|Series Theme: Can I Believe the Bible|
Title: 1. Personal Testimony: The Wonder of the Bible
A series that explains what the Bible is and why we can trust it.
This particular page explains what the Bible means to the author of these pages and why. It is a personal testimony and is, therefore, quite different from any of the other pages you will find on this site.
This page is all about the author's heart, and we hope you'll be able to catch something of it as you read what is here, and find it useful. The part headed, 'Lessons Learnt' has appeared elsewhere in my writings, but I think it is worth repeating. As I said, I hope you find it useful and a good entrance to the other pages.
2. How it all started
We listened to others and decided that, when they were old enough, we would introduce our children to some form of daily reading from the Bible. We went to our local Christian bookshop, which has a wide variety of materials, and bought something for children. They were about five and six when we started this off.
We tried various materials for children but nothing seemed to click for our two. Eventually I wondered if I could produce something very simple for them, myself, and so laboriously typed out little A5 sized sheets with half a dozen very simple questions on with spaces for answers to be written in - in fact 30 of these to cover the next month.
They graciously worked with these and by about day 25 I was beginning to think that I had better steer them back to the "professional materials" to get myself out of having to keep on producing something. One morning I casually suggested that at the end of the month we ought to go back to one of the well known sets of materials for children. "Oh no," they said, "this is much better, can't we carry on doing these?" The die was set.
For the years that followed I produced and produced and produced these daily sets of questions for the children. The cynics among us might say my kids only did it because they were my kids. That may be, but the point is that I was set on a course of Bible study about twenty years ago that had a particular style and which has continued since.
After a while I developed the notes, more for adults rather than for children. The style was to ask 6 questions of a short Bible passage to ensure the reader took in what they were reading, three questions to make them think about the overall message of the passage, and then a short commentary to go over the passage explaining it in more detail.
Why am I telling this story? Because I want you to understand that any comments I make about the Bible are well founded on well over twenty years of personal experience.
For that period of time I have been doing daily verse by verse detailed study. Yes, I've read the complete Bible more that once or twice, but more importantly I've done verse by verse study of it persistently for a long time.
I think I've learnt one or two things over that period, and I'd like to share them with you. Here they are:
3. Lessons Learnt
1. Most people don't get excited by the Bible because they don't really read it!
I have observed that when I just read a passage of the Bible, ask me about it ten minutes later and I can't tell you much about it.
It's only when you really do read it, study it and take it in that you realise the wonder of what is there - but that takes commitment!
2. Most people don't get excited by the Bible because they don't ask God for help with it.
There are times when I open the Book and read it and it does nothing for me.
I stop and realise what I'm doing and then ask God for help and you'll never guess what - suddenly it goes alive! In fact every single morning when I pray first and ask God's help with it, the Book goes alive! Every single morning!
3. Most people don't get excited by the Bible because they don't let it touch them.
I know that when I treat the Bible as just another book to be read, I'm untouched by it.
When I realise afresh that it is inspired by God and is therefore the most important book in the world and that I must pay attention to it, it suddenly starts being very pertinent and starts impacting in ways previously unknown!
The more I let it touch me the more it comes alive.
4. Many people say it's full of contradictions, because they don't fully read it.
I have bits of the Bible I don't understand but I'm not sure I've found any bits that are flat contradictions.
I realised many years ago that when you have two or more people recording the same incident, they'll emphasise the bits that stood out to them - and may even not mention certain bits that really impacted others.
The only problem, is that it takes time and effort to think through some of these things. It's easier to give it a surface read and then be critical!
5. Many people say the God of the Old Testament is harsh, but then they haven't read much of it.
I think my mind was transformed on this issue when I did a verse by verse study of Jeremiah and the thing that hit me was the number of times God warns Israel about the way they are living.
Again and again and again and again come the calls from the heart of God, crying out to Israel, warning about what will happen.
What is staggering for Israel, and for us, is God's amazingly longsuffering heart that goes on and on and on crying out to us to avoid the destruction that we're bringing on ourselves.
Oh no, read it fully and carefully and you'll see that 'harsh' is the last thing that you can call God!
6. Many people say that the Old Testament is irrelevant to modern day living, but they've never read it.
What I've found so staggering is that writings of three thousand years ago can be SO relevant to life today.
Take the book of Ecclesiastes for instance. This is a book that many people find dry.
It's a book written by King Solomon near the end of his life, probably after he's disobeyed God's wisdom and had taken many foreign wives who lead him into much foreign idolatrous worship of pagan gods.
Key words in the book are "under the sun" meaning it's written from an earthly standpoint.
Solomon has been there and got the tee shirt six times over. You name it and he's done it and at the end he says it's all pointless.
An amazing book by one of the richest men the world has ever known.
And he realised that without God in your life, it's all pointless. A primer for modern management trainees that book!
7. Many people say the Bible is sexist, but then they're the ones who have only read the odd verse.
Such people jump up and down about the apostle Paul in the New Testament who, as modern scientists are beginning to recognise, merely acknowledges that men and women are made differently and function differently, and that's not just physically!
Study the genealogy of Jesus in the beginning of Matthew's Gospel sometime.
This is a family tree about Jews, written by Jews who placed men in the key place of honour, and what you find between verses 3 and 6 are four women mentioned!
Tamar had sex with her father to carry on the family tree, Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth was a foreigner, a non-Jew, and Uriah's wife had her husband murdered by a king and was then taken to be his wife.
This is the family tree of Jesus!
It says that God cares about women in His economy, and it doesn't matter where they come in the social strata, they're important.
No, Jesus came to bring equality to women in a way that was contrary to both his own nationality and that of many other nations.
8. Most people who say the Bible is boring haven't ever really troubled with it.
This book, like no other book in the world, describes the human condition as it really is.
It tells it exactly as it is and pulls no punches. But it doesn't leave it there; it provides hope for the lost, release for the captives and healing for the sick.
Millions can testify to it's life-changing power. As I read it, as I've described above, this book lives.
It explains why life is as it is, it explains why I am as I am, and then it gives me hope. Boring? No way!
9. Most people who think you have to be perfect to be loved by God, clearly haven't read the Bible
I have been absolutely staggered as I have read of God's grace, especially in the stories of some of the Old Testament saints.
The thing to realise is that they weren't saints to start with.
Abraham who is considered the father of faith, the father of Israel, the father of Islam, shows us a man whose early life was a catalogue of blunders.
Yes, there was faith interweaved with it, but if I was God, I would have written Abraham off very early on.
When you look at his grandson, Jacob, it's even more true.
The staggering thing is the length of time that God worked with these individuals before they could anyway be considered for "man of the year" awards!
If God could take that time over them, He surely will with me and you.
10. Many people who haven't read the Bible think God was only concerned with religious men, or kings or prophets.
Yes, God did have dealings with all these sorts of people, but actually they are only a small proportion of the characters you find in the Bible.
Look at the people that Jesus gathered around himself, for instance, and you see the sort of people that God is interested in: the poorly educated, underdogs of society, those disliked by the rich and well off, those despised by the religious elite.
As I read my Bible I am excited by the wonder of God's love that reaches out to all and sundry - and that must include you and me.
4. And so...
Perhaps you've never given much thought to the Bible, or you found it boring at school, or you've simply taken on board someone else's prejudiced ideas. Perhaps it's time to find out for yourself.
Get a modern version of the Bible and start reading at the beginning of the New Testament - oh, and don't forget to ask God for help (He won't mind if it's the first time you've ever asked Him for anything!)
So why not, as suggested above, simply start a daily reading pattern of your own in the Bible, and who knows what you might find happening. Instead of having to read the lessons above that I've learnt, you'll be able to say yourself, "You know, I just didn't realise how incredible this book is. Isn't God wonderful!"