The Bible Is Precious!

This past week has been an inter­est­ing one. I am teach­ing an eight week New Testament sur­vey at Flatland. For the first week, we dis­cussed why study the New Testament. I had also been asked to sub­sti­tute teach a class on Wednesday night at Flatland and the top­ic was “Why should I read the Bible and How?” Both real­ly spoke to me, remind­ing me once again how impor­tant it is to read the Bible. But maybe more impor­tant­ly, how pre­cious the Bible is.

Now, this is not to say I have neglect­ed to read my Bible. I am in it con­tin­u­al­ly. But it is one thing to read the Bible, even study it intense­ly, and anoth­er to con­sid­er what you have read as some­thing to trea­sure and live out. We can approach the Bible with clin­i­cal eyes, study every jot and tit­tle, and still not have it impact our lives.Epistle to the Corinthians

The Bible is God speak­ing to us. Paul tells Timothy that “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16 — NIV). Some Bible ver­sions trans­late this “inspired by God.” This to me, while a reli­able trans­la­tion, does not impart the full mean­ing of what Paul was say­ing. “God-breathed” is a very lit­er­al trans­la­tion of the Greek and real­ly speaks to me that God didn’t just turn on a light bulb in the Biblical writ­ers head, i.e., inspired them to be cre­ative. Rather, Scripture is what God want­ed writ­ten. God’s breath is all over the Scripture (2 Peter 1:20–21 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.

As such, read­ing the Bible is to touch God. It is lis­ten­ing to God, sit­ting at His feet to learn, be con­vict­ed, to be strength­ened, to be equipped to do God’s work (see 2 Tim 3:16–17 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.
). Reading the Bible should be trea­sured, desired great­ly, and con­sid­ered vital in our lives, as vital as eat­ing and drink­ing is.

Now, when I said the Bible is pre­cious, I wasn’t talk­ing about the phys­i­cal paper and ink. I remem­ber when I was a kid, to put the Bible on the floor was ver­boten. I made the mis­take once of tak­ing the phrase, “stand on God’s Word” lit­er­al­ly and stood on my Bible. I got into sooo much trou­ble. The con­cept was that the Bible was holy and should be treat­ed with respect. Not a bad thing per se but it could obscure the real truth. What God says to us in the Bible is what is pre­cious, holy, and to be treat­ed with respect. The phys­i­cal paper and ink hold no holi­ness. Carrying around a Bible as a mag­i­cal tal­is­man is not effec­tu­al. But when we read God’s Word and let it breath on us and change us, it tru­ly is pow­er­ful.

God’s Word is pre­cious. The psalmist got it right when he said, “I have hid­den your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11 NLT). Psalm 119 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.
is all about how won­der­ful God’s Word is, how it impacts our lives, and how by study­ing God’s Word and liv­ing by it we will live lives holy and accept­able to God. Not that our sal­va­tion is ever depen­dent upon what we do, for that comes sole­ly by faith and even that is from God. Rather, it helps us build a close rela­tion­ship with God so that we can walk dai­ly with Him with­out shame or fear. God’s Word is pre­cious because it helps strength­en our rela­tion­ship with God.

There are many “How tos” for read­ing the Bible. Mine is rather sim­ple.

  1. Find a good trans­la­tion that is easy for you to read.
  2. Make read­ing a dai­ly habit.
  3. Don’t feel any pres­sure as if it is a duty. It should become a great desire.

The New Internation Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), Contemporary English Version (CEV) are all good trans­la­tions as well as many oth­ers. You will note that when you click the “show” link after a scrip­ture ref­er­ence on this blog, it uses the English Standard Version (ESV), anoth­er good trans­la­tion. The ESV peo­ple pro­vide a great ser­vice to allow for this fea­ture! Click on the Scripture ref­er­ence link itself and it takes you to biblegateway.com to dis­play the NIV ver­sion.

The NIV and ESV are suit­ed bet­ter for study (and the New American Standard Bible, NASB, is by some con­sid­ered to be the gold stan­dard for Bible study). The NLT and CEV are eas­i­er to read — the CEV was orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten for chil­dren. The dif­fer­ences between trans­la­tions comes down to a word for word trans­la­tion (lit­er­al equiv­a­lent) ver­sus a thought for thought trans­la­tion (dynam­ic equiv­a­lent). The ESV sits solid­ly in the word for word camp although they strive to be as read­able as pos­si­ble. The NIV sits more in the mid­dle, lean­ing towards a word for word trans­la­tion, still have read­abil­i­ty but not as read­able as a pure thought for thought trans­la­tion such as the CEV or NLT.

I per­son­al­ly real­ly like the NLT for read­abil­i­ty, espe­cial­ly for devo­tion­al read­ing. I still use the NIV and NASB pri­mar­i­ly for study. I have been intrigued by a new trans­la­tion called the International Standard Version that isn’t quite done but anoth­er attempt at being some­where in the mid­dle of the word for word ver­sus thought for thought camps. The whole New Testament and most of the Old are avail­able as free down­loads from their web­site.

Quite frankly, it doesn’t real­ly mat­ter too much which ver­sion you use as long as you read it and allow God to impact your life. Even still, it is good to have mul­ti­ple ver­sions to pre­vent any one version’s the­o­log­i­cal bias to over­whelm God’s bias — and yes, they all have their bias, some less than oth­ers. The thought for thought ver­sions will have more bias than the lit­er­al trans­la­tions, which is why some object stren­u­ous­ly to them. BUT again I say, find one that you are com­fort­able with and will read on a reg­u­lar basis. Then read it.

Be sure to set aside time — make it a reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled event — where you can get alone and read with­out too many dis­trac­tions (turn off that cell phone 🙂 ) Part of this time is for read­ing, part of it is to med­i­tate on it allow­ing God to speak to you, and part of it needs to be for prayer.

Do not feel pres­sure to read too much or for too long. It is bet­ter to read only a lit­tle each day than to read a lot one day and give up. I was raised and still feel that read­ing the Bible through each year is extreme­ly ben­e­fi­cial. I have a “Read the Bible through in a year plan” linked to in the menus of this blog which can guide you. But for some, that can be too much. Maybe for you, plan­ning on just to read the Gospels in a year will be a great goal. As long as you take time dai­ly to read, allow God to speak to you and you speak to Him, that is what is impor­tant.

I also rec­om­mend that you sup­ple­ment your read­ing by using some of the new­er tech tools out there such as the Bible on mp3 or CDs. You can lis­ten to God’s Word as you dri­ve, work out, or fold clothes. There is now even a pod­cast at podbible.org that plays the Bible through in a year using the CEV. It is not a pro­fes­sion­al read­ing, it is read by nor­mal peo­ple and their mis­takes are there for us to hear — also, it is from down under so have an accent to us Americans. Even still, it is won­der­ful for such a ser­vice be avail­able to us. For some of us, the Bible real­ly becomes alive as we hear it.

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