Northeast Church is reading through the Scriptures this year. As part of that, we have been considering together what the Bible is (and what it is not). Here is the message. And here is a blogified excerpt from the message . . .
What is your story with the Bible? We all have one. We are all on some journey with this library of writings we call the Bible. As you look back and consider your story, where have you been and honestly where are you today as it relates to these sacred writings?
My story with the Scriptures started when my parents sent me to a Christian school in my city. By the way, it was through the Followers of Jesus there at the school that my entire family and I came to faith in Jesus, so I am incredibly thankful for them and for that setting.
In that setting, the Bible was a huge deal. Huge is not a big enough word. For starters, we memorized a Text of Scripture every week, sometimes one verse, sometimes more. Every single week for 13 years. We had Bible classes every day, every semester for those 13 years, classes in which we walked through the Bible and theology and how to live according to the Bible. To take that even further (warning: this is going to trip some of you out), we pledged our allegiance to the Bible every day. Five years old, hand on the heart. I certainly have some thoughts about that for another time, mostly centered around my understanding that our allegiance is to be pledged only to Jesus. But for now, I will say that I pledged my allegiance to the Bible every day for those years. We had chapel services where the Bible was taught each week. On top of all of that, I was part of a Church that had a heavy emphasis on teaching and proclaiming the Bible. I was a teachable kid, so from a young age I would sit and listen to and take all of it in. And in my mind, there was an answer for every question, and there was little tension related to it at all.
That was my early relationship with the Scriptures.
Then, in a strange twist and turn of events, my uncle Mike generously set up a fund for my extended family to go to college. My uncle Mike passed away and set up a trust fund to cover a huge chunk of the cost of college, with one stipulation: the money could not be used for any college or university that taught the Bible.
As a result, I went to a school that “did not require a religious course for graduation.” I had been thrust into a Bible-centered culture at 5 years old, and then I was thrust into a very different setting. And ironically, the very first college class I ever stepped into in that fall semester was an Old Testament class, OT101, which was taught from the perspective that these writings were merely ancient literature, that they were only human and not divine. During those college years, I was away from the Church. Among other things, I was going to house parties and staring at M.C. Escher drawings. But even then, during certain seasons, I would tune into the radio (this was before podcasts), and I would listen to Bible teaching. Even in the midst of being away from the Church and running after other things, Jesus was graciously drawing me to Himself and His beautiful way. As a result, I was drawn to the Scriptures.
So around 2000/2001, I surrendered to God and began to draw near to Him. As a central part of that, I started reading, studying, memorizing, and feasting upon the Text every day. I have done so almost every single day since then. Then after a few years, I started being given opportunities to teach the Bible. Then I started dating this young woman, and one day she told me on the phone that she had been studying the letter of Romans in the Bible, just to brush up on her theology. And I was like, “oh baby.” And so we got married, and we started engaging the Bible together. Long story short, I went to seminary and now I have a job in which one of my main projects is to study and teach the Bible.
Along the way, I have learned that there is actually a lot of tension related to the Scriptures. Yes, I believe the most central elements are clear, but outside of that, there are so many layers and nuances and issues that are difficult, sometimes very difficult to understand, much less resolve. And that does not ruin my faith. That does not lower my view of the Scriptures. Rather, it heightens them. Think about this: God powerfully and graciously worked through actual human beings to bring about this library of sacred writings. There is nothing like it in the world. And in the midst of the nuances and tension and challenges, God is telling the true story of the world, He is leading us toward a relationship with Himself through Jesus, and, when we engage this library of writings with humility and hunger, He forms us into the people HE created us to be.
So. What is your story?
It will most likely be different from my story. Maybe you have had very little exposure to the Bible thus far in your life. If that is you, I want you to know that you are a gift to those of us who have been around the Bible a lot. Your honest questions and fresh perspectives are an absolute gift. Or maybe you have had lots of exposure to the Bible and you maybe deep down you think you have it all figured out. For you, there is an answer for everything and little or no tension. Or maybe you have grown weary or skeptical of the Bible. If you are in tune with the culture around us, it is likely this is where you at. Maybe you grew up in a setting similar to me, and now based on your experiences and emotions, you like Jesus, but you are not so sure about the Bible.
We all have a story with the Bible. What is yours?