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My Husband Ruined my Favorite Devotional

{Guest Post by Mrs. J D White}

Well, that is definitely a click bait title. (But let’s face it, this blog could use one of those, hey?)

A more accurate title would be something like “my husband helped with the ruining of my ability to use the Bible as help-yourself self-help” (See why I went with the click bait?)

I grew up in a Bible-reading, Bible-studying, Bible-loving home. Claiming ignorance of Biblical teachings has never been an option. I also have been in Bible-exegeting churches all my life. I guess pretty much I’m a fish in water when it comes to Bible stuff.

That being said, it’s been an interesting process figuring out how to read, understand, and apply the Bible for my own life. (Lots and lots of failing along the way!)

In high school, I attended a Bible study led by our church’s youth pastor. He gave us a fabulous challenge.

Read all of Romans. Straight through. In one sitting.

What!? You can’t do that it’s so long. And it’s, like, the Bible. You only read it in little pieces. Like a toddler eats broccoli. Right??

Oh, and read it (straight through in one sitting) every day for a week.

Now you’re asking me to eat a whole salad in one bite?? This is crazy.

But I did it.

The first time was hard. The second time it started to actually make sense for the first time ever. By the fifth time? I was head over heels in love with Romans.

Now…zoom forward through my life a few years, to the part where da’husband comes in. He likes to read, and he studies theology like a regular seminary student (who can’t afford regular seminary so he just gets the textbooks and lectures from the library and Amazon and iTunesU.)

We have conversations about Bible stuff all the time. Life experience (by God’s grace) simply hasn’t allowed that to be optional. We’ve seen some crazy stuff (who hasn’t these days tho).

One of the things we have become super convinced of is the extreme importance of reading Bible verses in context, not using Bible verses OUT of context, and seeking to understand the author’s original intent (I have a hunch there will be a whole post on that last point, coming soon…ask me how I know)

Basically, the idea is that in order to understand any particular Bible verse well, one must also consider the surrounding verses, and even chapters and books.

For example, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” sounds like a great superhero Christian verse at face value, but it takes on a more real-life tone when you realize Paul was talking about enduring suffering and enjoying abundance to the glory of God.

Likewise, have you ever studied the context of “Without vision a people perish”? Or “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…” or “Nothing is impossible with God”? (Consider it a dare! Go study!)

Ok, but what does any of this have to do with the title of this post?

See, I used to approach the Bible like I was simply “supposed to read it.” Because it’s “good for you.” I’d pick a chapter, and read it, annnnd….done! Check that off the list! Or I’d have a question and try to find the answer by looking up words in a concordance and doing a topical study. (“What is a Christian girl supposed to wear? Hmm, let’s look up “modesty” – I’m sure that will tell me what type of denim is the most godly.”) Or I’d read a verse or two and try to figure out how they apply to me personally (ie, the “devotional” approach).

The trouble is, it’s really hard to see the stunningly beautiful over-arching, under-girding, permeating purposes of Scripture if you just read it in smaller chunks or only use a concordance to find words. I’m not saying topical studies are bad or that you can’t read small pieces of Scripture. I just want to suggest that if you sometimes read whole books or letters in one sitting (or two or three sittings…let’s be real…Isaiah is long), and if you look for the over-all message of that book or letter, you might be amazed at the whole new level of coherence that you can discover.

But I gotta warn you. Once you start discovering the importance of context, you might have a hard time flipping open your Bible and pointing at a random verse and taking it as personal prophecy. You’ll be more likely to flip open your Bible randomly, see a book name, start at chapter 1, and keep going. And your heart just might rejoice at the amazing wisdom and glory of God that the Bible is fairly bursting with.

(I could thank a lot of people for this change of perspective- my parents, siblings, pastors, people who don’t like me, friends. And I am grateful to them, from my heart.

But it sounds funnier to just blame my husband.)

One last note of practical honesty: These days, I’m a mom of two very small children. I don’t read the Bible every day. I read large chunks of Bible on some days – and then the dishes don’t get done, I stay in my pajamas til lunchtime, the kids get annoyed at me, and dinner is late.

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