Opinion

Don't be afraid to get your Bible dirty | Joan Bay Klope

FAITHFUL LIVING

“I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”

— Psalm 32:8

Up for a pop quiz?

Who is it that makes the promise to guide, advise and watch over each one of us? It is God, of course, and he makes this promise in the Bible’s Old Testament book of Psalms. To find the verse, turn to the center section of your Bible and look for Psalm 32 before moving down to verse 8.

If you continue to read a few lines further you will learn that God’s unfailing love surrounds those who trust in him. How many times have you needed to hear this kind of assurance from God this past week alone?

Uh-oh...no Bible? I imagine you have one somewhere. Perhaps there is a copy in your bookcase. It is, after all, the best-selling book of all time. Even people who feel no real connection to God have a copy, for it is considered a masterpiece of literature. Perhaps you have one stored in the same location you keep your childhood treasures.

I am particularly fond of a giant Bible my husband received from his childhood church in September of 1966. Matt was nearly 9 at the time and I can imagine him standing in front of the congregation to receive the gift with others in his Sunday school class, before lugging it back to the pew where his mother sat. Inside the line drawings, depicting events and lessons, are scary at best. And as I leaf through it I see not one sign it was ever used; no childish writing, bookmarks or dog-eared corners. This monster must have been as uninviting then as it is today.

Its untouched state also reflects a prevailing attitude that still holds true in many households today. The Bible is a sacred document to be stored with care. Wash those hands before you look at it and return it to where you found it after you’ve mindlessly perused some of the pages.

My grandmother carefully recorded her family’s births, deaths, baptisms and weddings in the front portion of her Bible and this is a common and excellent source of quality information for families. Handwritten Bible records occasionally differ from official certificates. Such informational variances frequently prove interesting to family historians who enjoy winding their way through the branches of their family trees.

I believe, however interesting and treasured old Bibles can be, that most of us need to revise our approach to our Bibles. We need to move beyond the “sacred but probably outdated for this modern age” mentality. Why? Because Bibles contain the words of the living God who speaks to issues and experiences common to all humans no matter their race, cultural identity or moment lived in history. So amazingly practical and perfectly applicable are God’s words that they are meant to be studied. They are meant to be hauled hither and yon, highlighted and dated and spattered with notations and personal observations.

Set aside that treasured old family Bible and purchase one meant to be used. Then ask that God’s spirit will speak mightily and clearly to your heart. You can be assured God will reveal his personality from the pages. He will instruct and warn you of the pitfalls, lavishing love and hope upon you when you decide to quiet yourself and take the time to read.

First, ask God to build in you a fiery longing for his word. I recommend that you spend some time finding a Bible that fits your needs. The variety is enormous. Some Bibles are geared for study. The annotations and historical information included in these study Bibles will enrich your understanding. Some Bibles are formatted for children. These include inviting type, cool photos and drawings and explanations understandable to youngsters. A visit to any Bible bookstore will put you in immediate contact with employees who are familiar with the great variety from which you can choose.

Second, speak to the bookstore employee or ask friends for their recommendations on study materials. “The Life Journal” I have mentioned in recent columns includes a daily Bible reading plan. If followed, you will read through the Bible once each year.

An organized approach to Bible reading demystifies the material and makes each plunge far more manageable. If you have one nearby, turn to the first book in the New Testament and look up John 3:16: God so loved the world...(that means you!). Now read on to learn what God did because of this immense love. It’ll turn your world upside down.

Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to faithfulliving@hotmail.com.

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