How Reading the Bible Can Change Your Life
I have been on a retreat with a group of ministers for the last several days and we have been enjoying sitting with Dr. Alan Culpepper as he helps us see what the Gospel of Mark has to say to the church today.
These few days have reminded me how reading the Bible can change a person’s life. Let me explain.
Alan Culpepper is a noted New Testament scholar who has dedicated his life to the study of the Bible. His published writings demonstrate his desire to understand what the Scripture say to readers today. I have been his student, been mentored by him, and have continued to learn from him for nearly thirty years.
Working with him always inspires me and during the last few days I have been personally challenged in my reading of Scripture. I have been reminded of things we need to remember about reading Scripture.
The first thing to remember is reading the Bible requires discipline. There are no shortcuts to understanding Scripture. We cannot gulp down Scripture like a morning cup of coffee and hope for a quick jolt of God caffeine.
Reading the Bible requires a regular practice of sitting down and reading and listening to the text. Alan Culpepper reminds me of this when he sits down with his Greek New Testament open before him and his life of disciplined reading of the text bears rich fruit. In a fast paced world, this kind of discipline must be intentional.
If you start by sitting down with the text for ten minutes a day then by the second or third week you will begin to notice a deeper level of understanding and a greater impact upon your life. Add those weeks into months and then into years and the discipline of reading scripture will change you forever.
The second thing to remember is reading the Bible requires imagination. The Bible was written many, many years ago in a different world and culture. When we read it slowly we should allow our imagination to bring the biblical world alive.
Out of the discipline of reading the Bible we then build bridges into our every day life. Every reader has imagination. Every reader can build a bridge by finding the way the old words speak new and fresh today. Listen to what the text says to you. Then imagine.
The third thing to remember is reading the Bible requires openness to change. Reading the Bible will change you. It will engage you.The Scriptures themselves claim this ability.
Culpepper showed us in our retreat that Jesus defines his basic relationship with and expectation of his disciples to be with him and to proclaim his message. A careful reading of the Gospel of Mark shows the disciples attempting to change their lives to meet the demands of this new relationship.
When we read the Bible today it makes the same demands upon us. If we read the Bible, it will require us to change our lives.
Read it as a discipline. Read it with your imagination. Read it and be open to change.
What are some disciplined reading strategies you have found to be helpful? Does your imagination inspire you when you read the text? Does reading the Bible change your life?