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Bible Engagement Blog


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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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Back to the Bible

Renewal and revival are desperately needed. The church is struggling and the world is carefree. Faith is luke-warm, beliefs are shallow and attendance at worship services is in decline. Moral relativism prevails, polytheism and idolatry is commonplace, and hedonism is thriving.

One of the reasons why the church is struggling is because Bible engagement has diminished. According to the Canadian Bible Engagement Study there’s a direct correlation between weekly church attendance and regular Bible engagement. When church attendance declines, so does Bible engagement. When Bible engagement declines, so does church attendance.

Spiritual health and growth will be restored when we get back to the Bible. As Bible engagement goes, so goes the nation. When our Bibles start falling apart, society will stop falling apart! If we want renewal and revival we must read the Word for all it’s worth and live it out for all to see.

Do we want to see sinners repent, love increase, justice triumph and righteousness prevail? If we do, then our hearts, minds, bodies and souls must be soaked in God’s Word. Bible engagement is not an option, it’s a necessity. When we feed on the Word, faith flourishes. When faith flourishes, God’s kingdom grows.

There are no shortcuts with Bible engagement. It requires inclination, time and perseverance. Here are ten practical tips for developing and deepening your personal engagement with the Word:

Choose an appropriate version. As a rule of thumb use a Bible that’s easy to read. Keep several versions on hand for comparison and contrast. You can use an online Bible like Bible Gateway to read different versions in parallel.

Pray. Bible reading and reflection requires illumination from the Holy Spirit. Ask God to be your teacher. Trust Him to open your heart and mind – to give you insight and understanding (cf. Proverbs 2:1-5).

Use a Bible reading guide. Bible reading and reflection is enhanced through the use of a reading guide. Scripture Union specializes in guides for all ages, helping people deepen their understanding and grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Consult commentaries and concordances. To help us read the Bible for all it’s worth we need to understand the original meaning of words, do word searches, appreciate the cultural setting of the text, and learn from gifted theologians.

Stick to a plan. Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Having a strategy in place, or a target to aim for, helps focus connections with the Bible. A simple reading plan like the Scripture Gift Mission free 5/52 Reading Plan will help you track your progress.

Mine the text. The Bible is a quarry full of precious gems. To find the gems you ‘dig’, ‘crush’ and ‘screen’ the text. Don’t leave a word unturned – examine it from every angle. Read and re-read until you find the treasure.

Open your ears. We can listen without hearing and hear without understanding (cf. Matthew 13:13). Sin closes our ears and dulls our spirit. Denial, pride, wrong attitudes, greed, selfish ambition, holding onto our own agenda and un-forgiveness all get in the way of hearing God speak through His Word.

Focus on Jesus. The entire Bible centers on Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. Read the Old Testament expecting the coming of Christ. Read the New Testament in the light of Christ having come and coming again.

Meditate on truth. “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 (NIV).

Do it! “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22 (NIV)

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Through Jesus and For Jesus

Why do you read the Bible? People mainly read it for their personal needs. A 2009 Canadian case study on Bible reading revealed that people read “for guidance, knowledge and direction” (28.2%), “for help, reassurance and comfort” (26.4%), “for understanding, answers and perspective on life” (21.5%), or to know/learn about God/Jesus (20.2%).

Check out a church bulletin or website and it’s obvious that many Bible study, life or small group meetings are “me” focused. Studies harness the Scriptures to address felt needs. Marriage groups spotlight husband and wife relationships, youth groups tackle adolescent issues, parenting groups deal with child rearing, recovery groups target substance abuse, and so on. In many small groups the Bible is mainly a manual of divine instruction.

Is it possible to read, reflect on and even revere the Bible yet completely miss the point of what it’s all about? Some people can quote sections of the Bible, sometimes in its original languages, yet they don’t know faith in Jesus Christ. There are ministers who recite Scriptures from a lectionary, something they’ve done for decades, but they don’t know the One who is the Word. And some theologians reduce the Bible to nothing more than a reference book to uphold their theological perspectives.

I used to think we needed a Bible reading revival. My thinking has been amended. Bible reading per se is not what transforms our lives. Jesus transforms lives. What we need is a Jesus revival! That’s not to say that transformation can happen independently from God’s Word – far from it! But it is to say that we can be “Bible-believing” or “Word-centered” yet miss the point if we’re not “Christ-centred”.

While it’s true that God’s Word is our source of guidance, comfort and understanding, let’s make sure we don’t limit it to these ends. Ultimately God’s given us His Word to lead us to Christ. So let’s read the Bible to know Jesus and make Him known!

© Scripture Union Canada 2012


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Revival

Revival is intimately linked to Bible engagement. The 19th Century Swiss Protestant theologian and church historian, Philip Schaff, wrote: “Every true progress in church history is conditioned by a new and deeper study of the Scriptures.” That is to say, every spiritual awakening has sprung from and been fuelled by God’s Word.

Revival is a breath of Heaven – a divine visitation bringing deep repentance, renewal and righteousness. Individuals, churches, communities and nations are in desperate need of revival. In a time of plenty we have so little. There’s no shortage of food and water, but spiritual emptiness, shallow enticements and energy sapping pursuits are robbing us of fullness of life.

We’re falling away from God. Someone once said, “As the church goes, so goes the nation.” Performance and program driven churches are generally the order of the day. Consumer motivated values inform what we do and why we do what we do. The majority of people attend church wanting to socialize and enjoy the entertainment. Prayer meetings are usually the poorest attended meetings in the church. Many Christians don’t read the Bible regularly and few live lives informed by a biblical worldview. As God said thousands of years ago: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me . . .” Isaiah 29:13 (NIV).

Revival is the need of the hour. The psalmist cries, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” Psalm 85:6 (NIV).  If we share the heart cry of the psalmist we need to know that one of the preparatory conditions for revival is “a new and deeper study of the Scriptures”. The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the puritan revivals in the 17th century, the revival ministry of Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards and others in the 18th century, and the extraordinary awakenings in the 19th and 20th centuries were all marked by a return to the Word.

Revival changes everything. May a generation of Bible studying, Bible believing, Bible living men and women be raised up for the 21st century.

© Scripture Union Canada 2012


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Open the Book

After several years investigating the connections Canadians do or do not have with the Bible, we’ve discovered the Bible is the most popular least read book! Tragically, while there are three Bibles in the average Canadian home, they’re usually found on a dust covered shelf. Despite the availability and advanced marketing of the Bible, fewer and fewer Canadians are reading the Bible, knowing what it says, and living according to its principles.                                                                                                                       

Even among churched Christians, many never read the Bible from cover to cover. A Bible literacy poll in an Evangelical Toronto church in March 2010 revealed that eighteen percent of the congregation reported reading the Bible once a day, thirty-eight percent read the Bible once a week, twenty-one percent read the Bible once a month, and twenty-three percent said they seldom or never read the Bible.

The fact that the Bible is being treated lightly, ignored, or dismissed, isn’t due to limited selection or accessibility. Among the more than eight-hundred English versions of the Bible there are hundreds of reader friendly formats and more than one-thousand different Bibles that can be purchased online from Amazon.com. There’s even a waterproof version for those who like reading in the shower!

At Scripture Union Canada we’re deeply concerned about the growing disconnection with the Bible. Yet while we’re concerned, we’re optimistic. The decline in Bible engagement means there are more opportunities than before to bring fresh invitations for people to connect with the Bible. So we’re praying for a Bible reading revival – praying that Canadians will open the Book.

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2011