April 23, 2014

The Bible Tells Me So

On a hot Saturday afternoon in August, 1973, I attended an outdoor music festival at a Baptist church in Centerville, Ohio. My experience was similar to one C.S. Lewis commented on. When I went there, I wasn’t a Christian. When I went home, I was. My life was changed forever that day. I had begun my journey of faith. And one of the first things I did as I set off on this now 39-year journey was to get a Bible—King James at the time—and began reading it every day. I needed help in understanding it, which I got in a church where Scripture was highly valued and taught at every turn.

Today I still find that time spent reading my Bible is one of the most important things I can do. To me, it is food I choose not to live without. There are times it is fascinating and encouraging. There are times when it is dull and boring. There are times I can’t put it down, and other times it puts me to sleep. It is not a magic book, with pixie dust surrounding it. It is a book, or rather, a collection of sixty six books written over a period of more than a thousand years, encompassing all of human history. But it is above all other books in that the entire thing was God-breathed. The Spirit of God rests in its pages. I cannot explain this. It just is. And when you pick up this book and read it, you can experience this Spirit.

There are many reasons to read the Bible, but only one way that really makes any sense to me, and that is to encounter God. Any other reason does not interest me. If I cannot encounter the Lord in the pages of Scripture, I would rather read Sports Illustrated or watch a movie or pull pine needles out of my gutter. Ok, maybe not that last one. But you get the idea.

Yet it seems many—actually, the majority—of Protestants surveyed recently by Lifeway don’t read their Bibles at all, or at least not on a daily basis. You can read about the survey and its results here. My question for you is this. Do you read the Bible on a daily basis? If so, why do you do so? And if not, why not? This is not a trick question. I really want to know what part Scripture plays in your faith journey.

Your thoughts?

 

 

Comments

  1. I should. But I don’t. I do have a fairly good knowledge of what’s in there. But I should read it more often.

    I guess I am a real sinner.

    • I used to beat myself up for not reading the Bible “enough” (whatever “enough” is), but then I realized how negative approach that was. It’s not necessarily “sin” not to read it, but reading it as frequently as you can is a really good way to discover more about God’s character, truth, and Jesus.

      So Steve, don’t look at it “sinning” (I’m guessing there was a little sarcasm there anyway); encourage yourself to read it for the good it will do you, not the “bad” if you don’t.

    • I always try and approach it as something I get to do, not something I have to do. When there are those times like last week, when I didn’t read it all week, I don’t feel so bad (even though my accountability curriculum says daily reading isn’t optional).

      • I agree with CJ’s assessment that this approach is more freeing, and when I miss a day, or two, or a week, I no longer enter that state of guilt which can be so harmful and actually end up leading one AWAY from reading.

        This is also why I tend to avoid pre-planned daily devotionals, because once I miss a day, or two, or a week, it’s impossible to catch up unless I just plow though the scriptures, and plowing through the scriptures isn’t helpful at all.

    • Good thoughts.

      Thanks you Rick, and CJ.

  2. For years and years, my Bilbe reading consisted of nice sprints of daily Biblical devotion followed by loooooong stretches of not reading it at all. I would beat myself up over and over for not reading enough, get back into a rigorous daily routine of reading a chapter a day, then within 2 weeks get frustrated at not really getting anything out of it and stopping.

    Then one day I was led (I believe by theSpirit) to relax and read short sections at a time, and stay in that section until I got something out of it. I tried it out, reading and re-reading Ephesians 1 for days, just coming back to it over and over without any pressure of feeling I had to read something new every day. It was about the fifth day that a couple of verses leapt out at me and I realized A-ha! This works.

    So now I read almost every day, and I just stay with one section of scripture over and over until the Living Word speaks to me. This really takes the pressure off “goal-oriented” daily devotions, which tend to have no lasting effect with me.

    • This I like a lot!

    • I have a similar reading strategy. When I read, usually about 5 days a week or so, I start off each day with reading a new Psalm. Then I will read a short section over and over again for the week (maybe longer depending on how many days I actually read during the week). Lately I have been reading through Paul’s letters and some of them are short enough where I can read the entire thing without making things into a burden.

      • Also, I read because I do encounter God in the pages of scripture. I have found that this encounter is essential to keeping my Christian life focused on pursuing Jesus and not on pursuing “other” things. It’s a daily reminder of all the blessings that are (and will be) part of the life of the believer.

  3. My wife and I read a few verses or an entire chapter every night after dinner depending on what our daily devotional book tells us to read in relation to that particular day’s message. If we didn’t have the devotional book, I probably wouldn’t read it at all.

  4. Today is my 7 year anniversary when I finally bent my knee to Jesus and said I want to end and You begin. What a ride it’s been! But, personally, I know I’d live without reading the bible, but I wouldn’t live well in every sense of the Word. I’m deeply grateful.

  5. It would be fair to say that in my rocky walk (or should that be stumble) I have found more questions in the Bible than answers. I wonder though if that is not more about me than what i am reading?

    • Matt Purdum says:

      No, it’s true. Despite Mohler, MacArthur, and Piper, the Bible is very unclear about almost everything. I get that God created everything and Christ conquered death. The rest is pretty much a fog.

    • George and Matt – always nice to hear someone else lamenting the same way my own soul does. Thank you.

    • Maybe question asking is more spiritually healthy and a better pathway to God than correct answer collecting. Just look at how much Jesus used well-placed questions to get people to think outside their usual boxes. It was the scribes and Pharisees who went about promoting their pet list of “correct” answers.
      And maybe God and the life He desires for us is more like a new country to be explored and experienced than a body of knowledge to be accumulated.
      So keep on reading and keep on asking questions.

  6. I read it daily. I’m not always happy with how I’ve handled it and I don’t always listen to it as I should, but I read it daily. Since I became a Christian about eight years ago I’ve had a desire to read the Bible and it’s never left me. I know that I need it. This desire to read the Bible was one of the first signs that something had changed in me.

    • I remember that feeling, too, and how I knew I was changed: wanting to read the Bible! Only a crazy man or a changed man would want to do that! The other reason I knew I was changed is when the scriptures actually spoke to me, or scriptures I’d read at some previous time took on a different meaning. The Living Word indeed!

  7. Matt Purdum says:

    After 40 years of study and daily reading, including seminary, I almost never read the Bible any more. I’m burned by biblicism, bibliolotry, proof-texters, and clobber-verse tossers. If I hear 2 Chronicles 7:14 used to refer to the USA one more time, I may get out of control. Daily Bible reading does NOT make people better or more Christlike. It doesn’t even help them understand the Bible better. What it makes them is self-righteous people who think they are experts, and they’re not.

    • Similar experience. As a young (19 years old) man I was apprehended by Christ in a Christian cult group. In the beginning it was strictly orthodox, their discipline involved reading AT LEAST 5 chapters a day, memorizing 1 scripture verse a day (and reviewing previously memorized verses daily) and sitting in bible classes that were almost 100% scripture references (no outside commentaries). This went on for 3 years, so you can imagine how thoroughly I knew the bible. I had memorized around 1000 verses, including whole chapters and 1/2 of the book of Revelation.

      When I was finally delivered from that group I backslid completely, no surprise there, but the Word was still working in me. When I finally rededicated my life to God and began, for the first time, to attend a regular church, I discovered that all of my bible knowledge scared church people. They thought it freakish and leaders looked on my with suspicion. Part of that was because I would, in my brainless, youthful way, correct people when they quoted out of context, used scripture as a magic talisman, or outright misquote verses in their attempts to reinforce their beliefs.

      I was so discouraged that I quit reading and quit quoting. The bible became boring and repetitive. After all, why read a book that held no more surprises and whose words had become shopworn to me, and if people didn’t trust my knowledge then why try at all?

      30 years down the road I STILL do not read daily, but I DO study in a thorough manner, and what I have discovered is that this book is NOT so clear as I had thought! It is filled with ambiguities and questions interspersed with some inspiring truth, and I have come to believe that is because it is all about mankind’s attempt to know who God IS, and how He wants us to live. Any human adventure is colored by time, culture and human frailty and the Bible is no different, but it IS the Word of God to mankind.

      I am no longer one of those “bible only” types, and neither can I understand the Pipers, MacArthurs, et.al., who pontificate and postulate and pass their judgments on others and others’ beliefs. I use their knowledge, read their commentaries but I cannot follow their tightly reasoned doctrines. I can only trust what I feel God is revealing to ME when I study and teach in my Sunday School classes.

      By the way, those 1000 verses I memorized? Mostly lost, but a lot of them STILL come back to me at times when I need them most, usually when I teach, and it never ceases to amaze me.

    • petrushka1611 says:

      This.

      I know of a preacher who at one point had the entire NT memorized, yet his preaching has always been absurdly legalistic, arrogant, and long-winded. The last time I heard him, half his message was about how HE had raised umpteen kids for God and how HE had done this right and how HE had served God faithfully, blah blah blah.

      I’ve known far too many people who read the Bible a LOT and it didn’t make them more of a Christian. I’m one of them. When I was a kid, I’d constantly hear preachers encourage people, especially young people, to read through Proverbs once a month. I read that book 85 times until 1996, which was about when my life started its long spiral down. It didn’t make me a financial wizard. It didn’t make me be an enthusiastic early riser. I still didn’t know what “acknowledging God in all my ways” meant. I was never pointed to Christ in Proverbs, so I took it as a list of moral maxims, and I realized now that, as law, it was helpless.

      God chose the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, not the foolishness of Bible reading. When it’s at its best, preaching is done by someone skilled in the word, and it’s done to take the word and point us to Christ. This is why preaching is encouraged often, and Bible reading in and of itself is barely mentioned in the Bible itself. I don’t regret the Bible reading I’ve done, and I’m glad I am familiar with as much of it as I am, but it had almost no effect on my sanctification, which is complete in and dependent on Christ, not my character that may or may not develop in parallel.

    • I’ll second that. I know a lot of the Bible but I don’t read it daily. I’m convinced after many years that it’s not the quanitty of one’s reading that matters, but the quality. Are we seeking God when we read, or are we seeking our own justification? Are we willing to listen, to humble ourselves, and to accept many things as mysteries beyond our comprehension, or are we looking for an answer book to use as a moral and spiritual bludgeon on those we see as ungodly?

      Too often I’ve seen the latter behaviors. People can read the Bible all day but if the Spirit and the fruits aren’t apparent in their lives, what use is it?

    • Yep yep, same here. Fortunately I didn’t have to put in 40 years, but the grace of God alone. I never read anymore, as I’m not an expert on the Bible and have been trained to mishandle it. I don’t trust myself with it, so I’m happy to let other interpret for me. Guess I’d make a great Catholic…hmmmm…

  8. Reading the bible is a lot like tithing, what is the state of my heart at that moment, is it in a state of habit, a state of religious conviction, or in a state of of a cheerful giver. When I read the Bible I feel that I am not just learning but also giving something back.

  9. I have read regularly for stretches and then not for stretches; at this point I can recall a fair amount by memory, I certainly ponder what I can recall very regularly (which is, IMNSHO, a strong argument for old-school memorization). But these days I find it more frustrating than not. Some commandments are so clear, there is no “fog” – concern for the outcast, sustenance for those in want, comfort for the grieving…. and then I turn on the radio. And it is sickening. Pile on the nauseating patriotic bilge and it is hard not to feel ultimately discouraged.

    It seems everybody is talking about this book – and clearly next to nobody gives a donkey’s crap what it says. Just yesterday I heard a biblical justification for western style rugged individualism… and all I can think is “Huh?!” And there is so much that isn’t clear, almost deliberately vague, but any opportunity to ask or discuss those questions is so extremely rare. One can try online…. but the polemicists and patriots will find you and all coherence discussion will get buried in the flood. Want to discuss violence, how to understand or address violence – and you’ll get attacked by the 2nd amendment. Want to discuss how our society addresses poverty…. and you are attacked as a socialist [and the automatic presumption that that would be a bad thing]. Don’t go anywhere near any issue relating to s-e-x; then you are either a bigot or a prude. Say you find this “trinity” thing confusing and some of the elaborate theological constructs resting on top of it a bit presumptuous… then you are a heretic and should question your salvation [OK, I already do that, which perhaps was kind of the point, do you really never question yours?].

    But Jesus loves you, if you will just lay your burdens down he will bear them for you…. another awesome conversation killer. Don’t worry, just be happy, God loves you, your concerns and questions are not relevant. Yes, you should feel bad about the tormented, the oppressed, the use of coercion, but that’s OK, those things are bad – but don’t get all worked up about them. Jesus loves you. Don’t forget about Jesus.

    It has becomes exhausting.

    Or maybe it just seems like “it seems everybody is talking about this book”. Certainly some talking heads are, and the clergy types are, and the people on sites like this are. But I also have interactions with circles where it is the ultimate in irrelevance. Not only is the Bible irrelevant but everything it discusses is irrelevant, Hope, sin, salvation, justice… a large section of the populace can’t be bothered with such notions beyond a roll of the eyes. And “justice” is a “political” issue, and politics does not interest them [ the notion that there is a "moral" issue is absurd]. Which can be chilling [scary] to hear from a bright and educated person. I struggle to understand how you get to that place, just intellectually, all religion aside. To just not *care*. And religionists shouldn’t kid themselves – there are a LOT of people who are there, especially among the young[er].

    The line from The Lord Of The Rings constantly occurs to me: “it has been so long since we had any hope”. No, I do not mean the capital “HOPE” kind of hope, but the hear-and-now lower-case kind of hope. Which of course will lead someone to tell me I shouldn’t want any hope, that the desire for hope in a fallen world is itself tantamount to sin.

    It isn’t all as bleak as I portray here, but often times it feels that way; it is like training for a marathon when you live in a universe comprised of a single room. That fact saps the motivation for study or meditation.

    • “it is like training for a marathon when you live in a universe comprised of a single room.”

      I like that, Adam. I like your entire comment. There are times when I feel like those people you are talking about that just don’t care about what is in the Bible or what Jesus may or may not have said or done. I get to the point where I just want to think, “Just attempt to be kind. That’s all. Be kind.” But I just can’t seem to let go of Jesus or Jesus of me or something like that. It’s the doctrinal arguing among Christians that I get tired of, I guess. And it bothers me when people use parts of the Bible to torment people. It makes me not want to be a part of being Christian, trying to be Christian, whatever. And then I look at myself and after all these years of reading the Bible, going to church, praying…I really don’t know if I have become any “holier.” Sometimes I can barely stand myself. Sigh…

  10. I’ve never been good at consistent devotionals. When I was a kid I read the Bible multiple times. I think because it was new and I was soaking up information. The more familiar I got with it, though, the less I wanted to read it. Around high school they kept talking about devotions and by then I wasn’t reading the Bible every day, at least not consistently. During college, same thing. Though I was at least trying to read them once in a while. Nowadays I don’t even try to read the Bible. But to be fair, I haven’t had what I’d describe as a spiritual life for the past few years, so I’m sure the two are interrelated.

  11. I don’t read it devotionally, but in fits and starts, usually for big chunks at a time. There are probably big sections (mostly in the prophets) that I’ve never read, and others I read again and again. I wouldn’t draw too sharp a line between the Bible and other literature, though. Not everything in the Bible is holier than everything outside of the Bible.

  12. When I have freedom of schedule, I read a little bit of the Gospel of John each day. (It’s the only one I own in Braille thus far.) When my hearing really cooperates, I sometimes listen to a full book of the Bible through in audio form. And when I can get a few pages in before they go blurry, I read along with my church’s lectionary. But as visual impairment increases, I don’t read the Bible the same way I used to (a book at a time, or a 1/3 of a book for big ones like Isaiah), a few times a week.

    I’m not sure why, but while I can look up specific things I’m looking for on a computer, I’ve never gotten the hang of reading the Bible on one. Maybe that’s just a psychological hangup? I can’t orient myself on the page, and it almost feels like reading another webpage, and the possibility of distraction is endless.

    Either way, I did get the chance to stuff a lot of scripture in my head before my sight started to leave me, and my memory is still serving me well. It’s augmented by orthodox church services steeped in psalms and chanted Bible passages. In the presence of the mental context, I can meditate on just a line or two all day long, or longer sometimes.

    • > I’m not sure why, but while I can look up specific things I’m looking for on a computer, I’ve never
      > gotten the hang of reading the Bible on one. Maybe that’s just a psychological hangup? I can’t
      > orient myself on the page, and it almost feels like reading another webpage, and the possibility
      > of distraction is endless.

      Same here. I work in I.T., and sit in front of big screens all day. But I can’t *read* off a screen, it is harder to track and just doesn’t flow as well. To read I print (aka kill trees). Same is true for them fancy new-fangled devices all the cool kids have now – I prefer a page, it is just easier to focus on a “thing”.

      • I will read a couple pages on the computer at a time, but if anything is longer than that, I want it printed out.

  13. I have recently discovered “Daily Audio Bible”. I have been using the DAB app which I purchased from itunes for .99

    The content is your standard “read through the Bible in a year” with selections from the OT,NT, Psalms, and Proverbs. It usually includes a brief commentary and prayer time. Some days I listen to only the Scripture readings and some days I listen to the entire podcast. The Bible reading section runs about 15 – 18 minutes, the entire daily offering about 30 minutes.

    I have enjoyed just listening and letting the Scripture speak to me. And, because you are listening instead of reading, you can do it in the car or while you are working around the house or taking a walk etc.

    They have a website you can check out..just search for Daily Audio Bible.

  14. I had a very different kind of comment to make, and I didn’t want to lump it in with an answer to your question, this about the study the article is discussing itself. Here is the list of the 8 attributes they were testing for:

    Bible Engagement
    Obeying God and Denying Self
    Serving God and Others
    Sharing Christ
    Exercising Faith
    Seeking God
    Building Relationships
    Unashamed (Transparency)

    Those are all great, and surely are “factors are at work in the lives of believers who are progressing in spiritual maturity”, but how did prayer get left off of there? At best it must be a subcategory somewhere, but its hard to take seriously a list of the most important things that doesn’t include prayer as a top level item.

  15. I had one quibble with this survey — the phrase “not as part of a church worship service” kicks out numerous traditions where communcal reading of the Bible is encouraged.

    Also, it’s implied that “Personal” reading is more preferrable. I’m not sure that’s always the case. Yes, it’s important for a believer, but so is interacting with the scripture on a weekly basis in church — or even midweek Bible Studies or Prayer with other believers.

    This isn’t to excuse myself or others from reading their Bibles, but I think it skews the results. Personally, I read the Bible multiple times a week thanks to BoCP and RCL plans. Sometimes it’s with people, sometimes alone. Both are important.

  16. I don’t read it every day because the bible is mostly really boring and it takes a lot out of me for me to make it interesting. I want to resist reading the bible and immediately asking “how does this apply to my life?” because that question, asked immediately, does violence to the text. And so when I read the bible I tend to read lengthy passages while armed with good commentaries.

    And while I agree that the scriptures are inspired, I am less sure that their inspiration is an innate quality of the text itself. That is, I tend to think of God as inspiring the scriptures again with each fresh read. But I also think of God inspiring other “texts” like novels, paintings, conversations, or trees. And I find that newer texts, with more immediate relevance to the world I inhabit every day, are far less boring. I give special privilege to the scriptures because they are received by the Church in a special way that other texts are not (and are thus affirmed by the believing community), but the world means all around us because all things have been authored.

    I do pray some of the psalms and read snippets of some of the epistles every day because they appear in the Liturgy of the Hours, which I pray every morning.

  17. I have resisted reading the bible for a very long time. Instead, I would read books ABOUT what the bible means by various theologians. Having come from a background immersed in dispensationalism, I no longer trusted my ability to get the true meaning out of the text and constantly came away from reading the New Testament feeling confused by what appeared to me to be contradictions between grace and works. I needed to spend years listening and reading to others, like the White Horse Inn, various Lutheran theologians (thank you, Gerhard Forde and Steven Paulson!) in order to properly distinguish and understand how to apply law and gospel.

    Recently, the thought occurred to me, since faith comes by hearing, I decided I would LISTEN to the bible rather than read it. I can listen to a whole epistle in about 15-25 minutes, and the difference has been astounding. Instead of setting goals to daily trudge through reading one or two chapters, hearing the whole book at one time has been an eye-opener! It has been especially wonderful listening to entire gospels in one sitting. I go to the biblegateway.com site, and listen for free. It also doesn’t hurt that Max McLean does the reading. He is magnificent. I highly recommend to those of you who are reluctant bible readers to try giving it a listen instead.

    • Laura writes that she, “constantly came away from reading the New Testament feeling confused by what appeared to me to be contradictions between grace and works.”

      That has happened to me too, Laura. I think I am understanding the grace thing and then I see a list of types of people that Jesus or the writers of the letters to the churches say will never be in the Kingdom. I read things that indicate we must become very “holy” to be in the Kingdom and then I encounter things that say “Just have faith in Jesus” to be in the Kingdom of God. I don’t talk to people much about Jesus or God because I really think I don’t know what I am talking about! I just “talk” to you folks on this blog.

  18. Since going thru an attitude adjust;ment very similar to yours, Jeff, I can now say that I look forward to reading the Bible, though I dont’ get to it every day. Making encountering the Living God in its pages took the duty out of it, and now I enjoy (most days) what I read. The professionalism of being spoon fed, and hand led, thru its pages may have led to the sad state of that survey, I don’t know. Many christians, I fear, are unaware of how torn the temple curtain is, and how accessible God is thru many ways, the Bible included.
    One reason I like your post is to remind ourselves that , despite all the crap that we’ve (unintentionally) layered onto the approach to the written WORD, it’s still honey to our souls, and a joy to our hearts, still a love letter from a Father WHO loves us. Nice Post.

    GregR

  19. I am fairly consistent about reading my Bible daily Monday through Friday, on the weekends not so much. My weekday morning consists of make coffee, spend time with God, exercise, shower, and go to work. The daily habit makes it easy to follow through. On days that I sleep in and roll out of bed late I feel crappy all day.

    To keep it fresh I vary what I do within that timeframe. Some mornings I will read the whole time, pray the whole time, or sing along with praise music. Wherever I think I am going to find God that morning that is the direction I head in. Most mornings it is a time of prayer and then a chapter or two in the Bible followed by a lot of my complaining about how God hasn’t met my expectations. ?

    I treat my exercising time with the same flexibility. It may be yoga, weights, calisthenics, boxing, etc. Whatever I feel like doing that morning. I find that the combination of routine schedule combined with the flexibility of doing whatever I feel like that particular morning keeps things fresh and me motivated.

    It sounds very practical but at the same time it is very spiritual. Most mornings I truly feel His presence even if it is just Him hearing my complaints. It is hard to face the workday without that morning time.

  20. MelissatheRagamuffin says:

    I find that my days generally go a little smoother when I make time to read scripture in the morning.

    Robert Barclay, early Quaker apologist, said Scripture was actually a dangerous thing in the hands of someone who didn’t have the holy spirit. So, maybe an encounter with God is the only reason anyone should start reading scripture.

  21. I read Psalms, Proverbs, some from the Gospels, and a bit of the rest of the NT daily. Some parts of the OT seasonally or as referenced by the other Scriptures I am reading.

  22. I don’t read it regularly.

    I’m presently going through a devotional by Macrina Weiderkehr “Abide” and each daily devotional focuses on a passage of scripture. I love her writing about scripture. Sometimes this chapter is the only Bible reading for my day.

    To simply pick it up and read a passage, I will probably most often read Psalms and the Gospels. I’ve been meaning to read through the gospels this year, but honestly just haven’t gotten around to it.

    I can’t really explain my ambivalence. The Bible has been a big part of my life, since I went to Christian school as a youth, and as a young adult I attended a pretty legalistic church that prided itself on their devotion to scripture. Right now, I just have a hard time disciplining myself and forcing myself to sit down and read it. If I don’t feel like reading, I won’t do it.

    As a subtext to all of this, my seven year old daughter just got a graphic comic Bible and wanted to start reading it from Genesis forward. I was trying to convince her to start with Jesus.

  23. Warning – this will be honest and some of my resentment might spew forth.

    I read my Bible almost every day. I am not a theologian, nor do I do in-depth studies that can give me a leg up on the Hebrew or Greek translation to use as a self-righteous bat to someone who doesn’t know as much as I do. I, like you Jeff, and some others, read it because I’ve encountered God in the pages – unbeknownst to me who……

    ran from God for nearly 30 years and hated the Bible and everything (I assumed) it stood for. It’s amazing what a little girl watching her daddy with his nose in the Bible all. the. time., preaching the Bible from the pulpit and then witnessing that same daddy bail on the family can do to the soul of said little girl.

    Just this morning, I read Psalm 36 in the Message and I see: “Yet in his vastness, nothing is lost” and I am reminded in this little world I live in, with all its selfishness and self-involvement and failings and start-overs, I am not lost in His vastness and that brings me such relief and comfort it will carry me through this day and help me be kind to others because I got just a sliver of a glimpse of how kind He is to me.

    And for me, right now, on this stretch of my journey, that is enough. Though I deal with condmenation a lot as well.

  24. I went back to my roots 3+ years ago and joined a Torah class at the synagogue. We read a portion weekly and finish Genesis – Deuteronomy each year. We discuss what these word mean to us personally. Each year some words jump out and touch me. They may mean different things at different times.

    This study has lead me to a larger understanding of what Jesus was saying. I find reading different translations adds to understanding that passed me before.

    I think it is not so much that we READ the Bible but that we try to understand the message. I recently read, “Prayer is us talking to God . Reading the Bible is God talking to us.”

  25. Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

    I’ve been reading the bible pretty regularly since I was a teenager. Even as a child, though, my mother would read to my siblings and I a psalm, proverb, an OT reading, an NT reading, and Isaiah 53 most daily as we’d be getting ready for school. I received my first “real” bible (as opposed to a children’s collection of bible stories) when I was about six or seven, and tried to read it through even then.

    About age 15 I got an NIV Student Bible for my birthday from a girl I had a crush on in youth group. It had the nifty-neato Zondervan 3-Track-Reading-Plan inside. I was beyond the little two-week Track 1 studies, so I did the 6-month overview of the bible that was Track 2. It probably took me 9 months. Then I started on the three-year Track 3 every-word-of-the-bible bit, and I finished that just before graduation. Since then, I’ve used various devotions and reading plans. Mostly I’ve been able to read my bible at least 5 times a week since high school.

    These days I use Fr. Michael Fry’s proposed version of the Daily Office lectionary for the Book of Common Prayer. Unlike any of the current BCP Daily Office lectionaries it actually covers the whole bible (and a bit of the Apocrypha), and it mostly based on the civil year with few interruptions for special holy days. It’s also flexible enough to either be a one-year or two-year cycle. I usually use it as part of praying the Mattins or Evensong services from the BCP. As part of the BCP discipline, I usually go through the Psalms once a month, and that has been very uplifting.

    I know this sounds sanctimonious, but I have always really loved the Scriptures, so reading my bible regularly has never been too much of a challenge. If I am pressed for time, I use the Bible.is app on my iPad and iPhone to listen to my readings instead. Admittedly, I sometimes do my readings and devotions more out of duty than anything else. Usually that’s when I’m really relying on my own strength in my spiritual walk, and usually also failing at that. My inner Pharisee can be a pretty big influence if I don’t keep him in check. And it’s times like that I need God’s grace all the more.

  26. David Cornwell says:

    When I was a pastor actually studying the bible was a priority with me. Mostly I preached from the Revised Common Lectionary, so would build my reading around the passage of the next Sunday. When I had time I’d go further ahead than that and start a file for another Sunday or two also. In my preaching I wanted to make sure I understood the contextual meaning of the passage and tried to do this from different angles.

    After leaving the ministry I had a dry period, or maybe just a period of rest when I didn’t read the bible very much at all. However in one way or the other it was always in mind. Now, the pastor of church I attend follows the lectionary. He announces his preaching passage ahead of time usually. Then on the Wednesday before the service we have a group that studies the passage. In this group he is looking for input and listens closely.

    Mostly I’m not a perfect bible reader anymore. I do it, then I don’t do it. The old tug of legalism makes me guilty when I don’t do it enough. But then I always find some pretty good excuses, and try to brush the guilt away.

  27. In my own journey, the Scriptures have been the means by which I have come to know Jesus, heard His call to follow and enter into full time ministry, and known that His grace and love are not surprised by my humanity and sin,
    As I work with pastors, especially those that have been exited, I find a lot of confirmation that the centrality of the Scriptures to the nurture and care of their own souls is replaced by the Bible becoming another one of the “tools of the trade”. We live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Heard that somewhere once!

  28. Joseph (the original) says:

    i stopped reading my bible regularly (not daily) as obligation and/or earning some righteous brownie points when i came to the sobering realization that i should not try to read more until i put into practice those things i already knew. the basic principles of living a Christian life those that are challenging enough to do consistently. i had to reevaluate my motivation for doing bible readings, especially those when i was getting about before work & reading it as part of some church/group discipline (not disciple making) accountability religious thingy…

    once i realized i was no better as a Christian & all i was doing is reading to be reading, then i knew what Isaiah meant when he wrote: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

    it may be profitable for some to gain knowledge ‘studying’ the bible. but i do know what the bible says about how i should be living & that is enough for me. i do reference it when doing other things, such as in this post. but i do not feel any need to read the bible every day, but i sure do feel the importance of living out the truths every day.

    i don’t think i could regurgitate word-for-word any of the myriad of verses i memorized at one time. but i do know the jist of what they addressed. i think more in terms of the concepts of biblical principles than the reading of a specific translation. i only have 2 bibles. once i had 3. i gave the 1st bible i ever bought to my mother after i received a newer study version as a gift. i have probably read thru the bible maybe 3 times or close to it. but as i mentioned before, it did not make me a better Christian, a more astute theologian, or even earned me any bragging rights…

    anyway,

  29. What a potentially explosive topic!

    I have never read the Bible on a consistantly daily basis but tend to be a binge reader.
    If something triggers my interest I search the Bible for information pertaining to certain issues. I call this a “hunting expedition”, assisted by cross references [I like those] and my mule-choking sized Strongs Exhaustive Concordance.
    Yet, I have always had many questions, most of them remaining unanswered.

    Someone mentioned “clobber verses”……oh, how I can relate to that!

    To me, trying to force others to submit to a specific point of view by punishing them [clobbering them] with the Bible is abusing the Bible. And psychological war on others.

    I have made an uneasy peace with the fact that I won`t understand much of the Bible while still in this mortal life, and seemingly understanding less as I grow old. Go figure.
    Psalms were one of my favorite books until I became aquainted with imprecatory psalms and folks who love to hurl them, along with imprecatory prayers, at others.
    But [ab]using the Bible to punish, impose retribution/revenge on others and to dehumanize one`s real and imagined enemies is nothing new – it is a very old tactic.
    It is this deeply disturbing attitude and vindictive actions that relate to many of my unanswered questions.

    In spite of it all, there [still] are sections throughout the entire Bible which have strenghtened me during my darkest hours.
    And I sorta resent myself for allowing others to poison scripture for me.
    That ought not to be so, yet I have been deeply troubled about large chunks of the Bible, especially for the last 10 years when I learned about hardcore calvinism and reconstructionism.
    It has been a most unhappy experience……..

    My solace is found in knowing that it is okay to be baffled and disconcerted and grieved…………
    Only on “the other side”, only when we see Creator-Son [am unsure if we`ll see Creator-father] face to face all the riddles of mortal life will be resolved.
    However, I no longer think that this will happen instantly.
    It will be the most incredible learning experience for all of eternity, exploring the unfathomable depths and goodness of the mystery that is Creator!

  30. When I read it I read it critically. Trying to ask why is this here? What did it mean to the original audience. Who was the original audience. I used the commentaries of Rabbis Rashi, Akiva, and Hillel to get historical context. I have read the Christian scripture (Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Revalation) a few times through, of course, having been a part of that tradition, but now I only check them if I need to look up a literary allusion.

    But I would say that the following quote from the article:

    It is a book, or rather, a collection of sixty six books written over a period of more than a thousand years, encompassing all of human history.

    Is incorrect. It is not all of human history. Not by a long shot. What about the Egyptians (other than the Moses v. Pharoah scenes in Exodus)? What about the Norsemen? The Chinese and Japanese? The peoples of the Indian sub-continent? All the other groups not mentioned. And don’t forget there was a very long period when humans did not write. Some of those stories were circulated as part of oral tradition and then were written down once that technology was available, but there were likely many that got lost along the way.

  31. Marcus Johnson says:

    There’s a big difference between “reading” the Bible every day and “studying” the Bible every day. If our goal is just to read and read, then we might as well use our Bibles for doorstops or paperweights. Imagine going into a classroom, having read the assigned reading for the day. If a professor asked what you learned, and you said, “I’m not sure, but I feel really close to the subject material contained in this text,” would that really be something worth bragging about?

    As several people on this forum have already indicated, there are several professed Christians who read the Bible, cover to cover, every day, yet they haven’t been transformed by their reading. They have memorized verses, and could quite possibly quote at length entire chapters, but they fall short of understanding the real meaning or context of what’s contained in that Scripture. The result is like someone who eats and eats, but they never really get full.

    Rather than encouraging people to just “read,” I would encourage people to “study.” That requires reading a passage, then spending some time in prayer to ask for some guidance to understand what is in the text. That’s when the research comes in. Get some perspective of who the writer or writers were for that text. Figure out who the audience was for that passage, and why that writer was inspired to present those words to that audience at that point in history. Scripture was never intended just for entertainment or comfort; it is supposed to help us define our relationship with God in a way that helps us to adapt into this new creation.

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

      I think there’s a place for both deep study and simpler devotional reading in our lives. I see the former as really training ourselves in God’s word, and the latter as a part of worship or doxology. Also, repeated intake of the Scriptures, even in a simpler devotional manner serves as a kind of “catechesis by osmosis,” if you will, where we learn more and more of it by the simple virtue of repetition, and you find the Scripture coming to mind as needed just because you’re often putting it there.

      I’ve got a friend with a major passion for the studying Scriptures who simply won’t crack open his bible it if he doesn’t have the time to deeply study it. Guess what? With the demanding schedule of being a public school teacher and father and deacon, etc, he rarely opens his bible and has often found himself spiritually malnourished. As I’ve told him, he needs to learn how to read it devotionally so that it can sustain him in the times between the great studies.

    • Study does have to be a part of our interaction with the Bible. However, I don’t think it is the be-all and end-all since the goal is a relationship rather than an academic pursuit. But I agree it plays an important part, otherwise we will misunderstand some of the more difficult to comprehend passages that we read.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Definitely, TPD, although I wouldn’t necessarily insist that our relationship with Scripture has to be academic (I’m a lifelong learner, so it does come across that way sometimes). However, I do get concerned when I come across people who pride themselves on reading Scripture every day, but they are still the same creation they were before they started reading. Even worse are those folks who, like you stated, misunderstand some of the more difficult passages (I’m struggling with 1 Corinthians 5 myself; when do you reach the line when a church must dismiss someone from their community?). Big deal that they can quote ad nauseam; do they understand what they are supposed to do with what they’ve read?

    • I resonate to some degree with what you’re saying- it does require study to see what the actual content is trying to tell us. That doesn’t, I don’t believe, require that everyone study daily (rather perhaps that everyone have access to the studies of others- who know how to study it as a matter of their calling), though what you mention as far as study sounds like a good baseline understanding to seek out.

      The only problem is the way that humans consume this kind of content is, unlike say a math problem or handbook, very organic and story-driven. I didn’t “study” the Lord of the Rings, I read it, and loved it. And then I read it again and again. (Granted, it was written in my language, relatively close to my lifetime). It’s rather similar with Scripture- we “read” it to become immersed in a world that, come to find out, is the world we live in, and which defines our very life and breath. The story-fascination element seems to be the higher goal than study, although study is required to chip away at misunderstandings.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        I get where you’re trying to go, but the LOTR is not very applicable here. Great series, and you can love and digest and read and re-read the material, but I don’t think Tolkien was expecting that his readers would experience the level of spiritual transformation equal to what we are supposed to obtain from reading Scripture.

        Perhaps is the whole positivist vs. constructivist debate, but it’s still not just the reading that changes us; it’s the way in which we digest and apply it to our lives. No one patterns their lives after Aragorn (well, some do; long story short, I’ve had some weird roommates). We are, however, expected to pattern ourselves after Scripture.

  32. I read it every day currently, but that’s not always the case. I don’t feel any compulsion to berate myself when I don’t. I also read it because I can’t not read it- it’s the most fascinating thing there is to me. So I have developed, over the years, an insistence with myself that my view of God be conformed to what I find in Christ- because what I find there is so compelling. I’m also in a heavy learning stage with the Bible, which means it seems new and fresh, so it’s easy to read consistently.

    That said, I have dropped the idea of daily Bible reading, or study, as an imperative for every believer. I believe the contents of the Bible are indispensable for Christian faith and practice, but that people can meditate on the contents without being the most thorough readers if the church is functioning properly. Some are scholars, some a readers, others are neither. Those who aren’t must depend on the gifts and ministry of the former, just as the former depend on the gifts of skilled builders and cooks to have food and shelter.

    I also now reject the idea that “anyone with a Bible can just open it up and see what it says.”

    Those survey results are not alarming if the church has people walking in their gifts to expound the Scriptures for the rest. In Acts, only the Apostles taught the Word, and the calling to feed widows was a different calling.

  33. I read it daily. It took me a long time to get to that point. I also enjoy reading it now. I have written at length (too long for a comment) about some of my wrestling here

  34. For most of recorded history, nobody had a Bible to read. Until the printing press came along and inexpensive copies were available, how did all those millions of believers get by?

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

      One of the main reasons the English Reformers condensed the ancient monastic prayer disciplines down to two daily public prayer services in the Book of Common Prayer was to provide a way for the English people to hear the bible (or at least the greatest part thereof) all the way through each year within the context of those public devotional services. They figured that the benefits of prayer and scripture that the monks had historically enjoyed should be open to all the people as well.

    • Public proclamation, artwork (there’s a reason aside from aesthetics for all that altar and church art of years gone by), processions and other popular pieties.

  35. I know it’s beneficial as it attests, but like exercise, watching what I eat, etc., sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Not too long ago I purchased an Orthodox Bible, which of course contains more than 66 books but that’s another conversation for another day. It was the first time in years I was genuinely excited about reading scripture. Commentary was from somewhat of a different perspective, the Christological references seen in almost every verse in the Old Testament was something I had never been exposed to or even considered before. But once the newness wore off, I soon went back to the pattern of sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.

    I’ve always thought it interesting though, that the apostles never asked Christ, or at least I don’t think they did, to teach them how to read or interpret scripture, but rather asked Him to teach them how to pray. I don’t know what that means, or if it means anything. But in thinking about it I began to see the importance of prayer in my own life and have tried to make a much stronger effort in that area. I’m not always faithful as I feel I should be with this either. Sigh. Lord have mercy.

  36. The lamp that illuminates

    Scripture is illuminated to us by the lamp that each of us carry which is a combination of our life experiences and that which the Spirit chooses to reveal at that stage of our lives. I cannot read it by your lamp and you cannot read it by mine, yet we may find that when we each bow our head over the same passage and read by the combined lights cast there, that we both see something new that was not clear as individuals.

  37. Hmm….currently, I rarely pick it up. I spent a period of 8 years where I read it constantly – front to back many times is several translation. I took notes, made charts learned a lot, but also, was slowly sinking into the mire of a church that was Word of Faith on steroids with added abusive twists…. about a year after I got out of that place, I quit reading for almost two years because all I could hear in the pages were the guilt-and-fear-inducing teachings of my former pastor. That has mostly passed, so I read it again….sometimes.

  38. I’ve been through it many times in the last 7-8 years but only once by reading.

    I’ve found it makes a better impact hearing it (to me) so I’ve taken to listen to the Daily Audio Bible.

    I don’t “love” the Bible but I fell in love with the God of the Bible.

  39. I read The Bible every day, but I have never read it systematically from start to finish. I find the practice of opening it at random as an answer to prayer often helpful. I take these “openings” as God’s answers and it is amazing how precise those answers often are. Sometimes rebuke when rebuke is needed, sometimes comfort when comfort is needed, sometimes direction when direction is needed.

    I think every Christian should read the Bible at least once in their life, but I am still seeking a way to proceed on that project. One thing I have figured out — and it is why I appreciate your blog post — is that one can get really off on tangents by studying the vast amount of scholarship *about* the Bible instead of encountering God “face to face” as it were, in the actual pages themselves.

    As a final point, I am finding it wonderful to find intrepretations of the Bible within the Bible itself. For example, Amos talks about famine being the famine of the Word of God. Such gems bring the Bible alive to me, not as ancient history, which is interesting to be sure, but as spiritual teachings that are applicable to my life here and now.

  40. Rick Ro: [Then one day I was led (I believe by theSpirit) to relax and read short sections at a time, and stay in that section until I got something out of it. I tried it out, reading and re-reading Ephesians 1 for days, just coming back to it over and over without any pressure of feeling I had to read something new every day. It was about the fifth day that a couple of verses leapt out at me and I realized A-ha! This works.]

    that sounds like a wonderful approach, and one I might try myself. Thank you for sharing.

  41. Chantelle-Marie says:

    I start off reading like every morning or when I am reminded by the Spirit that we are not communicating as we should be. But as for this past week, I haven’t settled well with not reading and spending time with Him. So I feel like I have put him on the “back burner”. I am a college student and I also find it somewhat challenging to share with my friends. I have realized that even other Christians don’t really even object to the “slackness” they do. I feel like I am not doing my part as a Christian, but yet I don’t want to be an out-cast. I don’t know how to approach them without seeming to be overbearing or a stuck up Christian.