I was five years out of my cult, graduated from secular college, and married to my completely opposite husband, before I started to understand how the Bible was put together. We were at a tiny Bible school in the state of Wyoming and my husband was taking a class on Biblical interpretation. One day as we talked about class, a light bulb turned on and I was filled with questions:
- The books of the Bible are different genres with different purposes?
- They were written to unique people?
- The prophetic books are mostly meant for the nation of Israel and I can’t just apply them to whatever I want?
- Verses have specific interpretations and they can’t mean totally different things to different people?
- Understanding the culture back then is important?
The Bible had always seemed so mystical and mysterious, but it began to feel more concrete and understandable. It was amazing!
A few years later, our church small group went through Max Lucado’s “The Story.” We took a chronological journey through the Bible in 30 weeks. I know it sounds long, but it was SO good! For the first time, I saw the Bible for what it actually is…the story of God and the people He created.
We slowly worked our way through the Old Testament with history and prophecies all intertwined according to when they were written.
Do you know what I saw? I saw Jesus. There were hints of the coming Savior from the very beginning.
By the time we got to the New Testament, I was full of eager anticipation. And then, there He was…coming so unexpectedly, so humbly. Showing us the heart of the Father. It was incredibly beautiful and moving. I LOVED seeing the big picture of God’s plan for the world.
Unfortunately, this big picture is what we are most often missing! You don’t know how many Christians I run into who tell me that they really don’t know anything about the Bible.
If I’m honest, I don’t know what is more concerning…
- Christians who don’t know anything about the Bible,
- Christians who believe crazy things about the Bible, or
- Christians who are so burned by what people told them the Bible says, that they can’t even pick it up anymore.
People, this is a problem! The truth about who God is, who we are, and what Jesus has done is found in the Bible. But too many of us don’t know how to read it, use it, or what to believe about it.
Can I just set some things straight…some of the lies Christians often believe?
There is no “one inspired version” of the Bible. There are some beautiful translations and some wonderful paraphrases. Which one you choose to read should depend on where you are spiritually, how intellectual you want to be, and honestly, which you prefer. God is big enough to speak through any of them!
When you read the Bible in a modern translation, it is not hard to understand. It was written by everyday people for regular people. The more you read the Bible, the more familiar you will become with certain concepts or ideas. Also, the Bible is actually really good at interpreting itself if you keep going and don’t give up. Some passages may be more challenging than others, but we modern people have this amazing resource called The Internet. There are some wonderful sites such as blueletterbible.org that provide free Bible study resources.
The Bible is not supposed to be a magic 8 ball that gives us specific answers to specific problems. Sometimes God will speak to you through a verse or chapter and it will be amazing! But, we cannot open it at random and point to the page and expect that to be “God’s voice.” The Bible has many purposes, but being our personal Ouija board is not one of them.
We can’t cut up the Bible and take out parts we don’t like or don’t agree with. But that also doesn’t mean that we accept someone else’s opinion about those parts. We need to do a little personal digging…look into context, original audience and author intent. Remember, logic and intellect aren’t always the winners when it comes to God. And, just because our secular culture believes something doesn’t always make it right.
However, we don’t need to obnoxiously smack people with our Biblical beliefs either. Believe it or not, you can believe the whole Bible and still love people. 😉
Look for the final part of this series tomorrow.