This year my church, Providence, set out on something called The Journey. It emphasizes reading through the Bible in a year, praying deliberately, giving to Kingdom causes, connecting in community, and missioning either here or abroad one week this year. If this sounds familiar to you that's probably because it was inspired by the Radical Experiment at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham (and made known by David Platt's book by the same title).
One particular aspect of The Journey that I am enjoying is the Bible reading. I must confess that though I've been a Christian for 35 years, I have never read the Bible from cover to cover. Perhaps I've read it all in a hop-skip-jump fashion, but now that I've just completed Leviticus I tend to doubt it. It is solely the Holy Spirit's motivation and the accountability of my church family, who are reading along too, that will keep me from skipping chapters like Leviticus 14 and 15.
As I read through the first five books (Genesis, Job, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers...we are reading chronologically), I'm excited to see The Story unfold from beginning to end in my reading. From years of Sunday school, Bible study, and sermons, I feel like I know it fairly well. However, I am already experiencing the text and understanding the unfolding of the drama with fresh eyes and an expectant heart.
As I embark on this journey through the Word, I consider my prior experience with it. Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, writes,
[There] are children in Sunday schools who know the Bible stories and probably all the right answers, and yet they have somehow missed the most important thing of all. They have missed what the Bible is all about. They are children like I once was. As a child, even though I was a Christian, I grew up thinking the Bible was filled with rules you had to keep (or God wouldn't love you) and with heroes setting examples you had to follow (or God wouldn't love you).Her words resonate deeply with me. It was well into my adult years that I came to understand the Bible as something more. That I came to discover the Word of God was alive and active (Heb. 4:12) and desiring to shape more than my behavior but mold my heart.
Instructions and exhortations aren't enough to bring about the change. No, it's the Storyteller and The Story he is telling. Lloyd-Jones goes on to write:
When we drill a Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it all about us. But the Bible isn't mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing - it's about God, and what he has done! When we tie up the story in a nice neat little package, and answer all the questions, we leave no room for mystery. Or discovery. We leave no room for the child. No room for God. And that's why I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible. So children could know what I didn't:Of course, we are instructed, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22). However, I believe our obedience is radiant and displays the glory of God only when it flows from a heart of love rather than a display of duty.
- That the Bible isn't mainly about me, and what I should be doing. It's about God and what he has done.
- That the Bible is most of all a story - the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
- That - in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him - God won't ever stop loving his children...with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.