Ready for a preacher confession? My early experiences with the Bible were marked with what felt like failure. At church we were given "Read the Bible in a Year" plans. I failed every year. In fact, I've never read the Bible through in one year. I've always tripped up weeks into any plan, growing bored, sleepy, confused.
Of course, yes, I've read all the Bible books, just not in a year. I've read many in-depth, ignored others . . . just . . . like . . . you. Don't get me wrong. The Bible is our non-negotiable partner in preaching and teaching and in the church, and I spend hours a week in the Bible. The Bible is one of the primary ways the Spirit of God speaks to us. Reading it, yearly or any reading plan is great! Stay with me here. We're working in a culture -- who, you and me? Surely not us! -- who like Facebook better than the Bible, judging from the time we spend on it.
For those who struggle with reading the Bible, I'm with you. I'm praying for you to have the desire to read the Bible on its own terms and to once again or for the first time see the God revealed there in the story, poems, prophecies, gospels, letters, and crazy apocalypses.
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.
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 preach about doubt and this competing for my imagination through the summer 2017.
Sunday June 4 we begin a series at The Journey where we pray for the desire for some who have no interest in the Bible, others who think they know the Bible but have more interest in their answers than in trusting God. We'll pray for those who think the Bible is a how-to manual, people who think the Bible is a love letter, people who think the Bible is not true, people who think the Bible is a legal contract to be followed with attempted perfection and much guilt.
Please respond on comments below, or send email to email@example.com. Answer the question, “What were my first experiences with the Bible?” as deeply and honestly as you can.