"Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman that doesn't need to be ashamed, who correctly understands the word of truth."
- II Timothy 2:15
It's February, a full month past New Year's resolution-time and, I suspect, time to lift some sagging spirits.
Even for those with the best of intentions, there probably hasn't been the best of follow-throughs. And if your resolution was to spend more time reading the Bible in 2006, you have a lot of company. Perhaps you can identify with this "Diary of a Bible," which was sent to me by a soul mate not long ago.
January: Busy time for me. Most of the family decided to read me through this year. Boy, was I popular - for the first few days. But then they seemed to forget all about me.
February: Clean-up time. I was dusted yesterday and put in my place. My owner did use me for a few minutes this afternoon. He had been in a religious argument with a co-worker and was looking for proof that he was right.
March: Had a busy day early in the month. My owner was elected president of the PTO and used me to prepare a speech.
April: Grandpa visited us this month. He kept me on his lap for an hour reading from I Corinthians, my special section about love. No one else noticed.
May: I have a few green stains on my pages now. One of the girls used me to press some spring flowers.
June: The flower girl got married this month and they stuffed me full of newspaper clippings about the wedding. I look like a scrapbook.
July: I was put in a suitcase when the family went on vacation, but I might as well have stayed home. Two weeks closed up in that stuffy thing was no vacation for me.
August: Still in the suitcase.
September: Back in my old familiar place at last. I have a lot of company now. Two women's magazines and four comic books are stacked on top of me. I wonder why they get read and not me.
October: They read me a little today. Someone in the family is sick. Right now I'm all alone in the middle of the coffee table. I think the pastor is coming to visit.
November: Back in my old place again. Somebody asked if I were a scrapbook. They must have noticed the wedding pictures.
December: Everyone is busy getting ready for the holidays. I'm covered up with wrapping paper and packages. Happens every Christmas.
With so many visual and print options available to us today, and so much competition for our time, why read such an archaic book anyway? Why not just keep it in the reference library and consult it occasionally, like a dictionary? No one reads a dictionary.
But maybe the Bible is like olives: Eat one olive and you want more; read one section of the Bible, discover its beautiful language and timeless message, and you want to read more. Better still, personalize it and you'll think it was written just for you.
For me, an important reason to study the Bible is to know there is something - or someone - wiser than I, a source of wisdom far beyond my own.
It's comforting, for example, to read these words in the Book of Proverbs: "Lean not on your own understanding... do not be wise in your own eyes" (3:5-7), because there are so many questions I don't know how to answer myself.
From the historical narratives of the Old Testament to the wisdom literature and prophetic words that follow, and from the Gospels to the apostolic teachings of the New Testament, wisdom, comfort, and answers to more questions than I'll ever think to ask are there to absorb and apply to my own life.
Henry van Dyke summarizes what the "best-seller" means to him like this:
"The Bible walks the ways of all the world, learning to speak in hundreds of languages to the heart of everyone who will listen. It comes to the palace to tell the monarch he is a servant of the Most High, and to the cottage to assure the peasant that he is a child of God. Children listen to its stories with wonder and delight, and wise men and women ponder them as parables of life."
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol.com.)
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