Bible Engagement Blog: JumpIntoTheWord

Read, Reflect, Respond


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Thinking About Our Thinking

This post is compiled with Bible ministry colleagues in mind. It’s for people working in the fields of Bible preaching, Bible translation, Bible publishing, Bible storying, Bible study, Bible teaching, Bible resource development, and Bible engagement.

Here are ten primers to get us thinking about our thinking:

  1. The entertainment industry thrives on the power to distract and hypnotize. What are the Bible engagement strategies, methodologies and technologies that are required to capture the attention of people caught in the grip of an alluring hotchpotch of images and fragments of visual stimulation?
  2. Biblical scholarship requires a major paradigm shift. The perception and interpretation of the Scriptures must shift from engaging with silent print to engaging with the Bible in the context of electronic media. What are the implications of this premise?
  3. Since the majority of people hear the message of the Bible rather than read it for themselves, greater attention needs to be given to the importance of communicating the message with dialogical language (vs. dialectic language). What adjustments in our Bible delivery systems/methodology need to be made to help people hear the Word in more relational and dynamic ways?
  4. In recognizing that there are more people outside than inside the church, it is imperative that intralingual translations (e.g. English to English) of Bible versions/paraphrases are developed to better enable people to relate to the Word. How might a multi-media rich environment help or hinder intralingual translations?
  5. There are multiple tools, forms and avenues available in the sciences and arts through which connections with the Bible may be made. How might the sciences and arts be more creatively accessed to help people see, imagine, contemplate, tell, hear, remember and share God’s Story?
  6. It was mainly Christians who pioneered the transition from orality to literacy. Now that Western cultures are more abstract, wouldn’t it be great if Christians once again pioneered the transition to secondary orality? So what are we presently doing, and what should we be doing, to communicate and invite interaction with the Bible in the context of a more deliberate self-conscious orality?
  7. Robotics and artificial intelligence are going to dramatically alter the landscape of society in the coming years. What impact might the changes in technology have on how we provide access, develop approaches/methods, and invite engagement with the Bible?
  8. Social networking sites have changed the way we communicate. The linear reasoning that’s been nurtured by print culture is being augmented or replaced by non-sequential thinking stimulated by visual effects, wired to sound bites and punctuated by the exchange of one-liners. With this in mind, what are the implications for discipleship, given that Bible reading/reflection (drawing on linear reasoning skills) has been the primary means of nurturing mature believers?
  9. What can we learn from the past that can help us in the future? The biblical texts were originally recorded to assist oral presentation and the development of a communal piety. The spoken and rhetorical features of the biblical text have been largely overlooked or ignored by commentators, pastors and teachers for hundreds of years. How can electronic media be harnessed to recapture the original oral underpinnings of the Bible?
  10. What new thinking, arrangements, reorganization of translation processes, and development of production and delivery mechanisms are required to enable people to engage with the Bible in a way that they can encounter God and live lives that bring honour and glory to Him?

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Jesus Engagement

Bible engagement is about Jesus engagement. This may seem obvious, but there are a lot of Bible related things that aren’t ultimately about Jesus. In fact whenever Bible related programs, activities, projects, seminars, challenges, courses, or initiatives are exclusively about Bible reading, Bible study, Bible translation, and such, then it may be nothing more than Bible idolatry. Jesus said, “… you shall be witnesses to Me …” Acts 1:8 (NKJV).

It’s a matter of priorities; making the main thing, the main thing. It’s not Bible reading and reflection that are important. They’re just the means to a desired end. And what is the desired end of Bible reading/reflection? Is it moralistic – reading the Bible as an example to imitate? Is it intellectual – reading the Bible as something to know? Is it therapeutic – reading the Bible to feel better about ourselves? Is it theological – reading the Bible to systematically develop religious beliefs? Or is it deistic – reading the Bible for truths about God? No, categorically no! The desired end of Bible reading must be to connect with, be transformed by, and live in obedience to the One of whom it speaks – Jesus Christ. “To this you were called … that you should follow in his steps” 1 Peter 2:21 (NIV).

If one loves the Word more than one loves the One who is the Word, we’ve missed the mark. Paul Tripp asks, “Could it be that you have a heart for the Word (a quest for theological expertise and biblical literacy) but not a heart for the God of the Word?”

By emphasising Bible reading just for the sake of Bible reading, we perpetuate something short of God’s intent for His Word. That’s why it’s more than Bible reading that we should be promoting/advocating. We should want the kind of interaction with the Word that reveals God, exposes sin, and causes us to worship Him. And for that to happen we need Jesus engagement.

So what is Jesus engagement? It’s a relational interaction with the One who is the Word such that His Spirit reveals, renews and revives us, in and through the Word, to love and live for Him in accordance with His Word.

Here’s the rub: Bible reading, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily lead to us loving and living for Jesus. After all, the Pharisees and teachers of the law studied the Bible ardently, but they didn’t love Jesus. Their Bible reading only resulted in legalism and a love for their own traditions. Jesus called them out for this, saying: “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” Mark 7:6 (NIV) and “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition …” Mark 7:13 (NIV). That is, their Bible reading perpetuated religious rituals, nothing more.

That’s not to say that reading/hearing the Bible isn’t a required spiritual discipline; it most definitely is. But it is to say that Bible reading has to go beyond reading about God to having a vital ongoing life transforming relationship with Christ. As John Stott reminds us, “Only as we continue to appropriate by faith the riches of Christ which are disclosed to us in Scripture shall we grow into spiritual maturity, and become men and women of God who are thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So let’s make Bible engagement about Jesus engagement. Let’s “get beyond propositions and Bible verses to Christ. I do not mean ‘get around’ Bible verses, but ‘through’ Bible verses to Christ, to the person, the living person, to know Him, cherish Him, treasure Him, enjoy Him, trust Him, be at home with Him” John Piper, “God’s Glory Is the Goal of Biblical Counseling,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 20/2 (Winter 2002), 8–21.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Heart Language

For Bible engagement to be effective, people need to connect with the Bible in their heart language. The Apostle Paul alludes to this when he says, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” Ephesians 1:18-19 (NIV).

So what is heart language? In essence, it’s something more than language. It’s what unites us at the deepest level and includes our integrated value systems, beliefs, experiences, and the reality of who we are. But that’s not all. Heart language is transactional. It’s something that transcends who we are; it’s about God revealing and communicating His love for us, so that we hear and believe. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified …” Romans 10:10 (NIV).

In the Christian context, heart language is therefore about the human heart and God’s heart coming together. It’s us interacting with the triune God; an intimate relationship between One heart and another.

Which raises a question: What does heart language look like for different people, i.e. for every tribe and tongue and nation? Obviously, very different. In fact, while there may be a similar heart language within a specific culture, it may also be true to say that every individual has a unique heart language. That’s why God joins Himself with groups/communities of faith as well as allying Himself intimately with the thoughts and feelings He’s created in every individual.

But getting back to the opening sentence, and the association between heart language and Bible engagement …

God’s Word changes hearts. It is in and through the transference of God’s Word that our hearts are touched and transformed. When we rely on the power of the Spirit to help us interact with the Word (personally and communally), God speaks into our hearts in ways that nurture us to live only all for Him.

Thus to engage with the Bible we need to enter into the Word – to become part of the grand drama of salvation. This requires humbling and inclining our hearts. We must develop new postures of authenticity and vulnerability. For it is only when we open our hearts fully, that God will fully apply His Word and make us new creations with the capacity to worship Him and do good works.

All told, it is through the deeper work God does in our hearts, as His Word courses through us, that we are eventually redeemed, restored and reconciled to Him.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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How to Measure Bible Engagement

 

Since Bible engagement is crucial to the spiritual health and growth of individuals and communities (churches, schools, Bible agencies, ministries), it is helpful to understand “the conditions necessary for such growth to be sustained – to become permanent – and to continue” (Mark Forshaw, Global Scripture Impact).

Here’s how some key organisations/groups/agencies are measuring Bible engagement:

Barna Group – Collects data for the ABS State of the Bible study by using a four-part typology based on people’s view of and level of engagement with Scripture. A person is categorized/described as Bible engaged, Bible friendly, Bible neutral or Bible skeptic.

Biblica – Is initiating the development of a tool that will measure the Bible engagement elements of translation, access, literary form, reading holistically, context awareness, narrative understanding and story activation.

Canadian Bible Forum – A quantitative survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies and a qualitative study conducted by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada to measure why Canadians do or do not connect with the Bible. Findings reported in the Canadian Bible Engagement Study.

Center for Bible Engagement – Uses surveys to gather data from individuals to measure life transformation levels of weekly Bible engagement. It goes beyond simply usage statistics to consider attitudes and behaviors that significantly impact spiritual growth and a person’s relationship with God.

Global Scripture Impact (American Bible Society) – Seeks to measure Bible engagement by measuring the behavioural signs of ‘willingness’, ‘understanding’, and ‘action’ as indicators of people moving toward spiritual maturity/embodying Christ.

LifeWay Research – Conducts quantitative and qualitative research utilising question samples from the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA) and the Transformational Groups (TG) research projects.

REVEAL – Researches the role of Scripture engagement in catalyzing spiritual growth. A set of survey items is used to look at what motivates people to engage with Scripture and how people are affected by their exposure to Scripture.

Scripture Union Canada – Uses the quantitative Measure of Reading/Connecting with the Bible literacy gauge and a qualitative assessment of how people are connecting with, coming alive to, are investing in, being submitted to, are reliant on, are receiving from, and acting in line with Christ and His Word.

Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement – Conducts quantitative and qualitative research to measure frequency of interaction with the Bible, the extent to which a person has the Bible as a focal center in their spiritual life, the breadth of contexts whereby a person interacts with the Bible, kinds of interactions a person has with the Bible, and the views people have of the Bible. The tools used for the research are the Christian Life Survey, Christian Identity and Scripture Engagement Survey, Scripture Engagement Interviews, Scripture Engagement Field Interviews.

If you know about Bible engagement research that hasn’t been mentioned in this post, please share what you know.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Defined

Bible engagement defined by agencies, forums, societies, centers and research groups has many shades of meaning. Here are some definitions:

Scripture engagement is an identity-forming, learning experience, rooted in the Scriptures and practiced throughout the history of the church, involving the whole person, in which the Word of God, mediated in culture, restores, renews and equips people-in-community, enabling them to embody Christ authentically in the world as His agents of reconciliation and social transformation. American Bible Society

Scripture engagement is encountering God through the Bible to become faithful followers of Jesus Christ. American Bible Society

Bible engagement includes action, whether people are intentionally and frequently engaged in using Scripture (either reading or hearing it read) and attitude, whether people believe the Bible to be the inspired and authoritative Word of God. Barna Group

An encounter with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit that is a motivated/inspired interaction with God’s Story that includes various media that involves an individual or communal activity/response/application that cultivates/results in transformation. Bible Research Summit (compilation of group definitions)

The Bible is well-engaged when a community: has access to a well-translated text in its natural literary forms, feasts on whole literary units read in context, understands the overall story and accepts the invitation to take up its own role in the great drama. Biblica

Bible engagement is the act of receiving what the Word of God has to say by reading or listening to the Bible, reflecting on the Scripture, and responding to the biblical truths in your daily life. Center for Bible Engagement, Back to the Bible

Scripture Engagement is encountering God’s Word in a life-changing way. Forum of Bible Agencies International

Bible engagement is peeling back the covers of God’s Word to discover the hopes and promises of the Bible and discovering what God has to say to you, no matter what your situation; that results in hearts changed, lives transformed and an unrelenting drive to be like Jesus to this broken world. Forum of Bible Agencies – North America

Bible engagement is allowing God, through His Word, to lead and change an individual’s life – one’s direction, thinking and actions. LifeWay Research

Scripture engagement is frequency of engagement in the spiritual practice of reflection on Scripture. REVEAL

Bible engagement is the process whereby people are connected with the Bible such that they have meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ and their lives are progressively transformed in Him. Scripture Union Canada

Bible engagement is the process of taking in and living out God’s Word for the purpose of knowing him better and experiencing him more. Scripture Union USA

Scripture engagement is a way of hearing and reading the Bible with an awareness that it is in the Scriptures that we primarily meet God. It is a marinating, mulling over, reflecting, dwelling on, pondering of the Scriptures, resulting in a transformative engagement with God. Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement

Scripture engagement is interaction with the biblical text in a way that provides sufficient opportunity for the text to speak for itself by the power of the Holy Spirit, enabling readers and listeners to hear the voice of God and discover for themselves the unique claim Jesus Christ is making upon them. Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement

Scripture engagement is facilitating life-changing encounters with God through His Word. Wycliffe Scripture Engagement Forum

Please make a comment to share your definition of Bible engagement.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement SWOT Analysis

What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to Bible Engagement? The Bible Research Summit researchers and practitioners generated, in no particular order or categorization, these thoughts and comments:

  • God shows up in the divine reading of the Word
  • Bible engagement should help people encounter Jesus through the Scriptures
  • Political and theological views have a powerful effect on the beliefs and behaviours that impact Bible engagement
  • We need communities of encounter and enabling in order to foster Bible engagement
  • Good theology is essential for Bible engagement to survive and thrive
  • People live into the plausibility structures of different communities and agencies/churches developing/providing Bible engagement resources need to understand how this impacts the creation of resources
  • Religious communities profoundly influence how we engage with the Bible
  • Something more than Bible reading is needed to drive/shape reaching out to others
  • An encounter with Christ is a necessary and vital part of Bible engagement
  • Research reveals that engaging with the Bible correlates with a positive change in people’s lives
  • Bible engagement enables people to embody Christ authentically, in the world, as His agents of reconciliation and social transformation
  • The focus of Bible engagement should always be Jesus
  • Bible engagement often happens in “the valley”
  • The Bible is well engaged when a community understands the overall story and accepts the invitation to take up its own role in the great drama
  • Bible engagement changes an individual’s life – one’s direction, thinking and actions
  • Measuring the frequency of Bible reading doesn’t necessarily measure Bible engagement
  • Bible engagement should include a prophetic response to the times
  • Our actions and attitudes are measures of Bible engagement
  • Bible engagement restores, renews and equips people in community
  • The best thing the church can do, out of all the things they can do to facilitate spiritual health and growth, is to help people reflect on the Bible more than they do
  • Bible engagement is closely related to a life of reflection and community
  • The Holy Spirit is the inspiration and agent of Bible engagement
  • Confirmation of Bible engagement is seen in people’s lives when they are connected with, coming alive to, are tied to, are investing in, being submitted to, are reliant on, are receiving from, and acting in line with the One of whom the Bible speaks, Jesus Christ
  • There are differences in how people engage with Scripture, and Bible engagement varies across different stages on the spiritual journey
  • Bible engagement impacts one’s spiritual maturity more than every other discipleship attribute combined

Have your say. What would you add to the Bible engagement SWOT analysis above?

[These thoughts and comments are collectively attributed to: Chris Armas, Lizette Beard, Chad Causey, Steven Bird, Mark Forshaw, David Kinnaman, Nancy Lewis, Jason Malec, Lawson Murray, Pam Ovwigho, Glenn Paauw, Tyler Prieb, Angela Rogers]

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Working Definitions of Bible Engagement

In ongoing efforts to understand the nature and scope of Bible engagement, researchers and practitioners at the recent Bible Research Summit drafted the following three working definitions:

1. Bible engagement is encountering God/Jesus through a process/lifestyle of quality interaction in/with the Story as part of a lifestyle of living in and living out of the Story so that individuals and communities are transformed. [This is a cyclical process. That is, individuals and communities continuously reengage/encounter God/Jesus through a process/lifestyle of quality interaction in/with the Story as part of a lifestyle of living in and out of the Story].

2. Bible engagement occurs when the big Story of God/Jesus/humanity, motivated by its authority or its potential relevance (passion vs. scepticism), occasionally or through some habitual practice, which includes various media (e.g. reading, audio, groups, etc.) that contain Scripture content and an application of/resulting in a response to the Word which cultivates transformation in individuals and communities.

3. Bible engagement occurs when circumstances or posture inspired by the Holy Spirit combine to create desire to discover/explore the story of how God engages humanity through habitual seeking of the Word through various mediums (individual, group, audio, visual, written) resulting in transformation that is Christocentric/Christ-like.

Taken together, and simply stated, the three definitions identify Bible engagement as:

An encounter with God/Jesus

that is a motivated/inspired interaction with God’s Story

that includes various media

that involves an individual or communal activity/response/application

that cultivates/results in transformation

 

* The Bible Research Summit was hosted by the American Bible Society

* The goal of the Summit was to discuss the history, current practices and future needs of measuring Bible engagement

* The researchers and practitioners were:

Chris Armas – Code for the Kingdom

Lizette Beard – LifeWay Research

Steven Bird – Taylor University

Chad Causey – OneHope

Mark Forshaw – Global Scripture Impact

David Kinnaman – Barna Group

Nancy Lewis – REVEAL

Jason Malec – American Bible Society

Lawson Murray – Scripture Union

Pam Ovwigo – Center for Bible Engagement

Glenn Paauw – Biblica

Tyler Prieb – OneHope

Angela Rogers – Connection Media

 

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Leonard Ravenhill on Bible Engagement

In the classic, Why Revival Tarries, by Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994), the main thesis is prayer, but there are some Bible engagement nuggets worth sharing. Thus this post.

Ravenhill was a 20th Century revivalist who rebuked, reproved and exhorted Christians to live righteously. His single-minded warnings and appeals sometimes shocked and alienated people. Folk either loved or hated him. Regardless of what people thought about him, the bigger issue is whether or not he spoke the truth. You decide. Here are some of the things he had to say about Bible engagement:

One of these days some simple soul will pick up the Book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed.

With a stack of books beside us and marginal notes in Bibles for props, we have almost immunized ourselves from the scorching truth of the changeless Word of God.

There are only three classes of People in the world today: those who are afraid, those who do not know enough to be afraid, and those who know their Bibles.

We have millions of Bibles, scores of thousands of churches, endless preachers – and yet what sin!

We have adopted the convenient theory that the Bible is a Book to be explained, whereas first and foremost it is a Book to be believed (and after that to be obeyed).

The Holy Book of the living God suffers more from its exponents today than from its opponents! We are loose in the use of scriptural phrases, lopsided in interpreting them, and lazy to the point of impotence in appropriating their measureless wealth.

Let any man shut himself up for a week … with no books except the Bible, with no visitor except the Holy Ghost, and I guarantee … that that man will either break up or break through and out.

Most preachers are only echoes, for if you listen hard, you will be able to tell what latest book they have read and how little of the Book they quote.

There is a world of difference between knowing the Word of God and knowing the God of the Word.

Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, 1991.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Ten Bible Engagement One-Liners

Many years ago I was handing out Scripture leaflets at a downtown side-walk sale where our church had a face-painting booth. Most people politely took the leaflets. Many said, “Thanks.” Some stopped to chat. But one man, much to my surprise, leapt away from me. You’d have thought I’d pulled a gun. Surprised by his reaction I said, “It’s a leaflet with Scriptures from the Bible …” Before I could say anything else he beetled off. Over his shoulder he said, “I know what it is!” For reasons unknown to me, I felt compelled to go after him. Drawing alongside, I said, “It’s about how you can have fullness of life in Christ.” He started running! I did too. “This could change your life for the better” I said, as I offered it to him for the second time. And breaking into a sprint he cried, “I don’t want that ☠@✴# thing!”

Maybe I did the wrong thing, or maybe there was a deeper spiritual dynamic at work. I don’t know. It was the first and only time I’ve chased after someone in order to try and share the Scriptures with them.

Advocating for Bible engagement isn’t always easy. And I’m not just talking about inviting non-Christians to read the Scriptures. It can be tough going with so called Christians too! Maybe it’s because we’ve done a poor PR job. In a consumer driven society people need to hear about the benefits before they’ll buy something, use it, or tell others about it. It’s no different with the Bible. People generally won’t engage with it unless they know what’s in it for them. Simply telling someone they should read, memorize, study or live by the Bible, is not enough.

So with Bible advocacy in mind here are ten Bible engagement one-liners that can be shared on Facebook, used to spice up sermons, be included in church bulletins, added to Sunday PowerPoint announcements, or woven into everyday discussions:

  • Do you want to hear from God? Open your Bible!
  • Spiritually hungry? Feed on the Word.
  • Only one book helps you succeed in life and triumph over death – the Bible!
  • Read the Bible and it will read you!
  • Life’s GPS – the Bible!
  • Looking for fullness of life? Get into God’s Word.
  • Right thinking leads to right action – read the Bible.
  • You’ll get your act together when your Bible’s falling apart!
  • Breathe God’s Word to feel His love.
  • Prime your prayers with Scripture.

Inviting Bible Engagement. Hopefully you’re not going to run away! Feel free to use these one-liners to promote connections with the Bible.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Twenty Texts From The Bible About The Bible

What we may say about the Bible may have some value, but what the Bible says about itself is inestimably valuable.

So here are twenty texts from the Bible about the Bible:

It is God-breathed

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16

It is eternal

All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. Psalm 119:160

It stands firm

Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Psalm 119:89

It is flawless

Every word of God is flawless Proverbs 30:5

It is truth

… your word is truth. John 17:17

It is alive

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

It is a light

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

It is like fire

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29

It is more precious than gold

The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. Psalm 19:9-10

It is wonderful

Your statutes are wonderful Psalm 119:129

It gives understanding

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130

It gives joy

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. Psalm 19:8

It combats sin

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

It is refreshing

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. Psalm 19:7

It is for your hearts and minds

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Deuteronomy 11:18

It should be on your lips

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8

It should be obeyed

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

It leads to blessing

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:25

It should have nothing added or taken away from it

See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:32

It endures forever

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. Isaiah 40:8

It will never pass away

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35

Scripture Quotations: New International Version, 2011, Biblica

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5