The best thing my parents ever did for me was raise me in the Church. From birth I was told about the stories in the Bible. By elementary school I was learning to memorize verses and the books of the Bible. In high school, my youth pastor met with a small group of us to read through the New Testament, front to back, and discuss any questions we might have after reading. I had a lot of questions. Believe it or not, it was in reading through the gospels and Paul’s letters in the New Testament that made me question my faith more than anything.
I think we have this idea that if you read the Bible you’ll be closer to God, or you’ll have all of the answers, or you’ll be a better Christian somehow. That’s not always the case. As I read through Paul’s letter’s to specific churches I wondered if his words were for me. After reading through Colossians 4, a list of greetings to specific people (who were not me) followed by “Remember my chains,” I wondered how his letters got to be our “God-breathed” scripture. He seemed prideful to me (see 2 Corinthians 11:16-33. I could not read this without rolling my eyes).
When I started questioning scripture, I started questioning my faith: If the Bible was written by human men, how can it be trusted? If the Bible can’t be trusted, how can I believe anything it says? Shoot… Is there even a God? Did some historical man’s death on a cross mean anything for me?!
But friends, scripture can be tested. All 66 books of our Bible can handle our questions. So I asked my questions and, more importantly, I got them answered. My youth pastor was a great help, but he led me to resources like Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict and Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. Now I recommend websites like https://www.gotquestions.org/ and use it myself frequently.
Even today, when I read the Bible I can only relate what I’m reading to my experiences. I thought Paul was an arrogant man because in my culture, someone who talks about himself, bragging about his accomplishments or even disasters, is egocentric. But I’m not a Jewish man from the first century and my own pride blinds me from seeing 2 Corinthians 11:30, that Paul is boasting in his own weaknesses. In the next chapter he tells us why:
9 and finally He said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me. 10 I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.
I attend a Bible study* now with women from across my city, from all different ages, and denominations. We study the Bible at home on our own and then get together once a week to discuss what we’ve learned. More than anything, I love hearing how the Spirit moved everyone else and brought different verses to light. I love hearing how they interpret the scripture with their own life experiences, very different from mine. Then we have a teacher who puts the scripture into context for us. She reminds us how these verses fit into the culture at the time that they were written. There are much smarter people than me in this world and together we can bring the God-breathed words to life and apply them to our current culture and daily lives.
We were not meant to read scripture alone. Please hear me on this: It is integral to living this life with Jesus to read the Bible at home and let the Spirit give you understanding. Please don’t depend solely on others to tell you what it means. But don’t JUST read the Bible on your own. Talk about it with your friends. Talk about it with your mentors. Ask your questions and get them answered. I believe that Deuteronomy 6:6-7 is about the whole of scripture. Here is my paraphrase:
Make scripture a part of who you are. Repeat it to your children. Talk about it when you’re sitting together in your home and when you’re walking together down the road with friends. Make it the last thing you talk about before you go to bed and the first thing you talk about the next morning.
Read it often and read it together.
*There are Bible studies like this around the globe. Just ask if you need recommendations for your city. Or, you know, google it.