Best Book Forward!

As a small child I was sent to Sunday School where we used to sing the chorus

The best book to read is the Bible

The best book to read is the Bible

If you read it every day,

It will help you on your way

Oh the best book to read is the Bible

Through Sunday School I learnt the stories of Jesus and encountered some of the heroes of the Old Testament, like David the little boy who killed the big giant.

As I grew into adulthood and discovered faith, my reading changed.  I was privileged, through the churches I attended, to hear some wonderful preaching from people that helped to grow a real love of scripture in me. 

I was taught the value of a “daily quiet time”.  Read a portion of the Bible alongside some notes and spend some time in prayer.  It was a great discipline and one that I would not knock.  There have been times when this has been profoundly helpful and equally, times when I have struggled with it.  I still try (with varying degrees of success) and do this as part of my own daily pattern.

When I went into ministry, my focus in reading the Bible changed.  The Bible seemed to become a “tool of the trade”.  I found that each time I read a passage I saw it as a potential sermon.  I would, for example, look at my quiet time passage and start trying to find “three points” to preach from.  I found it really hard to just read scripture just for the sheer joy of encountering God through His word.  To combat this urge within, I used two Bibles.  One was “exclusively” for sermon preparation and one was “exclusively” for my personal time with God!

I have been reflecting on this struggle for some time now and I have found that my relationship with the Bible is changing again.  I have tried a few times to put into words what is happening and nothing that I wrote seemed to make sense – even to me.  Yesterday, I read this from Henri Nouwen that seems to capture where I am with the Bible at the moment;

 

“To take the holy scriptures and read them is the first thing we have to do to open ourselves to God’s call. … The word of God should lead us first of all to contemplation and meditation. Instead of taking the words apart, we should bring them together in our innermost being; instead of wondering if we agree or disagree, we should wonder which words are directly spoken to us and connect directly with our most personal story. Instead of thinking about the words as potential subjects for an interesting dialogue or prayer, we should be willing to let them penetrate into the most hidden corners of our heart, even to those places where no other word has yet found entrance.”

—Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life

 

The writer to the Hebrews says this;

 

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

(Hebrews 4 vs. 12)

If I want the living word of God to impact my life, speak into my situations guide me and grow me I have to be willing to let the Bible speak for itself and allow it’s words to penetrate, as Henri Nouwen says, to those places where no other word has yet found entrance.

I wonder, how do you allow God’s word to speak to you?

2 thoughts on “Best Book Forward!

  1. Your words are interesting and wise. In ministry we can become task focussed or even hanker for what commentators say about the “words”.
    I remember a prison Chaplain who had the approach of saying, when speaking, that he didn’t really understand the passage, thereby connecting with those who were listening. he then tried logically to unpack the concepts, and listeners were with him all the way! A tradition in my local church is for the gospel to be read amongst the people – in the nave – and everyone faces the reader. It is as though the read has run into the midst of us with exciting news, first time heard (like), and I find this helpful!

  2. In my younger days, i read the Bible consciously and determinedly with the help of a reading plan and notes. For some years now I’ve subscribed to daily Bible verse emails, pondered and prayed over them and made notes. Now I’m not satisfied with isolated verses, often taken out of context. I’m compiling a list of key passages of about 20-odd verses each, to be read a day at a time over a year. I’d need help editing that list. The idea is to let God speak to me through His Word and His Spirit, rather than through someone else’s ideas. At the same time I feel no need to read obscure passages in my daily prayer time.

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