JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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The Theme Of The Bible

The theme of the Bible is not a principle, concept, set of values, ethics to be learned, spiritual sayings, collection of doctrines, snapshots of God, or a storehouse of propositions. The theme of the Bible is a person to be known. While there are many sub-themes in the Bible – like justice, peace, redemption, salvation or restoration – there’s a grand theme that begins in Genesis and weaves its way through the sixty-six books. The theme of the Bible, about which everything else revolves, is the One who was, who is, and who is to come. From beginning to end, the theme of the Bible is Jesus Christ.

Some people say they don’t understand the Bible. They may not understand it because the theme of the Bible may be a mystery to them. Only when the theme is known, do the contents become clear. To understand the Bible we must know that “In every part of both Testaments, Christ is to be found – dimly and indistinctly at the beginning – more clearly and plainly in the middle – fully and completely at the end – but really and sslide_2ubstantially everywhere” J. C. Ryle.

Christ Himself taught that He is the central theme of the Bible. He is the message and mediator of its meaning, the link between the Testaments, the content of the canon, and the unity of every book. This is plainly revealed in the Gospel. Walking to Emmaus with two disciples, he began with Moses and the Prophets to explain to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (cf. Luke 24:27).

When the religious leaders didn’t identify Christ as the main reason for God’s revelation He confronted them saying, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:39-40. “Life is not in the book … only in the Man of the book” Robert D. Brinsmead. There was no wiggle-room for the religious leaders and there’s no wiggle-room for us; the Scriptures are all about Christ – and if we fail to see that, we miss the forest for the trees.

Martin Luther, the champion of sola scriptura (by Scripture alone) and solo Christo (Christ alone), said, “In the whole Scripture, there is nothing but Christ, either in plain words or involved words … The whole Scripture is about Christ alone everywhere, if we look to its inner meaning, though superficially it may sound different … It is beyond question that all Scriptures point to Christ alone.” Simply stated, John Stott affirms, “Jesus is the focus of Scripture.” Similarly, Edmund Clowney says, “The Bible is the greatest storybook, not just because it is full of wonderful stories but because it tells one great story, the story of Jesus.”

To reduce the theme of the Bible to anything less than Christ is to miss the point of the Bible. Christ is more than a starting point for reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to God’s Word; He’s the central point for the way we interpret and apply the Scriptures. This is true for both the Old Testament where Christ is veiled, and the New Testament where Christ is clearly seen.

All the sub-themes of the Bible flow from Christ and fit together because of Him. Every literary form in the Bible (e.g. narrative, prophecy, poetry, teaching) unfolds a story that’s ultimately about Christ. Christ brings unity and coherence to Bible engagement. He’s the life-blood, the very pulse of the Bible. He’s the lens that brings Scripture into focus, the key that unlocks truth, the thread that secures, and the One who knits together the unity of the storyline from promise to fulfillment.

If Jesus made Himself the central theme of the Bible, then to know the Bible we must know Him. Knowing Christ is the prerequisite to effective Bible engagement. To know Him we must align our hearts, minds and wills with Him. The aligning of our hearts, minds and wills with Christ begins with confession of sin, contrition, repentance, and faith in Christ alone to save and sanctify us.

Not knowing Christ results in a Bible engagement malfunction. If we do not immerse ourselves in Christ by becoming what Scott McKnight calls “a People of the Story” we cannot engage with the Bible. In fact any misrepresentation or misunderstanding about Christ ends in a contortion or collapse in our understanding of the Bible.

G. C. Berkouwer asserted, “Every word about the God-breathed character of Scripture is meaningless if Holy Scripture is not understood as the witness concerning Christ.” So when we engage with the Scriptures, let’s do so with Christ as the center, inner reason, and end.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Praying the Scriptures

When you pray, use the prayer book (the Bible).

Do you sometimes feel like God doesn’t hear your prayers? Are you praying the same hackneyed supplications over and over again? Do you lack confidence when you pray? Are you sometimes unsure about what to pray or how to pray in certain situations? Are your prayers mainly about your family, your friends, your health, your work, or your wealth? Would you like your prayers to be more effectual? Do you want to pray in line with God’s will? Do you want to release the power of Scripture into your everyday life? If you answered yes to any of these questions then maybe it’s time to broaden the scope of your prayers – to discover how your prayers can be renewed and revived through praying the Scriptures.

Praying the Scriptures is using God’s words to form our prayers. It’s praying His Word back to Him. Specifically, praying the Scriptures is using the words, phrases or themes of a Scripture passage to guide, shalarge_four-prayers-for-bible-readingpe and give language to our conversations with God. It’s done by praying a Scripture text word for word as one’s own prayer, by personalizing a Scripture text, or by turning our thoughts and feelings about a topic/theme of a Scripture passage into prayer.

Reading the Scriptures and praying the Scriptures should happen together. When we pray the Scriptures, we know we’re in alignment with God’s will. When we’re in alignment with God’s will, His Spirit directs and informs our prayers. Here’s an example of how one might read and pray Psalm 23 in a personalized way:

Scripture – The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Prayer – Lord, thank you for being Jehovah-Raah, my Shepherd. Because you’re my Shepherd, I don’t need a thing. You intimately take care of everything. Please watch over my life and the lives of my family members today.

Scripture- He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

Prayer – Lord, thank you for giving me opportunities to rest. Sometimes I’m too busy for my own good and too preoccupied to see your beauty around me. Help me be still and know that you are God. Please rejuvenate me today.

Scripture – He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Prayer – Thank you Lord for your guidance. You steer me along the path of righteousness. True to your name, you keep me on the straight and narrow road that leads to life. And you do it all for your glory.

Scripture – Even though I walk through the darkest valley, l fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Prayer – Lord even in the bleakest circumstances you are by my side. What a relief to know that when I’m down, you are with me. So why am I anxious? There’s no need for me to be afraid because I’m safe and secure in you.

Scripture – You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Prayer – Thank you Lord. I’m never forsaken. You faithfully provide for me, even in difficult times. It’s remarkable. You serve and honour me when I should be serving and honouring you! And more, you do it in front of my enemies.

Scripture – You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Prayer – Who am I that you are so mindful of me? I’m blessed from the tip of my head to the soles of my feet! Thank you, your blessings aren’t limited, day in and day out, they keep on coming.

Scripture – Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Prayer – Your love is amazing! Wherever I am and wherever I go, you keep on chasing after me. You are good and your love endures forever. Today, tomorrow, and throughout my life, your grace and mercy is with me. And when I leave this life you’ll still be there, loving me forever. Thank you, you truly are my Shepherd. Because of your great love, I have everything I really need. Amen.

Reading the Scriptures and praying the Scriptures should be a continuous cycle in our daily devotions. Why not do it now? The psalms are a great place to begin, or go to a portion of Scripture you’re presently reading, and pray it back to God.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Interpreting the Bible

“If the Bible is indeed God’s Word written, we should spare no pains and grudge no effort to discover what he has said (and says) in Scripture” John R.W. Stott.

So how do we interpret the Bible accurately, so that it’s not just our opinion? What are the basic hermeneutical guidelines? Here are three teachers, three principles, three questions, and three rules:

Three Teachers.

  1. The Holy Spirit. The best interpreter of any book is its author. The Holy Spirit is the only One who can reveal and illuminate truth (cf. Psalm 119:18, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Matthew 11:25-25).
  2. The Church. God reveals truth (from the past to the present) to and through the community of faith (cf. Ephesians 3:18-19, Colossians 3:16).
  3. Personal We must also teach ourselves, yet do so in full dependence and humble submission to the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 12:57, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16, 10:15, 2 Timothy 2:7).

 

Three Principles.

  1. Natural Sense (the principle of simplicity). Look first for the obvious and natural (figurative or literal) meaning of the text. Consider the intention of the author/speaker.
  2. Original Sense (the principle of history). The message of Scripture can only be understood as it relates to the circumstances in which it was originally written.
  3. General Sense (the principle of harmony). There is an organic unity to the Bible. Approach the Scripture believing that God doesn’t contradict Himself.

 

Three Questions.

  1. What did it mean to the original audience? The Bible was written for us, but not originally to us. Pay attention to the first life setting (sitz im leben).
  2. What type of literature is it? Each genre of biblical literature must be interpreted on its own terms (the different genres of literature in the Bible includes history, narrative, wisdom literature, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic, law, parables, gospels, and letters/epistles).
  3. Where does it fit in the Bible’s overall story? Read with the meta-narrative in mind. Track the trajectory of the passage in relation to the major ‘acts’ within the ‘drama’.

 

Three Rules.

  1. Use several good translations so that you are not committed to the exegetical choices of a single translation (e.g. NIV, ESV, NRSV, GNB, NLT).
  2. A text cannot mean what it never could have meant to its author or his/her readers.
  3. When we share similar life situations to the first hearers, God’s Word to us is the same as it was to them.

 

And a vital closing comment from Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, “The Bible contains its own hermeneutic … In a word, Jesus is the thread that holds all Scripture together … The Bible has no real meaning unless it is grounded in Christ.”

Have your say. Share three things about interpreting the Bible.

Sources:

Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Zondervan, 2003.

John R.W. Stott, Understanding the Bible, Zondervan, 1999.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5

 


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How To Help Seniors Get Into The Word

Every age and stage of life uniquely impacts how we connect with the Bible. Here’s how to help seniors get into the Word:

Use versions of the Bible thoughtfully. When someone’s been reading a version of the Bible for many years, an affinity develops, much like a long-time friendship. If you’re working one on one with a senior and s/he loves a particular version, then use that version. If you’re working with a small group of seniors it may be wise to ask, “What version of the Bible do you like reading?” If there’s consensus, use the version they want to use.

Discuss pertinent topics. Seniors have interests and needs that are specific to their stage of life. They’re trying to figure out how to age gracefully, thrive in the empty nest, make retirement meaningful, enjoy the joys or cope with the trials of grand parenting, deal with health problems, face death, and look forward to Heaven. While Bible reading/reflection of the whole Bible should be encouraged, opportunities to explore texts that are relevant to seniors should also be facilitated.

Listen and learn. Some seniors are veteran Bible readers who have been feasting on the Bible for a lifetime. Their love for the Word, insights and understanding can help younger Christians grow in faith. Facilitate mentoring relationships and opportunities for seniors to interact with younger Christians (cf. Titus 2:3).

Deal with competing priorities. Some seniors have very active lifestyles and may need help cultivating Bible engagement disciplines. Invite them to be part of a seniors Bible study group. Introduce and teach different Bible reading methodologies.

Be aware of fatigue. As a person ages, they tire more easily. When attention span diminishes, times of Bible reading/reflecting may need to be shorter.

Be cognisant of physical challenges. Failing eyesight can make it hard for seniors to read the Bible, and hardness of hearing can make it difficult to hear audio Bibles. Some medications have side-effects that may restrict a person’s capacity to adequately read/reflect the Bible.

Use large print resources. There are large print Bibles and guides that make it easier for seniors to read/reflect on the Scriptures. Some seniors who use laptops or tablets to read the Bible may need to be shown how the font size can be enlarged.

Equip seniors with tools/resources. Encourage seniors to share/give/teach the Scriptures to their children, grandchildren and others. Children aged 4-8, for example, enjoy reading Scripture Union’s Rhyming Books with their grandparents.

Use specialized resources. Bible reading/reflecting curriculum has been written for people with dementia, Alzheimer’s and similar health issues, e.g., Scripture Union’s Being With God series.

Be respectful. Seniors have a lifetime of experience and knowledge behind them. Maybe that’s why the Scriptures say we should, “stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God” Leviticus 19:32. When we help seniors get into the Word we must do it in a way that honours them for who they are.

Have your say. How do you help seniors get into the Word?

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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How to help youth get into the Word

I believe the great priority for Christian parents and the church is to impress the Scriptures on our children (cf. Deuteronomy 6:7). Here are some formative suggestions on how to help youth/teens get into the Word:

Help youth value Christ as Lord and Saviour. It’s a matter of first priorities. Before we teach youth the Word, we must connect them with the One who is the Word. Let’s not get the cart before the horse. When youth love the Lord, it follows that they’ll love His Word.

Teach youth that Bible reading is relational. When youth are told that they should read the Bible to know what’s right/wrong, we’re leading them up the garden path! The foremost reason why youth should read the Bible shouldn’t be to inform their morality, it should be to meet with God.

Acknowledge the difficulties. Youth need to know that Bible reading/reflecting can be challenging. Teach them how to press into a text, pray the Scriptures, and rely on the Holy Spirit.

Facilitate informational (analytical, critical, synthetic, inductive) and devotional (meditative, contemplative, creative) Bible reading methods. There’s no single method that’s ideal for every youth. Expose youth to a broad range of methodologies and encourage them to use the Bible reading methods they like the most.

Cut teaching time for reading time. Help youth discover how to rely on the Holy Spirit to teach them truth. Prompt them to ask questions. Speak less. The more opportunities youth are given to grapple with the Word and figure it out, the more they’ll grow in their capacity to learn and live out the Word.

Push youth to interact dynamically with the Bible. Bible times are only quiet times (literally) for some personality types. Engage all their senses and their imagination. Encourage youth to pray the psalms, act out Acts, grapple with Galatians, and wrestle with the Word. Help them get involved with the Scriptures both energetically and passionately.

Encourage routine and variety in their Bible reading. Youth need help developing realistic and regular patterns of behaviour. They also need to change up what they’re reading in the Bible (i.e., they should read from every literary genre and from both Testaments) in order to develop breadth and depth to their spirituality.

Connect their passions and interests to the Bible. Help them understand how their personal stories fit into God’s Story. One way of doing this is to invite them to bring their unrefined questions and struggles to the Bible – then show them how the Scriptures provide relevant answers and guidance for their lives.

Encourage youth to read/reflect on the Scriptures with their peers and with younger children. Confidence in the Word often grows when they’re given the responsibility to help someone else read/reflect the Bible.

Build accountability. Be a mentor. Personally help youth develop their capacity to read, reflect and respond to God’s Word. Check in regularly with them. Ask, “So what are you reading this week?” and “What are you hearing God say to you?” “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17.

Make sure the youth are reading from a version of the Bible that’s easy to read and age appropriate. The New Living Translation and the New International Version are eminently suitable for youth.

Help youth connect with the Bible in ways that don’t require a lot of reading. For example – Manga Bible, audio versions, video/film, comic strip, Kingstone Bible.

Equip youth with essential hermeneutical tools so that they can do basic interpretation and application.

Introduce challenges and competitions. Youth love to pit themselves against one another, e.g., Bible Jeopardy – http://www.christianity.com/trivia/jeopardy/

Have your say. What would you add?

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Connecting Millennials With The Bible

How can we help Millennials engage with the Bible? It begins with understanding who they are.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y or the Net Generation, are the cohort who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st Century. While there are various proposed dates for Millennials, the earliest suggested birth date is 1976 and the latest 2004.

Millennials have grown up in a socially networked world, are tolerant of differences, are confident/positive, rely heavily on technology, and are generally optimistic. They can however be prone to entitlement/narcissism and hold unrealistic expectations that sometimes lead to disillusionment. A large percentage of Millennials are politically and religiously unaffiliated. They have more Facebook friends than any other generation, send a median of 50 texts a day, and post the most selfies.

Millennials are also wary of institutional religion, yet more likely than other generations to believe in the existence of a god. They are tolerant regarding sexual orientation, concerned about social justice, and more spiritual than religious.

So what are the practical things we can do to connect Millennials with the Bible? Here are some suggestions:

Demonstrate what works. Millennials want to know what works before they’ll accept it as truth. Exhibit Bible engagement methodologies in action and then invite Millennials to participate.

Start with their life questions. Millennials are more open to engaging with the Scriptures when the Bible engagement approach begins with the questions they’re asking. Recommended resource – Taste and See: An Invitation to Read the Bible.

Offer multiple choices. Millennials are consumers, they expect a range of alternatives. Provide them with a variety of Bible engagement resources, e.g., Lectio Divina, Inductive Bible Study Method, Praying the Bible, Lectio Continua, Bible Journaling, Spoken Word/Slam Poetry, etc.

Make needs based connections. Millennials have a burden for social needs and injustice/compassion issues in our world. Themed Bibles, e.g. God’s Justice, provide a doorway to Bible reading/reflection.

Utilize online resources. Introduce Millennials to YouVersion, Bible Gateway, theStory and other electronic Bible engagement guides, tools, resources.

Cultivate small groups that value transparency, vulnerability and authenticity. Create safe places for radical honesty. When Millennial values are not prioritized, it’s difficult to facilitate meaningful dialogue about the Scriptures.

Apply the Scriptures together. Millennials think in terms of community service and involvement. Link the Scriptures to practical service projects, i.e., give Millenials opportunities to serve and share what’s on their hearts.

Read from printed Bibles. While Millennials are techno-savvy and screen friendly, their preferred format for Bible reading is the book form.

Recognize that Christian Millennials have a high view of Scripture. They believe the Bible is the actual/inspired Word of God, is their greatest source for moral truth, and should hold a high or the highest priority in their life of faith. In contrast, non-Christian Millennials hold ambivalent or extremely negative views about the Bible.

Make connections with the big screen. The majority of Millennials have seen at least one biblically themed movie in the last year.

Post texts on social media. Millennials are more likely than any other generation to post and read scriptures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (more than 80% posted scriptures online in the past year – Barna).

Facilitate the freedom to disagree. Millennials only feel safe to reveal and understand their inner selves when questions, doubts and differences are permissible.

Leverage relationships. We must live out the faith in order for Millennials to relate, i.e., practice and model what the Bible teaches.

How are you connecting Millennials with the Bible or how are you as a Millennial connecting with the Bible? Please comment/share what’s working for you …

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Spoken Word

Spoken Word, or more specifically Christian Spoken Word, is an oral form of Bible engagement utilising free form or slam poetry. Popular with millennials, it integrates word play, beat, reiteration, voice inflection, hip-hop, modulation, music, prose monologues, or even comedy, to present/perform the Word.

While Spoken Word is a form of poetry, there are four elements that differentiate it from other forms of poetry: It’s written for performance, the themes are biblical, it should be challenging and should involve some acting.

Performed, biblical and challenging. “The ‘blessed are the underdogs’ message of Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount – had it been filmed for YouTube – would certainly have gone viral. Particularly if he’d performed it in rhyme. Jesus was all about new messages in new ways – speaking from boats and atop mountains and from his friends’ living rooms – and always with an epistle intended to make his congregation think about the accepted status quo.” Spoken Word Applied to the Word – Premier.

So what are some of the basics of Spoken Word? My daughter, Christie Warren, writes, performs and teaches Spoken Word. I learnt the following at one of her workshops:

  • involves rhythm and repetition that produces a “flow”
  • can be set against a musical background
  • presentation should be dramatic
  • words should be emphasized to bring a focus to the theme
  • there should be a clear message that invokes a response
  • can utilize visual images
  • it’s not a rigid form of poetry
  • it’s not necessary to follow grammatical rules
  • be creative!
  • can be presented in a church service, as a street drama, or in any suitable public forum

“Oh Taste and See” by Christie Warren

O taste and see that the Lord is good.

Hmm…to taste

In haste

Would be a waste

Of the sweetness of His words

Or so I’ve heard

And see, apparently,

They’re sweeter than honey

And more desirable than gold

Or so I’m told.

But if you have truly tasted of the kindness of the Lord

It’ll surely strike a chord

And certainly afford

The opportunity to become

The salt of the earth.

For one cannot simply taste

And not wanna chase

Change pace

About face

Run the race

While fixing one’s eyes on Jesus

And see

Literally

Undeniably

Indescribably

Unequivocally

See that He is good

No other thought will do

No other can be true

So how can we continue

To live our lives this way

When He’s shifted our perspective

When everything has changed

How can we put up this facade

And play with full bravado

And silently just plod, plod, plod

Through this life?

We can’t

End rant

We have to take a stand

We have to actually be His feet and hands.

For when we taste and when we see

We’re changed eternally

And I, for one, can’t simply let that be

Join me?

And here’s one for you to watch:

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Synthetic Study of the Bible

Have you ever read a book of the Bible through in one sitting, repeatedly and continuously until you have a thorough grasp of the outline, main themes, and important details?

One of the requirements for my seminary students in the Bible Engagement – Encountering the Bible in a Life Changing Way class was to read the book of Titus once through, every day, for seven consecutive days. They had to read it in the same version, without the use of commentaries or guides, uninfluenced by chapter/verse designations, and in prayerful reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Reading each book of the Bible as a whole is called the synthetic study of the Bible. It’s so named because it majors on synthesis (combining into a coherent whole) as distinct from analysis (separating into constituent elements). To use a metaphor, it’s not about inspecting each tree in the forest, it’s about viewing the forest from above and seeing how the trees are an interconnected ecosystem.

The benefits of the synthetic study of the Bible includes the following:

  • it helps one experience the force of the book in its entirety
  • it builds understanding of a book as it relates to the other books of the Bible
  • it develops interpretive skills
  • it enlarges and strengthens mental vision and faith
  • it facilitates a mastery of the book being read, i.e., helps one retain it
  • it majors on repetition, and repetition is a great teacher
  • it helps one see “the beauty of the whole forest”
  • it compels one to rely on the Holy Spirit for insight and understanding
  • it fuels introspection that leads to conviction, prayer and life change

There are many other benefits. My seminary students journaled their synthetic Bible study experiences and some of their insights are captured in the comments below:

“I think after reading it a few times you notice little nuances and I just want to sit and stew over every verse” Dariusz Ciolek.

“I’m starting to take better note of Paul’s flow of thought …” Josh Bryant.

“I found myself convicted by what Paul writes.” Katherine Brouwer.

“On the first day I read it like a school text … as a theological student … trying to find critical issues … and I got stuck. On the second day I realised I was not a student … On the third day I was laughing … interacting personally with the text … On the fifth day the reading helped me think about my past life … and how God can change the entirety of my life.” Anmol Khadka.

“I grasped the main theme and the important details. I also had many insights and better understood the structure, teaching and importance of what Paul wrote in the letter.” Belinda Lam.

Do you long to really dig into God’s Word – to read the Bible in a way that helps you become very familiar with it? Wayne Davies started the synthetic study of the Bible by reading the shorter books of the New Testament repeatedly, in one sitting, and “was blown away by the impact it had on my understanding. It really worked!”

So why not try it for yourself?

Recommended Resources:

James M. Gray, How to Master the English Bible

Wayne Davies, The Forgotten Bible Reading Method: How to Read and Understand the Bible in 5 Simple Steps.

Woodrow Kroll, Read Your Bible One Book at a Time

Scott Bolinder, Paul Caminiti, Alex Goodwin, Glenn Paauw, Institute for Bible Reading

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bored With The Bible?

Why are some Christians bored with the Bible?

While doing some Bible engagement polling, I asked a woman in her fifties if she read the Bible. She said, “Yes, many years ago, from cover to cover.” “Do you still read it?” I asked. “No”, she said, “I much prefer a good novel or something stimulating. Frankly, the Bible is boring, and reading it once, was more than enough.”

On another occasion, after I’d preached a message from Hebrews 4:12, a young man said to me, “Pastor, I know the Bible is a good book, and I know I should be reading it, but it’s really difficult and confusing. And to be honest, I find it boring.” His words pulled me up short. I’d spent 30 minutes passionately speaking about how the Bible is living and active, and yet the reality for this earnest millennial, was that the Bible was wearisome and disinteresting.

Then there’s my own reality. Since the late 70’s when I became a Christian, I’ve had seasons where I’ve passionately loved reading the Bible. It’s been exciting, engaging, transformational, and so much more. Then there’s been times when Bible reading has been a hard slog – dry, dreary and depressing. And occasionally, I’m just not there – more interested in opening my browser and going to Facebook, than in opening up the Bible.

Reason argues that it’s impossible to be bored with the Bible. After all, the Bible is God’s Word – the Voice of life, truth, hope, wisdom, grace, salvation and so much more. Surely what comes from the heart and mouth of God can’t be boring.

If God, in and of Himself, is not and cannot be boring, then the reason why some Christians are bored with the Bible must lie elsewhere.

When I fell in love with Karen, I loved to listen to everything she said or sung. We’d talk for hours on end and I’d hang on every word, delighting in every inflection in her voice.

I’ve been happily married to Karen for more than three decades, but I have to admit that I don’t always listen to her with the same enthusiasm as when we first fell in love.

Maybe that’s what sometimes happens with our Bible reading – we’re not really listening. The problem isn’t with the Word, it’s with us.

If being bored with the Bible is a listening issue, then the remedy is possibly found in learning or re-learning how to open our spiritual ears. Here are three things we need to do to hear God’s Voice:

  • Confess sin (cf. James 1:21). Un-confessed sin is like spiritual earwax – if it’s not removed it eventually makes us deaf.
  • Remove distractions (cf. Luke 8:7). Don’t let video games, music, banter, busyness, cares, or concerns of the world keep you from hearing the Voice of God.
  • Lean in (cf. Jeremiah 29:12-13, James 4:8). The closer we are to God, the better we’ll hear Him.

Now it’s your turn to have your say. Why do you think some Christians are bored with the Bible?

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Shaped By The Word

In Shaped by the Word, Robert Mulholland presents a new way to read Scripture that helps us better listen for the voice of God, move from informational to formational reading, and give up our control over the text so that God directs our reading and reflection. Shaped by the Word is one of my top ten must read Bible Engagement books. Here are some taster quotes:

The Word of God is the action of the presence, the purpose, and the power of God in the midst of human life.

Not only is there the dynamic of God’s inspiration in the writing of the scripture; there is also the dynamic of God’s inspiration in our reading of the scripture.

Scripture is not only a place where we find ourselves encountered by God, but a place where God probes the nature of our relationships with one another.

We must open ourselves before Scripture receptively. We must listen. We must be ready to respond. When we approach the scripture in this manner, we find ourselves drawn into that life where our “word” begins to resonate with the Word.

Not only does Scripture liberate us from the bondage of our perceptual frameworks, but at the same time it develops and nurtures within us a transformed and ever-expanding perceptual dynamic of wholeness wherein we find fullness of life in the three primal relationships with God, with self, with others.

If the scripture functions iconographically in our lives, if it can become a window through which we find ourselves drawn into God’s new order of being in Christ, then this insight may call for the deepest perceptual shift of all.

In a profound sense, the Word of God is a living and productive scalpel in the loving hands of One who penetrates to the core of our being in order to cleanse and heal our garbled, distorted, debased word and transform it into the word God speaks us forth to be in the world.

When we come to the scripture, part of our perplexity comes from the fact that we encounter something that takes us beyond ourselves, beyond the prevailing values and perspectives of our culture, even beyond the religious structures and practices of our faith.

Transformation occurs when scripture is viewed as a place of encounter with God that is approached by yielding the false self and its agenda, by opening one’s self unconditionally to God, and by a hunger to respond in love to whatever God desires.

The informational, functional, doing modes of approaching scripture inherently insulate us and protect us from the kind of awareness and disclosure the Word brings to us.

We must offer our discipline of spiritual reading to God with no strings attached, no demands, no limits, no expectations. We must offer it to God for God’s purposes, allowing it to become a means of God’s grace to transform our being.

Our encounter with the Word, our address by God, must be carried into the details of our daily lives.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5