The Bible on the BookshelfPosted September 14th, 2011
by Nancy Canwell
“I’m holding it in my hands right now,” Dad said to me as we talked on the phone last night. “It’s getting old and some of the pages are starting to fall out.”
“Tell me again, Dad,” I asked. “Tell me again how that Bible saved our family. I never grow tired of hearing the story.”
“Well, when you were ten years old, I had already accomplished what I’d set out to do in my life. We had a beautiful house, nice cars, social status and plenty of money. But for some reason I wasn’t happy. There was a gap—a hole in my soul.
“Late one night, when the rest of the family was asleep, I was sitting alone in our living room. Staring at the bookshelf, something caught my eye. I discovered that it was a brand new Bible my brother had accidently left behind when he visited us. Out of both curiosity and desperation, I took it down and opened it. And I wound up reading for several hours that night.
“Every night for a month, when everyone was in bed, I would read this Bible–usually reading until two or three in the morning. Something kept drawing me back. I read the promises of God and began believing that they could come true in my life. One night I said to myself, ‘If this is true, then I’d be a fool not to give God a chance.’ So I got on my knees and gave my life to God.”
The next evening Dad sat our family down and told us what he’d done. After he shared with us what he’d found in the Bible, I was completely sold on the idea of becoming a Christian. Who could resist such love? A few months later, our family was baptized together.
My First Bible
My first Bible was given to me on my tenth birthday, not long after we became Christians. The cover is white with a golden zipper. Hanging from the zipper is a cross–something I used to touch reverently, thinking of the impact of the symbol.
The greatest thing about my Bible was its vivid color illustrations. To a new Christian they made the Bible come alive. In one picture David is defeating Goliath. In another, a beautiful rainbow arches over Noah’s ark. Then there’s a picture of Jesus in the Bethlehem manger, and a few pages later, He’s healing a sick boy.
I underlined in my Bible a lot. And as I looked through it today, I wondered why I had underlined certain texts. I know why I underlined the Ten Commandments. I wanted to obey the God I’d come to love—the One who had changed my family. But why did I underline Psalm 116:1: “I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy”? Was I going through a tough time and found reassurance that God hears my voice—my voice? And why did I underline Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in John 4? Did it mean something to me as a young girl that Jesus treated this woman with such kindness and respect?
I must have really liked Psalm 119 because I underlined most of the chapter. That chapter includes the well-known verse: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” When I read that today I paused and wondered: why does the Bible sometimes cease to be our lamp and our light? Why do we start taking matters into our own hands–getting advice from anyone and everyone instead of from God’s word?
I think we run the danger of becoming so familiar with the Bible that we take it for granted. How many Bibles do you have in your house? I don’t even know our total. But I do know how precious that white Bible was to me when it was my one-and-only.
The Bible Has Answers
I believe that the Bible holds the answers to life’s most important questions. Through my years of being a pastor I’ve been asked many questions about God. And it has always thrilled me that I could open a Bible and show people the answers to their questions. Here are some of those questions and some Bible answers. Maybe some of the questions are yours:
• I’ve committed a terrible sin. Will Jesus really forgive me? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
• I used to be a Christian, but I left God years ago. Will He still take me back? “ ‘I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you’ ” (Isaiah 44:22).
• Someone I loved very much has died. Is there any hope of seeing them again? “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
• Does Jesus care that I’m hurting? “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18).
• Does God actually listen when I talk to Him? “ ‘Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear’ ” (Isaiah 65:24).
• Is there hope for a better life than this one? “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
The Bible and You
As you can see, the Bible is still relevant today. In addition to providing answers, it also gives guidance. God’s law within its pages teaches us how to be more like Jesus. It also helps us understand and know God better, and prepares us for what the future will bring.
Here then are some ideas to help you get the most out of your Bible study. The first is to choose a translation that best suits you, whether it’s the traditional King James or one with more modern language, such as the New International Version.
Next, set a specific time and place to read. My dad has always said that morning is the best time. “That’s where the power is for the day!” he told me. Then pray before you begin. Since the Bible is the word of God, ask Him to open your mind and heart and to speak to you through the pages of His book. When you’re finished ask yourself, “What can I apply to my life today?” Then go out and face the world!
There are different ways of studying the Bible. You can do what my mom does and read the entire Bible through from Genesis to Revelation each year. Or you can choose a particular topic and use a concordance to look up texts on the subject. You can also choose a single book to study. For instance, if you want to know more about what Jesus is like, read the book of John. The books of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians will show you how to live the Christian life. In the book of Psalms you can read about David experiencing many ups and downs, but always eventually coming through on God’s side.
And then there’s the option of studying the lives of different Bible characters such as Moses, Esther, Paul and Mary. See how you relate to them and what you can learn from them.
Some Bible students write their thoughts in a journal as they study. Others write a favorite text on a note card and carry it with them throughout the day. And if you don’t understand something you’ve read, dig deeper or ask for help from a pastor or well-read friend.
The Bible’s Relevance
It was a Bible on the bookshelf that changed the course of my life some 40 years ago. And I still go to God’s word daily. It speaks to me of comfort, hope, conviction, forgiveness, instruction and solutions. It shows me what God is like and what He wants me to be like.
And although it was written thousands of years ago, the Bible is still today what it has always been: the words of God. Words that teach us the right way to live; words that show us what Jesus is like; words that assure us that we’re forgiven and accepted by God; words that comfort us when we’re hurting; and words that give us hope for the future when we’re tired of this world.
The Bible is a lamp to keep us from stumbling, a light when the way is dark. It holds the solution to every predicament and the answer to every need. But as Dad discovered, it has to come down off the bookshelf before it can change our lives.
(Scripture taken from the New King James Bible and New International Version)