Read Your Bible!

Many have heard the story of the man whose devotional reading consisted of cracking his Bible at random and reading the first verse his finger touched. One morning this was his verse for the day: "And Judas went out and hanged himself."

That can't be it, he thought. So he tried again. "Go thou and do likewise" was his second hit.

Chagrined, he thought,The third time is a charm! It wasn't. It read: "What thou doest, do quickly!"

Few of us are as off-base as that man, but since we have a fresh New Year ahead, let's look at seven ways we can improve our Bible-reading.

1. Read!

The most obvious advice is: "Just do it!" Millions of Christians don't, and it shows in their attitudes and life-styles. A Charles Schulz cartoon from the book Young Pillars shows a gangling teenager on the phone with his girlfriend. The caption reads: "I'm beginning to unravel the mystery of the Old Testament; I'm reading it!"

2. Read Prayerfully

You're not reading a secular book or even a great Christian one; you're reading God's inspired message to you. Ask His blessing and the Spirit's enlightenment every time you read.

3. Read Systematically

Read entire books of the Bible, not just snippets. And remember to keep a record of what you've read. Whether you use a one-year system (see Our Daily Bread for an example) or a three-year one doesn't matter. Make a commitment to read seven minutes a day to start with.

4. Read Graciously

Don't make Bible-reading a legalistic fetish: "I missed this morning, so everything will go wrong today" or "No Bible, no breakfast." When you're ill, under special pressure, or rushed to leave home, a short passage read with care is worth three chapters rushed through to assuage your conscience!

This is God's love letter to His people and when cynics read it to ridicule or find fault they're reading someone else's mail! (If you're one of those, dear reader, do keep reading, but look for God's grace in Christ, not faults!)

5. Read Attentively

A liberal New Testament scholar admitted on his death bed that he "had never read the New Testament with attention" (although, no doubt, he had read with attention many scholarly books and articles about the New Testament). Let's not be guilty of such a cavalier handling of God's Word. Shut off all the world, especially radio, TV, records, CDs, and tapes, and give the King your undivided attention.

Visualize the historical narratives, meditate on the poetry, and apply the exhortations.

6. Read Expectantly

As you search for wisdom to live each day, continue your reading for that day until you find it. God will speak through His Word!

7. Read Joyfully

Our pioneer ancestors laboriously traced out God's words in big family Bibles. It showed in their stable and righteous lives. We ought to give the Bible that kind of respect.

Keep reading and eventually you will enjoy the Bible. It will gradually change from the "branflakes" stage (dry but nourishing) to the "peaches-and-cream" stage ("Hey, I'm enjoying this!").

Maybe you're just not a book person, but by all means be a Book person.

The late Dr. John Mitchell, a graduate of Dallas Seminary's first class and long-time professor at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon, used to lecture students when their ignorance of some text surfaced. He would say with his Scottish burr, "Don't you fellas ever read you Bi-bles?"

I pass on his fatherly command to those who didn't have the privilege of sitting under his ministry: "Read you Bi-bles!"