Does the Bible Matter to You?

A bible from 1859.
A bible from 1859. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently read a report on a study conducted by the American Bible Society – The 2012 State of the Bible Report. I found this study quite interesting. I write this blog, because of things I learn and the personal growth I experience which is profoundly influenced by my daily reading in the Bible. It was astounding to me to discover that many people seldom or never actually read the Bible, yet those same people had strong opinions about both the content of the Bible and the relevance of the Bible to daily life.

I don’t feel entitled to judge people who say they have no time to read the Bible, because I know that many people are committed to tasks and activities that more than fill every day. Yet I know from experience that people do what is important to them. I worked as a consultant for several years. My work days started at 6AM, no matter what time my flight arrived the previous evening. Those days extended until the work was done, even if the work continued long after a normal dinner hour. Those were exhausting years. Yet I remember making the commitment to read the Bible and pray every day, even if for a brief time, and I remember how hard it was just to get up in time to make it to work by 6AM, and I remember how it was even harder to do after I realized that the only time I could count on for Bible study and prayer was before the work day started. After many years of that discipline, I now look back and thank God that I made the time for just fifteen minutes each day.

At first that fifteen minutes was a huge challenge. As I grew in faith and in commitment to that daily time apart, I found I wanted more time, not less. I learned that I needed that time to nourish my faith the way I needed mealtimes to nourish my body. Today that fifteen minutes is often closer to an hour, but there are still times when it is hard to make even fifteen minutes. I don’t quibble about that. I’ll be honest. Sometimes I don’t even get the fifteen minutes. I always regret it. It is like forgetting to kiss my husband when he gets up. There may not be any cosmic disaster attributable to missing my time apart with God, but I feel the loss. When I first started my devotional discipline, it seemed hard to make the time every day. Now, when it is hard to make the time, I am highly motivated to do it anyway, because I know the value of letting God speak to me through the Bible and in prayer.

My experience is this. When I first committed to the daily discipline of fifteen minutes, it was very hard, but I found it fulfilling and worthwhile. Amazingly, this discipline enriched my worship experience on Sunday mornings. It led me to attend another worship service each Wednesday evening. More worship led me to richer time alone, and I found it easier at that point to expand my daily time than to cut it short at fifteen minutes. I wanted more. The more I know God, the more I want to know.

Writing this blog is only one of the many things God has led me to do as his obedient child. Over many years of prayer and Bible study, I began to recognize that our culture is growing simultaneously both indifferent and aggressive toward Christianity and Christians. In my childhood, the communities where I lived were very much shaped by values drawn from Christian teaching. On Sunday, people either went to church or felt guilty for not going. Anyone who spoke in curses in the presence of women or children apologized for it. My teachers read the Bible or Bible stories to us before classes started each day. That was then.

Today, none of these attitudes prevail in most communities. There is outspoken resentment when anybody assumes that Christian values prevail or Christian traditions are dominant. The culture wants Christians to keep their faith, their practices and their values to themselves. A Christian who presumes to speak of the faith that shapes his life is at risk of being called a bigot simply because he has convictions.

In this environment, Christians need more than ever to be firmly rooted in their faith. If their faith is challenged, they need to know how to answer. It is very much like the experience of early Christians in the Roman Empire. I don’t know if the not too benign scorn for Christians will escalate to outright persecution, but it could. There are certainly cultural indications that if Christians refuse to lock their faith up inside their church buildings, there will be cultural, and perhaps governmental, consequences.

This blog is my response to the culture of religious suppression. On May 1, the Occupy movement reared its head to make political statements in demonstrations around the country. This movement does not speak for everyone in the nation, but a startling number of people are sympathetic, even if they are not involved. Here you can see a number of photos which ought to shock citizens of the USA. Occupy demonstrators are waving flags that advocate Marxism, the very ideology which turned churches into dormitories and factories in the former USSR, an ideology which sent some Christians to “re-education” camps, an ill-disguised euphemism for torture facilities. Maybe this country will never sink to that level, but Christians need to be aware that this stream of thought is now prominent in our culture.

How shall a Christian live and stand up for Christ in the current culture of the USA? Mourning the past is a waste of time. Outrage and name-calling is not the way Christ taught us to respond to the growing disdain or even hatred. Jesus said we should love and pray for those who want to persecute us for our faith. I hope this blog will encourage you to do exactly that. That is the reason I ask if you make time for Bible study and prayer. That is why I share my experiences. That is why I ask you to share your own experiences.

Do you make time in each day or most days to read your Bible and pray? If not, why not? When life throws slings and arrows your way, how do you cope? Is it your habit to pray or to remember something from the Bible when you are hurt, angry, confused or depressed? Do you think you would react differently if you “knew more” about the Bible? Do you think you ought to spend time every day in Bible study and prayer, or do you think that nobody needs to do it that often? Do you think the current culture of the USA is more tolerant or less tolerant of Christians than it was twenty years ago? How do you think Christians should react to rejection or insults in public? What is the right place to seek advice on living a spiritual faith in a secular culture? I would really value your response.

 

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2 thoughts on “Does the Bible Matter to You?”

  1. A Marxist sign? Not sure I see this as slings and arrows? Jesus seems to have found compatibility with his faith and his economic views, which I can only describe as communism. Not sure Marxism should be considered incompatible with Christianity, (just because Marx thought so), and in fact in a deep sense I would say they’re quite compatible, in that there’s a common kinship and caring for one another. Capitalism is a bit more practical, at times self correcting, but can be a bit brutal and heartless. I think we can understand how some might feel left behind by our current economy.

    As far as how to deal with persecution (rejection or insults in pubic), turn the other cheek. Perhaps my favorite bible phase,

    You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
    —Matthew 5:38-42, NIV

    Any person who throws out insults just because someone is a person of faith (in God/Jesus), is ignorant, intolerant or both. You’re not going to be able to reason with this person. The best is to live within your values. I’m an atheist (with faith there’s no God) and that’s exactly what I’d do, if situation was reversed (insulted for being an atheist). Jesus serves as an exemplary role model; there can be no doubt.

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    1. I admire your comments about the right way to deal with persecution or scorn. “Live within your values.” The word we commony use to describe someone who does that is “integrity.” We can all respect a person who is exactly who he claims to be.
      I do see a threat to Christian faith when someone carries a sign bearing a Marxist quotation or any symbols of worldwide Communism. Marx did not simply disdain religion; he believed religion of any kind should be rooted out of society. I believe Wikipedia records a valid summary of the Marxist attitude toward all religions and the way that attitude was expressed in the administration of the USSR:
      “The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion[1] and its replacement with atheism.[2][3] The communist regime confiscated religious property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in schools.[4] The confiscation of religious assets was often based on accusations of illegal accumulation of wealth.

      State atheism in the Soviet Union was known as gosateizm,[1] and was based on the ideology of Marxism–Leninism. As the founder of the Soviet state, V. I. Lenin, put it:

      Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.[5]

      Marxism–Leninism has consistently advocated the control, suppression, and elimination of religion. Within about a year of the revolution, the state expropriated all church property, including the churches themselves, and in the period from 1922 to 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were killed. Many more were persecuted.[6] ”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_Soviet_Union

      This is the reason I take warning when anyone carries around flags or signs advocating Marxist ideology.

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