What is your first experience with the Bible?

When I write a book, it comes after years of experience, research, and writing in a particular area. I wrote a novel set in Uganda where I lived seven years and listened for hours on end to stories of ordinary and extraordinary Ugandans. I wrote a book on a doctor in Honduras after interviewing and conferring with more than one hundred people.

I’m researching for an upcoming book and I need your help to understand the wide range of experience people have with the Bible.

My experience with the Bible began in the 1970s when I was given my first King James Version Bible by my parents, Terrel and Charlotte Taylor. In the featured image of this post is the title page where my Mom wrote, “[Presented to] Gregory Taylor [by] Dad and Mom: We love you and pray that you will always want to study God’s Word and follow what it says. May God bless you. November 6, 1975. 

While I heard Old Testament stories from Bible class teachers as examples of faith, that two thirds of my first Bible seems untouched, unread. I read and marked New Testament passages about belief and baptism. For those first few years of my experience with the Bible, I wanted to believe and be baptized so I could go to heaven when I died and not go to hell.

To say that I read the Bible with confusion and fear would be an understatement. Anselm’s motto, “Faith seeking understanding” is a good description of my search for God as an eight year old. My early experiences were also marked with what felt like failure. We were given reading plans and encouraged to read the whole Bible. I never did, and tripped up weeks into any plan, growing bored, confused, and feeling like I was missing something.

One last and important thing: As Adam and Eve had a competing desire and sinned, so also in those early years I was introduced to a competing desire and sinned. I was living the early Bible story already and didn’t realize it. Television images, girls, and a magazine that my neighbor, aptly named Adam, pulled us breathlessly into the woods to show my brother and me competed with the words of God for my imagination. Doubts would come later, and I’ll write more about doubt and this competing for my imagination in my book.

What is your first experience with the Bible? I’m looking for brief responses about your first experience with the Bible, and I may contact you for an interview by phone about your other experiences. You are welcome to respond on comments below, or send email to gregtaylormail@gmail.com. Answer the question, “What was my first experience with the Bible?” as deeply and honestly as you can.

Thank you, and I look forward to your responses!

Greg

Reading the Times

For a long time I’ve been a “reader of the Times.” Yes, I read the NY Times occasionally, but I’m talking about another reading of the times. There’s a manner of speaking that we “read the times” by staying aware of the news and what God is doing in the world. I do that occasionally, too. But I’m talking about another way of reading the times.

The kind of reading the times I’m talking about is that I use the date as a guide for Bible reading, using the number to correspond and direct my reading. In this way I respond to the invitation of God to listen to His voice through the Word daily and regularly in a way that keeps me moving through His story over and over.

There are hundreds of methods of Bible reading, but this one I keep coming back to. It goes something like this:

Today is August 15.

I divide the Psalms by 30 days to read five psalms a day. Lots of people do this, it’s nothing new, but doing it, memorizing, reflecting, praying these Scriptures is tried and true and the most ancient of spiritual practices of Israel and the church. It’s a tried and true method, but it’s only true when tried.

I try to read an Old Testament book daily and a New Testament book daily. There are 39 OT books and 27 NT books, so basically I use the day to pick a book.

So on August 15, I would read Psalms 71-75, Ezra, and 1 Timothy. I don’t worry if I missed yesterday, because yesterday’s book will come around again next month and the month after that.

You may wonder if I read straight through the Chronicles, running my eyes over all the name lists. No. I skim those and read for the story, stopping at places, making notes, enjoying a prayer of David or a song of Moses.

This kind of reading has nothing and everything to do with the reading I do for preaching. It has nothing and everything to do with the way I live my life. It has nothing and everything to do with what’s going to happen in my day. It has nothing and everything to do with what happened in Egypt yesterday. It has nothing and everything to do with politics. It has nothing and everything to do with how I treat my neighbor. This kind of reading has nothing and everything to do with how I relate to my wife and children, my co-workers.

When I read these books tied to a date, the only thing that matters is that I’m reading Holy Scripture and Holy Scripture when read, matters. It doesn’t have to be crammed into relevance in my life. What I learn when I read Holy Scripture is that my life is not what matters, and that my life truly matters.

In reading Holy Scripture, I learn that my life is consumed in the life of God. I learn that God’s story must become my story, that my story is a drop in the ocean. I learn that I am a bucket (I use this to mean vessel but it’s a little easier for us to picture today) that may contain God but realizes containing God is impossible, that God exists and is experienced outside of me infinitely, and I am learning to enjoy that, to desire to get my bucket in the ocean to float, sink, be surrounded by God and not “merely” inviting Him into my life. God invites me into His life.

God invites you into His life. Repeatedly, He said, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Then in Christ incarnate He came to make that invitation personal to a bunch of fishermen. Come, follow me.

A text that tells us ‘Certain Great Things’

New Testament Professor William Barclay (1907-1978)

The following is a mash up of something William Barclay wrote, quoting mostly verbatim from a certain commentary about a Bible text that “tells us certain great things.” Can you read the clues from Barclay and guess the Bible text? In the process, I think we all might unlearn some things we thought about this text or God, and lean into a new relationship with God through deeper understanding of this text.

Comment with the Bible book and verse you think Barclay is referring to.

  1. This has been called ‘everybody’s text’ . . . the text tells us certain great things . . .
  2. This text tells us that initiative in salvation starts with God . . . It was God who sent His Son, and he sent him because He loved the world He had created. At the back of everything is the love of God.
  3. Sometimes Christianity is presented in such a way that it sounds as if God had to be pacified, as if he had to be persuaded to forgive. Sometimes the picture is drawn of a stern, angry, unforgiving God and a gentle, loving, forgiving Jesus.
  4. Sometimes the Christian message is presented in such a way that is sounds as if Jesus did something which changed the attitude of God to men and women from condemnation to forgiveness.
  5. It tells us that the mainspring of God’s being is love. . . . It is easy to think of God as seeking human allegiance in order to satisfy his own desire for power [or glory] and for what we might call a completely subjective universe.
  6. The tremendous thing about this text is that is shows us God acting not for his own sake but for ours; not to satisfy his desire for power, not to bring a universe to heel, but to satisfy His love. . . .
  7. God is the Father who cannot be happy until his wandering children have come home. God does not smash people into submission; He yearns over them and woos them into love.
  8. It tells us of the width of the love of God. It was the world that God so loved. It was not a nation; it was not the good people; it was not only the people who loved Him; it was the world.

Comment with the Bible book and verse you think Barclay is referring to and a brief new way you see God in this text.