So, let’s be honest, knowing the purpose of the literature can be helpful, but it still doesn’t mean that the Levitical law, the book of Ezekiel and perhaps some of the other prophetic writings are the most interesting, engaging, relevant or exciting portions of scripture. Some scripture that we read might feel rather dry, uninteresting and even boring. Some of these feelings can come from a lack of understanding or appreciation of the richness, nuances and subtleties of the text, culture and context – that a scholar would get really excited about. Well, you and I are not scholars, and some passages can just plain be tough to really get into. So, what to do? Let me give you a couple of hopefully helpful suggestions…
1. Supplement your diet. Any doctor worth the exorbitant price we pay for health care will tell that if your diet or health is suffering, supplement your diet, right? Take some vitamins, eat some veggies, drink a smoothie. If the section of scripture you are reading feels dry and your soul is feeling empty, there is absolutely nothing wrong with supplementing your diet. In fact, as a doctor of souls (a pastor), I would urge you to do it! Here are some good supplements I would suggest:
- Pray a Psalm. The Psalms are our prayer book that God has given us to teach us to pray. I would suggest just starting at the beginning, and don’t just read the Psalm, but pray it back to God. Let the words and phrases of the text become your own prayers to God. Personalize them with your own words and prayers.
- Read A Proverb. These are some of the most practical and applicable portions of scripture in the Bible. God’s gift to help us to be wise. The book of Proverbs is conveniently broken down into 31 Chapters – one for every day of the week. A proverb a day keeps… ahh… foolishness away.
- Slowly read a gospel. Savor a few verses a day from a gospel along with whatever other passage you are reading.
- Get a good devotional book. God not only speaks through his word, but speaks through his people, particularly the saints of old and the saints of today. There are hundreds of great devotional guides (and some lame ones as well). Some have found Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, helpful. There is the Daily Bread devotional guide. Streams in the Desert is excellent. Pastor Jason’s Morning Manna is wonderful. Right now I am using a devotional guide called Common Prayer: a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shaine Clayborne, and I love it! God speaks to me all the time through it.
2. Dig in and listen for the “still small voice” and look for the nuggets of truth. I would urge you not to simply mindlessly skim through the tough portions of scripture or ignore them completely, but I would encourage you to dig into them. I would suggest getting a good study Bible, or using other tools to help you understand what is happening in the scriptures. Getting some good Bible tools can really help in making the scriptures come alive. I would highly suggest the NIV Study Bible, or Life Application Bible, these tools can really help the tough passages become more relevant to your life.
Then I would urge you to approach each passage with your heart and mind open to the still small voice of the Spirit, and looking with the eyes of a detective. Not every time you read a passage will you have some mind blowing revelation. It is kind of like eating – not every meal is a 7 course experience of culinary delight, sometimes you just eat a piece of toast on the fly (at least I do). On the other hand, you may be surprised by the voice of God breaking through a seemingly “dullish” passage of scripture. In my next entry, I’ll give an example from my reading this week in the book of Ezekiel.