JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


Leave a comment

Kids Can Read The Bible Too!

Amy Csoke, a colleague at Scripture Union, recently entitled one of her workshops, “Kids Can Read the Bible Too!” It’s a great title and I’m hoping it catches the attention of Christian parents and teachers who want to help children read God’s Word.

Before we get to the practical part of how kids can read the Bible too, there are three essential Bible reading principles we must teach children:

  1. We must read the Bible focused on Jesus. The principal reason why we read the Bible should be to know the One of whom it speaks (cf. Luke 24:27, John 5:39-40). Bible reading should connect children with Jesus as King so that they see themselves as citizens in His kingdom. “Our goal must be for kids to catch this rock-their-world vision of Jesus,” says author Jack Klumpenhower. So Bible reading should never major on gathering information or knowledge, developing biblical literacy, teaching Christian morality, providing answers for pressing needs, or changing a child’s behaviour.
  2. The Bible is read according to its conditions and context, not ours. When children read the Bible, they can’t read it like they read other books. That’s because the Bible “is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12a) and as such, reads us. God’s Word isn’t like our words. In fact God’s Word has authority over our words and even “judges the thoughts and attitudes of [our hearts]” Hebrews 4:12d.
  3. Bible reading requires the reader to enter into the Story. Children can’t read the Bible at arm’s length. They’ve got to read it intimately and engagingly. That’s because the Bible is a spacious realm that invites us to actively come in with imagination and faith, and once we’ve entered, to be participants who get caught up in it by receiving and reenacting it.

So with these three principles in mind, how do we help children read (listen, reflect, engage) the Bible dynamically? Here are ten practical suggestions:

  1. Sing it. When children sing the Word, it brings their hearts “into alignment with God’s heart, with God’s ways, with God’s plans, and with God’s personality,” says Stuart Greaves from the International House of Prayer.
  2. Draw it. Artistic reflection is a powerful way to focus attention on the text because it’s a process that provides creative space for children to linger in the Word. Using water-colours, stencils, markers, sharpies, crayons and such are tools that enable children to surmount spiritual, intellectual or emotional obstacles and meet with God.
  3. Act it. Drama can grip, shape, move and inspire. Especially for children who learn by doing, acting out a story enables them to own it.
  4. Write it. Using a pen or pencil to write out a Scripture passage or verse allows a child to slow down and mull over the words or phrases.
  5. Pray it. The best prayers are those birthed, informed and sustained by the Word. Bible reading and prayer go together. To read right, children must pray the Word; and to pray right, children must read the Word.
  6. Memorize it. When God’s Word is learnt by heart, it reprograms the heart. And more. Scripture memorization draws a child more fully into the Story and builds confidence in reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to the Word.
  7. Contemplate it. Children need to listen to the Word in order to be shaped by the Word. Children’s ministry specialist, Ivy Beckwith, says, “Without silliness and sometimes with profundity, children can do silence.”
  8. Question it. Asking questions, including tough ones, is an essential skill that every child should learn in order to interpret God’s Word. The six questions children must ask of the text is who, what, where, why, when and how.
  9. Enter it. Children should be invited to penetrate a Bible story more holistically by picturing themselves as one of the characters in the story or by stepping into it through the use of sanctified imagination.
  10. Live it. The main body parts for reading the Bible aren’t the eyes and brain, it’s the hands and feet. To read the Bible well, children must learn the Nike principle – “Just do it!”

And one more suggestion: We’re better together. Yes, kids can read the Bible too, but they need you. According to the African proverb, “If you want to go far, go together.” Children need you to journey with them in their Bible reading so that when they require help, lack discipline, or get discouraged, you’re there to support and help them persevere.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

Kingdom Focused Bible Engagement

In many instances Bible engagement has been reduced to majoring on the bits of the Bible that speak to making the world a better place through social activism, the golden rule as it applies to living a decent life (cf. Matthew 7:12), or using the Scriptures to underpin religious duties and obligations. But Bible engagement is about something far bigger than cherry picking Bible verses to inform our good works, good morality, or good religion per se.

Bible engagement is counter cultural. For Bible engagement to truly happen, we can’t be double minded. We can’t serve two masters (cf. Matthew 6:24). Bible engagement begins when we turn away from our old way of life and invite Christ to give us new life. And it proceeds as we sever our loyalties to the world and give our total allegiance to Christ (cf. Luke 14:33).

When we connect with the Bible, everything should change. We cannot continue to think and do life as we’ve done it before. Bible engagement requires a new way of being and a new way of living. We must relinquishing all we have to follow Jesus (cf. Luke 14:25-27). And for that to happen, Bible engagement has to be kingdom focused.

So what does kingdom focused Bible engagement look like? Kingdom focused Bible engagement is giving our unreserved commitment to the King and His kingdom. It’s submitting fully to Christ’s reign over our lives. And it occurs as we continually respond to God’s Word in ways that indicate that Christ is working in and through us.

While kingdom focused Bible engagement is embodied in Christ, it also includes everyone who submits to His kingship (cf. Romans 5:10). Bible engagement should never be an exclusively private or internal affair. Yes, Bible engagement concerns me, but it’s more about us. That’s because the kingdom of God is about community – about Christ’s Word being embodied and manifested in the lives of all of His kingdom citizens.

This is the good news: Bible engagement is about being liberated and empowered. It’s entering the throne room, encountering the King, and embracing, sharing and enjoying the fullness of kingdom life (cf. John 10:10). But wait, there’s more! When we’ve finished being part of the kingdom that’s here, we get to be part of the kingdom to come (cf. 1 Timothy 6:19).

Now before we get too heavenly minded that we’re of no practical use, let’s not forget that kingdom focused Bible engagement, while eternity bound, has an earthly home. Bible engagement is about God’s future turning up in the present. Bible engagement was never meant to be esoteric. Bible engagement is for this world, but not of this world. The Bible engagement prayer is “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10. And for this prayer to be apprehended, kingdom citizens must live out the Word in ways that bring honour and glory to the King.

This to simply say that Bible engagement is Jesus engagement, and Jesus engagement is kingdom engagement. The three go together. They’re distinct, but not separate. When we engage with the Bible, we should do so with the express purpose of engaging with Christ. And as we engage with Christ, we should do so with the express purpose of being kingdom focused.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

Radicalized Bible Engagement

To be radicalized is to become more drastic in one’s beliefs. It’s a term that’s commonly used today – usually with negative connotations. In the context of terrorism, a person is radicalized when they sever adherence to the values of society at large and commit themselves fully to the ideology of a terrorist organization like ISIS, Hamas or Al-Qaeda.

Extreme change from an accepted form and absolute commitment to a new form is what Christian faith should be about. Unfortunately this isn’t usually true of most modern-day Christians. Rather than giving our total allegiance to Jesus Christ, we try to keep one foot in the world. For many Christians, the greater value is tolerance or accomodation, certainly not radicalization. Words like subversive, offensive, dangerous or radical are generally not in the average Christian’s vocabulary.

There’s a disturbing disconnect between today’s Christianity and the faith of the Christians mentioned in the Bible. Acceptance and broadmindedness characterizes contemporary Christianity whereas first-century Christians were an offense to society because their allegiance to Christ undermined or threatened the existing views, habits, affairs, conditions, institutions and systems of the Roman world.

Now linking radicalization with Jesus may be a transgression for some or puzzling for others, but, like it was in the first-century, it should be the reality for every Christian today. That’s because Jesus doesn’t call us to a partial dedication or limited commitment. It’s all or nothing. He wants our full and exclusive allegiance. In common with Paul’s advice to Timothy, we’re to flee from the things of the world and fight to take hold of the faith and life we have in Christ (cf. 1 Timothy 6:11-16).

Which brings us to radicalized Bible engagement.

To embrace the Word, which is to embrace the One who is the Word, should be to radically receive and respond to the Word. It’s being all into Him and all out of the world. Bible engagement should be nothing short of giving our total allegiance to the kingdom message and mission of Christ. It should never be a little bit of this or a little bit of that. Radicalized Bible engagement is putting to death every word of darkness and fully immersing ourselves in the Word that brings light. It’s separating ourselves from the lies and half truths that have held us captive. It’s giving our undivided devotion to Christ and choosing to live in resurrection power. It’s appropriating His grace and denying ourselves in order to fully love Him. And it’s being a willing conduit through which His love flows to those in need.

Radicalized Bible engagement is unlike the regular way Christians usually connect with the Bible. It’s also more than a new methodology or approach to reading/hearing the Word. For radicalized Bible engagement is an uprising. It’s saying no to legalistic, guilt fueled, shame based, fear driven religion. It’s connecting with the Word as something more than knowledge to be gleaned or morals to be emulated. It’s letting the Word read us, and as it does, it’s humbling ourselves and crying out for mercy.

Radicalized Bible engagement isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s about being all in. There can be no half measures. It’s encountering the Word in ways that enable us to fully worship, work and witness in order to bring all honour and glory to Him.

When Bible engagement isn’t radicalized we need to change. The ways in which we’ve read, reflected, remembered and responded to the Bible in the past cannot continue with us into the future. Why? Because what got us where we are won’t get us to where we need to be.

Or, stated slightly differently, if what we’re doing now in our Bible engagement practices doesn’t result in absolute commitment to Jesus Christ and extreme transformation in our lives, then we’re not reading/hearing the Bible as we should. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” John 14:23 (NIV). When we’re not reading/hearing the Bible as we should, a complete overhaul of what we’ve been doing, or not doing, needs to happen.

Now that’s not to say that embracing Christ through radicalized Bible engagement will be plain sailing. Far from it! Radicalized Bible engagement places us at odds with the world’s values and choices. God’s Word is, and always has been, an offense to those who are not Christians. Whether we like it or not, when we choose to live out our love for Christ through total obedience to His Word, there will be negative reactions, opposition or persecution.

And herein lies the tension. Some Christians don’t like the fact that God’s Word is an offense (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23-25, 1 Peter 2:8) to those who don’t know or love Jesus. So they try to mitigate the offense by watering down, creatively excusing, or falsely interpreting the Bible’s message. When this happens, the weakening of the Church and the death of faith follows. For every attempt to take the offense out of God’s Word always results in the loss of the saving and transforming power of the Gospel.

So let’s be all in! Let’s forsake lukewarm Bible reading/hearing. Let’s break with our loyalties to the systems, entanglements and distractions of the world. Let’s renounce the fears and failures that control and restrict us. And let’s do this by praying for a Jesus revival in our personal lives and communities of faith. Then, as we pray, let’s subversively reclaim Bible engagement as something more than it’s been by asking God for a form of Bible engagement that results in extreme devotion and absolute allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord of all and Lord for all!

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


4 Comments

Reimagining Bible Engagement

The problem with the emphasis of some of today’s Bible engagement teaching is that stress is laid on how often we connect with the Bible and whether or not these connections impact what we think, say and do.

Or to say it differently, the problem in some local churches, Sunday School classes and Bible agencies is that the underlying agenda is to get us to read/hear the Scriptures so that we’ll gain spiritual insight and understanding that results in submitting to and obeying God’s Word (i.e. acting in accordance with biblical morality).

Now hear me out. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t engage with the Bible regularly. Nor am I saying that the Bible shouldn’t influence how we live. Far from it. But what I am saying is that when the emphasis in Bible engagement is on regularly reading/reflecting on the Bible and ordering our lives according to biblical morality, then we have a problem. It’s a problem because in and of itself, it’s legalism.

You see, we’ll struggle to interact frequently with the Bible and live righteous lives if we aren’t first taken up completely with Jesus. I don’t say that lightly. The focus in Bible engagement must always be on how wonderful, amazing and magnificent Jesus is – nothing less and nothing more!

Now why do I say that? Why should Bible engagement be first, foremost and always about Jesus? Because in Jesus “all things (including Bible engagement) hold together” Colossians 1:17 (NIV).

Here’s the rub. When Bible engagement isn’t always about Jesus, our reading/reflecting on the Bible will be done mainly out of guilt or duty and fueled, not by love, but by fear, shame or self-serving ambitions. And when our Bible reading/reflecting is done out of guilt or duty we usually dry-up or fizzle out. That, or our hearts grow progressively colder and more judgmental – holding to the letter of the law and condemning those who don’t obey God’s commands.

First things first. Bible engagement should always be Jesus engagement. Bible engagement is seeing His glory, knowing His grace, and growing in Him. From beginning to end, the Bible is a window through which we look to see Jesus. So when we read/hear the Bible it’s about opening our eyes and ears to His unbridled compassion, His inestimable salvation, His unstinting care, His extravagant provision, and His infinite mercy.

When we don’t get Jesus first, we’re in trouble. There’s no polite way for me to say this, but when the emphasis is on the regularity of Bible reading/hearing and the importance of moral outcomes, it creates modern-day Pharisees.

Bible engagement without Jesus is a heavy cumbersome load. When it’s about keeping score of how often we read the Bible or how many right choices we make in a day, we’ve missed the mark and will always miss the mark. That’s because Bible engagement, according to Jesus, is less about what we do (or not do), and more about who He is (cf. John 5:39).

At the risk of repeating (albeit in slightly different words) what’s already been said; loving Jesus should never be absent from our Bible engagement. The measure of Bible engagement is whether we are, or are not, meeting with Him. When we read, reflect, remember and respond to the Bible we must do so in a way in which we’re constantly recapitulating our hearts to Jesus and inclining the content of our lives to Him. That’s when Bible engagement takes on a life of its own.

So here’s to reimagining Bible engagement. Let’s read/hear the Word as an encounter with the One who is the Word. For when we meet with the One who is the Word, the rest falls into place. That is, when the priority in Bible engagement is connecting with Jesus and abandoning our lives to Him, that’s when we’ll be committed to regularly reading/reflecting and obeying His Word.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

To the Jews who were persecuting Him, Jesus said, “These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” John 5:39 (NIV). This should arrest our attention. From a Bible engagement perspective, what could be more important than this text? For in the phrase “that testify about me” we learn that Jesus is present throughout the Old Testament.

Most Christians probably agree that Jesus is central through the New Testament. They’ll also probably agree that He doesn’t seem to be in the Old Testament law or the history of Israel and is only occasionally found in the wisdom literature and the prophets.

Is there a disconnect? Jesus says the Scriptures testify about Him, yet the reality for many Christians is that He’s not plainly revealed in the Old Testament. That is, He seems to be veiled or hidden. Which may be why most Christians tend to mainly read/reflect on the last 20% of the Bible rather than the first 80%.

One of the reasons why we mainly connect with the New Testament is because we want to know Jesus through His Word. But only reading/reflecting on the New Testament to know Jesus through His Word is short-sighted. If we’re reading the Word to know Jesus, and He says in the New Testament that the Old Testament testifies about Him, then our Bible reading/reflecting should include the Old Testament.

All this to simply recognize that maybe, like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, we need to have our minds opened in order to find Jesus in the Old Testament (cf. Luke 24:45). I know I did. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. That is, I needed to be retrained in how to interpret and understand the Old Testament. And that’s why I’m putting a plug in for a helpful resource – David Murray’s excellent book, Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

Bible Engagement Barriers and Bridges

The article “Scripture In Mission: Three Major Priorities In Eradicating Bible Poverty” by the Lausanne Movement Scripture in Mission Multiplex Resource Team identifies how “Bible poverty” is due to several barriers that hinder people from connecting with the Bible. The barriers include “ignorance, indifference or contempt for the Scriptures, busyness of life, admiration of technology, being flooded with entertainment, the strangeness of the Scriptures relative to life in the 21st century, beliefs about what can be known, and the centrality and autonomy of the individual.”

If we’re going to deal with Bible poverty (i.e., help people connect with the Bible) we need to figure out how the barriers to Bible engagement might be bridged. So what are the bridges that help us span the difficulties that prevent us from connecting with the Bible? Here are three suggestions:

1. The bridge that moves “me” to “we”. Individualism is killing Bible engagement. There has to be a shift from reading/hearing the Bible primarily for personal benefit to reading/hearing the Bible primarily for the benefit of the community of faith. Form must follow function. For Bible reading/hearing to be more communal (and biblical) it needs to be family focused. That is, Bible engagement should centre on practices or methodologies that prioritize and cultivate family engagement with God’s Word. The Scriptures are very clear on this point – we should engage with God’s Word in ways that enable us to pass it from one generation to the next (cf. Deuteronomy 6:7, Psalm 78:1-8). What does this look like in practice? For some it may be home schooling with a curriculum that’s rooted in the Scriptures. For others it may involve regular discussions stimulated by intergenerational Bible reading/reflecting guides. And for others it may be family devotions in the evening.

2. The bridge that moves “screen” to “wean”. Screen based technologies like TV’s, smart phones and tablets radically compete with or hinder time spent reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to God’s Word. Technology isn’t neutral; it shapes and alters our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual environments. It also devours our free time, which in turn limits or negates engagement with God’s Word. How can we meaningfully hide the Word in our hearts or live according to the Bible (cf. Psalm 119:9-11) if it’s more important for us to be texting, checking Snapchat, or logging into Instagram? For Bible engagement to thrive we must significantly reduce screen time. Like a baby being weaned from milk to solids, we must be weaned from the screen to the scriptures. What does this look like in practice? For some it may mean deactivating Facebook, cancelling Netflix, or selling the game console. For others it may be monitoring how much time is spent each day using devices with screens. And for others it may be a spouse or friend who helps them prioritize time by reading and discussing the Scriptures together every day.

3. The bridge that moves “know” to “grow”. Bible commentators Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart say that “the single most serious problem people have with the Bible is not with lack of understanding … but obeying it – putting it into practice.” There are two forms of Bible poverty – when some people don’t have the Word, and when some people don’t live the Word (cf. Amos 8:11, Matthew 7:24-27). One happens when the Scriptures aren’t accessible and the other when the Scriptures aren’t acted on. Concerning the latter, the Bible clearly states, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22. What does this look like in practice? It means we should receive God’s Word as a message from the Lord and not put off for tomorrow what we should do today.

A final thought: The difficulties encountered in building bridges over barriers are human, not divine. God isn’t curbed or contained by the obstructions that hinder people from connecting with His Word. Yes, we struggle to be linked to the Bible (which by extension is to be linked with the One who is the Word – Jesus Christ), but as we struggle, we should remember we can overcome the challenges through Christ who gives us strength (cf. Philippians 4:13).

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

Bible-less or Bible-more?

Kenneth Briggs in his book, The Invisible Bestseller: Searching for the Bible in America, records his pilgrimage in search of biblical literacy. Remarkably, he says he found the most intimate familiarity with God’s Word, not in the hundreds of churches he visited, but in a prison!

The general decline of biblical literacy in the Western world is old news. But what’s new is that research conducted by Barna and LifeWay indicates that American Evangelical Christians have a failing grade when it comes to common knowledge about God’s Word.

There also seems to be a correlation between the size of a church and biblical literacy. Briggs says that the faith he finds in “mega-type churches” is a “Bible-less … alternative version of Christianity.” In other words, the larger the church the more likely it is for the Bible to be “a museum exhibit, hallowed as a treasure but enigmatic and untouched.”

I’m guessing, in the absence of similar research elsewhere, that the state of Bible literacy in other parts of the world is similar to the USA. That’s why I’m advocating for “Bible-more.” The Bible should be more than a lucky rabbit’s foot, more than a talisman to ward off evil, and more than a good book on a shelf in a home.

Why does this matter? Because when we’re Bible-less, the lies of the devil enslave us. But when we’re Bible-more, the truth sets us free!

In the subduction zone of nominal Christianity succumbing to the tectonic influences of postmodernity, Bible-less faith needs to be called out for the hollow sham that it is. Biblical illiteracy should never be tolerated in any church for any reason. To build a new generation of earthquake resistant Christians we must be Bible-more focused in every facet of everything we say and do.

Let’s give ourselves a kick in the pants! There should be no excuses for being Bible-less. We should be red-faced concerning our biblical ignorance … but then move on from our embarrassment by doing something about it … by determining to be Bible-more.

Will you help shake things up? The modern world was created because the Bible helped Western civilization discover how reading and thinking is grounded in the fact that truth is knowable. The postmodern world could likewise benefit if Christians became Bible-more … if Christians, through knowing and living out God’s Word, helped postmoderns discover the truth that sets them free.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

Reading the Bible Aloud

Reading the Bible aloud has been a Bible engagement practice since Old Testament (e.g. 2 Kings 23:2) and New Testament times (e.g. 1 Timothy 4:13), and continues today as a spiritual practice in every community of faith. But sadly, while reading the Bible aloud happens in most churches most every week, it isn’t always done well. So here’s a shout-out for reading the Bible aloud with the esteem and reverence it deserves.

There are several things we should take into consideration when reading the Bible aloud:

Christ should be the focus of all church worship and His Word should therefore be a centrepiece in the order of service. Scripture readings should be prayerfully and thoughtfully selected and interwoven throughout the service in a way that indicates that God’s Word is more important than what we say or sing about it.

A spiritual gravitas should accompany the public reading of Scripture. Every reader should take heed how they read. Adequate preparation and practice should, in every instance when Bible reading is part of the order of service, be a pre-requisite for the person(s) selected to do the reading(s). Readers should be mindful of correct pronunciation and enunciation.

An understanding of the genre of Scripture should inform the way the Bible is read. Poetry shouldn’t be read like prophecy or apocalyptic literature, a didactic passage shouldn’t be read like a genealogy, and a narrative discourse shouldn’t be read like a legal list of priestly duties.

Reading the Bible aloud requires a measure of performance. The emotional nature of the Scriptures should be communicated verbally. A lament should always be read with a sense of pathos, the miracles should always be read with wonder and awe, passages about God’s grace and mercy should be read with heartfelt appreciation, and accounts of sin should always be read with feelings that express grief or sorrow.

The aim of all public reading of the Word should be to draw the listener to Christ. We read the Scriptures to invite the community of faith to know and be known by the Word. And we should read in a way that expects and encourages God’s people to obey the Word.

Readings should be long enough to provide adequate context and understanding. When there are multiple readings in a church service, they should be integrated and connected with the other elements of the service. This requires planning, prayer and sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, while we read the Bible to one-another, we’re ultimately reading the Word to an audience of One. When we read the Bible aloud, we’re reading it to the King of kings. Let’s keep this in mind, the One who is the Word is the One who listens to us reading His Word. So when reading the Bible aloud, picture yourself before the holy One seated on the throne, then read to bring honour and glory to Him.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

One Big Story

The Bible is one big Story of redemption, restoration and renewal through Christ Jesus. Yet regrettably, the Bible isn’t always read, heard, shared, taught or engaged as one big Story. Many people limit the Bible to being lessons in good behaviour, an arrangement of doctrines, a source book for wisdom, words or succour, interesting literature, something to be studied, or a guide for decision making.

The one big Story is full of stories. Seventy-five percent of the Bible is narrative and the remaining twenty-five percent is composed of poetic or didactic material. The narrative composition of the Bible should direct our engagement. Rather than majoring on the directives of the Bible, as many do, we should engage with the Bible in ways that ignite our hearts and minds to the one big Story. That is, we should chiefly interact with the Bible as the Story of God’s love for us; how Christ Jesus came to rescue us from sin and give us fullness of life.

Engaging with the Bible as one big Story about Christ Jesus and His love for us shouldn’t be one approach among many. It should be the only approach. Why? Because from the beginning to the end of the Bible, according to the Bible, Christ Jesus is the focus of the Story (cf. Luke 24:27). That’s not to say that He’s mentioned directly in every sub-story. He’s not. In many instances He’s “hidden.” But it is to say that all the stories, taken together, are one big Story about Christ Jesus and how He wants us to enter into and become a part of His Story.Gods-Story4-copy

So what is the storyline of the big Story that Christ Jesus wants us to enter into and become a part of? The Story begins with our creation and shortly thereafter our separation from God because of sin. What follows concerns God’s grace as He seeks to restore humanity to Himself. It’s the Story of brokenness and how we can be whole through faith in Christ Jesus.

At the heart of the Story is the incarnation and life of Christ Jesus. The Story reaches its climax when a great reversal occurs. Amazingly, humanity is given the opportunity to be reconciled to God through the sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection of Christ Jesus.

The Story is good news second to none! It’s about the greatest rescue plan in history – about God in the person of Christ Jesus who enters our world to save – about the Redeemer who ultimately makes everything right. And more. What makes it good news is that it’s a living Story concerning you and me. In Christ, all things are made new (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). The Story reveals how, through confession, repentance and belief in Christ Jesus, we can know salvation from the penalty of sin, fullness of life now, and the hope of eternal life to come.

The grand ending of the one big Story depicts creation renewed. The ending is really a fresh beginning; a magnificent turn-around. Everything will be new – a new heaven and a new earth in which there is no more pain, sorrow or death. And Christ Jesus will live with His people forever.

While the one big Story has a beginning and an end, it’s also a never ending Story. The paradox of the Story is that as we enter into it we discover that we’re living in the tension between the already and the not yet. That’s why we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10 (NIV). And as we pray this prayer we’re reminded that we owe allegiance, not to ourselves, but to the King. The purpose of our lives is to do what the King wants us to do: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8 (NIV). This is our kingdom work until the new heaven and the new earth are realized.

Unlike the story of those in the world without Christ Jesus, the one big Story transforms us so that we can do kingdom work, not in our own strength, but with the strength that comes from Christ Jesus. When we enter into the Story we are in fact committing ourselves, at His invitation and direction, to share and live-out the Story through the course of our lives.

So engage with the Bible as one big Story of redemption, restoration and renewal through Christ Jesus. And in so doing aim for your story to become His Story. For as Glenn Paauw from the Institute for Bible Reading says, “the Bible wants us to see our own lives as little parts of its own bigger, grander story.”

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

How are you reading the Bible?

How are you reading the Bible? Bible engagement isn’t about reading the Bible exclusively to gather facts, get guidance or learn how to be good. Satan loves it when people read the Bible for these reasons because as long as we’re reading the Bible to simply grow in knowledge, figure out what to do, or develop our morality, we’re not engaging with the Bible as we should.

God wants us to taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8a). The goal of Bible reading should be to encounter Christ Jesus and to engage with Him in ways that lead us to become increasingly more like Him.taste-and-see-that-the-lord_t_nv

John Piper, the pastor and theologian, says, “Bible reading that only collects facts, or relieves a guilty conscience, or gathers doctrinal arguments, or titillates aesthetic literary tastes, or feeds historical curiosities – this kind of Bible reading Satan is perfectly happy to leave alone. He has already won the battle.”

How are you reading the Bible? Do you read it focusing on the fact that it’s ultimately the Story about Christ Jesus and how he sacrificed His life in order to atone for your sin and reconcile you to God? If not, you’re not reading the Bible as God intended.

Here’s what Satan tries to hide from us: The overall Bible story centres on Jesus. It’s about His astronomical, unconditional, sacrificial, incomparable, transformational, and eternal love for us. A love that made the world right again by making it possible, through trust in Him, for our sin to be acquitted and our death sentence revoked. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” 1 John 4:10.

Christ’s love for us is why the Word we read has to be the Word we know. For this to happen we cannot rely on pastors, professors or prophets, but from spending time in the Word in order to encounter the presence of the living Word. Then, when we encounter the living Word we should ask Him to renew us through His written Word. For it’s only through encountering Christ Jesus personally and openly that our minds and hearts will be convicted and changed to live a life of love emulating Christ’s love.

So how are you reading the Bible? There are only two ways to read God’s Word. The right way and the wrong way. And the right way is to read the Word as the Word we know.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5