JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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Spiritually Malnourished

Why are so many Christians spiritually malnourished? Maybe it’s because they’re trying to survive on a starvation diet.

It’s odd. There’s plenty of spiritual food available. Yet many Christians only eat once a week. Admittedly the once a week meal is usually a feast that a pastor’s prepared. Then when everything’s been consumed, mouths are dabbed with communion napkins and we go home to live hungry lives until we can slide into a pew for the next banquet.

What’s up? Why do some of us try to exist on a diet that consists of only one or two meals every seven days? It’s bizarre! We’re not food-deprived. We could and should be enjoying an amazing buffet every day.

When we don’t eat physical food we soon become tired, weak, irritable, depressed, lack concentration, or fall sick. Something similar happens when we don’t eat spiritual food.

Just like we’re made to eat physical food, we’re made to eat spiritual food. One or two meals a week can’t sustain us and a snack every now and again is simply not enough. Physically, we need three square meals a day. Spiritually we need a substantial, satisfying and balanced meal every day.

A child learns to suckle and then chew. Many Christians are spiritually malnourished because no one’s taught them how to eat the Word.

So how do we learn to eat? By first learning how to live on milk and then learning how to live on solid food (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:13-14). Like everything in life, learning begins with understanding the elementary principles and practices, then building on that foundation.

Eating the Word commences with learning how to read, listen, digest, and apply the Scriptures. Once these things are mastered, we must learn how to contemplate, interpret, study, memorize, pray, teach, and live the Scriptures.

When I was a boy, my diet was basic. As I grew older, I started eating a wider range of foods. In the same way, we must start with a basic diet, then add new foods as we grow. There’s a smorgasbord of fine foods to satisfy our palates. To grow spiritually we must taste the different Bible engagement practices in order to enjoy the delights of God’s Word.

The hunger in us needs to be satiated. We were made to feed on God’s Word. Spiritual malnourishment shouldn’t exist in the Church. But that will only happen when we learn to eat the Word.

Recommended Resource:

Bible Engagement Basics https://www.amazon.ca/Bible-Engagement-Basics-Lawson-Murray-ebook/dp/B079B77Y72

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Why Pray Scripture?

Many people pray. Many people pray biblically informed prayers. Praying, or praying biblically informed prayers is different from praying Scripture.

Every Christian should pray Scripture. Unfortunately, most Christians, while they know how to pray, don’t know how to pray Scripture.

Praying Scripture is using God’s Word directly to inform and form the content of prayer. It’s praying the Scriptures word for word, praying the Scriptures word for word along with reflection on the words, or praying the themes of a Scripture passage in a manner that sticks close to the text. According to Christian spirituality professor, Evan Howard, “To pray the Scriptures is to order one’s time of prayer around a particular text in the Bible.”

Here are ten reasons why we should pray Scripture:

  1. Jesus prayed Scripture.

When Jesus was dying on the cross He prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46. It’s a direct quote from Psalm 22:1 and illustrates how Jesus obviously read, understood and prayed Scripture as it related to His situation or circumstance.

  1. The Israelites and early Church prayed Scripture.

The people of the Old and New Testament times prayed Scripture and meaningfully applied it to their contexts (e.g. Nehemiah 9:5-37, Acts 4:24-26).

  1. It enables us to enter into the Story.

Praying Scripture personalizes the Word. When we personalize the Word, His Story becomes our story. As this happens, we find our parts in the drama which in turn enables us to act out the roles designed for our lives.

  1. It focuses the mind and heart.

Praying Scripture changes us. It captures our imagination, forms our identities, directs our desires, and shapes our habits. When we pray Scripture, we don’t have to ask, “What should I pray for next?” or “What words should I use?”

  1. It provides meaningful content for prayer.

Sometimes our prayers are trivial or trite – the same tired ritualistic phrases. Praying the same old prayers the same old way mummifies prayer. When we pray Scripture, it provides substance, form, and a wide range of subject matter for our prayers.

  1. It strengthens interaction with the Scriptures.

Reading Scripture and praying Scripture go hand in hand. Bible reading enables us to pray more vividly and expressively. The more you pray Scripture the more you’ll read Scripture, and the more you read Scripture the more you’ll pray Scripture. Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology Andy Naselli says, “But if we pray Scripture as we read through the Bible, that will force us to pray about a rich variety of issues in scriptural proportion.”

  1. It cultivates breadth and depth in our prayers.

To pray Scripture we must read and reflect on Scripture. The process of reading and reflecting on Scripture cultivates breadth and depth in our prayers. Left to ourselves, our prayers have a narrow focus, but the Scriptures open us up to many things we can and should be praying. As author and teacher, John Piper reminds us, “If we don’t form the habit of praying the Scriptures, our prayers … eventually revolve entirely around our immediate private concerns, rather than God’s larger purposes.”

  1. It kindles love for Jesus.

Jesus is the theme of the Bible. Praying Scripture draws us closer to Jesus. Love is fostered by proximity. The nearer we get to Jesus, the more we love Him. Ray Ortlund says, “I have learned to see the Bible as kindling for a holy fire. Scripture is meant to inform us, and thus to inflame us. It is meant to illuminate our thoughts of God, and thus to ignite our affections for God.”

  1. It aids Scripture memorization.

Praying Scripture involves repetition. Repetition is essential for memorization. As we pray God’s Word back to Him, it helps lodge His Word in our hearts and minds.

  1. It aligns us with God’s will.

We can’t go wrong when we pray Scripture. Praying Scripture is praying truth and praying truth unites our hearts with God’s heart. Therefore, when we pray Scripture we won’t be self-deceived because Scripture brings us in line with God’s will.

Are you in a prayer rut? Do your prayers lack life? Do you have the best of intentions to pray, then when you get started, your mind wanders or you fall asleep? You can pray for hours if you pray Scripture. Open your Bible to the Psalms, start reading, pause at each verse, engage your sanctified imagination, pray the verses back to God, and without fail, you will pray dynamically and productively.

Recommended Resource: The Abide Bible, Thomas Nelson, 2020. [This Bible includes prompts or sidebars to help you pray Scripture]

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Nothing Less

What makes a whole Christian?

American pastor A.W. Tozer once said, “The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”

If nothing less than the whole Bible makes a whole Christian, then the number of Christians in the world is grossly exaggerated!

That’s a frightening thought, even though it’s only a half-truth (we’re not saved through reading/hearing the whole Bible).

What is true is the realization that when we only read/hear parts of the Bible we want to read/hear, we’re in dangerous territory. God gave us the whole Bible, not a condensed Bible, because every page of every book in the Bible is useful one way or another for knowing and growing in Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).

Think of it this way: If the whole Bible is the whole truth of God, then to read, reflect and respond to less than the whole Bible is to read, reflect and respond to something less than the whole truth. When we respond to something less than the whole truth, we’re a cult!

The Apostle Paul was keenly aware of this. He did everything possible to proclaim the “whole will of God” (Acts 20:27) because he knew if he shrank away from declaring everything God wanted his listeners to hear, he would be held responsible for their eternal death!

What are you basing your life on? The whole truth, half the truth, a quarter of the truth or a few nuggets of truth? Anything less than the whole truth isn’t really the truth. That’s why, when we give testimony in a court of law, we’re asked to swear by Almighty God, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The whole truth …

Are you ignoring half of the Bible? Maybe it’s time to speak to God about this – to promise to read, reflect and respond to the whole Bible and nothing less than the whole Bible.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Rooting out Legalism

There’s an injunction in Galatians 6:1 to “watch yourself.” Eugene Peterson in the Message interprets this command as “saving your critical comments for yourself.” Sometimes (and tragically) the Pharisee in me gets the better of me. Instead of watching myself, I see the speck in someone else’s eye. Which got me thinking about rooting out legalism in my life, and then got me thinking about rooting out legalism in how I engage with the Bible. So here are my thoughts as they pertain to rooting out legalism in Bible engagement:

To begin, I should probably admit to a tendency to promote my own personal Bible engagement standards. My personal standards are rules or expectations expressed in words like, “Christians should have a ‘quiet time’ (prayer and Bible reading) every day.” While this personal standard may be okay for me, it’s not okay for me to press others to adopt this standard.

When I was a young Christian I was free and easy about urging fellow Christians to have a quiet time. I didn’t appreciate that what I was doing was legalistic. Most legalists are legalists without realizing it.

Recognizing that the fog of legalism is ever present helped me identify four legalistic Bible engagement inclinations that I need to guard against:

  1. Self-righteousness. If I read and reflect on God’s Word in a way that makes sure others are aware of my good behaviour, I’ve crossed the line into legalism. Performance-based Christianity should never be the goal of Bible engagement.
  2. Human effort. If my motive for reading and reflecting on God’s Word is to exert all the energy I can muster to make God happy or be a good Christian, I’ve got it all wrong. Bible engagement conducted in my own strength is antithetical.
  3. Religious duty. Reading and reflecting on God’s Word to be devout or faithful is another form of legalism. The spirit of legalism is also inherent in the fear that God might punish or reject me for not reading or reflecting on His Word. Religious duty is the enemy of Bible engagement.
  4. Personal standards. Telling others to “Read your Bible every day” is legalism. It’s not a command in the Bible and I shouldn’t equate personal values with God’s values. That to identify that the measure of Bible engagement is in God’s hands, not mine.

 

That’s my Bible engagement short list for rooting out legalism. It reminds me that Bible engagement should never be obedience to a formula or special moral code. Bible engagement, correctly undertaken, breaks all bondage to legalism and sets me free. For true Bible engagement is a grace-filled, Christ-exalting, kingdom-championing process that liberates me to live fully and only all for Jesus.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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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


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In Your Mouth …

Some of my friends and family call me Mr. Bible Engagement. I’m not sure how I feel about that because even though I’m an advocate for Bible engagement in my daily work, I’m still maturing in my personal reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to God’s Word.

My knowledge about God’s Word is a case in point. I had never noticed (in the sense that something really “jumps” out at you), until recently, that the scriptures prioritize the importance of God’s Word being “in your mouth” and not departing “from your mouth” (cf. Isaiah 59:21).

Maybe it’s because we’re inclined to compartmentalize what we do and say, but I don’t usually hear Christians mentioning God’s Word in their everyday conversations. Is God’s Word in your mouth? When we speak the Word it’s an affirmation that God’s Word is true and real in our lives. It’s also an indication that we’re Spirit filled Christians and God’s covenant people.

Faith can never be a private affair. If you have faith in your heart it should also be in your mouth. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” Romans 10:10 (NIV). Plainly stated, the evidence of your faith is the verbal confession of your salvation. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” Luke 6:45 (NIV).

Taking another tack: The emphasis with some preaching and teaching, is to encourage Christians to diligently meditate on God’s Word and memorize it. What’s considered important is renewing the mind through daily Bible reading and reflection. But renewing the mind, while essential, isn’t the desired end. God commanded Joshua to meditate on the Word day and night so that it would always be on his lips (cf. Joshua 1:8).

So what does it look like for God’s Word to be in your mouth? A friend recently told me that every day as part of her reading and reflecting on God’s Word, she searches for a verse in the text that she writes on a serviette. At some point during the day she verbally shares this Scripture (why it’s meaningful or how it’s impacted her life) with someone, and then gives them the serviette.

Is my friends methodology unusual? Maybe. But what she does models the importance of having God’s Word in your mouth. So keep a serviette handy, or do whatever helps you to engage with the Bible in order to intentionally “speak words of wisdom” Psalm 49:3 (NIV).

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Renewal

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a German professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg, started a schism in the Catholic Church when he sent a Theses (also nailed to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg) enclosed with a letter to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz. The Theses propositions disputed the power of indulgences and effectively started the Reformation and the branch of Christianity known as ProtestanBruenig_Lucas_Cranach_imgtism.

Luther’s dispute with the Catholic Church included a belief in the Bible alone (rather than with sacred tradition) as the highest authority in matters of faith and practice (sola scriptura). So for most Protestants, and a Bible engagement advocate like myself, the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation is hugely significant.

While much could be said about the doctrines of sola scriptura, prima scriptura (Anglican, Methodist, Wesleyan), or the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Catholic), the purpose of this article is rather about how we desperately need a Bible engagement renewal.

Despite all that’s been accomplished down through the centuries to stress the primacy of God’s Word in the faith and practice of the Church, there’s a significant lack of emphasis on Bible engagement in many churches. Something’s lost that needs to be found. And to find what’s been lost we must begin with lamenting the weak state of Bible reading, reflecting, receiving, remembering and responding.

Someone once said that we “need to let the Bible accuse us.” The trouble is we’re not connecting with it in a way that opens the door for the Bible to show us where we’ve gone astray, and we don’t give it room to help us return to the place where it gets to have its way with us (because Bible engagement is essentially Jesus engagement, this statement should also be understood as Jesus getting to have His way with us through His Word ).

Through the course of history God breaks into the affairs of humanity to renew and restore us to Himself. Five-hundred years on from the last great renewal in Bible engagement we need the Lord to bring us alive to His Word again. There are no shortcuts to a Bible engagement renewal (unless God chooses otherwise). The process of renewal usually requires the following:

  • Recognize the need for a Bible engagement renewal. “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” Psalm 85:6.
  • Pursue a Bible engagement renewal personally. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” Psalm 51:1.
  • Seek forgiveness for personal and communal sin. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Psalm 51:10.
  • Promise to follow the Lord and engage His Word with all your heart and soul and mind (cf. 2 Kings 23:3).
  • Act on the Word. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22.

Now pray for a Bible engagement renewal; trusting God to usher in a much needed season of long term growth that will be marked by the strengthening of individuals and communities of faith as they connect with Jesus and His Story.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Basics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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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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Eat This Book

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message (an idiomatic translation of the Bible in contemporary language) has, as would be expected, much to say about how we read the Bible. In Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, he challenges us to read the Scriptures on God’s terms and to live them as we read them. Here are some extracts from Eat This Book that will hopefully entice you to read the Bible like dogs gnawing on a bone:

The challenge – never negligible – regarding the Christian Scriptures is getting them read, but read on their own terms, as God’s revelation.

What is neglected is reading the Scriptures formatively, reading in order to live.

In order to read the Scriptures adequately and accurately, it is necessary at the same time to live them … not to live them in consequence of reading them, but to live them as we read them.

The Bible reveals the self-revealing God and along with that the way the world is, the way life is, the way we are.

The Bible is basically and overall a narrative – an immense, sprawling, capacious narrative.

The biblical story invites us in as participants in something larger than our sin-defined needs, into something truer than our culture-stunted ambitions.

When we submit our lives to what we read in Scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s.

Scripture is the revelation of a world that is vast, far larger than the sin-stunted, self-constricted world that we construct for ourselves out of a garage-sale assemblage of texts.

Scripture draws us out of ourselves, out of our fiercely guarded individualities, into the world of responsibility and community and salvation – God’s sovereignty.

It takes the whole Bible to read any part of the Bible.

One of the most urgent tasks facing the Christian community today is to counter self-sovereignty by reasserting what it means to live these Holy Scriptures from the inside out, instead of using them for our sincere and devout but still self-sovereign purposes.

We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers … But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge.

Our imaginations have to be revamped to take in this large, immense world of God’s revelation in contrast to the small, cramped, world of human “figuring out.”

A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to the text far more quickly than any number of Bible studies and dictionaries and concordances.

The biblical story pulls the holy community – not just you, not just me – into the story in a participating way.

If we are to get the full force of the word, God’s word, we need to recover its atmosphere of spokenness.

The primary organ for receiving God’s revelation is not the eye that sees but the ear that hears – which means that all of our reading of Scripture must develop into a hearing of the word of God.

The Scriptures are our listening post for learning the language of the soul, the ways God speaks to us; they also provide the vocabulary and grammar that are appropriate for us as we in turn speak to God.

Contemplation simply must be reclaimed as essential in all reading and living of Scripture. It is not an option; it is necessary.

The words of Scripture are not primarily words, however impressive, that label or define or prove, but words that mean, that reveal, that shape the soul, that generate saved lives, that form believing and obedient lives.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5