You may have noticed my status update asking about Bible reading, or you may be one of those unfortunate souls who I have already asked you way too many questions about it in person or spent forever giving you background information. None the less, if you are a part of the body of Christ, and have some honest thoughts on the subject, I am dying to hear them. Here's the deal:
I spent a large portion of my growing up years trying to make a habit of reading the Bible and mostly failing miserably. I never thought too much about why I should read it, but looking back my motives ranged from ridiculous pride to defeating guilt.
I read the Bible because I didn't think God would really be inclined to hang out with me the rest of the day if I didn't read the Bible first. I read the Bible because I thought it was my only chance to maybe actually hear from and communicate with God. I read the Bible because I really wanted to remember all the things that I was supposed to be doing to keep God from being disappointed in me.
If you use your imagination, you can probably figure out that when I did get around to reading the Bible even the kindest loving verses were guilt inducers for me (God loves me that much and I can't even save15 minutes of my day just for Him?) and the rest terrified and confused me.
I came away with interpretations like this:
"I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
There is no excuse for my failure. It's my fault that I'm not trusting Christ enough. God expects me to be capable.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15
How can I say that I love God when I fail again and again? I want to love God. If only I could figure out how to love Him enough to keep His commandments.
If you are depressed by this method of interpreting the Bible, you should be. You don't know the half of it unless you've used this method yourself for over 10 years. If you're thinking I should probably get psychiatric help you're probably right. But that was then, what about now?
Now, God has re-written me from the inside out and re-started our relationship from square one. Now, I know that above all, God is good, He is in control and that He pours out grace upon grace. That He actually enjoys me, and that He is kind towards me.
BUT (and it's a big but)
I still don't know how to read the Bible through this new understanding of God.
For a long time, over a year, I left off trying to read the Bible on some sort of regular schedule. In fact, God told me to. This did not mean that I swore off having anything to do with the Bible ever again. Around the time that God told me to quit worrying about reading it every day, I had to teach a short devotional every day and therefore spent more time in the Bible then ever before.
He has already taken many verses, often one at a time, and re-programmed them in my mind. For instance the two I've already mentioned.
Philippians 4:13 no longer condemns me. Instead it brings me joy to realize that without Christ I am perfectly incapable, unless He does it, it will not be done. It leads me to a joyful complete trust instead of a cringing and hopeless repentance. God knows that I am incapable and He is not concerned by it, Christ is capable in me.
John 14:15 is in fact a promise. God has placed the heart of Jesus in me, which absolutely adores the Father and desires above all else to obey His commandments. I am no longer constantly fighting an uphill battle to do the opposite of what feels good to me (sin). My way is smooth and the road is straight, obedience is my only desire.
So, the other day, it was suddenly time to pick up my Bible again, but as I picked it up God brought all these questions to my mind.
Why did God write and preserve this book for so many centuries?
Why is it in my hands?
What am I to look for as I read it?
What am I to do with all the questions that surface as I read?
Why is it so important to keep reading this book?
I'm not asking these questions as a challenge, or in defiance. As I said before, I believe that God brought them up because He wants me to wrestle with them. There is nothing I love more than asking questions of God because I know a really good answer is coming. Maybe He's already given you the answers. Maybe He wants you to give them to me. Maybe He's inviting you to wrestle with the same questions.