JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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Create a Banquet

Writing experts say that half the struggle is getting people to read what you write. They also say that a good title is everything. This may be true. When I saw The Hottest Thing at Church is Not Your Pastor or Worship Leader, the title of a Christianity Today (April 2017) article, I was enticed to read it.

It’s a good read. It highlights the fact that the number 1 explanation for why Americans go to church is for “Sermons that teach about Scripture.”

That’s music to my ears! I firmly believe that reading, preaching and appreciating the Word (which is to appreciate the One of whom the Word speaks) should rank above every other reason for why we go to church.

Which reminds me of something a veteran Bible teacher and preacher recently said to me, “We should lay out a banquet for people to feast from when they come to church.” He’s absolutely right. The preaching and teaching of God’s Word should be spiritually tasty and filling.

Unfortunately pastors don’t always provide their congregations with a weekly banquet on God’s Word. Sometimes it’s only a snack and sometimes it’s just a morsel – certainly not enough to sustain or nourish a congregation.

Pastors, “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). That’s literal language. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not figurative. With every ounce of strength and passion, prayerfully and humbly, carefully and patiently, in the power of the Spirit – preach the Word! Exegete the text. Do everything possible to invite every person to enter into the Scriptures, engage the Scriptures, encounter the One of whom the Scriptures speak, and emulate the Scriptures in everything they say and do.

I still remember, about 30 years later, how one pastor told me that it only took him 3-4 hours to prepare his Sunday message. He was proud of this because it gave him more time to spend with his family … the implication being that it was good and right for him to make his family his highest priority. I’m still flabbergasted! A good message takes days of preparation, hours and hours of wrestling with the text, and even sleepless nights as the preacher seeks to reconcile himself with the text because he knows he can’t preach if the Scriptures don’t have ascendency in his own life.

In fact sermon preparation is somewhat similar to cooking. When my wife and I want to prepare a really nice meal for friends or family it takes us about two full days to do the planning, shopping, cooking, table setting, vacuuming and dusting (our house must first be clean before we can serve up a banquet), dish washing and drying. Similarly, when I prepare a sermon I know it requires planning, getting all the ingredients together, arranging and organizing, making sure my own house is in order before I tell others how to get their house in order, serving something sumptuous, and doing what needs to be done so that others will say, “Thanks, that was great!”

One more thing: I’m a nobody when it comes to cooking and I’m a nobody when it comes to preaching. But that’s okay. The Christianity Today article mentions how the Gallup poll also discovered that “people in the pews care far more about what’s being preached than who’s preaching it.” That’s good news for every ordinary pastor who is diligently feeding the congregation a Sunday banquet week in and week out.

It’s also a reminder that the preacher plays the supportive, not the main role. When I go to a restaurant and eat a good meal, the food itself, not the chef, is the focus of my gastronomic experience. Similarly, the texture, flavour and aroma of the Scriptures should be the focus of the preaching, not the preacher. And for this to happens the preacher’s main aim should be to preach the Word so that everyone can “taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Engaging the Bible Relationally

Many people engage with the Bible in order to know more. They study the Bible to learn about faith, God, morality and how to live their lives. Gaining information and growing in knowledge about the Bible is the desired end.

An informational approach to the Bible is largely borne out of the fact that we’ve been wired by educational institutions to gather facts, interpret events, and understand our world. But the Bible is not a text book and God never intended for us to treat it as one. That’s because the goal of Bible engagement is something far greater than elevating our knowledge or trying to understand the Word.

So what is the goal of Bible engagement?

Our primary motive for engaging the Bible should always be relationship. Specifically, the main reason for connecting with the Bible should be to elevate our worship, communion and love for God. Why? Because Bible engagement, while it involves us, is not ultimately about us. I’m guessing Rick Warren would agree. His mantra in The Purpose Driven Life is, “It’s not about you!”

Maybe one of the reasons why we approach the Bible informationally rather than relationally is because we’re inclined to look out for our own wellbeing. We study the Bible because we want help, healing, hope and so much more. And yes, God gives us these things, but only within the context of a reciprocating relationship. The trouble is, we sometimes get the cart before the horse, we major on the benefits of the relationship when we should be majoring on the fact that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father …” James 1:17.

That’s not to say that engaging the Bible relationally is easy. It’s not. Bible engagement requires personal discipline and intentionality as well as wisdom and strength from God. In fact when we try to engage the Bible relationally, without the help of the Holy Spirit, we usually fail.

Here’s the rub: Knowledge about the Bible is important, but knowledge without an intimate and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, is hazardous. This is the point that Jesus was trying to make to the Pharisees (Mark 7:1-13). It’s a matter of first principles. We can’t find truth or know truth if we’re disconnected from the truth-giver.

Years ago, when I was a full-time pastor, I remember hearing a story about a dinner gathering that was attended by a well known orator. During the course of the meal he was asked to recite the 23rd Psalm. He eloquently recited the psalm and everyone was impressed. Then someone turned to the old pastor who was also there that night and asked him if he would recite the 23rd Psalm. As he recited the psalm it was obvious that his words came more from his heart than his lips. Instead of the people being impressed, they were moved. Of course we know what made the difference, the orator knew the words but the pastor knew the One who is the Word.

Do we know the One who is the Word? Effective healthy transformational Bible engagement fails or succeeds based on how we answer this question.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Basics Review

Bible Engagement Basics is hot off the press! Here’s a review:

If I am honest, sometimes … actually, maybe MOST times, the Bible is hard work. Its hard work getting the motivation to read it, to bridge the gap between the world of the original writers and recipients and mine, and to try and make sense of it through my 21st century worldview.

Any support, encouragement and practical ideas are welcome, and Bible Engagement Basics ticks all 3 boxes.

It’s an ambitious book by any standard. It attempts to engage a global audience, whilst laying out a clear theological premise for the importance of Scripture, as well as providing practical suggestions for those wanting to explore different models and ideas for Scripture engagement. I think it does it well.

When I speak to groups of young Christians, I sometimes pose the question “What IS the Bible?” Responses offer an immediate understanding of not just how, but why they read (or don’t read) the Bible. “God’s love letter to me,” or “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth,” and “A manual for how to live” are some of the common responses. I appreciate that from the opening pages, Bible Engagement Basics explores Scripture as Gods Story, and that Story – as Lawson so eloquently writes “is a spacious realm that we are invited into with imagination and faith, and once we have entered, to see ourselves as participants.”

Throughout history, the Bible has at times been used to contain, control and condemn people. It has been seen as a weapon of oppression, not a source of liberation and life as it is intended. To gather in community and be transformed by Gods Word, it requires “new postures of authenticity, vulnerability and consecration” as Lawson articulates well. Reading in community, where we bring our stories, questions and revelations, and together prayerfully allow God to speak to us is highlighted in this book. I cheer on this approach, mindful that Scripture was written (or spoken) for communities – not individuals, and is most powerfully entered into within community.

Let me warmly commend this important and timely resource to you.

Adrian Blenkinsop, Youth Bible engagement specialist, Author of “The Bible According To Gen Z.”

Bible Engagement Basics

Author: Lawson W. Murray | ISBN: 978-0-9951694-1-8 | Publication Date: June 2017 |

Order: http://scriptureunion.ca/bookstore-1/books-adults/bible-engagement-basics

More Information: http://www.scriptureunion.ca/beb

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Repent

Maybe I’m not listening too well, but it seems to me that even from our pulpits there are some key biblical words that are barely mentioned today. One of those words is “repent.”

I’m not surprised that I rarely hear the word “repent.” We live in an era of tolerance, entitlement, the pursuit of happiness and political correctness. So telling someone they should feel regret, sorrow or contrition for something they’ve done wrong, isn’t considered appropriate.

Just because a word may no longer be culturally appropriate doesn’t mean we should stop using it. True Bible engagement is often counter-cultural. Bible engagers can’t pick and choose what they like or dislike in God’s Word. We must interact fully and proclaim (with grace) every word and verse in the whole Bible. That’s not easy. Especially when it may offend others or place us at odds with society.

So what are we to do with difficult biblical themes and words like “repent”? Press into them! Let’s not forget that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16 .

Interestingly, when we embrace all of God’s Word, we will be blessed. This is certainly true of the word “repent.” Here are the benefits of repentance according to 2 Corinthians 7:9-11:

  • It leads to sorrow for our sin (v.9)
  • Which leads to salvation and the removal of all regrets (v.10)
  • Which leads to a desire for justice and restitution (v.11)

Isn’t that great? The good things that God is willing and longing to give us are released into our lives when we repent. So don’t shy away from engaging with every word in the Word. For when we do, it will ultimately take us to a better place with others and a better place with God.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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How to Understand and Apply the Bible

In order for the Bible to apply to our lives it must be understandable. To understand the Bible we need to know how to study it. To study the Bible we need a tried and tested methodology. Here’s a thumbnail sketch on how to understand and apply the Bible.

Pray fervently. The Holy Spirit is the One who reveals and illuminates truth. We need Him to interpret His Word. Without Him we lack understanding (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14). As we seek to understand and apply the Bible, prayer should be interlaced throughout the process.

Use several translations. English Bibles are translations from Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek documents. Different translation philosophies (formal equivalence/word for word, dynamic equivalence/thought for thought) result in slightly different renderings of a text. To glean from a variety of translations, consider using the NIV, NLT, NRSV, ESV, GNB, and the MSG.

Check out the writer. Who wrote the book? Where was he? When did he write it? Why did he write it? To whom did he write it?

Examine the setting. To discern how the original audience understood what was written to them requires a basic knowledge of their geographical location, history, politics, customs and culture.capture

Look at the immediate context. Read what precedes and follows the text under consideration. See how the content of what went before the text and what came after the text, relates to the text.

Investigate the book context. The meaning of a text flows out of its broader context. Understand the purpose, theme(s), section/divisions and flow of thought in the whole book. Ask, “Why did the human author write this book?” and “How should the text be understood in the light of the purpose and theme of the book?”

Give thought to the whole-Bible context. The long term plan should be to read the Bible repeatedly. Aim to compare scripture with scripture. Look for cross-references (other texts that relate to the text being studied). In due course the Bible should exposit itself.

Be aware of the literary genre. The different literary genres of Scripture have different characteristics that require different interpretive techniques. For example, Hebrew poetry doesn’t use rhyme but uses parallelism (the use of synonyms and antonyms to build ideas around other ideas).

Identify figurative language. The Bible uses both literal (words/phrases used according to their proper meaning or precise definition) and figurative (words/phrases that are not literal) language. There are more than a dozen different types of figurative language used in the Bible (e.g. allegory, hyperbole, anthropomorphism, metaphor, personification, paronomasia). To interpret figurative language literally, or literal language figuratively, will corrupt the meaning of the text.

Do word studies. Words are the basic building blocks of the Scriptures. Because the Holy Spirit inspired the words we must carefully unpack the meaning and intent of the words. Use an expository dictionary/lexicon to understand how words are used in a particular context.

Read footnotes and commentaries. Profit from the scholars, theologians and experts. Use multiple sources to avoid theological bias. Take advantage of study Bibles. Consult Bible dictionaries, almanacs, handbooks and commentaries.

Search for Christ. Is the theme of Christ implicit or explicit in the text. Ask, “How should this text be understood as a witness concerning Christ?”

Apply, Apply, Apply! God is more interested in how we act on His Word than in what we know about the Word. The goal is to interpret Scripture in order to apply it. When we fail to apply and obey the Word, we fail in our interpretation of the Word.

A final thought. Understanding the Bible begins with the reality that there is one Author, with one message, and one meaning. That’s not say that the message isn’t multi-faceted, because it is. And it’s not to say that the meaning isn’t nuanced, because it is. But it is to say that our understanding and application of the Bible must be consistent with God’s intended message and meaning.

Recommended Resources:

R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture, Inter Varsity Press, 2009.

Robertson McQuilkin, Understanding and Applying the Bible, Moody Publishers, 2009.

Stephen H. Wheeler, Fish the Bible! Understand Scripture and Apply it to Life, 2012.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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State of the Bible 2017

Since 2011 the Barna Group has conducted an annual survey concerning the state of the Bible in the USA. The survey is commissioned by the American Bible Society and aims to gather insights into the multifaceted relationship that Americans have with God’s Word.

This year’s findings revealed the following:

  • Two-thirds of Americans read, listen to or pray with the Bible (16% daily, 21% once a week or more, 7% once a month, 6% a few times a year).
  • Bible usage is highest among Black American practicing Protestants who live in the South.
  • The average Bible user reads the Bible for 30 minutes during each sitting.
  • Lower income people (less than $50K annually) read the Bible more frequently than higher income people (more than $100K annually).
  • While the KJV is the most popular version it’s usage is declining (down 14% since 2011).
  • The NIV is the second most popular version followed by the ESV.
  • The primary reason why two-thirds of Bible readers connect with the Bible is because it “brings them closer to God.”
  • Nearly 60% of adults indicate that they want to read the Bible more frequently.
  • Bible reading increases when it is seen to be an important part of a person’s faith journey.
  • Bible reading declines when people are too busy with the responsibilities of life, start doubting their faith, face trauma, or leave the church.
  • There is a decline in Bible reading among Millennials.
  • Favourable emotions when reading the Bible included feelings of peace (49%), hope (45%), happiness (29%), and intrigue (19%).
  • Unfavourable emotions when reading the Bible included feelings of being overwhelmed (13%) or confused (12%).
  • Nearly half of the Bible readers give a lot of thought to how the Bible applies to their lives.
  • Most people prefer to use a printed Bible (91%) for reading the Scriptures yet they also use non-print formats (smart phone, apps, podcasts, internet, audio) for reading the Bible (92%).

For more information click here to download the whole report.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Basics

I’m excited to announce that Bible Engagement Basics will be published in June 2017 by Scripture Union and Principes d’interaction avec la Bible will be published in the Fall by Ligue pour la lecture de la Bible.

Bible Engagement Basics was fermenting in my mind for several years, though I didn’t know it. It was only when my colleague Donald Tardif directeur Ligue pour la lecture de la Bible suggested that I write a book on Bible engagement that I realised it was destined to be and prayerfully started the research, planning and writing.

My motivation for writing Bible Engagement Basics was to help people connect with the Bible to connect with Jesus. That’s what this book’s about – connecting us with God’s Story in ways that lead to meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ and our lives being progressively transformed in Him.

The target audience for Bible Engagement Basics is Christian leaders, pastors, teachers, congregations, and believers who identify that Bible reading alone is not enough. In other words, it’s for people who want to know the “how to” of practically improving and enhancing their engagement with the Bible.

The book is presently being reviewed by researchers, writers, theologians, pastors and ministry leaders. Here are some of the recommendations:

This is such an important and timely book. I appreciate that from the opening pages, Bible Engagement Basics presents Scripture as Gods Story: a Story that we are a part of, and as we engage with it we discover we are not bystanders or passive observers, we in fact are participants in this big Story. The importance of engaging with this Story is outlined clearly, but to then present a huge variety of models and practical ideas for engaging with it is outstanding and places this book as a must-read for those of us with a passion for Scripture. Adrian Blenkinsop, Youth Bible engagement specialist, Author of “The Bible According To Gen Z.”

I’m very “into” Bible engagement. I believe in its spiritual importance, practice it, teach on it, research it and have read everything I can get my hands on about it. Bible Engagement Basics is the book I’ve been looking for over the past 7 years but couldn’t find. Thank you Lawson Murray for providing us with this excellent resource! Bible Engagement Basics gives us a biblical, theological and practical foundation as to why Scripture is the key to our relationship with God, and then takes the all-important next step (often skipped) to give us a broad selection of engagement practices to help us all learn how to actually reflect on the Bible with depth. Just as there are many ways to exercise and get in shape, Lawson shows us a number of ways that we can come to the Bible to meet and know God. The book is full of clear and practical suggestions, encouragement and resources that can help any and all Bible engagers meet God in His Word. One of my favorite sections of the book suggests thoughtful and creative ways people in different age groups can best engage the Bible. I highly recommend this book as the “go to” book about how to engage Scripture to engage God. Phil Collins, Professor of Christian Educational Ministries, Taylor University, Executive Director (Training and Content) Taylor Center for Scripture Engagement.

Lawson Murray’s book on Bible engagement is filled with wisdom. It is a rallying call to get God’s words inside of us so that we are lit up with life, so that the Word might become flesh again and again, read and known by everyone we meet (2 Cor. 3:2). But Murray’s book is not just a rallying cry; it is filled with insight as to how to make this happen. A major part of the solution is to realize that Scripture is one amazing Love Story from beginning to end, a Story in which every human being who ever lived is included, and that the Author has entered His own Story to communicate the most radical love possible for each person. Read this book and be changed! Stephen G. Dempster, Professor of Religious Studies, Crandall  University.

Whether you are finding for the first time the riches found within the Bible, or you are a seasoned teacher of the Bible, Lawson’s book offers guideposts to going deeper. These guideposts are practical, encouraging and grounded in the experience of one who loves God and His living Word. Mark Forshaw, Chair, Forum of Bible Agencies – North America.

Bible Engagement Basics gives the gift of perspective. It examines the Bible as a relevant tool with timely, applicable advice about navigating through life’s challenges. This book gives readers practical coaching on how to engage with God’s Word that will be meaningful to those who are new to the Bible or have been studying it for years. Bobby Gruenewald, Founder of YouVersion and Innovation Leader at LifeChurch.tv

Lawson Murray’s excellent book “Bible Engagement Basics” offers a very readable overview of how we can connect with God in His Word. In so doing he’s done what John Stott’s “Understanding the Bible” did for a past generation; he’s expressed the heartbeat of the global Scripture Union movement in a fresh new way. Whitney T. Kuniholm, President Emeritus, Scripture Union USA.

Whatever you know about Bible engagement, you’re sure to discover another approach in Dr. Lawson Murray’s book, Bible Engagement Basics. Dr. Murray explores many approaches to Bible engagement, like the basics of reading, teaching and preaching God’s Word. But he also encourages readers to use their imagination to enhance the experience. The common denominator to all of his approaches? They set us up for meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ so our lives are transformed in Him. Roy L. Peterson, President & CEO, American Bible Society.

There is nothing more critical to Christian growth than learning to engage with the Bible. I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a comprehensive approach to doing just that. May God use this book to point many to The Book. Janet Pope, speaker, blogger and author of “God’s Word in My Heart.”

In our LifeWay Research study, we found that Bible engagement had the highest correlation with every other area of spiritual growth. We’ve all seen it – engaging the Bible is essential to spiritual growth. Now, you can be encouraged through Bible Engagement Basics to help you engage well! Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Chair, Wheaton College.

In a culture that speaks in story and image, here is an invaluable resource for moving the minds and hearts of your people from the Bible as The Word in words to the Bible as The Word in story, from the greatest story never told, or half told, or partially told, to The Greatest Story EVER Told. Leonard Sweet, best-selling author, professor (Tabor College, Portland Seminary, Drew University), and founder and chief contributor to preachthestory.com

We call ourselves “People of the Book,” but many find the slow meditative reading that lets it sink into our hearts hard to do. This book is  filled with suggestions to help you find approaches to taking in the Scriptures. Pastors and leaders will find in it a rich and thoughtful biblical theology of Bible engagement. James C. Wilhoit, Professor of Core Studies and Scripture Press Professor of Christian Education, Wheaton College.

Bible Engagement Basics Author: Lawson W. Murray | ISBN: 978-0-9951694-1-8 | Publication Date: June 2017 | Publisher: Scripture Union |

Media Contact: Amy Csoke Scripture Union 905.427-4947 or amy@scriptureunion.ca

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Reading the Bible Publicly

If you sit in an average church service on an average Sunday you’ll probably hear an average reading of God’s Word. That’s heartbreaking. Lacklustre public reading of the Scriptures is a discredit to God’s people and a slight to God! An average reading of God’s Word isn’t good enough. When we read the Bible publicly we should read it well – very well! It is, after all, God’s Word. And God’s Word, invested with the life giving power of His Spirit; is dynamic, transformational, and alive. So let’s read it like we believe it. Let’s read it energetically, passionately, thoughtfully, dramatically, inspirationally, and motivationally. Let’s read it like it’s coursing through our veins and pounding in our hearts. And let’s make sure that we never ever read it in a boring, nondescript, half-baked way.

From its inception the Bible was given to us to be read aloud and heard. So how do we devote ourselves to the public reading of Scripture? (cf. 1 Timothy 4:13). Here are some pointers for reading the Bible publicly:

  • Prepare, practice and pray
  • Use a script and identify who is speaking
  • Become the character
  • Help the listener hear it for the first time
  • Read from your heart and then from your lips
  • Convey the meaning of the words (not just the sounds)
  • Use pauses and break up the text so that it’s easy to hear
  • Highlight the meaning of a text through tone, modulation and emphasis
  • Read with dynamism (the Bible is not a telephone directory!)
  • Bring freshness and vitality
  • Let the text inform how you read it

And here are some common mistakes that should be avoided:

  • Inadequate preparation
  • Reading too slow or too fast
  • Using a sing-song or preacher voice
  • Speaking too loud or too soft
  • Reading in a monotone
  • No feeling or too much feeling
  • Trailing off with words or sentences
  • Not looking up (use a music stand to get the right height)
  • Not reading like a town-crier or with passion

There’s awesome power in God’s spoken Word. When we’re reading the Bible publicly let’s read every passage like we’re hearing it for the first time. Let’s read the Scriptures believing that they’ll bring salvation, comfort, understanding, discomfort, remorse, joy and all manner of life-changing encounters with the living God. And let’s be done with the humdrum reading of the Word. Yes, we’re inadequate for the task, but God’s grace is sufficient for everything we do. So let’s go for it! Let’s ask God to empower us in our weakness. Then let’s read God’s Word with stirring voices and enthusiasm – expecting God to engage people’s hearts, minds, wills and souls.

Recommended books:

Max McLean and Warren Bird, Unleashing the Word: Rediscovering the Public Reading of Scripture, Zondervan, 2009.

Clayton J. Schmit, Public Reading of Scripture: A Handbook, Abingdon Press, 2002.

Jeffery D. Arthurs, Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture: Encountering the Transforming Power of the Well-Spoken Word, Kregel Publications, 2012.

Recommended articles and apps:

Glen J. Clary, The Public Reading of Scripture in Worship: A Biblical Model for the Lord’s Day

Scott Newling, Devoted to the Public Reading of Scripture

Bible Audio Pronunciations – Confidently Read any Bible Verse Aloud

Stefano Russello, Biblical Pronunciations

BibleSpeak

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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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