The written word of God has come a long way from those stone tablets Moses brought down from the mountain, but it is still as true today as it ever has been, no matter the delivery method. Stone tablets, parchment scrolls, bound books and on-line bibles all contain the same words, the same message … the same truth.
More important than the mechanical way we receive those words is the attitude of the heart which receives them. Do we read in humble submission to the One who breathed them? Or do we read them with an “I’ve read this before, so I can just skim this part to save a minute” attitude? In today’s fast-paced world it’s easy to justify “running” through our devotional time so we can get on with our lives. Even a Christ centered life can fall into this snare. We strive to get more things done for our ministry, or congregation, or family. These are all noble endeavors, but without truly immersing ourselves in His word (and not hurrying through it) can we continue to fully serve Him?
All this seems a counterintuitive prelude to an article on using the “Virtual Bible” resources on the web. The Internet is the consummate icon of modern impatience. “If you want it NOW you can get it NOW on the web with a simple click, as soon as you demand it” is the underlying mantra and a powerful seduction into the virtual world. Instant messaging, instant mail delivery, on-demand movies, on-line shopping, and yes, instant bible are all available at your beck and CLICK!
So, should we just put down the mouse, walk away from the computer, grab our old, well worn, familiar leather bound personal bible, close the door to the outside world for a while and let the familiar feel of the leather, and the crisp sound of turning pages comfort us as the Word penetrates our soul, slowly, completely, prayerfully? Absolutely!
Or, should we leverage the power of the Internet to research the bible efficiently and completely on any given day to sort out relationships between wide-ranging scripture references we never before realized. Should we compare a single scripture text from the ESV, New King James and The Message or any other combination of three versions simultaneously in three column format for more complete understanding? Absolutely!
Neither method of bible study precludes the other. There is nothing inherently sacrosanct about a traditional leather bound bible, or evil about using the web to research a biblical answer to a difficult question. The variable is the condition of the heart — from one person to another, from one day to another, or from one situation to another. And, there are times when that instant feedback from the computer screen is more available and more capable of confronting us with TRUTH, because we are already there when our need for answers suddenly arrives. But when we stand down from the duties of the day, or rise early to a new day, nothing replaces the familiar rustle of the pages and familiar personality of leather in our hands to reassure us that He is still there, real and constant, familiar and close.
Pray about it. Consider the personal rhythms the Lord has built your life around. Discover the word in your own time and place with a contrite heart … a heart open to the Master.
We’ll soon be posting articles in this same series about using online bible resources. Here at Christ Church we tend to use three main web sites in our daily routines, both for dedicated personal time and research for our daily activities. The three I use on a regular basis are:
- ESV Bible Strictly English Standard Version, outstanding features such as audio for listening to any passage, many choices in daily devotional plans, web master resources … and more. Excellent web resource!
- ESV Study Bible: Incredible bible research and study tool. Full access to ALL features granted with the purchase of any paper book version ESV Study Bible. Once you see the vast array of tools, articles, references, illustrations, maps etc. you’ll be hooked! Full access to ALL features of the web site is worth the price of the paper book version, plus, you’ll be able to carry the book version anywhere too!
- Bible Gateway: Extensive online resource. Many, many bible versions and language translations available. I use it for a customizable parallel bible with two or more versions in columns. They also provide topical resources, reading plans, web master tools and much more.