The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Escaping the Boredom of Reading the Bible

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AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

There are certain portions of the Bible that could be used to make recordings that would cure insomnia. When the Jews start in with their epic genealogies and you find yourself slogging through a long list of “the son of, the son of, the son of”, it’s easy to start fidgeting. When Yahweh starts listing off the precise measurements for the Tabernacle or when Ezekiel is following an angel around as he measures every single dimension of the new Temple, it’s easy to find yourself thinking, “Who cares?!” So what does it mean when you find the Bible painfully boring to read? Does it mean you’re spiritually flawed? Does it mean you’re defying God? Certainly not.

Boredom with the Bible is driven by two things: a lack of interest and a lack of understanding. There are two ways to solve these problems: stop reading and learn more. One of these solutions is sure to work for you. To help you decide which is the best course of action, let’s talk a bit more about each of these options.

STOP READING

Suppose you have a new friend who you’re enjoying getting to know and you want the relationship to keep growing. Your friend has written a book. Now certainly you can learn a lot about a person by studying the things they create, so reading your friend’s book would be a good way to glean some insights about them. But is it essential? Not hardly. Hanging out with your friend in person is going to be the best way to get to know them. If you want the relationship to progress, you certainly shouldn’t turn down the opportunity to have lunch together just so you can read their book. You can read their book anytime. Getting to talk with them directly is always the preferred choice.

Now as a Christian, you have a direct connection with your three glorious Creators. You might not be very aware of that connection right now, and that’s fine. If you sincerely want to progress in your relationship with Them, the Holy Spirit is going to help you get there.

The Holy Spirit is your main Teacher in life. He’ll be giving you the bulk of your education about who your Creators are and what They want from you. Obviously the Holy Spirit is a genius at drawing humans closer to God. Obviously as one of the Creators of all things, He hardly needs some silly pile of papers to educate you more about who He is. While many foolish teachers in the Church will tell you that you can’t possibly grow in the faith unless you are constantly reading the Bible, this is utterly ridiculous. Remember how we can learn things about people by studying the things they create? Look around at this world that your Gods have made. Their Creation provides us with all kinds of fascinating insights about who They are and what They like. One thing that leaps out at us right away is Their obsession with variety. There is ENDLESS variety in this world. Colors, textures, shapes, and sizes. Pick any category: plants, insects, people, language, music, elements. Everywhere we look, we see endless variation. Clearly our Gods have no use for doing the same thing in the same way all the time. In this world, everything is in a constant state of flux. As certain animal species are dying out, others are being created. We humans are the ones who are threatened by change. We freak out over animals becoming extinct and the global temperature changing. But clearly our Gods are obsessed with change. They don’t want to keep things the same. They don’t want to treat everyone the same. So when your pastor says that you can’t possibly grow unless you do daily devotions, well, the man needs to go on a nature walk and see the obvious. Our Gods do NOT treat us all the same. They use different methods to speak to us, teach us, and mature us. Your path with God is UNIQUE, and there’s just no way that anyone else can anticipate which of a billion teaching methods the Holy Spirit will decide to use with you. Maybe the Bible will be in there somewhere, maybe it won’t. For some Christians, the Bible plays a huge role in their lives. For others, they’ve never read one word from Scriptures and they’re none the worse for it.

God has a specific plan for how He wants to use you in this world. Some of us are called to help other Christians understand what the Bible means, therefore we need the Holy Spirit to educate us about the contents of the Book. But others of us are called into totally different lines of work which don’t have anything to do with the Bible. God’s plans for YOU are going to determine what topics He focuses on in your spiritual education and what teaching tools He uses. If you want to train a soldier for desert combat, you don’t spend months building him into a strong swimmer. If you want to train a swimmer to compete in the Olympics, you don’t send her to culinary school. Because many leaders in the Church feel threatened by God’s obsession with variety, they try hard to force Christians down the same narrow path of development. Everyone has to have a dramatic conversion experience. Everyone has to speak in tongues. Everyone has to get involved in serving at church. Everyone has to tithe 10%. Everyone has to do daily devotions. Hogwash. Everyone doesn’t have to do anything. God gives us the option to sit down in a huff and rebel our whole lives. God says we can even spend our lives denying His existence. Of course there will be major consequences for our choices in eternity, but we do have choices.

The wise Christian realizes that staying in a good place with God is the only thing that matters. You do that by listening to the Holy Spirit, obeying His convictions, and TRUSTING that He is in fact guiding you in life. If it became important to the Holy Spirit for you to read the Bible, do you think He knows how to communicate this to you? Of course He does, He’s God. When the Holy Spirit wants you to read the Bible, He will cause that idea to suddenly sound appealing to you. One minute you would rather spend an hour in a dentist’s chair than do daily devotions, and the next minute you just can’t set it down. The same passages that were as dull as dirt before are now filled with fascinating insights and you can’t even explain what changed. This is a VERY common story. God will get you interested in the Book when He wants you to be interested. When He wants you to leave it alone, He knows how to make reading it be utterly painful. The key for you is to stop letting the guilt trips at church push you around. People are not your shepherds in life, the Holy Spirit is your Shepherd, and it’s HIS leading that you need to follow.

Is God insulted when you find the Bible to be utterly boring? Not hardly. God is insulted when you say that although He created the entire universe, He’s incapable of communicating to you without the aid of some physical prop. God is insulted when you act like you can control when He talks to you by opening and closing the Bible. God is insulted when you go around praising some lifeless object as your instructor in life. He is honored when you stop trusting in the foolish theories of people and you start trusting Him instead. So then, does God want you to be reading the Bible right now? Crack it open and see what He has to say about it. Do you feel like you’d rather wash a truckload of dishes than slog through some lifeless passage? Follow the leading of your Shepherd and stop persisting in activities that He is clearly not interested in.

LEARN MORE

If you pull up a blog and start trying to read an article which has been scrambled so that all of the sentences are out of order, you’re not going to get much out of it. Each individual sentence makes grammatical sense, but because they’re out of order, you don’t understand what the author is trying to say. When you try to dive into the Bible without any understanding of its structure, you’re going to run into similar problems. It’s not your fault when you open up Isaiah and get bogged down by all the weird names. It’s not your fault when you have no idea why God is reaming out the king of Assyria or even where Assyria is.

The Bible is a collection of historical documents that were written by many different men at many different times in history. Suppose twelve Americans write twelve different 10-page summaries of America’s history from 1776 to today. That’s a lot of time to cover in just ten pages. Each American is going to have a different opinion about which events he wants to mention, and each American is going to slip in his own personal viewpoints of those events. Now suppose we want to bind those twelve summaries into a single book in chronological order. We can’t. Each summary is its own complete thought—if we start slicing and dicing them up, we’ll lose track of what each author is saying. The best we can do is stack the ten summaries together, and that means that after every ten pages, you’re going to start over again at 1776. This is the sort of thing that happens quite a bit in the Bible. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are all in chronological order. But then we come to Deuteronomy, which is summary of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. If you don’t understand that Deuteronomy is a long speech by Moses in which he’s reviewing certain highlights of Israel’s history, you’re going to get confused. Why is he only repeating some stories, but not others?

1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings flow together as one long chronological history of Israel’s kings. But then we get to 1 & 2 Chronicles, which is a different author’s summary of the same period of time. The guy who wrote Chronicles has a different viewpoint than the guy who wrote the Samuel-Kings series. When you don’t understand that these books are overlapping, you’ll end up wondering why certain kings are mentioned in two places, while other kings are only discussed once.

Once we get past the book of Esther, things really get crazy. Books are suddenly grouped by type instead of by time order. The “wisdom/poetry books” of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs are totally out of order. Job really happened way back in Genesis. Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs were written by Solomon who was discussed way back in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. Individual Psalms were written hundreds of years apart.

Then we get into the prophets. Isaiah lived 700 years before Christ and is really speaking during 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. Zechariah and Haggai should be paired with the historical book of Ezra. The prophets are all out of order, and this makes trying to understand what they’re talking about and when they are speaking very difficult.

When we get to the New Testament, the first four Gospel books are four different men’s summaries of the same period of time. Acts then pushes us forward on the timeline, while the epistles leap all over the place in the dates that they were written.

What’s sorely lacking in the Church today is a solid overview of the Bible that puts all the books in time order so that you can understand what in the world is happening and who it’s happening to. When you aren’t given any framework, and then you’re told to do daily devotions, where are you supposed to start? The Bible is filled with many shocking and fascinating insights about who our Gods are and how They operate, but the most important lessons are completely missed because no one is approaching the Book as a whole story. Everyone’s slicing and dicing it. In the Church, you’re encouraged to just read the New Testament over and over again while virtually ignoring the Old. This is like watching the end of a movie over and over again. If you never watch the first part, you’re not going to understand what’s happening in the end. The New Testament is the last third of the Bible and all the authors of the New Testament are assuming that you have a basic understanding of the Old Testament. Much of what they say is making references to the first part of the story—the part that you’re taught to ignore in Church. It’s because we’re not understanding the full story that we come away thinking that Revelation is a strange and mystical book. It’s because we’ve skipped the Old Testament that we misunderstand most of what Jesus says. To really understand the Bible, you have to approach it as one continuous story and read the thing from start to finish. But this is impossible to do when the books aren’t even placed in order. That’s when you need someone to help you see how everything fits together and walk you through the main plotline. We do this for you in our Know Your Bible Series. Without getting bogged down in strange names and long genealogies, we walk you through the whole story in order and help you identify important lessons about God. Once you have a basic framework, it completely changes your own reading experience. Once you understand when the prophet Malachi spoke and what was happening around him, his message starts making a lot more sense. Once you understand what some of the major events of Israel’s history were, you get some surprising insights into the book of Revelation. And once you learn about how graciously Yahweh dealt with Israel throughout the Old Testament, you realize how absurd it is to suggest that “the God of the Old Testament” was a short-tempered Ogre.

The Bible is an amazing story—but it’s a total mess in the way that it’s organized. With just a little instruction, you can go from feeling totally frustrated to feeling like you know more than your pastor does. It’s really not hard to sort out the Book—you just need someone to explain it to you in basic terms without a bunch of tiresome cross-references.

Christians aren’t stupid, they’re just not being given the right kind of help. At church, they beat your ears with the same passages about tithing without ever explaining to you what tithing was really about and why Yahweh was making such a big fuss about it in Malachi 3:10. We want you to stop feeling one down to the pompous Bible scholars. You don’t need to know one word of Greek or Hebrew in order to know way more than these fools who are always waving their degrees in your face. Once you understand the basic framework of the Bible, you’ll be amazed at how much sense the book starts to make. It really doesn’t take much to become an “expert” on the Bible, and since teachers in the Church are constantly using the Book to try and push you around, it’s a good idea for you to get your own understanding of what it says. Then the next time someone tries to shove Malachi 3:10 on you, you can blow them off as the liars that they are.

Today the message of Scripture is being grossly mangled and verses are being intentionally ripped out of context to make you think that God has said things which He really didn’t say. Your best defense against Bible thumping wolves in the Church is to know what the Book says for yourself, and you can get there a lot faster than you think. Start reading through the first lesson of our Know Your Bible Series and see if the material grabs your attention. If it doesn’t, then go back to our first solution and set the Bible aside for a while. There is no need for you to remain tormented by boredom. Boredom is driven by a lack of interest and a lack of understanding. If God isn’t in the mood to give you more understanding, then there’s no need to stay interested. We always want to listen when God is talking to us about the Bible. When He isn’t talking, it’s time to move on to something else.

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