Soul Nutrition (10 Ways to Spiritually Recharge, Part VIII)

he first time I tried a regular discipline of Bible reading, I ended up flinging it across the room. It didn’t make sense to me. Probably because I was too tired – I’d gotten it into my head that you were supposed to read the Bible first thing, which meant I had to get up before 5 am. I don’t recommend that.

Image result for reading the bibleBut I do recommend reading the Bible most days. Some people love it right away. For many of us, it’s an acquired taste. The Bible claims itself to be inspired by God. Before I could believe that, I had to read a bevy of apologetic works like, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” and “Mere Christianity,” in addition to a month long pilgrimage to a Christian community in the Swiss Alps to study how the Bible came together. I’m naturally doubtful and cynical.

Other people become convinced just by experiencing the Bible on its own. There is a different quality to it than other books. Stuff jumps out at you. Words seem to sink in deeper. Repeated readings reveal deeper levels of truth. I’m easily bored, but I’m not bored by the Bible (Wait, except when people read it in a singsongy voice.)

Reading the Bible might not always feel good, like a walk in the park or other things suggested in this series, but it’s like eating vegetables. Repeated over time, it does us immense good. No one notices a change if vegetables are skipped for a day, but years without them will make you chronically sick. The Bible is our soul nutrition.

What to Keep in Mind:

Before you read, ask God to open your mind and teach you what you need to learn. Humility comes before wisdom.

Ask yourself what the author was intending and find out who he was writing for. Background and context is needed for any text to make sense.

Keep in mind that the bible is 66 separate documents written by many people in different genres over about 1500 years. Observe how cool it is that it all hangs together as well as it does.

You don’t need to read it in order. That can be heavy going. I return often to the gospels, the four accounts of Jesus. I read the Psalms a lot too. I try to balance Old and New Testament books, often alternating. Old is the foundation, New is the house that’s built on it, which we get to live in.

Try not to jump too soon to interpretation. Really notice and comprehend first, asking who, what, when, where, where, why, how?

If something confuses or irritates you, tell God. It may come clear on the spot, or you may get a sense that it’s not time for you to worry about it yet.

Switch it up. Sometimes you’ll want to read big chunks quickly for an overview. Other times, take little sections and drill in, mulling over it and perhaps memorizing.

Sometimes study it, sometimes read devotionally. The difference is whether you stand back from the text an analyze, or read it like a letter written to you by someone who loves you. We need both.

Don’t let doubt, cynicism, suffering or apathy keep you from the Bible. Give it a shot, daily. If you have to fling it across the room, aim for something soft.

We Only Know What We Know Together (Why Even Go to Church, Part 1)

Lots of people don’t like church, even the ones who consider themselves committed Christians.  So they don’t go at all, or they only go sometimes, or they go – but there is a look of dull misery on their faces. So why go, when it’s probably your only day to sleep in and the rest of the week is already full of stuff you don’t want to do?

I’m convinced there are some compelling reasons to go, as long as it’s not a lame church. Steer clear of churches, obviously, where hate is preached, or where people don’t welcome you. The assumption as I write is that we’re talking about churches where Christ is followed, where there is a culture of love and a devotion to truth.

In this series, I’ll give ten good reasons to go to church even if you don’t like it.

I’ll start with:

12360394_10153318351820665_5431533874318942894_n“We only know what we know together.” Drawing from findings within the Sociology of Knowledge, this statement captures the reality that whatever people say they believe, they will only live out their beliefs consistently when they are part of a community of others who share them.

This is a crucial reality to grasp if we want our lives to make sense, but Americans can be pretty clueless about it. We can get so focused on our individual rights and freedoms that we really think we can develop and maintain our beliefs and values all by ourselves. We’ve all smiled at the middle school kids who think they’re being original and ground-breaking when they go out and buy exactly the same clothes as all their friends. But we are behaving very much the same when we say things like, “I’m very spiritual. I just don’t like organized religion,” or “My beliefs are very important to me, but I’m private about them.” We breathe the air of secularism and individualism, and it comes out in statements like these.

If I say I’m a follower of Christ, but I only hang out with people who never talk about God, and I spend a lot of time on screens where people are living out their marketed realities without reference to God, and I listen to lots of songs that idolize things other than God – I am soon going to feel that God is not relevant to life, or even that God is not there.

So one solid reason to go to church is to live into the truths we have come to believe. To recognize that we are social creatures who need the truth reinforced over and over is not weakness, but wisdom.

There’s nothing sexy about reciting creeds, but they are the bedrock of our lives. To hear the Scripture read, to sing true songs (even the musically annoying ones,) and to hear stories of what God is doing in people’s lives – this is foundational. Without it faith does not grow and may not even survive.

We need our objectivity and a healthy dose of skepticism while we are exploring what we believe. But once we are convinced of truth, the next need is to remain in it, to cling to it against the waves of lies that wash over us all day long.

Once a week probably isn’t enough. Maybe we should gather every morning to remind one another of the truth before we venture into the day. Once a week is just my survival dose.

(Next in this series, “You Can’t Love People You Never See.”)