Thinking and Learning
I listened to a podcast recently where the two hosts were debating the pros and cons of re-reading books. While both had started out being staunch non re-readers, one had recently revised their opinion on it while the other remained unconvinced. I am firmly ensconced in the re-reading camp, sometimes returning to a book shortly after reading it for the first time, sometimes months or years later. Some I re-read with regularity, and the one I read daily is the Bible.
This summer, I had read and journaled my way through the book Acts, for an overview of what our women’s ministry would study over the next year. Then I started the gospel of Luke, reading it while I began to dig deeper into Acts to prepare for what I would teach. Since Luke wrote both books, I wanted to get familiar with his voice, and set the stage for the story that would unfold after the crucifixion. It’s not like I don’t know the setting, but I like the cohesiveness of context, the narrative flowing from one scene to the next, being immersed in the time and place. It helped me pick up things that I overlook sometimes in the familiarity of the text.
I find it amazing that the word of God, so completely unchanging reveals yet unnoticed facets every time I read it. After a couple of decades or more of consistent Bible reading, I’ve never grown bored with it, though I have had those seasons where instead of feasting I felt like I was eating dry shredded wheat. Lots of fiber, not much taste. That’s a topic for another time, but even in those seasons I’ve been nourished, and found something I haven’t seen before. Not new truth, but new understanding of the truth.
Often this understanding comes not because I’ve learned more intellectually, but because I’ve lived more. Experience affects us. In a season of strife with another person I saw in the Psalms a different revelation of God’s character, as in between the bouts of praise we see psalmists cry out for a shield and defense to a sovereign and powerful God. Before I saw the praise, then I began to see the protection. Same verses, different time.
People who don’t follow Jesus sometimes say they have read the Bible once. I wonder at this, if they really read the whole thing, and if they did, why? Did they want to examine and learn, seek answers to questions? Did they read it to shut someone up who wouldn’t stop asking them to, were they skeptical, defensive, and shaped by preconceived opinions? Did they find answers, or more questions?
We live in a time of unprecedented answers. We have access to information on a scale our minds can never absorb, and with that comes the need to be able to sift through that information for the truth, for the valuable, for the essential. Evidence is necessary. Evidence is before our eyes.
What if you read the Bible asking to be shown the truth about what it actually says? Truth about who God is, really, and truth about who Jesus is. Truth about yourself, about love, about justice and about faith. Anything we come to with a fixed conviction makes proper evaluation of evidence an uphill climb and most of us turn away from the challenge. What if you read with just these questions in mind, noting only the factual, what text actually says and not opinion?
What did what I just read say about God?
What did what I just read say about people?
What did what I just read say about cause and effect?
What did what I just read say about love, justice and mercy?
What did what I just read reveal that I didn’t know before?
I think it a worthy exercise, whether you follow Jesus or not, one that would help you know that more clearly what you believe and why. It may change what you believe, it may not. It may strengthen what you believe, it may shake what you believe and challenge you to dig deeper for answers.
We all believe something. Be sure you've thought through what you believe and why. What we believe shapes who we are, how we live, and shouldn't that be something we arrive at through careful consideration?
"...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Phil 4:8-9