More on helping you read the Bible

This is part two of a conversation about reading the Bible that we started yesterday.

Second, schedule the conversation.

Recently, I started setting the chair time on my calendar for 5:45. I get up at 5:30, and the coffee maker runs at 5:17, so it’s ready when the alarm goes off. And I often look first at email. or facebook. or twitter. or all three. But I need a reminder so I have the alarm go off at 5:45 and I sit in my chair.

Most of us schedule important things. We set time for dates, not because it’s drudgery but because we need reminders. We set reminders for classes and for work because it’s important. (I wrote more about this recently).

So why not schedule conversations with God?  In a chair? Routinely. Because that way we don’t have to decide when and where.

Third, read anything from the Bible.

Seriously. Anything.

whatever. @naswanson at cornerstone for kids #harvesttourI’m a reader. At any given time I have six books I’m reading from. business books, commentaries, writing books, Lord of the Rings. One day I was beating myself up for jumping around in my Bible reading and I thought, “But that’s how I read!” So I relaxed.

It’s okay to read various parts of the Bible from day to day. As you are sitting in your chair at the scheduled time, read the text from the sermon you heard Sunday. Or read the book of Mark. But read from the Bible (not just 300 words.) I’ll offer more suggestions about this one next week.

Fourth, ask God what he’s saying.

I (usually) love it when someone says, “What were you thinking about when you wrote this.” or when someone says, “I love that post” or they say, “Seriously? I’m not sure I agree.” I love it because it means I can talk to them. I can explain. I can engage.  I can say, “Ah. look at what I wrote two months ago. That’s part of the same conversation.”

And I never have those conversations when no one asks. Because it’s tacky to say, “Have you read my blog?”

Since I assume that God is behind the words of the Bible, I make asking God questions part of the routine of interaction.


5 thoughts on “More on helping you read the Bible

  1. Rich Dixon

    #4 is a beautiful metaphor…discussing the words with the writer. Don’t need fancy clothes or special music for such an intimate conversation.


  2. Lenore Chernenko

    Ah . . . reading the Bible . . . For sixty years, I read the Bible to become familiar with the text; I consider much of that time well spent. Louder in my mind than the text, however, were the interpretations I was hearing in my narrow Christian community. Something was wrong, and I felt anxious. Disciplined times of “devotions” made me nervous. Finally, I learned that there is more than one way to read the Bible; I began to read Holy Scripture as I might approach good literature, a collection of writings full of underlying principles and shades of meaning. My interest in reading the Bible came alive. My questions for you: When we ask God what He means by any given passage, does not the “answer” usually too heavily depend on what we have been taught to believe by our teachers and commentaries? If our intent is to know God, can we expect to gain valid insight as we ask God, while reading Scripture, who He is and what He means?


    1. Jon Swanson

      I understand the noise of interpretations.

      But I find myself often starting not with the teachers but with the text. I know what this position is, and I know what that position is, but I try to read as if God is behind the text.

      I read commentaries the same way, looking for the places they lay out multiple positions (Which is why, for example, I like Douglas Moo’s commentary on Colossians in the Pillar series. He thoughtfully describes several positions on a text and then says, “I lean toward this one.” There is a humility to that approach.

      But I’m working from a presupposition. I assume that God is involved in Scripture. And so, for me, I can gain insight about God from reading all the ways that scripture talks about God, people, and the stories of interactions of each with the others.

      Part of my approach comes from my background in communication. I am expecting that someone is saying something. But that’s probably another post.


  3. Lenore Chernenko

    I like the idea, when reading Scripture, of “encouraging myself” to honor my “take” on what God is saying before letting in “the noise of interpretations-past”; this is something I will practice. Then. . . when interacting with others re Scripture, people would do well to consider the background and presuppositions of one another; I like this! Thank you, Jon, for sparking my further thinking!


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