Avoiding “Yearbook Christianity”

Have you heard of Yearbook Christianity? I recently heard a speaker describe it, and I admit it really hit home.

What was the first thing you did when you got your high school yearbook? What’s the first thing any of us did? We flipped to the index, if there was one, and located every page where our picture appeared. Then we checked out each photo to see what we looked like. Sound familiar?

Now, how do we read our Bibles? Don’t we go through each passage and think about how it applies to ME? Aren’t we taught to read it this way? I once visited a church where, when the pastor was done presenting the main point of his sermon, he paused. Everyone then shouted out, “So what?!” And he’d continue to explain how we could apply the text to ourselves.

There’s nothing wrong with reading God’s word for ourselves, just as it’s perfectly all right to check out our appearances in our high school yearbook. We should read the Bible that way. The problem comes when that’s the only way we read the Bible. Let’s consider two ways in which we can read Scripture for others.

Sometimes God gives us a verse that is clearly meant for another person. As we read, a face comes to mind, and we know we are to share it with them. When Pete and I were praying about moving to Colorado, 23 years ago, one deciding factor was the two friends who called us, each with a verse God had asked them to point out.

The first verse was rather predictable. When my friend told me to go read Genesis 12:1, I was pretty sure I knew what it was going to say, and I was right: “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

The other verse was Acts 7:3. I had to look that one up. When I did, I laughed: “‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’” Talk about God’s sense of humor—I had totally forgotten that Genesis 12:1 is quoted in Acts 7! (Needless to say, we moved.)

Of course, there’s a fine line between discerning God’s nudges, and deciding on our own that so-and-so really needs to hear such-and-such to get their lives in order. We have to remember that while God may use us to deliver a message, we are not the Holy Spirit in their life!

Another option is to look for ways to pray Scripture for one person, or for many. For example, Mother’s Day is this weekend. How about setting aside time to pray for mothers you know? As I read and come across God’s promises and blessings, I’m praying them for my two daughters, both of whom are now moms. I’m looking for passages that apply to their respective circumstances and needs. I can’t be with either of them this Sunday, but prayer knows no limitations.

Do you want to pray for the world, but don’t know where to start? Here are two verses that were originally directed to the Jews, but apply to any people:

  • Pray that the nations will “[l]earn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless….” (Isaiah 1:17)
  • Pray that “the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, [will] trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.” (Isaiah 50:10b)

That’s just a sampling. God’s heart for the nations is evident in every book of the Bible, so that no matter where you happen to be reading, there are applicable verses to pray.

So now we have two ways to read the Bible with others in mind. Are there more? How else can we avoid “Yearbook Christianity”?

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