Why should we read the Bible? David Mathis answers the question simply and beautifully: to know Christ. If that answer doesn’t jazz you up, consider what Mathis has to say in this short video.
Check it out!
Seventeen-year-old Katherine Forster has some important words for the youth ministries in our churches: We need more Bible. Teenagers themselves see the need for better grounding, greater challenge, and more biblical instruction. Forster gives 4 reasons, from the teen perspective:
Do you believe teenagers can learn to handle God’s word? Is there any other way we can equip them to face life’s challenges?
If you’re not sure how to start teaching your youth group to study the Bible, I’ve heard from many youth pastors who have found my book a helpful place to begin. Please consider Ms. Forster’s gracious appeal.
In his article entitled “Why Are So Many Christians Bored With the Bible?”, Marshall Segal tackles the problem head-on:
Unfortunately, many Christians love the idea of the Bible, but not really the Bible itself. We love having a Bible close by, even within reach, but don’t make time to open it on an average day. We talk about Bible reading like we talk about cutting calories or cleaning our house. We’re grateful for the results, but we don’t wake up dying to do it again. It sounds like a fine thing to do, until we have to choose what we won’t do in order to make time for it.
He paints a picture of what could be. Imagine being able to pray this biblical prayer (paraphrased from Psalm 119:14-20:
I enjoy reading the Bible more than the wealthy enjoy all their houses, cars, technology, and vacations. God, your word will be my first priority and focus each day. I will read and read the Bible, until I cannot forget it. Give me more grace, O God, and enable me to obey what I’ve read. Help me see more today than I’ve already seen before, even in these same pages. I only wish I had more time to read more of my Bible.
And he identifies the source of our boredom: We treat the Bible as an old book, and not as the words of a living, knowable person.
Do you want a better relationship with your Creator and Redeemer? It is right there for the taking. And Segal has some great ideas to help you move in the right direction.
The Bible is boring. Many people outside the church take this as given. For them, reading the Bible is like watching C-SPAN or counting blades of grass.
But, let’s be honest—Christians feel this way at times. And we’re unlikely to study a book we don’t find interesting.
We need to consider some important questions.
No, the Bible is not boring. Let’s not confuse a bored reader with a boring book.
The Bible is God’s word. If God is the creator and sustainer of every atom that exists; if he is infinitely holy, good, wise, and glorious; if he is the very definition of love; then everything about him must be interesting.
If God’s word seems boring, there’s either a problem with the reading or the reader.
For some, the Bible seems dull because they assume they know what it says. They think they’ve heard all the stories and learned all the rules. Instead of “living and active,” the Bible sounds repetitive and bland.
For others, the Bible appears boring because they read the text without engaging with it. We are meant to meditate upon the Bible, to read it with the expectation that God will meet with and change us.
Additionally, the Bible feels irrelevant if we forget who we are. We are created and corrupt. We depend on God both for life and salvation. When we lose our sense of ongoing need, we won’t be thrilled by God or what he’s done for us.
First, we should acknowledge our need for God’s help. Even redeemed people need God’s Spirit to desire what is of supreme value. In other words, we should pray. (Read what John Piper suggests you pray when the Bible seems boring.)
Next, don’t confuse difficult with boring. The Bible is hard to understand in some places, but that doesn’t make it dull. In fact, like your backyard garden, Bible study is often most rewarding when it makes you sweat.
Further, not every Bible passage should be studied in the same way. A physics textbook is not a detective novel, and Proverbs is not Revelation. While you might spend several days looking carefully at the first ten verses of Ephesians 1, you won’t treat 1 Chronicles 1 the same way.
Some of the hardest parts of the Bible are the genealogies, the construction of the tabernacle, and the apportionment of the promised land to the tribes. Ask yourself, why did God include these chapters? What purpose do they serve? (This short article at Desiring God tackles Joshua 13–21 and the apportionment of the land.) We must do our best to read the Bible in context and seek the author’s intention in each passage.
Finally, when the Bible seems stale we might be tempted to import excitement. Maybe we’ll use a flashy study guide or dig around for some never-before-seen insight. If we chase ideas that are new or novel because we are afraid the Bible won’t hold our interest, we need to get back to the basics of Bible study.
Observe the text carefully. Ask questions, think about the author’s train of thought, and look for the main point. Connect the passage to the big story of the Bible, the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, with God’s help, apply the passage to yourself.
The goal of Bible study is the worship of God which spills over into all of life. As God transforms you, it might be uncomfortable, stretching, or disruptive. It will all be very good. But it certainly won’t be boring!
How did we get our Bibles? Not just the books of the Bible, but all the apparatus that comes along with it? Chapter and verse numbers, section headings, and cross-references. Two-column format, study notes, and call-out boxes with key ideas. Why do our Bible look so different from any other book (or collection of books) we read?
Desiring God recently posted an important episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, where Tony Reinke interviews Glenn Paauw, the Executive Director of the Biblica Institute for Bible Reading, a think tank dedicated to studying trends in Bible reading and design. Listening to this interview may be some of the best-spent 30 minutes of your week. Paauw explains how the appearance of the page drastically affects how we read this book—and how we lose the ability to read this book as a book.
I particularly appreciate Paauw’s question: Which of the following is the Bible most like?
Of course, most of us would pass this test with flying colors. We know the Bible is a collection of writings. But without realizing it, we’ve been trained all our lives not to read the Bible this way. Either we memorize individual verses scattered all throughout the Bible (as we’d handle Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations), or we go to the Bible to learn everything it has to say on a particular topic such as marriage or money (as we’d handle The Reader’s Digest Guide to Home Repairs). And the published presentation of the Bible now serves these market expectations, leading us farther and farther away from reading it like a collection of works.
For this reason, recent uncluttered editions such as the ESV Reader’s Bible have become so important. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. I assure you, it will transform your Bible reading experience.
And listen to DG’s podcast to learn more about how the published presentation is changing the way we approach the Bible. It’s well worth your time.
In writing this advice to a teenager, John Piper has something to say to all of us:
You are right to read it every day and seek to let it permeate all your thoughts and feelings…
I think it is good to always be reading through the Bible as a whole…
In addition, it is good to focus on some unit of Scripture for going deeper, like a book or the Sermon on the Mount, or Romans 8…
With regard to prayer, this is absolutely crucial, and I am glad you are doing it. God hears our prayers and helps us be humble enough and alert enough and in-tune enough to grasp what he says.
The full article is available at Desiring God. Check it out!
In “How the Bible Came Alive,” Rebecca Davis describes her experience reading Psalm 22 and learning to take her eyes off herself to see Christ. I appreciate her account of learning to follow the text wherever it would lead her.
What happened to me over the course of those two weeks — studying sounds far too academic. Meditating these days can have New-Age overtones. Pondering the Scriptures? Soaking in the Scriptures? But really the point isn’t what I did with the Scriptures. It’s what God did in me through them, as he held them up as a magnifying glass to see the Lord Jesus Christ more and more clearly.
Glory is value, beauty, importance, weight, or rank. It’s possible to praise something without truly glorifying it, such as the public official who smiles with his wife for the cameras but reserves fondest and truest affection for his nameless mistress. And it’s possible to glorify the wrong things — things unworthy of supreme value. But it’s not possible to fake glory. We can’t truly assign value to things we don’t value.
This revised article has more explanation and application than the article here on KW. You may want to check it out!
Sometimes we don’t observe well because we’re too familiar with a passage. Then we presume the meaning of a text and stifle ongoing curiosity. In the end, things stay the same, and inertia prevents vibrant application.
Sure, we can see the problem in others. Jehovah’s Witnesses miss the point of John 1:1. Theological liberals miss the mark on John 14:6. Many presume upon Romans 1:26-27 and mistakenly consider it irrelevant to the contemporary same-sex marriage movement.
But can we see the problem in ourselves? We, who claim to love God’s knowable word and who work to study it and submit to it? The deadening progression from familiarity to presumption to inertia is subtle enough that we usually can’t see it, even when we’re aware of the danger.
That’s why I decided to tackle one of evangelicalism’s most hallowed mottos: “Jesus didn’t break a bruised reed.”
The metaphor seems self-evident. “Bruised reeds are people who are broken and needy, people worn out and tired and exhausted with life’s circumstances, people neglected by the world, but accepted by Jesus.” We casually toss the phrase out like a trump-suit ace impervious to counter-play. No need to explain; just assert: “Jesus never broke a bruised reed.”
But have you considered why the reed doesn’t get broken? Look at the text carefully, and you might find you’ve become a little too familiar with this biblical phrase and perhaps have missed a profound point. In fact, hastily assuming the “what” may have obscured your insight into the “why.”
My point is not that we shouldn’t have compassion on needy people (of course we should). My point is that this biblical phrase means something other than what we’ve come to presume.
Check out the full article at Desiring God.