Growing up, I remember my parents telling me that it would be good for me to read my Bible.
My Bible had a soft blue cover and it appeared more worn than it should have -- because all I did was bring it to church and then bring it back home. That ride in the car -- in an elementary to middle school student's hand -- must have been torture on the pages. I'm pretty sure it was missing the last few pages of Revelations, as well.
I realized that my parents were happy when I read the book, and I was starting to hear more references to Scripture in Sunday school, so I decided to read something. My first choice, because my name is Daniel, was obviously Daniel. I read about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego more times than I can count. Finally, I now know how to pronounce the name Nebuchadnezzar -- at least I think I can. But I never really wandered out of that book at that time because the Bible was so big. It intimidated me.
So like many people, I relied on the stories told by my Sunday school teacher to make up my biblical worldview. I knew about Jonah, Noah, Abraham, Joseph and a lot about Jesus and some about Paul and his letters. But the stories weren't connected. I still didn't have the big picture.
Never miss a local story.
I was 15 years old when I first believed in Christ, and my whole world changed. In faith, I picked up the old tattered Bible and began to read stories outside of Daniel. The gospels were my starting point, and I moved into Paul's letters.
To be honest, it wasn't until college and seminary that I cracked the Old Testament beyond Genesis. I peeked here and there, but it was a world I did not understand until some professors took the time to explain that world to me.
Now I read Scripture like it's a good piece of fresh bread. It fills me up and gives me energy for the rest of my day. Each time I read through a book, I see something new. My world changes as I understand God's story in the past and how I am connected to this world that really isn't so different from my own.
I see Abraham today in a man leading a family that is struggling to survive. I see Joshua on the battlefield leading troops and making a home for the people of the world. I see Isaiah in a woman on television speaking against our excesses and injustice. Like in the gospels, Jesus' disciples currently surround us. And the spirit of Paul and the early church of Acts are in the people who care for the sick and help those who have fallen somehow, telling them the good news of the kingdom of God.
Great stories of people grappling with a holy God are wrapped in the Scriptures. You don't have to go to seminary to learn to love them. Simply open the pages and begin to read. Add a quick link to Wikipedia and a study Bible from the bookstore, and you can learn to immerse yourself.
The exploration is much better than any fantasy or sci-fi book I have ever read. The suspense holds you as you hear the world cry out for a savior. God is and was in conversation with his people in the world. That conversation is an important one for us to own for our time and for ourselves.
Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.