Friday, October 5, 2012

Up Close and Personal

For the past five months or so, I've been learning how to study my Bible. I mean really study it. I'm talking about little drawings over certain words, cross-references, and looking things up about history. It's called the inductive study method.

There are days when I love it, and there are days when I think, "Geez, can't I just read it?!"

The answer is yes. I can just read it. And it is still God's word, and it will still speak to me whether I am reading it Kay Arthur's way or not. But there is a point to inductive study. It is good to focus on a passage of scripture and study it so that you can know what it really, truly means. Not what a pastor says it means or the internet says it means, but what God says it means.

Needless to say, my Bible has been getting a lot more use since I started doing these studies. Half of the time, though, it seems like a chore. Like I should be studying the Bible because I'm a Christian, and that's what Christians do.

Many times I won't pick up my Bible for a week, and I've finally figured out why.

The Bible is hard to read.

And I don't mean hard as in Shakespeare, although for those less inclined to reading, the Bible might seem like it. Those obstacles are relatively easy to overcome. Download the free Merriam-Webster and Blue Letter Bible apps on your iPhone, and you're pretty much good to go on that front.

The Bible is hard to read because what we read doesn't always make us feel warm and fuzzy. Sometimes it convicts us. It takes what we try to ignore that we're doing wrong and throws it in our faces as if to say, God knows too, and He wants you to acknowledge it. Not the most comfortable of experiences. For instance, there was a point in my walk in faith that I was harboring a lie. A deep, dark, hidden, sinister lie that was taking its toll on my emotional, spiritual, and physical health. I knew exactly who I was supposed to tell the truth to, and that it was God who wanted me to do it, but I kept constructing loopholes for myself and convincing myself that there was a way around it. Then I happened upon this verse:

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
              - James 4:17

Ouch. Talk about a spiritual slap to the face. God had just revealed to me that I was directly in sin. On purpose. And there was only one way I could make it right. And I did, shortly thereafter. That's the power of the living word of God. And that is what makes it so hard for people to read.

But the Bible doesn't stop there. God didn't give us the Bible so that we could feel guilty and convicted all the time. Sometimes it does convict us, but it also was created to give us great comfort.

As anyone who has read my blog for any amount of time knows, I struggle quite a lot with anxiety. Fear. Dread. Any of the above. Last night my family watched a TV show, not uncommon for us. In fact, we've been watching this particular show for almost a year, and we love it. Its something that we can all watch together (rare in this day and age). Not too scary or violent for me and not too inappropriate for my little brother. However, this particular episode disturbed me. Bothered me. Scared me.

I've had many nights where I've been so scared that I can't sleep. Shaking. Breathing heavily. Heart racing. And it seems like I can't stop it. It's happened enough that I can "feel" it coming. I know the symptoms of when I night like this is coming. I know how to alleviate them a bit, but not stop them. Only delay them.

Last night I brought my Bible to bed with me - a habit, and not a bad one, as I'm about to prove. I read a book for about an hour before deciding to try to sleep. I turned the lights out, and back on in about thirty seconds. Not working.

As a sort of last resort, I opened my Bible. I remembered reading something that had comforted me in Proverbs 3. And then my eyes fell on it - the perfect verses for me at this particular time. It soothed me, it comforted me. I felt anxiety running out of my body like a river.

When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet,
Do not be afraid of sudden fear
Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;
For the Lord will be your confidence
And will keep your foot from being caught.
            - Proverbs 3:24-26

It seems like God put those verses there just for me, they're so perfect, just because He knew I'd need them. And for all I know, maybe He did. All I know is that He did give the Bible to me. He did direct my mind and my thoughts toward those verses that He knew would help me. He did make His word up-close and personal so that we could feel close to Him even though we can't see Him with our eyes.

So I encourage you not to be afraid to delve into God's word. Bored with it? Try reading Acts - it's anything but boring. Convicted? Maybe God's trying to tell you something... Tired of feeling empty? Breathe in God's word. No, it's not all sunshine and roses, but even with the things that are hard to swallow, God's words will fill you up.

     "Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you." Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.
     Then He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, "Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you." Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.
          - Ezekiel 2:8b - 3:3

Give God's word a try. There's a reason He gave it to you.

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