"The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me."
What is your relationship with God’s Word?
By God’s Word, of course, I mean the Bible. Most Christians will quickly profess their love for the Bible. But like many of our relationships, our connection and loyalty to Another will wax and wane. The same goes for me.
My first Bible was a small New Testament that was presented to my parents when I was dedicated. It was red and worn from my greasy, preschool hands. Although I couldn’t read it, I carried it with me to church. It was common knowledge that one took their Bible with them to church. Apparently, 4-year-olds were not exempt.
When I began first grade, I was given a hardbound copy of the King James Bible in worship at the beginning of the school year. I couldn’t understand a lick of it, but I loved the dramatic pictures scattered throughout the book.
A couple of years later I received a children’s Bible for Christmas. I adored that gift and began to rapidly read through the gospels. There were few, if any pictures, but it was written in a vernacular I could understand. You can imagine my grief, then, when I placed this prized Bible on the hood of our Buick station wagon just before we pulled out of the church’s parking lot. We looked along the road for it but never found it. I was devastated.
My next Bible was a sleek, softbound New International Version Bible. It accompanied me on youth retreats and mission trips. It was used for personal reading, devotions and Bible study. To this day, it still has remnants of my past, pressed between its pages, like a 20th century time capsule.
My first real Study Bible entered the picture when I went off to college. The notes at the bottom of the page helped me to decipher tough passages and difficult stories. It proved to be a faithful guide as I prepared studies and devotions while I served as a student summer missionary.
By that time I was expected to have a different kind of Bible. I needed to have access to a Bible whose translation could be trusted from an academic perspective. I was learning, you see, that words and phrases matter. I knew the Message. But now, I needed to know how the Message had come to be given in the first place.
What would follow would be a quick succession of any number of Bible translations in any number of languages. These Bibles, which sit closest to my desk, provide me access to a dynamic expression of God’s Word.
My relationship with God’s Word today is complicated. It’s difficult to pastor, or to lead a Bible study, without a firm understanding of and familiarity with God’s Word. The trap for me, though, is to not treat the Bible as a tool of the trade. I must confess that it’s tempting to read the Bible for expediency—that is, for its professional usefulness. If I am derelict in my duties, I’ll read scripture for the sole purpose of preparation for my work to develop a sermon or some other ministerial demand. Ultimately, this does not reveal a healthy relationship with God’s Word as it can ignore an intimate and personal reading of the text.
I am convicted by the way in which I have been using, reading and reflecting on scripture, and I want to reclaim the zeal I once had for God’s Holy Word. Scripture shouldn’t be used to get something accomplished. It should be savored, pored over, delighted in and meditated upon. As followers of Jesus who are commanded to walk humbly with our God, we’ve got to be committed to the reading and study of scripture as a way to know the God Who Wants to Be Known.
On Wednesday nights this fall, we’ll be learning about how we got our Bible. Alas, it didn’t just wash up on the beach as a gift from God. Nor did God dictate the Bible to Jesus for him to write down. No, we have the Bible through an extraordinary process of discernment and evaluation that has stretched on for numerous generations and centuries.
Most of us have had a deep commitment to God’s Word throughout our lives. Perhaps this fall, however, we can find cause to renew our vows.