The Bible and Me: Ten Observations

The Bible and Me: Ten Observations

The Bible and Me: Ten Observations

“I read my Bible often; I try to read it right.

Least to my understandin’, it’s nothing but a burning light.”

Blind Willie Johnson,  What is the Soul of a Man.

  1. Scripture is in my bones. I received my first Bible as a Christmas gift from my mom and dad on December 24, 1955. I still have that Bible, and that information is on the inscription. I was six years old. On another inscription on one of the inside pages, I read the following, written in my childish scrawl: “I exceped Christ as My savior when I was eight years old. Steven Larson.” As you can see, I was not the greatest speller in the 3rd grade. Nor was I aware of the difference between “accepted” and “excepted”. I not only wrote the wrong word, I misspelled it too! The Scripture has been part of my life ever since, sometimes in the background, other times front and center. I am not a biblical scholar, and I am not a trained theologian. I have simply read the Bible a lot, many times all the way through, and I have used it as my reference point in the Faith. When my faith seemed to waver in my 20’s, I nonetheless held onto my Christian upbringing. And the Bible was a big part of that. I have studied the Scripture my whole adult life. And I have taught the Bible to a wide range of age groups, from elementary school to the elderly. Throughout, the Scripture has been a gift that keeps on giving, God’s inspired Word. I am now 70 years old, and I’ve only scratched the surface.
  2. The Bible is not an object of worship. It would be easy to make an idol out of Scripture. The Bible is so compelling and powerful and credible, it would be easy to fall into worshipping it. But, as George MacDonald once said, that would be like the pet dog staring at the master’s pointing finger instead of where the finger is pointing. The Scripture is full of light, MacDonald said, to help us walk in the darkness. But that would be moonlight. The moon is only a reflection of the sun’s light. And Jesus is the sun, the Source of light in our darkness. Honor Scripture, revere it, live by it, but don’t worship it. As Jesus Himself declared to the Bible scholars of His day, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” (John 5:39-40).
  3. The Old Testament is actually the Hebrew Bible. Why do Christians continue to call the Hebrew Bible the “Old” Testament? This is very offensive to those believing Jews who dislike the Old in Old Testament. Why call it old, which could easily mean outdated, hobbled by age, past its usage date? The Scriptures that have been believed in by faithful Jews through the centuries has been called the Hebrew Bible. If only Christians could respectfully call it that. And why are there so many Christian translations of the Hebrew Bible? Aren’t the Jewish translations good enough? Christians should be reading the Tanakh from the Jewish Publication Society as often as all the Christian translations. Jewish scholarship is beyond reproach, and since the Hebrew Bible was written by Jews to Jews who were laying the groundwork for a Jewish Messiah, it would seem it would be helpful to receive the Jewish perspective first hand. By honoring the Hebrew Bible, we honor our spiritual roots.
  4. The Bible is a prayer book. Pray the Word. Memorize those prayers. Use God’s own thoughts when in conversation with Him. The Psalms, the words of the prophets, the songs, the stories… They all contain prayer- worthy words that can be offered back to God. Praying God’s Word guarantees the prayers’ effectiveness. “As the rain and the snow come down from the sky and do not return before having watered the earth, fertilizing it and making it germinate to provide seed for the sower and food to eat, so it is with the word that goes from my mouth. It will not return to me unfulfilled or before having carried out my good pleasure and having achieved what it was sent to do.” (Isaiah 55:10-11, New Jerusalem Bible).  Through Scripture, we not only can read God’s mind. We can speak His mind as well. And we can return His Word back to Him to complete the fulfillment of those words.
  5. The Bible is its own best commentary. Invest some of your money and purchase a few Study Bibles. They are worth their weight in gold as you study Scripture. They all have annotations, explanations, dictionaries, maps, concordances, charts, and cross-references to relevant verses in the Word. Different Study Bibles raise different points, and they focus on a variety of related topics. Each translation has a different Study Bible, and they will all help you gain insight and understanding. “Study to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).
  6. Bible knowledge goes only so far. Do the Word. Become a practitioner of the Bible. Scripture is not merely a source of Bible trivia. The Word is not to be limited to knowledge and information. Knowing Scripture is not the end point. “Be doers of the Word.” (James 1:22). Listen and obey. Hear and do. Put into practice what you are beginning to understand. Follow the light you have been shown. Live into Scripture. Make the Word a lifestyle. Biblical scholarship is vital to understanding the Bible at a deeper level. But it didn’t help the scholars of Jesus’ day. Their learned spirits were not open to seeing God in their midst, and they remained hypocritical in the way they lived out their faith. The intended effect of Scripture is that it make a difference in your daily life. Make it a goal to flesh it out. Wisdom is truth-in-action. And wisdom is Scripture’s purpose.
  7. Jesus is hidden treasure throughout the Hebrew Bible. It pays to study the whole Hebrew Bible, from Genesis to Malachi. It contains important history and character development. It provides inspiring stories and songs. It is full of dramatic poetry and lament. It has words of eternal wisdom. It gives the alert reader prophetic words that still apply today. The Hebrew Bible is the necessary backdrop to Jesus, the context of Christ. It is necessary if one want to grow in the Faith, not to mention the development of an educated mind. The Hebrew Bible is a two-stage rocket. In the first stage the reader learns from its contents. The second stage is that the reader learns from applying it to the Christian Faith. At first one learns from what is the truth of Jewish life and history, the roots of our Faith. And secondly one learns what that history grew into with Jesus. Remember that momentous Emmaus walk after the resurrection. “Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, Jesus explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about Himself… Then He told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, was destined to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27, and 44-45).
  8. The Gospels are the North Star. The life of Jesus is the reference point for everything. His words and deeds trump theology. In fact, if there is a point in some theology that seems to conflict with what we see in the Gospels, stick with the Gospels. Maybe the theological assertion will make more sense down the line. But I recommend studying theology in light of the Gospels, not the other way around. I dare to say that even if a verse or two in the epistles seems inconsistent with what you read in the Gospels, stick with the Gospels until the epistle seems to make more sense in accordance with the life of Jesus. There may even be an apparent contradiction between the Gospel accounts, such as the timing of events. Just hold those inconsistencies loosely. It’s doubtful that they are game-changers. Grow in your love of the Gospels, in simply loving the story of Jesus. You can’t go wrong with that. After the three disciples witness the Transfiguration, they saw “Jesus only.” Let that be your guiding light as you study theology and scripture.
  9. All the translations are helpful. I have grown to love all the commonly accepted versions, every paraphrase and every translation. If one goes to a live concert, everybody in attendance will share something a little different about that show. Same concert, different angles, different views, different voices. Using many different translations with the same Bible passage is really helpful, in that the reader gets the same idea put into different words. A Bible reader is provided a fuller picture of the passage. Try taking a Bible passage and writing down the various ways it is expressed in a variety of translations. Your study then becomes its own teaching on the passage’s meaning. The passage becomes amplified, expanded, deepened. Several versions only adds to the insight gained when studying scripture.
  10. Scripture is food. Eat the Word. Drink the Word. Your mind and heart finds its spiritual nutrition in Scripture. I’ve heard it said that if you are new to the Bible, guzzle it like beer. As you familiarize yourself with the Word, sip it like wine. Another way of saying that is to take big mouthfuls at first to get the big picture, then take little nibbles to aid your spiritual digestion. Chew on a passage, ruminate, meditate, swallow one small mouthful at a time till it is digested and becomes a part of who you are. Through all your study of the Bible, don’t forget that Jesus is the Living Word, and that He is the Bread of life, your living food. The Father has put that Bread on the table for you, and the Spirit nourishes you with it. The whole Trinity is involved with the Word. The whole Trinity is at work to feed and  sustain you.

“Nobody’s fault but mine, ain’t nobody’s fault but mine.

If I die and my soul be lost, ain’t nobody’s fault but mine.

I have a Bible in my home, I’ve got a Bible in my home.

If I don’t read and my soul be lost, ain’t nobody’s fault but mine.” 

Blind Willie Johnson, Nobody’s Fault But Mine. 

One Reply to “The Bible and Me: Ten Observations”

  1. Pops, this is a treasure trove of wisdom from a life spent in the Book! I have not been as diligent on this as you and mom have, but this makes me want to be. I’ve seen the effects you describe first-hand in your and mom’s life.

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