Saturday, 7 July 2012

Book Review: Passages by Brian Hardin

About the Book: Many of us would love to read the Bible more often, but we rarely make time for more than a few verses on the run.

But the Bible was never meant to be read in short segments here and there when you can fit it in. The Bible is meant to be experienced in sizeable chunks - in passages - and read daily.  It is not a book of mystical incatations, but the story of God's passionate love - for you. It is not a distant relic, but a best friend offering counsel and companionship - for today.

Through his own remarkable story, Brian Hardin shows you how reading through the Bible in a year changed his life and how it will change yours too.  Passages goes beyond exploring how the Bible was meant to be read, providing three distinct Bible reading plans to help you get started doing it right now.

Hardin, whose daily podcast has more than a million listeners a month, guarantees you a life revolution, if you will only commit to a few minutes a day to read through the Bible in a year.

As you rediscover the joy of reading the Bible, visit Daily Audio Bible and join a community of fellow readers to share your thoughts on your new adventure.

My thoughts: I was so excited to review this book!  Having gone through the exact same epiphany as Brian myself a few years ago and starting the Bible in a Year and Beyond blog, in part to keep myself accountable and in part to journey with others in community, I was pretty sure I knew what I'd be reading but was looking forward to hearing Hardin's thoughts.

I was not disappointed.  He clarified my own thoughts for me, and gave some excellent reasons and ways to read the Bible that I had not thought of.

First, I'd like to share a couple quotes from the book that jumped out at me (emphasis in bold, mine)....
Over time, I began to realize that not having time for the Bible was actually a willful decision on my part, and in making that decision I was actually choosing to live a life I didn't really want.

The Bible functions like a signpost signaling a constant fork in the road. To continue on the spiritual journey, we are forced to make a choice between the proverbial wide and narrow roads. The wide road is the well-traveled one, the path of least resistance in which we feel guilty for not reading the Bible but fail to make a place for it in our lives.  This sense of guilt is actually our heart's lament that we're settling for much less than we should be. The Bible invites us instead to choose the narrow road, the only pathway that leads to the truest part of who we are in God.  It's an opportunity to choose a life well lived, but it is a choice - God does not coerce our decision. By an act of our own free will we must surrender to it, and in doing so we'll find freedom and release. (pg 54)

If we were offered the opportunity to sit down with any person throughout history who had made an incredible impact on the world, we'd jump at the chance. Maybe we'd sit in a cafe with King Solomon and question him on the ways of wisdom, or perhaps we'd select Beethoven or Michelangelo and glean from them the intricacies of creating art that moves people for centuries. Given the opportunity, we'd cancel whatever we planned in order to speak with these people, and we would think nothing of it.  The Bible offers us the opportunity to sit with the Lord of heaven and earth, who speaks and creates from nothing! This opportunity is given freely and is available always, and yet we complain about not having time for it.

This settled over me one evening as I got ready for bed, exhausted from another day of endless activity. Something clicked, and I finally realized that the one true and eternal God wanted personal time with me. But instead of being honored and awed by God's desire to be with me, I treated him like a distraction or a nuisance... It was a painful realization and I knew immediately that something was terribly askew. I felt embarrassed and ashamed, and I knew I needed to cancel or move whatever seemed pressing in order to make time for the wisdom of the ages. (pg 55-56)

Hardin discusses some of the many benefits of reading the Word, such as hope, peace, correction, guidance, self-discipline, life, maturity and more.  Truly the Word is a friend with endless benefits.

Hardin makes it clear that the Bible was meant to be read in context.  We cannot just take a verse here and a verse there and expect to make sense of it.  After all, you could end up flipping to Matthew 27:5 "And Judas went away and hanged himself" and then to Luke 10:37 "Go and do likewise" and you'd come away with an obviously distorted view of scriptural instruction.  Many such mistakes are not as obvious.  But when you take the Bible out of context you can twist it to mean anything you want.

Hardin also states that the Bible was meant to be read and studied in community.  The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation. Indeed, we cannot survive alone.  Alone we become an easy target for the enemy.  "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings" 1 Peter 5:8-9.  Alone, we become easy targets.  Together we can lift each other up, encourage each other, hold each other accountable, hurt with each other, strengthen each other, love one another.

If you've had a difficult time reading the Bible in the past, an excellent recommendation by Hardin is to listen to it instead.  The Bible was meant to be listened to.  It was orally passed down for hundreds of years before it was every written down, and it's only in relatively recent history that the Bible became readily available and, indeed, it is still unavailable in many countries due to language, literacy and financial barriers.  The spoken word is powerful.  Think of how one phrase from a loved one can either lift you up or take you crashing down. If the human spoken word is that powerful, imagine listening to the very Word of God!  Indeed, Hardin has inspired me to try listening to the Bible audibly as well.

Hardin challenges parents to live the Bible out with their children.  
If we want our children to be interested in the Bible, we have to be interested in it ourselves. If we want our kids to learn to honor, love, and accept Jesus as Savior, we have to do the same. If we actually want the Christian life in our families we've heard rumors about but have rarely experienced, we will have to develop an intimacy with Scripture that we've never really been able to achieve before....
This isn't a new struggle for parents. Perhaps your children are grown now and there is regret about the paths they've chosen. I wish I had been significantly more intentional about my faith as a younger man. I would have parented differently; I would have done most things differently. It is not possible to rewind life, but it is completely possible to alter the trajectory of where our lives are headed. It doesn't matter where you are now; there is always an opportunity to commit to a God-honoring path. There is time and there is grace. Begin now. (pg 135-136)

Hardin's guidelines to get you started?  Embrace the whole truth, expect to be challenged, determine to persevere, and make the Bible Plan A for your life (not Plan B - it's not a safety net or a crutch).  

If you commit to reading large passages of Scripture daily for a year - you will not be the same!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

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