Columnists > Judgment Calls

Instruction manual

Learning to read God's Word and then watch Him work

Issue: "Gore strikes out," Dec. 9, 2000

As a late Reformation Day present, I'll give my kids the gift of how to read the Bible. I've just decided that scolding and casting aspersions on their faith is ineffective and probably a cheap shot. (Sometimes a body you wrote off as reprobate is just someone who needed to be shown the way.)

I will immediately demystify the whole enterprise by retiring the name "Quiet Time," Christian lingo that's served its purpose but is yielding diminishing returns in our case, throwing up psychological barriers as it conjures unattainable visions of haloed people in prayer closets levitating two feet off the ground.

Here is my method: The alarm clock rings and I fall out of bed on top of the Bible, which, in saner moments, was wedged open with a pen to the right spot (this is one book you can write in, kids): One chapter. Ten minutes. Non-negotiable. I'm not necessarily proud of that method, but I figure that a teeny-weeny step every day beats out great heroic spurts once every blue moon. (Remember the tortoise and the hare.) There is something to be said for habit, my dears.

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Having demystified, I will then mystify it all over again, noting that the Bible, unlike their geometry book, has a few peculiar little quirks-like that you can't get much out of it unless you have a relationship with its author. (Here I will reference the familiar "Kids' Praise" tapes, with Salty and that Rube Goldberg "songmobile" that Charity Churchmouse couldn't get to sing for her because "it only works if you praise the Lord from your heart.")

We'll talk mystical connections between obedience and wisdom-radical, counter-cultural stuff that the ivory tower academics of Harvard Divinity have no idea of; and we'll discuss the futility of studying the Bible and hating your brother simultaneously. And for the younger two I'll take out my heavy gauge steel chain with the one weak link that I've saved for this purpose, and name the compromised link "obedience" and the others such names as "church attendance" and "prayer." And with Old Testament prophetic flair I will hurl the hypothetical question: "Would you trust your life to that chain?"

With the older two, sophisticates, I will be sophisticated: Beware of "low information-activation ratios" (L.I.A.R.), I will say ponderously. That's where you read the Bible every day, underline the good parts, make notes in the margins, consult commentaries, do word studies in concordances-and then go out and live any way you want.

To the faint at heart, who whine that Scripture is too hard to understand, I will adduce such assurances as Proverbs 1:23 and 1 Corinthians 2:11-12, to prove that God yearns for relationship, for intimacy such that even lovers cannot share, and how dare you think he would be so perverse as to conceal what he desires to reveal!

Or are you just lost without a compass in the thicket of Leviticus, I'll ask. Here is a tip I got from your aunt Aline: Pray the Lord, before you read, that he will show you just one little thing in that chapter today. And if all you've gotten out of the passage is, for example, that God is majestic, you've gotten a lot. Go out and practice the majesty of God.

For it can all be put into practice: Is there a declarative in Scripture? Let it color your attitude. Is there an imperative? Obey it. Is there a question? It's meant to be mulled over. Are there images? Extract their sweet juices in meditation. Are there psalms and songs? God is Lord of the emotions as well as the mind.

Go to the Bible to meet Christ. That's the main thing I will tell the tykes. He is its author, its subject matter, the doorway to its treasures, the full-throated symphony of which Adam and the prophets heard just the faintest tune.

His one Mind breathed all its parts, so that you can expect certain things: Haggai will agree with Titus; Chronicles will not contradict Romans; Hebrews will help you understand Genesis. You will see connections everywhere, and not be imagining things. The beast in Revelation will remind you of the beast in Daniel-and it is meant to do that. And everything will remind you of something in your own life, to help you make sense of your days. You will know your world. You will know yourself. You will know your God (Calvin's Institutes, Book 1, chapter 1, paragraph 1).

This is what I will tell my kids. And then, because I have read in Scripture of the sovereignty of God, I will step away a bit and let the Spirit do His work, His strange and wonderful work that He does in hearts, in the places where a mother, even a mother, cannot go.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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