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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


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Discovering Lectio Divina: Bringing Scripture into Ordinary Life

Are you looking for a more devotional approach to Scripture – one that focuses on contemplation and spiritual formation. Here’s a shout-out for Discovering Lectio Divina: Bringing Scripture into Ordinary Life by James C. Wilhoit and Evan B. Howard … 

Discovering Lectio Divina is a great read if you’re looking for a fresh engagement with the Word, to grow in faith, and experience more of God. To titillate your curiosity, here are some selected quotes:

The practice of the devotional reading of Scripture … is to employ the Scriptures as a doorway into transforming intimacy.

Lectio divina … engages the human dimension with the Word and the Spirit of God. We bring ourselves to the text: eyes, questions, circumstances, heart – all of us. We watch as we read, noticing how the reading process is shaped by the Spirit. We allow the Scripture to soak into us and reprogram our heart, changing the very concerns and ideas that control our beliefs and feelings.

Lectio divina is the reading of a lover: the relaxed waiting that is as attentive to the relationship as it is to the text.

The emphasis in Scripture is on satisfying our thirst rather than trying to satiate it or deny it.

The Bible is not all sweetness … it offers both a sweet and bitter word.

With regard to the reading of Scripture, we long to have our association with “sacred text” lead to a more “sacred life.”

Biblical meditation is a path to wisdom, to flourishing, to enlightening, and it is the central piece of lectio divina.

The Scriptures are not just a place where we read about God … they are a place where we receive from God.

Rather than living on in mindless autopilot, where our pace of life or our addictions to media and distractions pull us from the reality of the moment, we choose in lectio, to focus on our being present to the present – being present with this text right here, in my life right here.

The very act of choosing to read Scripture is an act of redirecting our thoughts to the things of God.

Lectio divina … is where reading and prayer are bound together. It is a reading that comes out of a life with God and leads into life with God.

We must employ means of reading the text that are publicly shared and adjudicated. Still, we all have our own gift to offer to the church’s comprehension of Scripture, and we have our own ways of receiving from the text.

We are not infallible readers, and we must come to the text with a deep awareness of our weaknesses. We come to the text in humility when … we are open to hear the challenge of the divine Other.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Reading the Bible in Context

When I was learning to read, I was taught to open the first page of a book and read from the beginning to the end. I didn’t start in the middle, skip to the end, or just read the juicy bits. That wasn’t allowed. The emphasis was on reading to understand the entire story, and our comprehension tests reinforced the importance of coming to grips with the characters, plot and other details as they related to the whole.

In my early adult years I was given a Bible and told, “Start reading in the Gospel of John”. I opened the first page of the book, but it was called Genesis, not John. I was a little confused. Searching through the Bible I eventually found John toward the back of the book. I wondered why my friend had suggested I skip everything that came before John. Were the other parts of the Bible not important?

I started attending church services at much the same time as I started reading the Gospel of John. The way the pastor read and spoke about the Bible left me befuddled and bewildered. Most of the time he used isolated texts that he seemed to pluck at random from the book. It was like playing hopscotch – we jumped here there and everywhere.

Then someone gave me a Promise Box. It contained little cards with random Scripture verses. All my Christian friends were using them. We’d pull a new card out in the morning and carry it around with us during the day. Sometimes we’d quote it, chat about it, memorize it, or give it to someone. Now I understood. Obviously the Bible wasn’t meant to be read like other books. It was something you mined for nuggets.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of my story. Maybe because I’m inquisitive, or maybe it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but I wanted to read the Bible from the beginning, one book at a time, until I got to the end. So I did. And I found out that the Bible is much more than a collection of people’s favourite verses. It truly is God’s Story, and like any story it has characters, settings, plots/themes, conflicts and resolutions.

Reading through the Bible opened my eyes to something very important. I discovered that many of the texts I’d been learning, in isolation from their context, could be manipulated to say, or be applied in ways that weren’t true to the story as a whole. In fact after reading through the Bible it became evident that some of the verses I’d heard from the pulpit or learnt from my Promise Box, sometimes meant something entirely different when read in context.

Context is vital for biblical interpretation. In a culture that values instant access, instant answers, and instant everything, it can be tempting to take short-cuts with how we read the Bible. But if we do, we do so at our peril. When we read the Bible we must correctly handle the word of truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15). And the correct way to handle the truth is to read all of it.

Here’s my concern. If we separate texts from their context we can undermine the authority of Scripture and are more likely to misunderstand the Bible. Or worse, when we use texts isolated from their context, we can distort the truth and justify almost anything we want to say or do.

So here’s a shout-out for reading the Bible in context. Be diligent. Take time to understand each text against the background of its immediate text and the book within which it’s found.

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scripture to be given for our learning, grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life which thou hast given us in thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. (Anglican Prayer)

Recommended article: Not Everything in the Bible is Biblical, Jeff K. Clarke

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Reading the Bible

“Focus on reading the Scriptures …” 1 Timothy 4:13.

Reading the Bible should be for the Christian what eating and drinking is for the common man.

So what’s involved with reading the Bible? Is it snacking on a verse a day, digesting a book in one sitting, or something else?

While a verse a day has some value, it doesn’t help Christians grow. A verse here and there simply cannot sustain us spiritually. Bible reading is about something more than a few, brief, preferred encounters with the Scriptures.

Yet a verse here or there is the reality for many professing Christians. Somewhere along the way a slew of us came to believe that Bible reading is something that only takes a few minutes a day. How so?

For those of us subsisting on a diet of what Philip Yancey calls Scripture McNuggets, let’s stop kidding ourselves, we’re not reading the Bible! Bible reading is more than a catchphrase, more than fragmentary bits, more than a short-lived inspirational text, more than samplings of verses isolated from their historical, literary and cultural contexts.

Maybe one of the reasons why we’ve equated Bible reading with small readings, is Facebook. Social media has altered the way we read. The average university graduate in North America only reads one real book a year after graduating, yet interacts with the equivalent of two books a year reading Facebook posts.

Facebook, so it seems, has hard-wired our brains for sound-bites and little more. But, as Pavlov discovered, brains can be conditioned. For those who are willing, our brains can be spiritually reconditioned to seek His Face and read His Book!

So what’s involved in reading the Bible (as distinct from snacking on it)?

At the most basic level, Bible reading should involve what Glenn Pauuw refers to as big readings, i.e. “natural segments of text, or whole books, taking full account of the Bible’s various contexts”.

Why big readings? Because the Bible is not like other books – it’s a corpus – a living whole (cf. Hebrews 4:12). And as such we need to enter into it and become a part of it through lectio continua, i.e. continuous reading in sequence over a period of time.

So how do we read consecutively over a period of time? In bite size meaty chunks! While the size of our spiritual mouths and appetites will vary, our personal Bible reading, as a bare minimum, should include whole forms of longer readings from the Old or New Testament every day.

Billy Graham, for example, found it helpful to read something from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs every day. To this end we recommend Scripture Union’s online Bible reading guide, theStory™. It takes the reader through the whole Bible in 4-5 years with either New or Old Testament readings from Monday to Friday, a Psalm on Saturday, and Proverbs on Sunday.

Now some may protest that big readings have too much in them – more than one can digest – more than one can understand. On one level this is true; every word, sentence and paragraph possesses multiple relationships to the whole and surpasses our understanding. So none of us will ever fully understand or plumb the depths of the Word. But let’s not limit Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Colossians 2:3. And let’s not limit the capacity of the Holy Spirit, to teach and guide us in the way of truth (cf. John 14:26).

Reading the Bible adequately not only involves lectio continua, it also requires us to read large enough chunks to understand and locate what we’re reading within the context, literary structure, form, themes and genre of the book, and ultimately, the Bible as a whole. In this sense, we should aim to read the Bible in such a way that it becomes a set of books we intimately know, a story we simmer in, with words that are constantly transforming us.

Of course we cannot do lectio continua by ourselves – at least not adequately. Personal Bible reading must be tied to communal Bible reading. The Bible is first and foremost our story and then, in a secondary sense, it’s my story. That means that when we read the Bible as big readings we must also read it as members of a big family – as one of many listeners and participants (past and present) who are part of God’s plan to save us from sin and give us fullness of life in Christ (cf. John 10:10).

Much more could be said. All told, Bible reading needs to be slower, smarter, sizeable and shared.

Have your say. What would you add to help us think through what it truly means to read the Bible?

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Praying the Bible

Prayer, in most cases, has fallen on hard times. When a local church advertises a concert with a well known singer, the auditorium is full. When that same church advertises a prayer meeting, only a few show up!

Why do we struggle to pray? Maybe because when we do pray, we pray out of the natural desires of our hearts.

Prayer birthed in a me-centered heart does not touch the heart of God. For prayer to be effectual, we must pray what’s on God’s heart. And how do we know what’s on God’s heart? By reading/reflecting on His Word.

Prayer and Bible reading/reflection go hand in glove. “The Word is not only the centre of our listening; it is also the centre of our response” Mariano Magrassi. To pray right, we must pray the Word. There are no shortcuts to true prayer. Prayer that moves the heart of God is prayer that’s birthed, fueled and sustained by the Word of God.

Are you praying the Bible? If not, the scope of your prayers are limited by your feelings and perspectives. And prayer rooted exclusively in an individual’s experience may not be prayer at all.

Why do we struggle to pray? Maybe because we’re weak. Maybe because we don’t really know what to pray or how to pray (cf. Romans 8:26).

It’s a cyclical problem. We want to pray, but don’t know how to pray because we aren’t contemplating/meditating on the Word.

For prayer to take-off, it must first be grounded in the revealed Word. When prayer is grounded in the Word, it gives prayer wings to fly.

Tragically, for so many of us, prayer remains earth-bound because it’s tied to the vagaries of our carnal hearts. For prayer to take flight, the Holy Spirit needs to pray in us and through us. This happens when we’re praying the Bible.

Why do we struggle to pray? Maybe because our theme is so limited. We struggle to pray because it’s all about us.

When Christ died on the cross for our sins and we embraced His forgiveness by faith, we died to the old self. The old man/woman is now dead! “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” Galatians 5:24 (NIV). Why then, do we continue to pray self-seeking requests?

Here’s the good news for those wanting to grow in prayer: We cannot enlarge upon the prayer themes found in the Bible. Everything we need to be prayer warriors, is found in the Word! The scope and depth of God’s Word is beyond measure. Study the Word and you’ll have more than enough content to pray without ceasing!

Why do we struggle to pray? Maybe because we try to go it alone with our own thoughts and aspirations.

There’s a place for individual prayer, but not for individualistic prayer. Those who are in Christ are part of the Body of Christ. Our prayers are only tiny fragments of the prayer of the Church. And the fragments of prayer that make up the prayer of the Church is only true prayer when it lines up with the Word.

To pray selflessly, to pray the prayer of the Church, we must pray in the context of community. Prayer is effectual when we pray in one accord, i.e. in unity (cf. Matthew 18:19). That’s why there should always be another praying with us. And that other is Christ – the One who is the Word of God (cf. John 1:1-2).

Prayer is stimulated by the Word and inspired by Christ. Remarkably, God’s Word is something we receive and also return to God. How can this be? How can words that are not our own become our prayers? By someone else praying on our behalf. By the One who is the Word interceding for us!

All told, when we’re praying the Bible, we’re praying in the name of Christ. The Word belongs to us through Him. So when we’re praying the Bible, we’re praying prayers from His heart. And when we’re praying prayers from Christ’s heart, we delight God!

© Scripture Union Canada 2016


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Scripture and the Authority of God

In Scripture and the Authority of God, N. T. Wright argues for the authority of Scripture which “is really a shorthand for ‘the authority of God exercised through scripture’; and God’s authority is not merely his right to control and order the church, but his sovereign power, exercised in and through Jesus and the Spirit, to bring all things in heaven and on earth into subjection to his judging and healing rule.”

Scripture and the Authority of God is a timely read for anyone seeking to understand the authority of Scripture as it relates to culture, history, tradition, reason and experience. To spike your curiosity, here are some quotable gems:

Reading and studying scripture has been seen as central to how we are to grow in the love of God; how we come to understand God and his truth more fully; and how we can develop the moral muscle to live in accordance with the gospel of Jesus even when everything seems to be pulling the other way.

The authority of scripture … can only have any Christian meaning if we are referring to scripture’s authority in a delegated or mediated sense from that which God himself possesses, and that which Jesus possesses as the risen Lord and Son of God, the Emmanuel.

It is enormously important that we see the role of scripture not simply as being to provide true information about, or even an accurate running commentary upon, the work of God in salvation and new creation, but as taking an active part within that ongoing purpose.

Scripture is there to be a means of God’s action in and through us – which will include, but go far beyond, the mere conveying of information.

I cannot conceive of daily communion with God without scripture at its centre.

Authority, particularly when we locate it within the notion of God’s kingdom … is the sovereign rule of God sweeping through creation to judge and to heal. It is the powerful love of God in Jesus Christ, putting sin to death and launching new creation. It is the fresh, bracing and energizing wind of the Spirit.

Because all human beings including devout Christians are prey to serious and multi-layered self-deception, including in their traditions and their reasoning, that ‘authority’ is needed in the first place.

We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from, where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be.

Scripture’s authority is thus seen to best advantage in its formation of the mind of the church, and its stiffening of our resolve, as we work to implement the resurrection of Jesus, and so to anticipate the day when God will make all things new, and justice, joy and peace will triumph.

‘The authority of scripture’ refers not least to God’s work through scripture to reveal Jesus, to speak in life-changing power to the hearts and minds of individuals, and to transform them by the Spirit’s healing love.

The Bible itself offers a model for its own reading, which involves knowing where we are within the overall drama and what is appropriate within each act.

It is vital that we understand scripture, and our relation to it, in terms of some kind of overarching narrative which makes sense of the texts. We cannot reduce scripture to a set of ‘timeless truths’ on the one hand, or to being merely the fuel for devotions on the other, without being deeply disloyal, at a structural level, to scripture itself.

We must be committed to a totally contextual reading of scripture. Each word must be understood within its own verse, each verse within its own chapter, each chapter within its own book, and each book within its own historical, cultural and indeed canonical setting.

It is not simply the Bible’s context that we must understand … it is equally important that we understand and appreciate our own, and the way it predisposes us to highlight some things in the Bible and quietly ignore others.

A contextual reading is in fact an incarnational reading of scripture, paying attention to the full humanity both of the text and of its reader.

The various crises in the Western church of our day – decline in numbers and resources, moral dilemmas, internal division, failure to present the gospel coherently to a new generation – all these and more should drive us to pray for scripture to be given its head once more, for teachers and preachers who can open the Bible in the power of the Spirit, to give the church the energy and direction it needs for its mission and renew it in its love for God; and above all, for God’s word to do its work in the world.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5