Monday, January 23, 2012

For your enjoyment...

In my day job, I get to talk to people about how they read their Bible, helping them along with their journey/walk/trek with Christ.  Trust me, I know that I am incredibly blessed.  I actually get to sit down with people and talk to them about the Bible.  It's fascinating, and I am still amazed almost every single day when I sit down at my desk to tackle another day.

Reading has never been a problem for me.  I was always an avid card carrying member of my local library and devoured the Summer Reading Program list every year by June since the age of 5.  Remember the Pizza Hut Book It program?  You know, where you read so many books and then you get a free personal pan pizza of your own choice?  No?  Well, let's just say, I had a free pizza there every month.  It rocked!

So, when it comes to reading, I have no problem with reading the Word.  I love to read.  God has designed something in me that enjoys that enjoyment of holding a book, reading a line or verse, letting it soak, thinking over it, and then continuing on with the rest of the story.

What then, do you do when you really do not enjoy reading?  I hear this a lot, from people of all ages, sizes and genders - "Yeah, I don't like to read."

The first few times I heard someone say this to me, I felt like a bit of my soul was being stepped on.  Don't like to read?  What does that mean?  What about poetry?  What about prose?  What about fantasy, adventure, and story?  For the love of all that is good, WHAT ABOUT STORY?????

Time has moved on though, and I have had more conversations where this has been said that now besides that statement doing actual damage to my reader soul, I have learned to soak it in and move on rather quickly to an answer for the problem of the willful illiterate.

The answer is this - you don't have to like to read to be a student of the Word of God.  Don't misunderstand me, you do have to actually read the Word of God to be a student of it.  A dislike of reading does not mean that you do not read it.  It means that you learn to read the Bible, you study it, and you let the living, active part of Its Being take care of the rest.  And just because one that does not like to read learns to read the Bible (and actual comes to enjoy reading it), does not mean that they will then like to read other things.

Here is the difference - the variable, if you will - the Bible is different than any other thing you will ever read.  Yes, it has story; yes, there is beautiful poetry; yes, there are fantastical chapters filled with language of things that our minds have a hard time comprehending (I'm looking at you 7-headed dragon sweeping stars down with your tail) - but it is the very Word of God.  It is not inspired by any writer in this world, it inspires the world of writers.

The Bible is so incredibly different than any other book.  You see, you don't have to read it cover to cover in that order.  You can start somewhere in the middle.  And you actually don't have to race through it to discover the plot as it thickens page after page, you can read it slowly, meditatively - letting what you have read be digested by your mind and soul.  Reading the Bible should not be an exercise in training your eyes to read, but it actually should be an exercise in awakening your soul to what it has missed for so long.  Each page, each sentence, each word is there for you.  Imagine that?  Things that were written thousands of years ago, with a purpose for someone thousands of years ago is still purposeful to you now today.  Fascinating.

Let me leave you then with a few tips I give to new readers of the Word, or to those who simply "don't like to read."

1. Read the whole Bible, but don't start with Leviticus.

Meaning, the entire Bible is inspired and relevant for you.  Don't cut out something because you may think it is boring or don't understand it.  We have heretics for that.  But, at the same time, let's be honest about your level of reading and understanding.  Maybe it's time to start with a short book like Philippians.

2. Read the entire book at a time.

If you are going to begin with Philippians, then read all of Philippians.  Don't read a chapter of it, and then start on another chapter in another book.  All of Philippians was written and recorded all together, so read it all and then move on.

3. Don't be afraid to read something again.

If you are enjoying something a lot, then read it again.  You would be surprised how re-reading something will help with the whole "meditating" aspect of reading your Bible.

4. Be smart about the chronology.

If you are completely new, then you may not want to read the Bible backwards.  You may be a little confused if you read the book of 2 Kings and then 1 Kings, or Exodus and then Genesis.  However, you don't need to read Genesis then Exodus then Leviticus.  You could read Genesis and then Matthew and then go back to Exodus.  This brings us to our last point.

5. Read it to remember it.

This is not a beach novel or something that you are reading to check off on your list, which will then "fall off the shelf."  The entire Bible has a theme and a continuous story of God's revelation.  It all fits together.  So, if you read Genesis, know that parts of it are continuous to Exodus, and realistically to the rest of the Scriptures.  Read the parts in light of the whole.

6. Yeah, I know I said #5 was the last point, but this one is hopefully a gimme.  Enjoy your time with God!  Think of it as a love letter, think of it as your instruction, think of it as whatever you will, but for goodness sakes - Enjoy it!  Let your soul resound with Psalm 119:111 which says, "Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart."  

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