Someone recently told me they did not know anything about the Bible.
I remember being in that exact same spot almost two decades ago!
I absolutely love walking people through the Bible in my Connecting the Dots of the Bible class. Oh, how I wish this person had taken it. We go over how we got the Bible, why we know the text is reliable, how it is organized, each historical era, the history, the geography, the culture, key words,... Students are always so excited to learn this information! No one ever taught it to them! They may know some of it, but there is lots of information they never heard before. One student walked out with me after the session on the history between the Old and New Testament and said, "I learned more in the past hour then, well, ever." I smiled. I saw a guy that had taken the class and he told me he just wanted to let me know he often thinks about the information I taught. I smiled.
Almost 20 years ago when I started reading the Bible, I did not know hardly anything about it. None of us do! As I learned this information I remember wondering why no one had ever taught it to me. My parents didn't teach it to me because I don't think they knew it. You can't teach what you don't know. But why didn't the church teach me when I was young some of what I go over in class? That is a million dollar question. I believe the churches have failed us in the training area. Bible illiteracy is at an all time high.
What does knowing this information do? I can tell you when you know the concepts of some key words like "covenant" and "inheritance", some geography, some understanding of the historical eras in the Bible - it just impacts your understanding as you read. It does!
But I didn't know any of this when I started. And that is OK too. The Bible is understandable and I eventually picked up this information.
I reflected on at what point in my life did I know what?
I regularly attended church and was active in my youth group from 7th through 12th grades. But my knowledge of Christian doctrine and the Bible was minimal. I knew the Gospel message about what Jesus did for me. I believed it. I knew the Creeds, the doxology, how that church was governed, and that God loved me. I can't really remember what else. But I think it is fair to say not much.
From 18 to my early 30's I was strictly a CEO - Christmas Easter Only. Only went to church twice a year on Christmas and Easter with family. Never cracked a Bible. Occasionally I threw up an Air Prayer (short prayer asking God to do something for me) - usually when life was going really crappy and I needed God's help. "Please God help me with [fill in the blank.] That was the level of my knowledge and spirituality.
At some point I acquired this belief that Christians just wanted to suck all the fun out of life! I thought they were rigid and judgmental and well, I didn't want to hang with them. Not my kind of people.
All the people I did hang out with at this time of my life felt the same way about "religion." They really wanted no part of it. I didn't realize how much I was influenced by those around me instead of making up my own mind.
Later I have kids and I decide they need some church-ing. We'd get all dressed up in our Sunday best, drag them there, they would doodle on the program or fall asleep. I would sit there and in my mind critique everything the minister said. What was his point? What does that mean? Seriously? Yawn.
But as my daughter started getting involved at this church and going through confirmation classes, I began coming more. I joined Sunday School and I would often ask questions. I remember once asking how do we know which parts of the Bible to take literally and which we don't? I got an odd stare on that one.
I began to think more about God. I started going to church more. I started asking a neighbor who was a minister some questions. He was very kind to me.
Then in my early 40's life steam rolled over me.
Life is hard some times. Really hard. Sometimes you get flattened.
You hit a life crisis and enter the Black Hole. Well, that is what happened to me and it changed my life. I was in the bottom of a cavernous Black Hole. And when I no longer could face another day, I cried out to Jesus. He reached down and pulled me out. I am being literal here. Jesus saved me in every way possible. I promised Him I was all His.
God immediately started altering my life. Led me to a new church/ couples' small group/ women's Bible study group for women with depression/ a Christian counselor/ random people coming into my life and encouraging me/ little miracles started happening. I felt Him leading me along. I felt His comfort. He started to restore me.
But what did I know about Christianity at this point? Very very little. I remember being surprised to find out Jesus was Jewish. I remember a lady saying she didn't believe in coincidences and I found that very strange. A Bible study leader asked us to turn to Hebrews and I thought it was in the Old Testament. I remember wondering a lot about prayer. How do we know God hears and answers our prayers? I remember wondering about the Holy Spirit. Do I really believe He dwells in me? I remember butchering names of people and places in the Bible. I said Habakkuk wrong for years. I remember a pastor (PhD) talking about angels and explaining what they are and I thought 'You mean dead people don't become angels? Where had I picked that up? And what about Clarence getting his wings?' Ha ha. I was afraid of death. What if I don't get to heaven? How do I know I will be there?
Seriously I knew almost zero. I would go to these Bible studies and largely remain silent and listen. At first. Then I realized they were safe places to ask questions. And I started to ask questions. I drove everyone crazy with questions. I was like a 4 year old. Then I became curious what the Bible says. I became purposeful in reading it. I signed up for classes at my church. These weren't Bible studies, they were actual classes where the teacher got up and taught about the Gospels or an overview of the New Testament or something Bible related.
The more I read, studied and learned; the more I wanted to know! I had a passion to know more of Him. I was trying to figure out what it was I believed and why I believed it.
Week in and week out, day in and day out, I plugged along. It mattered to me.
Eventually I began to co-lead the women's group. And then I began to teach.
btw - I found out I really had an off perspective of Christians. They were just like me! Regular people trying to live their faith. They struggled. They laughed. I started noticing though that they handled their problems differently. In prayer. And they encouraged each other. I actually liked these critters!
I enjoy reading the Bible. It has become my lifeline. I need it.
It is a very personal thing for me. It is a big part of my relationship with God. He speaks to me through His word.
And He will speak to you too.
Can you be a Christian and not read the Bible? Of course you can! But I am telling you that you will miss out on so much in life. Honestly.
You could go to church every week of your life and hear what the minister/ pastor/ priest has to say. But there is a level of understanding you aren't going to get.
Reading the Bible adds to your faith. And that faith sure comes in handy when life steam rolls you.
I had a lot of mixed up beliefs for a long time in my life. I wasted years not understanding things. As I read the Bible, bells started going off in my mind. I went from not being sure I bought into all of this Christianity stuff to being all in. I went from having doubts to taking hold of God's promises. I see a purpose in my life. I no longer fear death.
Bible reading brings me great joy.
The Bible is the number one way God will speak to you.
If you aren't purposeful about your faith journey, you aren't going to experience much spiritual growth. It is that simple.
It doesn't happen by osmosis.