I love it when my 89 year young mother decides to start reading the Bible. She’s had some interest for a while now and has been going to church regularly with some friends of hers but that old Rainbow Girls edition of the KJV just wasn’t cutting it when it came time to read the Bible. “I just don’t understand it” she would say. So we got her a New Living Translation, which is the one my wife uses. It’s made all the difference.
On more than one occasion she’s had some questions and is concerned that she’ not reading enough. Now that’s a good thing in one respect. A bad thing in another. What’s enough when it comes to reading scriptures? We could all do more I suspect.
The other night she was asking my wife if she should start in the Old Testament instead of the New. A very logical question. After all, from my perspective, you can never fully understand the New Testament if you don’t have a good understanding of the Old. But at 89, I’m thinking starting there is not a good idea. Actually, at any age, starting there is not a good idea unless you approach it as “story”. And by that I mean, Israel’s story. Even though the Hebrew Bible breaks things up in to Law, Prophets and Writings, the overall landscape of the Old Testament is God’s love for a people and their ability or inability to live within the scope of that love. So, yes, starting with the Old Testament is a good thing, but as followers of Christ, cutting one’s teeth on the Gospels is perhaps the best route to take.
Often we get bogged down in our time with God’s word between personal and productive. Let me illustrate what I mean. Those who know me or follow this blog know that I’ve taken up cycling again after a long layoff. I’m loving it. Today, it was going to be close to 70 degrees and a wonderful time to get out and enjoy a ride. BUT….in preparation of the riding season coming up, it was more prudent to do an indoor training session then heading out doors. It fit both my schedule and my need. Consequently, I spent an hour in a full-on workout and am confident I made the right choice between personal and productive.
There are times when a personal reading of the Bible is a priority. Most folks call that devotional reading. However, there are also times—very important times—when productive reading is not only necessary it’s essential to our Christian growth. Those are the times we ask the “who”, “what”, “where”, “why” questions of the biblical text in order to sort out the context and intended meaning of the author. We call that Bible Study.
Going back to the bike illustration. If all I did was train (Bible Study) then I’d certainly be equipped for good riding. However, if I never road outdoors, in a group, or perhaps raced again, then what good is the training? In like manner, if all I did was “Study the Bible” and never took time to read it devotionally—letting my heart, not so much my head, hear the words then I’d be a bit lopsided in the development of my faith.
I’m excited that my mom is taking the step of incorporating God’s word in her life. My wife and I are eager to help her along and answer her questions. We also hope to guide her in a balanced approach both personal and productive to help stretch her faith and understanding of the Bible. It should be fun.