The challenge of scriptural comprehension…

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Acts 8:26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him…35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.

I remember many years ago when I first got interested in scripture. At the time I was reading a fair number of secular books on business and leadership. One of my favorites was “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, which had just recently been released. You may have read it yourself as it’s something of a classic in that particular literary genre. I read several other books of this kind, hoping to find the roadmap to success – whatever that looked like.

Anyway, at some point I picked up a bible and started reading in the gospel of Matthew. It didn’t take long for me to realize this book was… different. Lots of it didn’t make much sense to me. I came to learn the bible wasn’t a normal “story”, but a compilation of many kinds of literature created in the context of multiple ancient cultures with which I had no connection or understanding. To be honest I almost gave up. But then my “Philip” came along.

No, the Lord didn’t send a person to guide me through scripture, but instead prompted me to buy a study bible – the sort that has notes at the bottom of the pages to help explain the body of text. These notes were literally a God-send and kept me reading when I might have quit. By this time, in my early 20s, I’d started attending a church in San Antonio and teaching some of the youth. In my experience, nothing encourages learning like the task of teaching. I was teaching stuff on Sundays that I’d just learned the night before! So where am I going with this?

First, if you find yourself struggling to understand scripture you’re not alone. I’ve been at it for almost 40 years. I’ve read through the bible front to back many times now and still get stumped on a regular basis. That said, rest assured the Lord can still speak to you through the parts you can understand – and will grow your comprehension the more you read it. If you’re looking for some good bible resources for purchase I recommend http://www.logos.com. I’ve been a user of this software for almost 30 years now and believe it’s the best stuff out there.

Mostly, spend a moment in prayer before you begin reading. I’m confident a prayer for greater comprehension of God’s word is the sort of prayer the Lord wants to answer. Lord, let it be so. Amen.

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