Key Practices for Strengthening Your Relationship with The Bible
What role does The Bible play in your life? Is it where you want it to be? What are some hindrances or myths we may be believing that prevent us from having the relationship with Scripture that we want to? What are some practical steps we can take to strengthen our relationship with Scripture?
I know you love the Bible. I know that it matters deeply to you and defines your leadership. But I also know how easy it is for Sunday prep to slide into devo time, or how reading Scripture can feel like our job more than we want it to. We long for that one-on-one time with Jesus. We long to know God intimately and hear from the Holy Spirit personally.
As leaders, our relationship with The Bible plays a significant role in how we present Scripture to others. How we see it, handle it, interact with it, impacts our leadership and even our relationships with those we love and serve, not just our relationship with Jesus.
What role does it play in your life? Is it where you want it to be? What are some hindrances or myths we may be believing that prevent us from having the relationship with Scripture that we want to? What are some practical steps we can take to strengthen our relationship with Scripture?
A few things to keep in mind as we consider this deeply personal relationship:
These are not the same as key practices for fitness or discipline. The principles that apply here are more like 'a long walk in the same direction,' as Eugene Peterson says, than they are like 'lose weight in 90 days.'
If we are looking to Scripture to be a manual or a textbook, it could either let you down, or make you a Pharisee. I believe its purpose is as a love letter before a reference text.
If we simply read it, it makes us knowledgeable. If we interact with it, it has the power to make us holy.
There are certain moments in our lives that can cause an emotional reaction in us at the very mention of them: the birth of a child, an award or accomplishment, a person who makes you a better version of yourself, a trauma. For the Israelites in Nehemiah 8 and Ezra 3, it was the very sight and sound of the Book of the Law being opened and read:
So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law… Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground… They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. (Nehemiah 8:2-8, NIV)
What comes next in Nehemiah is a long list of next steps for Israel as they remembered and began to walk in the ways of God again. And it started with confession. It started with cleaning up their way of life. It started at the foundation, with the Book of the Law as their instruction manual, not only in how to be the Kingdom but how to live in community. The rebuilding of God’s Temple was a model for the rebuilding of God’s family.
Here's the good news: Scripture is full of do-overs.
Have you ever noticed how our God is not always the catalyst for a story, nor is He the punchline? Meaning, He is the beginning and the end, but He is in the middle, too. He’s in the comma. He shows up in the mess. He is present, with us.
Scripture is one big story of one big relationship of one great big God, with humanity. It is not only a collection of stories about other people’s relationships; it is the way to relationship with God Himself.
Yet, God’s people are a forgetful people. We are a forgetful people. When we lose touch with someone, we begin to forget what brought us together, what we loved about hanging out, even the memories we made. In Ezra 3 (part of the same story as Nehemiah 8), we see what happens when we forget about our relationship with God, through His enduring word.
The way I read scripture should point to my relationship with Jesus, my participation in His Kingdom and my belief in a God who is love. Does the relationship I have with Scripture reflect my affection for Jesus? Does reading it develop intimacy with him?
Are you following Scripture or are you following Jesus? One is a way of being, the other is a way of loving. And there is room for both. You may feel the urge to remind me that there are a lot of 'how to’s' in Scripture and I would agree. But I have learned how to follow The Word of God, Jesus Christ (John 1), by interacting with God’s word: learning his ways in Scripture, walking in his ways, then living it out.
Some ideas for strengthening your personal relationship with the Bible:
1. Have you decided that it’s a relationship? Do you need to look at your planner to make space for it? You can read all about your perfect match, but until you start dating, you’re not in a relationship.
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2. What do you expect Scripture to do for you? What is its purpose in your life and ministry? What do you hope for as you read the glorious story of God’s heart to partner with us throughout history? And what do you hope to bring to each encounter with Scripture? You get to decide! You can begin with the goal in mind and fix your eyes in the direction you hope to travel with Jesus as you explore his story, together.
3. Who do you hope to become as you spend time in Scripture? You can read about plumbing and watch YouTube videos to fix a leaky faucet but this doesn’t make you a plumber. We know that reading about Jesus doesn’t make us a Jesus follower. So as we inspire kids, families, and leaders to spend time in their Bibles, what, or who, are we hoping they become, too?
4. How might reading Scripture for pleasure, for instruction, and for relationship shape your leadership? 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says 'All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.' (NIV)
These active verbs are only possible in relationship. And notice the 'so that:' so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped. That’s you. That’s me. That’s everyone we serve. That’s what makes the Bible living and active. And it plays out in relationship.
5. Delighting and participating in the ways and words of Scripture will either make you look good, or it will make Jesus look good. One runs the risk of saying 'look at me.' The other says 'look at Him.' What if we get to be the generation that remembers and teaches our kids to remember? Be the generation who celebrates, remembers, repeats, and imitates.
6. Are you in a desert season? Are you are hungry and thirsty? The story of manna in Exodus is for us, too. God promises to meet our needs daily. He loves hearing from you every day. He likely has something to say to you through the Bible every day, too. How often do you share a reel with a friend on Instagram or call your mother or text with your spouse, child, or bestie? And you wouldn’t text them a reply without first reading what they’d sent. What if we interacted with Scripture, and with the presence of the Holy Spirit, the same way we do with each other?
As you deepen your relationship with Him, His word will come alive. He will speak to you through it. You will have questions and He will answer them.
But just like that time you totally thought you replied to a text only to remember a week later that you never did, every relationship requires time, attention, mutuality, and connection.
God is always ready to meet with you. He delights in you. And His presence is with you. What a gift! What a joy!
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