I imagine truth as living on a three-legged stool:
What has been passed on in our families
Or in our culture or churches
Examples: the sacrament of baptism or communion;
Christmas trees or grace over meals
Is that gut feeling or internal sense of what is right,
as well as what you have personally witnessed
Examples: you witness great love in a gay couple
or have seen the gratitude of a hungry person receiving food
Or felt pulled to take a different road home.
For Christians is the Bible:
The bookcase of books written over thousands of years by many hands.
The particular collection of writings that were popular enough to be circulated and shared for hundreds of years before leaders of the faith bound them in the “canon”
Essentially determining the Bible we use today.
Too little or too much of any of these three can distort truth
Without tradition, we lose connection to the wisdom learned over the ages,
And end up making the same mistakes.
Without personal experience, we lose current reality and the movement of the Holy Spirit today.
This is, partly, how scripture has become a sword against the GLBT community.
Without scripture, we turn ourselves into God
And can easily make our own truths based on individual fears.
We can rationalize greed, or excessive busy-ness, or inhospitality to strangers and refugees.
When we consider scripture, personal experience, and tradition together in balance, we are more likely to find truth and a righteous way forward.
Yet, how many have read the entire Bible, cover to cover?
Most get stuck around Numbers or Leviticus – too many genealogies,
Too many odd laws or too many instructions about temple sacrifice that sound irrelevant today.
Whether or not you have read the entire Bible,
Bible reading is down in the United States.
“A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.” from https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/july/epidemic-of-bible-illiteracy-in-our-churches.html
Anyone have an idea why the Bible might not be the go-to guide for many in our world today?
Hard to get through/understand
Can seem irrelevant/culturally different
Post-moderns see truth in multiple places
So, why bother reading the Bible?
2 Timothy also explicitly explains the point of scripture, and in doing so why one would read the Bible:
- For the understanding of salvation. For Christians the Bible explains how we are saved and loved by God.
- For the training in righteousness, equipped to do good work. The Bible is a guide for our lives today and ever after.
A love letter and a guide
The Bible contains all these different stories and modes of writing
To help us understand God’s love for us and Guide us in making decisions in our lives.
As a guide for our lives, scripture gives us outside perspective on truth.
It’s not just what we think or what we have experienced,
It is what people throughout the ages have affirmed.
While many similar stories were circulating about in the ancient world,
The ones that made it into the Bible were the ones so popular,
That resonated with so many people,
That they were bound together in what we now call the Bible.
Scripture is truth affirmed through ages by billions of people.
Scripture can guide us in knowing God and keeps us from falling into dangerous ways.
It provides the stories and wisdom to fall back on when the going gets tough.
Like a support group where you hear stories of another getting through – the Bible can offer hope and strength for the journey.
My life feels stormy – Jesus calms the storm
My loved one has died – Jesus returned from death to show us love never ends
When we want to cry – we remember Jesus crying with us
or turn to the songs of the psalms for comfort
The Bible can help in a crisis, but it can also challenge and mature our faith.
If we are tempted to steal, harm or take what is not our,
We may remember the consequences such actions had for King David.
If we are tempted to lie,
We may remember the consequences such actions had for Abraham or Moses
If we are fearful of moving forward,
We may remember the consequences the Israelites faced when fear kept them from entering the Promised Land when they first reach it.
We may remember the courage of Mary or Joseph or Noah or David…
Read in context, the Bible can be a tremendous guide and source of knowledge for our lives, for it contains truths affirmed throughout time, culture changes, and countless people.
People read the Bible in a number of ways.
If you’re new, I would suggest a daily devotional –
It gives a small piece of scripture and then a story or application to better understand the scripture.
If you’re interested in the context,
Choose a study bible; I actually recommend a study bible for all adults. It gives basic information to help understand.
If you want to understand the arc, the big picture, reading straight through can be an eye-opening experience
Daily Reading plans available on your way out. (2 versions)
Perhaps you are going through something right now and need to explore a specific part of the Bible:
If you’re going through some trials, psalms are great.
If you want to understand Jesus or are a new Christian, the Gospel (Matt, Mark, Luke and John).
If you want to think about how to live your Christian faith in the world or how the church ought to be, Acts and the letters are where to go.
If you are in love or celebrating an anniversary, check out Song of Songs.
If you are feeling philosophical, read Job or Proverbs.
If you like adventure and hero tales, read Daniel or Ester if you want a quick tale;
More complex plots – head to the historical books of Kings or the prophets
The Bible is full of useful and interesting stories that help us understand God’s love for us and guide our lives.
May we take the time to explore its treasure.