I really do love the Bible. It has meant so much to me in both the peaks and the valleys of life. It is like a long standing relationship that just gets better and better with age. I have had the times when the Bible fell open to just the right text at just the right time and felt God was telling me something. When my grandmother was dying of cancer and in her last days I sat in Bible class that Wednesday night with tears in my eyes. I opened my Bible straight to 2 Cor 1 about the God of all comfort. There has never been a moment in my life where the words felt more like in some small way God had me and countless other people in mind when he inspired the opening words to the second letter to the Corinthians. I have had times when I wrestled and wrestled with a text and couldn’t get much out of it that seemed applicable at all but somehow I knew I was better for the experience of trying to hear what those ancient words had to say to my modern ears.
The Bible has served as a mentor to me. There are the times the Bible has humbled me into recognizing I was wrong or needed corrected. Then there are the times scripture has jumped up right in front of me, come to life, and was responded to with “Aha!” The pieces finally clicked together. They had been there all the time but maybe a new insight, a new piece of information or life experience made an old, much read verse, come to life in a new way. I am sure you know what I am talking about. You have almost certainly been there yourself.
A few reflection on scripture:
- The Bible stands there and says what it says and I have to deal with it. If I get my priorities out of whack I can try to manipulate what it says to suit my ears but cherry picking Greek glosses and lexicons or by coming up with some obscure interpretation. But if I am humble enough to let God’s Word change me rather than me change it I will experience something powerful in its study. It is like getting a letter from a friend about a problem. You can’t argue back with a letter. You have to take it all in first and read what is there, even re-read it.
- Because the text is living, breathing, and sharp (Heb 4:12, 2 Tim 3:16) and because my life isn’t static, the Bible often encounters me at different times in life in different ways that it ever has before. I certainly read the Gospel of John differently now than when I was 13. Knowing the themes, the signs, the theology, purpose, and where John is taking the reader the text has become so much richer for me than it used to be and things now seem obvious that were buried for the 13 year old version of myself. I love the richness that brings to the text as the words on the page are the same but the conversation changes as our maturity and readiness to hear what it is saying changes.
- We are looking back on what many looked forward to and so we take much for granted. 1 Peter 1:12 tells us that the Gospel that has been revealed to us was concealed even from the angels much less those who went before the church and ministry of Christ. So there is much to be appreciated about being the recipients of the complete message of God/Christ through the Gospels and letters of the New Testament but also through the Old Testament (more on that another time). This gives us a privileged perspective of faith resulting in great responsibility. For instance, when Mary and Martha are upset with Jesus for not getting to Bethany to heal Lazarus any faster we know he is going to raise him from the dead. They don’t. That doesn’t mean we don’t have any faith struggles because our picture of God can be more informed than those who just had this piece or that. But it is still a blessing nevertheless!
- God knew I was thickheaded enough to give me the Gospel in four formats. I love the differences in perspective of each of the Gospels. God was so wise to preserve that for us! Mark is action packed. Matthew is so detailed in how this story fits the rest of the story. Luke is compassionate. John is intimate…an inner circle view of much of the goings on and explanations of Jesus’ ministry with the sole intention of producing faith in the reader.
- Scripture is rich in the variety of genres and approaches it takes to speak to me the words of God – poetry, geneology, narrative, letter, and everything in between.
- There is always someone to relate to. Whether I did something good or bad there is always someone to relate to. The Bible isn’t interested in painting the good guys as the good guys. The Bible is interested in pointing imperfect people toward a perfect God. The result is I realize I am in the same boat as everyone from those who barely got it all the way up to the “heroes of the faith.”
- Scripture brings me hope no matter how imperfect I find myself to be. Man after God’s own heart and murderer, shepherd of God’s people and murderer, stepped on the waves and denied him three times. Yet all were received back into God’s grace in the end. That gives me hope.
- Scripture is effective in leading me toward life and righteousness. Philippians 4:8 says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I can’t think of anything to think about that fits those criteria better than scripture itself. Jesus said his words are spirit and life (John 6:63).
- As Donny D says often, you will never do what the Bible says and wake up with regrets wondering why on earth you did something so foolish. It doesn’t get much more practical than that.
- The One whose hands knit me in my mother’s womb also produced the words contained in scripture. His words really are life.
What has scripture meant to you whether you have studied it all your life or even just a short amount of time?
I must say, though, with all due respect to an excellent reflection from Donny D, I have wondered sometimes if I would regret taking Matthew 5:29-30 literally, or to the extreme (depending on your view).
I did consider some of those teachings as I typed that. It is a difficult thing for sure. Of course, at the end of the day we have no regrets when God irons out all the wrinkles.
i, too, was particular struck by #9. And i, too, wonder if we wouldn’t find ourselves empowered by a sharper, perhaps more literal reading of the sermon on the mount.
Sadly, at various stages of my life, i’ve never lost the temptation to explain away inconvenient passages (though which passages are inconvenient have varied). i believe that speaks to #1.
Here’s a question: Why do you think there aren’t more public scripture readings in your typical CoC service?
Many churches have the buffer system order of worship. There are certain “acts of worship” that are scriptural and believed should be included in every Sunday assembly. Scripture readings often serve as a buffer in the middle of four songs and is viewed as effective because it is God’s Word. Some churches would think a service was “unscriptural” if we had scripture in place of a sermon. Kind of ironic.
So often we think a few verses will suffice. We used to be known as the ones who really knew scripture. I think younger generations are pretty thirsty for God’s Word so maybe we will see more emphasis on scripture in the future.
True, the traditional CoC’s will likely always do what they’ve always done and they will play the 5-acts-of-worship card when asked why. But there are still non-traditional CoC’s that don’t feature the public reading of scripture anymore prominantly than the conservatives do. In fact, it seems by and large most progressive churches place the music and the sermon as the centerpiece, the same as the conservatives do. People from both sides will give lip service to the idea that the LS ought to be the centerpiece, but neither make any permanent liturgical changes to reflect that fact (although, i’ve heard that is not the case with some European CoC’s).
While the early church may have had a great many more illiterates than we do and thus the public reading of scripture was quite practical, i can’t help but thinking it was beneficial in a great many ways–community building, identity forming, mutually educating, etc. There are certainly other religious groups who do treat the public reading of scripture as the centerpiece. i just wonder if we might be missing out on something important.
we read one chapter of the NT at every service, sun am, pm, and wed. from year to year we rotate through the different gospels.
great thoughts here which will prob end up in our bulletin (with proper citation)