May, 2004: That morning I sat on my back porch, Bible in hand, having just sold a business I had started with a non-believer. A disagreement ended in me selling my half of the company to her, and I had a few months to “find myself” before kicking my new business into high gear.
Going into a business relationship with a non-believer four years earlier, I’d had thought “Shauna, you’re playing with fire,” but at the time, I didn’t know that soft, sure voice was the Holy Spirit. I thought it was simple anxiety over making a life change.
I didn’t take time to talk with Jesus or look to the Bible for guidance. During that time of my life, I went to church and prayed and worshipped, but I wasn’t full-on, sold out for Christ. Having been raised in a Christian family, I was doing the actions I knew to be right. I was not, however, truly seeking Christ in my daily life.
So, sitting on my back porch that spring morning, I held my devotional and my Bible. God was working in me. I had finally made time to get into his presence every morning (and oh how wonderful it is). My kids were pretty much grown, and God had gif
ted me with time to be still and let him work on my heart, mind, and spirit.
Problem was, I didn’t like reading the Bible. Here’s why:
- It was boring hard to understand.
- I already knew all the main characters and good parts.
- I read a devotional and listened to the weekly sermon at church.
- Daddy had made me memorize scripture as a child, so I felt like I knew what the book was about.
The last three points were prideful, and when I realized this, I prayed against pride. The first point was merely a feeling, so I prayed for God to change that feeling in me. I specifically prayed to crave the Bible, to hang on every word, to have eager anticipation for the next time I opened it.
And do you know what? God answered that prayer as he’s answered so many in my lifetime.
I went from begrudgingly reading scripture to having excitement when I woke up, hurrying to get coffee and rushing outside to my reading spot, Bible, journal, and pen in hand. I started Bible journaling – in two ways. I began writing out verses and dissecting them to find deeper meaning, and I purchased an interleaved Bible (it has blank pages) so I could draw, paint, and color depictions of scripture. In those days, I must’ve had five journals ferreted away throughout the house, so I could quickly jot down anything God spoke to my spirit. This is a habit I haven’t given up.
My relationship with Jesus went from good to passionate. My knowledge of scripture, understanding of my life’s purpose, and urge to share the Gospel finally started to gain speed.
Living and Active
If you don’t like reading the Bible, I challenge you to set aside your pride and consider this:
The Word of God is alive. It’s the reader who may be dead.
Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the Word of God is LIVING and ACTIVE, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Focus on the first part of that verse. The Bible is living and active.
How can that be? The Bible is an inanimate, like any history book.
But it’s not.
Before humans developed resources for recording the written word around 1800 BC, the Bible was a series of tales, an oral tradition passed from parents to children in Jewish homes and from rabbis to men in synagogues. Generation after generation, the stories of Moses were spoken before they were chiseled into stone and later written down on papyrus (the ancestor to modern-day paper).
However, the Bible being “alive” is more than the telling of historical events.
There are so many amazing mysteries in the Christian life, one of which is how the scriptures are alive and active. Here’s an example;
Just this week, I read in Acts 9:31: “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria experienced peace and was thus strengthened.” Normally, I’d just count this sentence as part of the story about Paul’s ministry. I’d skim over it.
Not this time. The world is battling COVID-19, business are closing, unemployment is skyrocketing, and nobody knows what’s next. Texas, where I live, has high numbers of people with the virus and as a result, fatalities are on the rise. At the same time, we are smack-dab in the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement as a nation. There are riots and looting and talk of defunding police departments in some cities. These are only two of the many issues the global community and my little town are facing today. It seems that the world is spinning into oblivion. But God has a plan. He knew all these things would happen.
However, when Christians should gather and pray to draw strength from God and one another, not all congregations are meeting. Many churches are closed due to concern over the spread of the novel corona virus. My church is holding services, but attendance is low, we’re all wearing masks, and there’s hand sanitizer at every door.
Gathering in person has transitioned to typing comments in online forums and holding Zoom calls. Christian community is just not the same as it was, and neither are the results. People, believers and non-believers, are stressed, anxious, and scared.
But we can go directly to the source of all good things, the Father of heavenly lights, in prayer and through reading the Bible.
Acts 9:31 took on new meaning for me this week. I read that peace led to strength for the early church. In a time of peace, the church was strengthened. Likewise, during peacetime, families, communities, and nations can grow stronger. We are not currently in a time of peace. What does this mean for the Church, our communities, and our nation?
As I kept reading Acts, I recalled what happened when peace ended. Life became intensely difficult for Christians. In fact, many were killed during Paul’s lifetime and afterward. From being stoned to death to being fed to lions to being burned at the stake, the early Christians endured horrendous times. They were saddened by loss of loved ones and fellow believers. They didn’t know what would come next. They, like us, were scared.
Still, the Word of the Lord prevailed. Christianity spread, and as a follower of Christ, it’s my duty to continue to spread the Good News, regardless of peacetime or war, acceptance or persecution, life or a death sentence.
That one verse in the Bible, one I’d pretty much skimmed over so many times, became a springboard for asking God, what do you want me to learn from this? The Holy Spirit led me through study and meditation to reveal truths to me, mysteries reserved for Christ followers.
Luke 8:10: “And [Jesus] said, “To [YOUR NAME HERE] it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God…”
This is what living and active scripture does. It’s interactive, drawing in Christ-seeking disciples with spiritual knowledge as the Holy Spirit reveals what we need to know for now, right now.
So next time I come across that passage in Acts, I may learn an entirely different lesson.
You may have played that game, Telephone, where you whisper something to a person and what you said is passed, whispered from person to person until the last player says it aloud. Usually, the ending message isn’t what you started with. It’s logical to think that this happened with Moses’ stories, but remember, the Bible is the infallible Word of God. (Infallible means incapable of error.)
2 Timothy 2:16 says: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” (NIV)
If ALL scripture is from God, then what we read now is infallible. It is pure truth. I believe that with all my heart. I do not believe that God has provided misinformation to us in scripture. He tells us exactly what we should know, no more and no less, in the Bible.
People have always injected their humanness into religion, making up laws and rituals that simply are not biblical. The Sanhedrin in Jesus’ day was guilty of this, and some denominations, individual church leaders, and believers are guilty of it today.
As a Christian, to find out what God thinks, you can:
- Listen to sermons told by men and women
- Listen to what Christian men and women say (teachers, mentors, friends)
- Read devotionals and books about the Bible
- Or read the Bible for yourself and pray for understanding
Obviously, the last option is the best. Why take the word of sinful men and women? We are all sinners and we all make mistakes as we grow in faith. Why spend hours reading what other people have learned from the Bible, when you can pick up the Word and experience it for yourself?
Devotionals, books, sermons, and mentors are great resources, but you can and should go directly to the source!
The Bible is the most published book in the world, and in the United States, we’re blessed to have unfettered access to a personal copy – as many copies as we want in a wide range of translations.
Perhaps, like I did, you find the Bible boring. Maybe, like me, you’re prideful and think you know more than you actually do. I promise you that God wants to help you set aside all the junk so you can know him better. All you have to do is to be willing.
Where to Start
Many people ask where to start reading the Bible. I suggest you begin in John, the last of the four Gospels at the beginning of the New Testament. (Matthew, Mark, Luke, then John)
John the Beloved, as we now call him, tells the story of Jesus’ life. His book mentions love 57 times, which is more often than that word is mentioned in all three other Gospels combined. John is the disciple who reclined on Jesus at a meal. He loved the Lord deeply as a friend, a Savior, and his Lord. From the cross, Jesus spoke down to John, asking him to care for his mother, Mary. We can achieve a similar loving relationship with Christ today! You can! But like John, you’ll have to invest time and effort into the relationship.
Because John is the last Gospel, the following book is Acts. This book tells the story of the new church, Paul’s salvation, and the beginning of the spread of Christianity. I love the book of Acts.
The rest of the New Testament is primarily letters from Paul to the larger churches, providing instructions for righteous living. The last book is Revelation, and I do not suggest you read Revelation without a mentor. There’s a lot of symbolism and it is difficult to keep up with what’s being explained.
You can then go back to the beginning, Genesis in the Old Testament.
Another option is to start with a reading plan. Many “Read the Bible in One Year” plans advise reading the New and Old Testaments in tandem, and some plans will take you through the Old Testament in chronological order.
You may also want to know which translation to read. The Bible has many translations, but the meaning of each scripture is consistent across translations. You may have heard of the King James Version (KJV), which uses Old English language, or the New International Version (NIV), which features modern language.
The Message version has modern language but does not use verse numbers, which can be a bit confusing. I prefer the ESV, English Standard Version. My daily Bible is the ESV Study Bible. It has notes that help me understand things like customs and references to Old Testament scriptures in the New Testament.
My best advice is to go to the bookstore, select a Bible you like then go home and start reading. Alternatively, you can download a Bible app on your phone. Keep a journal (digital or paper) handy to record your thoughts – and be sure to date the entries. I write in my Bibles. I make notes during sermons and while I’m reading, so I can build on what I’ve learned as I re-read verses and chapters.
Pray to Want to Read the Bible
Lord, infallible God who breathed all scripture through the mouths and hands of men, through the course of history and into my lap, please give me passion for your holy Word. Open my spiritual eyes and ears to learn what you want to speak to me through the Bible. Reveal to me your mysteries, granting just the perfect amount of knowledge for where I am today. Give me a burning desire for your Word. I want to experience eager anticipation for the next time I can open the Bible and read what you have to tell me.
Lord, I confess my pride and ask for forgiveness. Help me turn from that pride, toward humility. You know all. You’ve given me access to scripture when so many people cannot acquire a personal copy of the Bible, and I’ve taken that for granted. Forgive me for neglecting your grace and your Holy Word, Jesus. Help me make time for you! Please renew in me a right spirit, a humble heart, and a passion for you.
In your precious name, Amen.