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Bible Engagement Blog


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Twenty Thought-Provoking Comments On Bible Engagement

In no particular order, here are twenty thought-provoking comments on Bible engagement:

– “For most Christians in the First World the Bible remains a closed book, a Pandora’s Box of isolated and unrelated proof texts, or what is worse – an individualistic invitation to hang out with a cool dude called Jesus. There have to be better reasons for reading, performing and reciting the Scriptures than these.” Colin Greene & Martin Robinson, Metavista: Bible, Church and Mission in an Age of Imagination

– “The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.” Søren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

– “We read Scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be.” N.T. Wright, Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today

– “One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. That is because in the Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot simply think about God in one’s own strength, one has to inquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reading the Bible

– “We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service.” Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

– “God did not give the Bible so we could master him or it; God gave the Bible so we could live it, so we could be mastered by it. The moment we think we’ve mastered it, we have failed to be readers of the Bible.” Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible

– “The Bible was composed in such a way that as beginners mature, its meaning grows with them.” Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

– “The Bible is the greatest of all books; to study it is the noblest of all pursuits; to understand it, the highest of all goals.” Charles C. Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible

– “I think the greatest weakness in the church today is that almost no one believes that God invests His power in the Bible. Everyone is looking for power in a program, in a methodology, in a technique, in anything and everything but that in which God has placed it – His Word.” R.C. Sproul, The Prayer of the Lord

– “The soul can do without everything except the word of God, without which none at all of its wants are provided for.” Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty

– “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. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.” Eugene H. Peterson, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading

– “Happy is that man who possesses a Bible! Happier still is he who reads it! Happiest of all is he who not only reads it, but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice!” J.C. Ryle, Bible Reading

– “Too many of God’s people don’t know God’s Word, don’t really believe God’s Word or don’t do God’s Word.” Rick Warren, 40 Days in the Word

– “And so the test of whether or not we have really gotten the point of the Bible would then be the quality of love that we show.” Richard J. Foster, Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation

– “To our shame, we have hungered to be masters of the Word much more than we have hungered to be mastered by it.” D.A. Carson, Collected Writings on Scripture

– “Reading God’s Word and meditating on its truth will have a purifying effect upon your mind and heart, and will be demonstrated in your life. Let nothing take the place of this daily privilege.” Billy Graham, The Heaven Answer Book

– “It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him.” C.S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis

– “The Bible is the Word of God because in it Jesus, the Word incarnate, comes to us. Any who read the Bible and somehow do not find Jesus in it, have not encountered the Word of God.” Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity

– “It would be a pity if, in a desire (rightly) to treat the Bible as more than a book, we ended up treating it as less than a book by not permitting it the range and use of language, order, and figures of speech that are (or ought to be) familiar to us from our ordinary experience of conversation and reading.” John C. Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science 

– “The truly wise man is he who believes the Bible against the opinion of any man. If the Bible says one thing, and any body of men says another, the wise man will decide, ‘This book is the Word of Him who cannot lie’.” R.A. Torrey, Ten Reasons I Believe the Bible is the Word of God

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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The All-Consuming Concern Of Engaging Canadians With The Bible

Despite our high view of Scripture, Evangelicals are trending away from reading and reflecting on God’s Word. That may be an issue for some, but for Scripture Union, it’s an all-consuming concern.

Scripture Union’s mission is to connect Canadians with Jesus and His Story. logo2TheStory-250-e1364843137630That’s what we endeavour to do, every day of every year. But with fewer and fewer people engaging with the Bible it’s increasingly more challenging to invite people to immerse their stories in God’s Story.

So the question is, what do we do? How do we help people find their way into the Word? And how do we help the Church find its way out of the present decline in Bible engagement? These, and many other related questions, weigh heavily on our hearts and minds.

There are no easy answers and no quick fixes for the decline in Bible engagement. But we’re learning things that may contain their own seed, their own lessons for how we might help people engage with the Bible.

One obvious lesson we’ve learned is that the decline in Bible engagement isn’t just a Bible agency problem. It’s a problem for the whole Christian community. We all suffer, all struggle, all experience loss when we drift away from the Word.

Another lesson we’ve learned is that we’re better together. It’s going to take all of us, united in purpose, to deal with the decline in Bible engagement. Going it alone is not an option. Each one of us has to play a part. Collaborations and partnerships are crucial for success.

These two lessons, in part, informed the birth and development of theStory™ – a free online Bible reading guide in French and English. (A Bible reading guide is different to a Bible reading plan. A Bible reading guide provides textual commentary, teaching, insight and reflection).

Everything about theStory™ smacks of community and collaboration. The writers of theStory™ are some of Canada’s leading evangelical teachers, preachers, communicators, and authors. They come from different denominations, different provinces, and different walks of life. While they are different, they have a common objective – to help individuals and communities engage with God’s Word.

Partnerships power theStory™. Ligue pour la lecture de la Bible does the translation of the writers reflections, the Canadian Bible Society provides the online Scriptures, and Deeks Insurance are the sponsors.

All told, theStory™ is a wonderful testament to how Bible engagement can be advanced when we work together. It takes more than 120 writers, translators, editors, copy editors and administrators to publish the daily posts. The outcome? Since May 2013, when the first post was published, there have been more than 150, 000 distinct downloads. People from every province and territory are reading the Scriptures, reflecting on the texts, and responding in prayer.

While theStory™ is only one of many good Bible reading guides, it’s unique because it’s a great expression of Canadian Evangelical unity.

Who would have thought that Pentecostals and Plymouth Brethren could have back-to-back reflections on the Scriptures in the same publication. Amazingly, the Calvinists, Arminians, Charismatics, Wesleyans and other writers all collaborate. How do they do it? They choose to be kingdom minded. They agreed to avoid discussion of contentious or divisive theological issues and refrain from taking sides on issues over which Christians legitimately disagree … and that’s the spirit that may help people trend back to reading and reflecting on God’s Word.

Faith Today Blog, March 27, 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Ten Ways To Help Children Engage With The Bible

“Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost” Proverbs 22:6 (Msg).

To help children be on the right path and stay on it we must teach them the Scriptures (cf. Deuteronomy 6:7).

Here are ten ways for parents to help children engage with the Bible:

Do it together. Talk about the Scriptures at home (cf. Deuteronomy 6:7). The Bible is about relationships (with God and others) and well suited to family settings. Take turns reading it. Fix a regular time for doing it (e.g. supper). Make it interactive.

Make it appealing. Children draft off the emotions of their parents. Read the Bible with excitement, wonder and passion. Be dramatic. Be expressive. Add fun elements.

Connect it. Relate the Scriptures to real life events that are happening here and now. Capitalize on teachable moments. Form links to your children’s interests and experiences. Think like a boy/think like a girl. Show children the bigger picture.

Apply it. Find practical ways to enable children to live what they learn. For example, if you’re reading about loving others; take your children to the local soup kitchen to help out.

Talk about it. Encourage children to share their thoughts. Facilitate dialogue and discussion. Foster an environment for asking questions and making comments. Keep it conversational. Help them reflect on their interpretations and perceptions. Chat about your own experiences and insights. Use illustrations, testimonies and stories.

Be creative. Sing the Scriptures. Act them out. Use finger puppets. Make things. Write a play. Dress up. Speak with accents or different voices. Play experiential games. Eat what biblical characters ate (e.g. matzos when reading about the Passover in Luke 22).

Go visual. Check out The Bible Project and Max7. Download the free Bible App for Kids.

Be realistic. Don’t expect too much. Don’t settle for too little. There will be stops and starts, set-backs and victories. Roll with it. Pray. Encourage your children to persevere.

Use age appropriate resources. Check out Scripture Union’s Bible reading guides at http://www.scriptureunion.ca/bookstore-1/bible-guides/children?Page=1&Items=9 and Scripture books for children aged 4-8 at http://www.scriptureunion.ca/bookstore-1/books-children/rhyming-books And a shout-out for Phil Vischers What’s in the Bible? DVD series – it’s an excellent resource for elementary age children.

Do it yourself. More is caught than taught. Children learn to value what you value. Model a love for God’s Word. When children see you regularly reading the Bible, it helps them develop a Bible reading habit.

Make a contribution. Share your comments, guidelines or practical suggestions to help children engage with the Bible.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement and Prayer

Bible engagement and prayer go together. We should read the Word with thought given to prayer and pray with thought given to the Word.

Maybe you’ve asked, “How do I pray according to God’s will?” When prayers are informed and fuelled by God’s Word, they will be consistent with His plans and purposes.

Here’s a simple three step method (the 3 R’s) to help you pray according to God’s will:

  • Read Scripture
  • Reflect on Scripture
  • Respond to Scripture (pray)

I’ve used the 3 R’s for decades and it works brilliantly. Once I’ve read a portion of Scripture and spent time digging into the text I take the truths that the Holy Spirit has illuminated and pray them back to God. When I do this I find my prayers come alive. There’s something special about praying God’s Word back to Him. It’s real and relevant – never rote.

When the Scriptures are the content of our prayers they guide the way we pray. Our natural tendency, when our prayers aren’t directly informed by the Scriptures, are to mainly pray “God bless me and my family” or “Please help me” prayers. But when the launch-pad for our prayers are the Word, they incline us to pray all manner of prayers: petition, thanksgiving, adoration, entreaty, praise, intercession, declaration, formation, celebration, spiritual warfare, healing, and more.

That’s not to say that the Bible is a “prayer book”. It isn’t. Nor is it to say that the Psalms or the many prayers in the Bible should be the main source for our prayers (even though they provide tremendous frameworks for prayer). But it is to say that when we read and reflect on the Word it gives us glimpses of God that help us to align our hearts with His heart. Then, when our hearts are aligned with God’s heart, we pray according to His will.

* Recommendation: Inspiring Prayer is a great primer for prayer – a 54 page Scripture booklet from SGM Canada, for less than a dollar!

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Pondering His Precepts

Here’s a tried and tested daily Bible reading methodology that I’ve successfully used for three decades. Or for those of you who go back a few years, here’s how to have a daily “Quiet Time” with God:

Prepare:

  • Thank God for the opportunity to meet with Him
  • Ask forgiveness for sins of omission or commission

Perimeter:

  • Look at the passage in context, i.e. study what comes before and after the text you’re reading
  • Avoid reading anything into the passage that may distort the intended meaning

Paraphrase:

  • Write out the passage using words that would enable a child to understand it

Pulverise:

  • Ponder on every phrase and sentence
  • Find the main point
  • Look at opening and closing statements
  • Identify unique words
  • Locate points of emphasis
  • Pay attention to historical, cultural, social, political, or economic factors

Personalise:

  • Apply the passage to yourself
  • Beware of the paralysis of analysis (sometimes we become critical analysts of God’s Word rather than open hearted recipients)
  • Ask, “What does God want me to learn?” and “How does God want me to respond?”

Praise:

  • Give God the honour and glory that are His due

Prayer:

  • Pray using the passage as the point of departure
  • Repeat the Word back to God
  • Ask God to help you be obedient to His Word

Practice:

  • Put into practice what you learnt from God today
  • Share biblical insights with friends in your community of faith

[Based on “How to Have a Quiet Time”, Seize the Day: Meditations for the Year, 2002 by Lawson Murray]

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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“All Ear”

A missionary working on Bible translation in Africa had difficulty finding a word in the local dialect for “obedience”. One day as the missionary was walking through a village his dog wandered off. When the missionary noticed the dog’s absence he whistled for it to come to him and, hearing the whistle, the dog rushed to his side. An elderly local who was sitting by the roadside was impressed by the dog’s obedience and exclaimed, “Mui adem delegau ge!” which literally translated means, “Dog yours, ear is only”. In other words, “Your dog is all ear”. This gave the translator the word he needed for obedience, i.e. “To be all ear”.

Some folk believe if they hear a good sermon or attend a Bible study it’s all they need to grow in maturity and please God. Wrong! It’s not enough to receive the Word – we must act on the Word! Any response to the Word other than unqualified obedience is inadequate. Hearing is not the same as doing. The bottom line: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22 (NIV).

Strictly speaking, Bible reading is not Bible engagement. While Bible reading is a necessary first step in Bible engagement, true Bible engagement hasn’t occurred until there is evidence of the Word being practically applied. The psalmist says, “Blessed are they . . . who walk according to the law of the Lord” (Psalm 119:1 NIV) and Jesus states that we are only his disciples if we keep on obeying His teachings (cf. John 8:31 and Luke 8:21).

Here’s an enigma: There are people who say they’ve made a profession of faith in Christ Jesus yet they don’t hunger and thirst for His Word. Are they Christians? The distinctive trait of the real Christian is someone who is daily living his/her life according to the Word. As the apostle says, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” 1 John 2:3-6 (NIV).

To be all ear . . . We may hear the Word, read the Word or say we’ve placed our faith in the One who is the Word, but if we’re not authentically and consistently living the Word, we haven’t engaged the Word. Engagement and obedience go together. As Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” Matthew 7:21 (NIV).

[Based on “To Be All Ear”, Seize the Day: Meditations for the Year, 2002 by Lawson Murray]

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Tips To Remember

Struggling with Scripture memorization? Through a connection on LinkedIn, Jim Winner, I recently learnt this Scripture memorization tip:

Assume the aim is to memorize John 3:16 from the NIV. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Remove all the letters except for the first letter of each word. Include capital letters, and capitalize any that refer to God. Keep periods, commas, quotation marks and other punctuation.

F G s l t w t H g H O a o S, t w b i H s n p b h e l. J 3:16

Once you can quote the passage well, using the crutch, it is usually memorized. Now give it a try with another text.

A few more Scripture memorization tips:

  • Choose a version/translation that works for you
  • Begin with comprehension
  • Understand the text in its context
  • Pray for mental discipline and persistence
  • Write the text on post-it notes and place them where you’ll see them
  • Repeat! Repeat! Repeat!
  • Ask someone to do it with you
  • Sing, rap or chant it
  • Apply what you’ve memorized to your daily life

Finally, remember why we remember. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119:11 (NIV). “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV).

What would you like to see added to this list? Do you have Scripture memorization tips that may be helpful?

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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What Bible Should I Read?

I’m often asked, “What Bible should I read?” Associated comments and questions include: “There are so many Bibles to choose from. I don’t know which one to pick. Why the different versions? Does it matter which one I read?”

I respond by asking several more questions:

What do you like to read? The intent behind this question is to try and glean a person’s level of proficiency with the English language. If you say you don’t read much, I usually suggest an audio alternative like The Bible Experience or The Listener’s Bible. If you like reading popular literature I may suggest the New Living Translation, Contemporary English or New International Version. If you’re more academic in your reading I might recommend the English Standard or Revised Standard Version. If you tell me your favourite author is Shakespeare, I’ll recommend the King James Version.

Why do you want to read the Bible? Some people want to read the Bible devotionally for their personal enrichment while others are more inclined to studying the Scriptures. Paraphrases like The Message, Easy Read Version, and Today’s English Version (Good News) make for a great devotional read. The Amplified, Life Application, New International, Holman Christian Standard and English Standard Version are popular study Bibles. For the really serious student, pastor or teacher, the Interlinear Bible may be the answer.

What version of the Bible is used in your church? If the preacher mainly preaches from his/her favourite version of the Bible it may be helpful to have that version in hand in order to better track with the exegesis of the text. There’s also the issue of communal Bible reading – when the Scriptures are read publically it can be more difficult to follow along if we’re not reading the same text.

Vocation is an additional dynamic to keep in mind. If a person is a college or university student, I may be inclined to recommend a reference Bible in the New International or New King James Version. For hunters and fishermen The Sportsman’s Bible is a good choice. If you’re an athlete I’d suggest God’s Game Plan. If you’re serving in the armed forces, the Military Camo Bible. There are many other vocationally focused Bibles.

Age and gender are also major factors to be considered. For children aged 6-10 the New International Reader’s Version Adventure Bible is a good option. The Manga Bible is great for older children because it utilizes an engaging cartoon format. The Women’s Devotional Bible may be an option for women and seniors are usually more comfortable with a Giant Print or Legacy Bible.

Finally, if you use an electronic reading device, tablet or smart phone, then you should consider downloading the YouVersion, Glo Bible, or Bible.is App. The Bible Gateway App is another option – it gives you a choice of more than a 100 English and 45 versions in other languages.

If you’re still not sure, you’re not alone. I’ve got nearly a hundred different printed Bibles in my personal library!

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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A Pivotal Point

Bible engagement is at a pivotal point. With the help of smart phones, tablets and other devices the Scriptures are more accessible than ever before. We live in exceptional times. Digital technology provides proximity and unprecedented connectivity to the Bible.

New technologies and social media make it possible to dream about doing things that would have been beyond reach some years ago. Since we crossed over from Gutenberg to Google there are tremendous opportunities to retell the Story in creative new ways. Imagine an online game enabling children or youth to develop avatars, enter a virtual world, and as part of the action, engage with the Scriptures – it’s coming. Imagine the Bible in 3D – it’s coming. Imagine interfacing with a hologram of David as he slots a stone into his sling and begins to run toward Goliath – it’s coming!

Imagine interactive technology prompting you to reflect on the Scriptures daily, tracking your progress and facilitating sharing via social media – it’s come! Scripture Union Canada has developed and published theStory™ – an online Bible reading guide emphasizing the biblical narrative. Features of theStory™ are:

  • connects our stories with God’s Story
  • a chronological plan
  • free sign up at http://thestory.scriptureunion.ca/subscribe
  • unpacks the Bible in 4-5 years
  • the 3R’s methodology
  • trans-denominational and Evangelical
  • global audience
  • geared for millennials
  • suitable for adults of all ages
  • distinctive partnership of writers
  • flexible and shareable format
  • networking and promotional features
  • invites you to “write” yourself into it

theStory™ has just begun but we’re continuing to dream about what we can do to enhance it. What if we added an audio version, film, multiple languages, or provided a blog that enabled subscribers to chat about the biblical reflections with the writers and other readers? What if we could add family, youth, children’s and small group versions of theStory™? What if . . . we could help this generation become the most biblically engaged of all time?

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Pensees and Questions

What will the shape of Bible engagement be in the years to come? Here are some pensees and questions for consideration:

  • Are there imaginative new ways to fuse the dramatic and creative arts with the Word? How can artists who respect the power of truth be encouraged to give creative expression and visual beauty to the Word?
  • We have migrated from Gutenberg to Google. How do we continue to facilitate connections with the Bible so that engagement becomes more than words and images on a screen?
  • Should the Bible be liberated from the constraints of individualism? What new formats might better facilitate communal Bible reading, exploration and reflection?
  • What types of formats, presentation styles or delivery systems of the Scriptures are best suited to communal hermeneutics?
  • How can Bible engagement tied to screen to screen connexity be fused with face to face community?
  • What can or should be done to invite non-Bible readers, both as individuals and in community, to engage with the Bible?
  • How can the profile of the Bible be raised both inside and outside the church?
  • Is there a way to develop online contextualised illustrated display Bibles as public exhibits of how we value the Scriptures?
  • Should we be seeking progressive ways to promote the primacy of the Scriptures? What are the descriptors for this generation that best communicate a high view of the Scriptures?
  • How might hypertext be better used to invite engagement with the Bible? How can we leverge the internet so that more people engage the Bible in ways that result in meaningful encounters with Christ and life transformations?
  • What are the best ways, in today’s context, to invite children and youth to hook up and interact with the Bible so that they ultimately choose to hold a biblical world view?
  • Concerning the Western tendency to compartmentalize and dichotomize: How can we better develop resources to help people engage the Bible with both their heads and their hearts?
  • How can the Bible be shared in real time with suitable symbols and prophetic metaphor?
  • What improvements need to be made with delivery systems so that the Bible is accessed in more multisensory, interactional and user-friendly formats?
  • Would it be helpful to publish a Bible that shows by its formatting what literary genre is primarily being used?
  • How do we teach/educate people to read the Scriptures in context? Is there a way to wean people from manipulating the Bible for selfish or skewed agendas?
  • What are the ways to improve reaching anyone, anywhere, anytime with the Bible?
  • How can we do the above so that favourable conditions are created for divine-human encounters?

What questions or pensees do you have about the shape of Bible engagement in the future?

© Scripture Union Canada 2013