The Risky Business of Bible Reading

The Bible isn’t like any other book. To read it is to be confronted.

It confronts us with the truth about ourselves and the truth about God. One thing we learn as we read it is that reading it is not necessarily a holy act. Reading the Bible may be the most sinful thing you could do, if you use it, rather than come under it in humility.

Reading the Bible to gain standing with God or other people is one way we use it sinfully. Reading it to know God, to be taught by him, to receive from him, is the only way we can read it rightly. There is a sense in which the study of the Bible can itself become a god. We can read it in such a double-minded fashion that we believe because we study it, we know the One whose book it is. To read the Bible and not be changed by it, is risky. To read the Bible in order to look smart, is to profoundly reject what it actually teaches.

The Bible’s purpose is two kinds of knowing. Knowing the information and stories in the pages, and knowing the Person. You can have the first without the second. You can’t have the second without some amount of the first.

As I reflect on how I’ve read the Bible, there has been much of the wrong kind of reading over the years. There are so many temptations to read it like a cookbook, or a self-help pamphlet, or fix-it manual, or to look holy. Yet, in all that, there has been profound grace. In all the mis-use and tainted motivations, the Person in the pages has been revealed. The evil motives have been confronted as the reading rolls on. Repentance has been taught. Forgiveness has been given.

Reading the Bible will always be risky business and we shouldn’t take it lightly. A healthy dose of humility and fear should accompany our reading. But NOT reading the Bible is whole different kind of frightening. Taking it for granted, ignoring it, assuming we know it all already, avoiding the confrontation we know it will bring–that’s as close to soul suicide as I can think of.

Do you have a Bible? Are you willing to have your life crushed and reborn? Do you want to know God? Then read your Bible and ask the Person in the pages to meet you there.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:1-4 ESV)

a spiritual endorsement for the iphone

I mentioned a while back that I got an iphone.

I also mentioned that I was enjoying it immensely.  That is still true.  One benefit that I didn’t anticipate has been a spiritual one.

Every year our church encourages us to follow a schedule of reading through the Bible in a year.  I’ve never been able to do it.  I’ve started three times and a few months in have felt hopelessly behind.

The last two years, I’ve only read half or a quarter of the assigned reading per day and been mostly content with that.  It has been a fruitful time.  I don’t believe that you have to read through the Bible in a year in order to have meaningful times in the Word.

However, I still have had a desire to read it in a year, or at least close to a year.  I can see that there are benefits to getting a broad look at all of Scripture and being able to make connections between Old Testament and New.

I didn’t think that the way I’d be able to do it would be because of an iphone, but it has been.  I got the phone in February and Mr. TommyD downloaded an app that you tap on and it takes you to the four passages of Scripture for that day as put together by our church.  You can go forward or backward in the days, in case you need to catch up.  Since February, I have been able to keep up with the program!

This is a minor miracle for me.  It hasn’t felt overly rushed or burdensome either.  Even through Leviticus and Numbers I have found much to chew on as it has contrasted and connected with the Psalms and New Testament reading.

Here’s how the iphone has made it doable:

1) I just tap on the app and all the reading is there.  I never lose my spot or forget where I am.

2) I can read it without turning a light on.  I was often sleepless during the last trimester of pregnancy and I could read it without switching on the light and waking up Tom.

3) It’s small and easy to hold in one hand while reading.  In other words, I can read it while nursing.  I’ve always kept my Bible close by when nursing the last three, but turning pages, trying to get to another passage, and balancing the Bible has made it difficult.  Not anymore.

4) It’s always with me.  I always have my phone on me, so even if I only have a few minutes free, I can pull it out and immediately be in the Word.

And here’s a bonus.  When I finish my Bible reading, I switch over to kindle for iphone and have been able to get through a few long books in the last couple months (all free downloads via kindle).  Right now I’m reading a biography of John Newton and it is quite wonderful.

So, there’s my spiritual endorsement for the iphone.  Who’d have thunk it? 🙂

Perhaps my next post should be all the possible spiritual pitfalls of the iphone.. that might be a bit longer though.