I’d like to talk a little about Bible story books – those “bible’s for kids” that you can get at most Christian book stores these days – those little story books that are often gifts at baby dedications and read in children’s churches and Sunday schools.
But before I do… I’d like to tell you a bit of our story…
My hubby and I have been on a long journey the past couple of years. We were active church members for about 15 years (not sure what that makes us) but only in the last couple of years have we really started to study the Bible for ourselves. We’ve read the Bible (or bits of it) lots before this – we did 2 years of evening Bible school but amazingly we never managed to comprehensively read or study the Bible ourselves. I think, in a way, we didn’t think that we needed to. We looked up all the verses that we were taught us in Bible school, we read Proverbs every day before work, we read the Psalms in the evening and we read bits of the Bible during our quiet times. We read from many different versions of the Bible. During that time I remember feeling that I wasn’t spiritual enough because most of the Bible was not that interesting to me.
As we grew in our parenting and homeschooling journeys, we began to be inspired by some awesome families and I started to wonder about the Bible. I realized that I could no longer coast along listening to what everybody else told me the Bible said, but I’d have to study it for myself. The crux of the matter for me and the question I really started to ask myself was this: Do I really believe the Bible is the true inspired word of God?
“All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3 v 16
- or not?
If not, then how could I believe any of it? How could I trust what God said if I wasn’t sure which bits were true and which weren’t? Also, did I believe that God was capable of preserving His inspired Word throughout the ages and in my own language so that I could read and understand it and not have to rely on someone who knows Greek to explain it to me?
This was a scary place to be because the other side of the coin was this: If God’s word is true, if it is the inspired word of God then I’d have to believe all of it – even the parts that I don’t like. This meant that what people had always told me about parts of the New Testament being “because of the culture of that time and no longer relevant today” was wrong – I’d have to believe it all.
Long story short, after a couple of months of pondering, I decided to take the plunge and to believe God’s Word was true, inspired and available for me to read and study in my own language. The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament – Christ is the fulfillment of all things and the Bible is God’s inspired Word to us.
I still felt intimidated by all the pastors and Bible scholars who knew so much more than I did. How could I read and learn for myself from the Bible when they knew so much more than me? Let me tell you a well-kept secret:
That isn’t God’s plan!!!
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2 v 15
God’s plan is for us to study His Word ourselves! He wants us to know His Word and depend on it and SPEAK it daily!
“But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Psalm 1 v 2
“…it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 1 v 3
Thats not to say that we can’t be blessed and encouraged and taught by Godly men and especially by our husbands – but it is our own responsibility and WE CAN study God’s word ourselves.
I now see the Bible very differently – everything I read counts. Everything in there is there for a reason, can be studied, meditated on, thought about, pondered upon. Its amazing the difference it makes when you know you can trust the whole Bible – every bit of it.
Then hubby and I started to learn how to study the Bible ourselves. This has been so freeing for me – now instead of asking a “knowledgeable” person the answer to my questions, I am able to go to the Bible for my answer – and if I am stuck I am able to ask my hubby and trust God to lead him in His God ordained position to teach me from God’s word.
“And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home:” 1 Cor 14 v 35a
This is such a blessing to me as I find myself able to explain my question or my dilemma far more easily to my husband who knows me so well, rather than someone else. Of course there are times when we both seek the counsel of Godly men whom we know will answer us from God’s Word.
The way we are learning to study the Bible is this:
If I want to know what the Bible says on a particular subject: let’s say looking after our bodies, FITNESS, etc. (this is something on my mind a lot lately).
I would start by making a list of all the words that I might find in the Bible relating to this topic:
- temple of Holy Spirit
- their god is their stomach
I would pray and ask God to help me and lead me to the verses as I search. I would try to remember any phrases that I know are in verses like these.
Then I would take my list and open a Bible online, I would click where it says “Search the Bible” and then do a search on each of these words. Of course, in the days before computers this would have been a lot more tedious using concordances if they were available or even reading through to find the verses yourself. We are so blessed to be able to get an instant list of the verses containing each word.
Then I word print out my list of verses and during my Bible reading time, I would slowly read each verse in context in my Bible. (I don’t like to do the actual reading online as I get distracted and am less able to focus on what God is saying to me as I read than when I am reading my own Bible.) Each verse that I read adds to my picture of what the Bible says about this topic. Each verse adds a new dimension and helps me understand the subject better.
Its totally amazing when you let the Bible interpret itself – when you discover the meaning of words in the Bible by looking at all the times the Bible uses that actual word in context – you really are able to see for yourself what the Bible means!
We have discovered some amazing things! For example:
- Did you know that Jesus meant the parables that he told to not be understood by everyone but only those who had “ears to hear”? Read the gospels and see for yourself.
- Did you know that God actually hardened Pharoah’s heart (as a judgement) after each plague so that He would not release the Israelites and bring more plagues on Egypt? Read in Exodus and see for yourself.
It has been such a breakthrough for us. We certainly don’t see ourselves as superior to any other Bible teachers or Christians – but our AUTHORITY has changed – our final authority is now truly the WORD OF GOD!
So, after that very long story back to my original topic.
I have become more and more concerned as I read the Bible for myself and as my husband teaches our family from God’s Word just how prevalent Bible story books are – everywhere! – and how they often replace the Bible in children’s churches, Sunday schools and in our homes. I grew up with Bible story books and they were great fun to read – they had some good stuff in them – and in those days at least the pictures were more realistic than the sweet little cartoon pictures of Jesus and His disciples in the modern bible story books – but my picture of Jesus was very different to what I am finding as I study the Bible for myself.
Can you imagine if we were taught Shakespeare in cute little cartoon pictures with easy words to read - because it’s easier to understand? Don’t you think that’s kind of missing the point! Imagine what our picture of Shakespeare would be if that was our main exposure to his work.
How can we teach the Bible – God’s Holy Word – to our children by taking the stories out of context, leaving out many of the important details and endings, adding cute little pictures to them – and then telling them that this is God’s Word?
“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22 v 19
Can you imagine what view of God our children are forming from these books? Do we realize how incomplete our picture of Bible history is from bible story books? I am constantly amazed when I read well-known bible stories in the actual Bible how much there is that I didn’t know and how much richer and fuller the stories are. They speak to me of God – of His character, His plan and His power – a perfect picture of God’s justice and grace.
What is our picture of God – how do we see Him ? How does the Bible depict Him? Do we really want to remove so much of His power, His anger, His majesty, His might and His judgement and replace it with sweet stories? I for one, do not!
Our children love to read and listen to their Dad teach them from the Bible. I think it would be an insult to them to be told that they are “too little” for the real Bible. They love the action, the power and the reality of God’s Word. They love that they are trusted with it and can delve in for themselves. They are growing up knowing and learning to understand God’s Word from a young age. They are growing up with a truly Biblical picture of God.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Joshua 1 v 8