don’t sleep for 8.5 years now. They’re up through the night and they’re up early. Like really early. I know some people are good and will set their alarms an hour before the kids get up. I tried setting my alarm for 5am once and one of the kids woke at 4.45am so I took it as a sign and sacked it off. I’ve been exhausted and have needed to be drip fed for a long time and that’s ok. It’s kept me going and I am so grateful to the people who have properly read and studied the Bible for years and years to provide me with nuggets of gold to help me.
I’m not particularly academic and I am not a skim reader so ploughing through pages of Old Testament law isn’t nearly as attractive as picking up an easy to read book about faith by a witty, insightful, American, 40 something. But recently I’ve felt challenged by God to really study his living and active word. Not just look up the stories that I know and love, not just read one verse at a time, not just read other’s interpretation of it but to properly study and go through whole books (there are 66) and in time the whole Bible.
So many times before I’ve tried to really study the Bible. I’ve signed up to (and never completed) online courses and reading plans. I’ve downloaded countless Bible in a year apps and got piles of paper and journals started with good intentions but never completed. I don’t want to just list all the bad stuff and excuses but as the name of my blog suggests, I want to be real and honest about where I am and have been in the hope that we might encourage one another to grow in faith. I grew up with parents who study the Bible daily and have seen the profound impact it has had on them and on me. I can recount so much of the Bible because of the upbringing I had and I want to pass the same to my kids.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is something I very regularly say to my kids and what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks. I’ve carried on with my daily devotional reading but I’ve been trying to set aside a few hours a week to sit and study. It’s nerve-wracking writing this all down in a public forum in case I don’t keep it going but it’s what I, and maybe you have to do. If you’re sat there nodding in agreement then try again. Try a different method of study. Start a group to be accountable. Download another plan. Buy a new notepad or a journaling Bible. Do whatever but just try, try again.
This time I have bought a huge Pukka Pad. I’m reading (by reading I mean listening to the audio Bible) and then writing down the headlines of each chapter. Then I write down a learning lesson (something I can apply to my life). Sometimes I have to think quite hard but out of all the chapters from various books I’ve dipped into so far I’ve yet to not write a learning lesson from each.
I have learnt profound things. Even though I have known the stories and read them before, I have seen something new. I have been reminded of promises God has given me in the past. I have been reminded of the importance of patience and choosing to trust God, long-term. Most importantly it has grown my faith in Jesus, his goodness and the future (Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1).
I’m not sure if it’s because Bible study is on my agenda (like when you get a new car and suddenly everyone’s driving that car) but it seems to me like God is speaking to many Christians about this at the moment. I mean, he is always speaking about this. It’s reiterated over and over in the Bible. But lots of things I’m reading, conversations I’m having and even our current series at church seem to be about the importance of really getting into the Bible, and through it seeing God do some serious work.
So if you’re and old hat at Bible study, well done. Please continue sharing it with others and retelling what you’ve read. If you’re a “I wish I studied the Bible more” type then try again. Set aside some time over the next few weeks to study a particular book. And if you’ve never read the Bible then give it a try. The key may well be to not start at the beginning but to start elsewhere. This blog gives helpful advice on where to begin.
The Bible IS the alive and active and has the power to change us significantly, profoundly and eternally. And if at first you don’t succeed, you know what to do.