I think that God has been talking to me a lot recently about the need for community when it comes to growing closer to him and reading the Bible. If we don’t have other people around us we risk putting God in a box of our own making, trapped by our experiences, knowledge and biases.
But seeing a problem isn’t especially helpful if you’re not prepared to do anything about it, and I’ve realised that something I can do is encourage different people – different Christian voices – to share their experiences of God, the Bible and life. I kicked that off last week with Emily’s guest post (which, if you haven’t read it yet, is fantastic), and now I want to try something different.
This post has been in the works for a while now, and I’m hoping it will be the first of many posts like it, where different people share some of their thoughts about faith. To get the ball rolling, three friends of mine have agreed to share some thoughts on what the Bible means to them.
Mary Smalley – English student at the University of Nottingham – Cornerstone Church, Nottingham
I grew up attending church and therefore learnt about the Bible from a young age at Sunday school. I can’t say how much I truly engaged with the content – I knew the stories pretty well but I think for a while they weren’t ever much more than that. It was after I decided to follow Jesus on a Scripture Union holiday that I gradually came to realise why the Bible was so important – this wasn’t just a collection of disconnected stories, but the narrative of God’s rescue of His people, and a way that He, the hero of the story, chooses to speak directly to us. So that’s pretty cool.
I’ll generally read the NIV but I have a great (if slightly hefty) ESV Study Bible that has really helped me to get a better grasp of what some more confusing passages mean, and how they fit into the big picture of the Bible. The thing about this wonderful book is that there’s a lot of passages that I don’t think I will ever completely get my head around, but I’ve come to see that as a good thing sometimes. I love that I can keep learning about God through what is gradually revealed to me in His word, but I also love that God is so far beyond what my head can understand. He’s so much bigger and better than anything we’ve experienced here on Earth.
That being said though, I’ve known God to reveal so much about who He is through the Bible. The book of Hosea is a current fave of mine, as it’s an example of a narrative that so perfectly illustrates exactly how God feels about us and how his plans to redeem us transcend our unfaithfulness to Him.
Tim Bunker – intern at Grace Church, amongst other things – Grace Church, Nottingham
My experience of the bible has been extremely varied over the past 5+ years. I’ve oscillated between a treatment of scripture characterised by apathy/legalism/boredom and a daily desire for it which I can best describe as an addiction (although, naturally, without such negative connotations) – and all manner of stages in between.
I used to read the New Testament from Romans onwards, bar Revelation, on repeat with the odd bit of psalms and the OT. Now I tend to alternate between reading books in the NT and the OT. In a typical time reading the Bible I will look at the next 2-5 verses, mull them over and try to question and go deeper than the immediate, surface level, meaning that my mind initially concocts. I try to think about where Jesus is in what I’m reading, which can be trickier depending on the book, but I am convinced is always possible. I’m much more a fan of demanding significance from a small portion of text than reading pages and waiting for something to hit me.
I don’t have a favourite passage, but Isaiah 1:17 is big for me. I’m an NIV guy and a decent concordance is a must.
Josh Gardiner – physics student at the University of Nottingham – Cornerstone Church, Nottingham
I was raised in a very traditional Anglican church. For me, the Bible was just an (impressive looking) old book that sat at the front of a church, or something that most houses seemed to have a token one of, somewhere on a bookshelf. It was at a Christian festival, New Wine, where the Bible first stood out for me. Someone pegged the words of Joshua 1:9 on the back of my top, and I knew God was using those words to speak to me at that stage of my life. “This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”. It completely changed my view of what the Bible was, and sparked within me a trust and confidence in a God who has my back.
Reading the Bible hasn’t always been easy since then. I started off just highlighting random verses that caught my eye, which didn’t really work out for me when I realised the context of some of them! More recently I decided I really wanted to understand the story of the whole Bible and where everything fits in. This has been such an amazing revelation! The story is a brilliant one, telling of a people chosen by a God who won’t give up on them, going so far as to send his only Son to die, that they might be brought back to him. Like or not, we’re part of that story, and realising that has added so much depth to my reading. I look forward to God revealing more of himself to me through the Bible!
I would love to share more people’s views of the Bible and God going forward in posts like this and in longer guest posts like Emily’s. If you’re interested in sharing something on the blog, head over to my contact page to get in touch!