Three Ways to Enhance Your Bible Reading Today
We tend to highjack verses of the Bible for our own purposes. I have certainly been guilty of this. I picked up a new term for this practice from the book, Saving the Bible from Ourselves and it’s now a handy part of my vocabulary. Hijacking Bible verses is "verse-jacking."
“Oooh, look at the pretty throw pillow.”
“I love these wall decals.”
“What an inspirational t-shirt.”
Verse-jacking isn’t necessarily wrong. Oftentimes truths and themes from the Bible can be aptly summarized in a verse or two. Hanging those verses in our homes or putting them on our bracelets can help us to ruminate over what is true and good. But when we stop there, we miss so much.
God appointed the form and function of his Word in ways that we miss when we verse-jack. Here are three ways you and I can begin reading the Bible today, which will aid us in coming to the Bible on its own terms.
1. Read Biblical books in their entirety.
The author of the book I mentioned above asks, “Do we really want our relationship with God and our understanding of the Christ-following life to be reduced to a handbook? Looking up the answers in a how-to manual?...God has so much more in mind.” The books of the Bible were written with the intention of being read in one sitting. The authors wrote them as letters and historical accounts to be shared in whole with the people of God. Try reading some of the shorter epistles in the New Testament, from start to finish, and see what a difference it makes! Ingesting the whole message at once leads to a richer, fuller understanding of the meaning the Lord set out to impart.
2. Read the Bible in community.
The Bible was written for the people of God to receive together. It was largely heard in communal settings in the synagogue, where life was lived. Not only were the scriptures recited, but discussions were started that overflowed into the streets and life, meals were shared, justice was carried out, the next generation was educated. God intended that the scriptures be integral in community life, but we now almost only pursue personal quiet times and look for verses written just for me. If we always read the Bible alone, we will misinterpret it’s meaning. Counterintuitively, we discover God’s will for us as individuals as we feast on his word in community. So read the word of God with your friends, gather in small groups and hear it and discuss it aloud, go to group Bible studies, attend churches where the pastor proclaims big chunks of the Word and not only verse-jacked tidbits for a better life now.
3. Read it as a drama, of which you are a part.
We are a storied people. We look for the big stories around us and reflexively ask how we fit in. As the author of Saving the Bible from Ourselves says, “because we are ‘relentlessly narratival,’ if we don’t get our story from the Bible, we will end up fitting pieces of the Bible into a story we’ve picked up from somewhere else.” The goal of the Bible is to change our lives—it is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), it is useful (2 Timothy 3:16), and James says we must be hearers and doers of the word (James 2:22-25). The Word is not only for our information, but our transformation. John Calvin taught that the heavens and the earth are the theater of God’s glory—we are the players, we have a role in his redemptive plan. As we consume his word, we find our place.
There’s no need to rip off your wall decals right now. I’m leaving the chalkboard in my kitchen as is—with the hand written verse from the Psalms. But as often as we verse-jack, may we also feast on the Bible as God intended. May we be changed by his words, for our good and his glory, as we read books of the Bible in their entirety, read them in community, and read them to join in his unfolding drama.
For further reading, check out Saving the Bible from Ourselves by Glenn R. Paauw.