JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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


10 Comments

Preach the Word

I’ll never forget Warren Wiersbe’s intensity as he gripped my hand, stared at me through large horn rimmed glasses, and said, “Lawson, preach the Word!” When a veteran pastor, teacher, writer and theologian clearly and compellingly counsels a course of action, one does what one’s told to do! Even more so when one knows the directive is the same charge Paul solemnly gave to Timothy (cf. 2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Preaching is a vital cog in the wheel of Bible engagement. To know the Word, people have to hear the Word. To hear the Word, someone has to proclaim the Word. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14 (NIV).

In North America there are about 700,000 vocational pastors, chaplains, preachers, teachers, ministers and evangelists who kerrusso (Greek meaning to herald and proclaim divine truth) the Word. Through times of convenience and inconvenience, regardless of cost or response, God commissioned men and women have an awesome trust: to give their all to declare the message of the King!

Preaching is unique. It’s not a talk about spiritual matters. It’s taking a stand with God’s Word. It’s allowing God, by the Holy Spirit, to speak the Word through you. It requires conviction, love, patience and endurance. And it requires a kingdom perspective – preachers must never lose sight of the fact that it’s not our words, but His Word we proclaim.

When the divine agent works through the human conduit, variety and creativity abounds. Despite the fact that different preachers deliver the Word differently, everyone should aim to preach the Word so that it:

  • is Christ-centered
  • proclaims the Gospel
  • profiles the Trinity
  • exudes grace
  • demonstrates the Spirits power
  • connects with the big Story
  • exegetes the text
  • explains and interprets culture
  • contains sound doctrine
  • hooks in with the audience
  • highlights truth
  • honours the biblical context
  • challenges, warns and urges
  • is organized, clear and focused
  • is authentic, relevant and authoritative
  • encourages questions
  • engages imagination
  • helps listeners hear from God
  • trains in righteousness
  • equips for good works
  • declares the counsel of God
  • emphasizes faith and obedience
  • invites repentance
  • moves hearers to action
  • informs the mind, inclines the heart, guides the will
  • prompts discussion and application
  • forms and transforms people in Christ
  • sends people back to the Word

Pastors, preach the Word! Every time you step into the pulpit make the Word the main point, not the footnote, of your sermon. Your preaching methodology, delivery style and even your sense of humour – everything must serve one end – to explain and proclaim God’s Word. Why? Because when the Bible speaks, God speaks!

Much more could be said. What would you add or subtract from the comments above?

[Note: October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Thank your pastor for preaching the Word. 1 Timothy 5:17]

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

When the Going Gets Tough

TOUGH goingSomeone recently said to me, “I’m embarrassed to say this, but I have to admit that my Bible reading’s dry – I’m getting nothing out of it. I’ve been reading the Bible for fifty years and for the past two years it’s been a grinding routine.” “I know”, I replied. “Sometimes it can be a tough slog. I’ve had times when it feels like there’s nothing fresh.” We chatted for some time . . .

So how do we turn it around when we’re struggling to meet with God through His Word? What do we do when our expectations of hearing God speaking through the Scriptures are at an all time low? Here are some suggestions:

  • Mix it up. Sometimes we get in a rut. We read the same version of the Bible over and over again. Why not try a different version or a paraphrase? There are more than 800 English versions to choose from!
  • Connect with others. Personal Bible reading and reflection must be balanced with communal reading and reflection. Why? Because two are better than one. When one falls down the other can help pick him/her up (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
  • Open up. The Bible is good news for our lives. Are we reading it as such? Let’s be careful not to tame the Word or reduce it to the scale of our own ideas. Before reading the Scriptures we should ask God to unlock our minds to His transforming power (cf. Romans 12:2).
  • Use a reading guide. Be alert to the insights that come through others. Yes I know the Holy Spirit is the Teacher and instructs us directly from the Word, but He also works through human teachers to unpack the meaning of a text, challenge our prejudices and expose our blind spots.
  • Linger longer. We’re more likely to encounter God when we slow down. Most of us live with the tyranny of the urgent, but not God! To meet on His turf we must “be still” (cf. Psalm 46:10), which in context means “Enough! Stop trying to have control over things!”
  • Focus. There’s a tendency to read the Bible almost exclusively to find out what to do. We should rather read it to find out who we are and who we ought to be. Interact with the Bible like you would with a mirror. Look into it and ask, “Who am I? Who do You want me to be?”
  • Live it. God’s Word has a claim on our lives – a purpose. We should be living epistles. The litmus test of Bible reading is whether or not we’ve acted on what we’ve discovered. Bible reading must translate into a response. Imitate Jesus (cf. Philippians 2:1-11). Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (cf. Micah 6:8).

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


1 Comment

Reading the Whole Story

How do you read the Bible? A little bit of this, a little bit of that? A verse here a verse there? Some folk slice and dice it – treat it like a piecemeal diet. What about you? Is your Bible reading just the bare necessities – a text with a blessed thought that’s easily digested in two-minutes?

Scripture should be read holistically. The Bible shouldn’t be reduced to a depository of spiritual truisms or selected nuggets we occasionally mine. When we read the Bible we must read texts in their contexts and stories within the framework of the grand Story. Why? Because the meaning of the texts and stories are accurately gleaned only when we read with a clear understanding of the larger context and themes of the books and Bible as a whole.

God speaks to us through His Word. When texts or stories are read in isolation they can be interpreted with meaning they were never meant to convey. God wants us to know truth. When we de-contextualize Scripture or read passages divorced from the overarching narrative we may miss out on what God is really saying. So let’s make sure we don’t short circuit the process of God speaking to us – let’s read the whole Story.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


Leave a comment

New Year Resolutions

The beginning of a new year signals a new start. Many of us get freshly motivated to do better than we did the year before. Christians often think about how they can improve their Bible reading. The trouble is they tried that last year, and the year before, and when they hit Numbers their days were numbered! March comes and goes and our good intentions to read through the Bible are nothing more than a distant memory.

So what can we do this year so that our resolution to read the Bible doesn’t fizzle out? Here are three practical suggestions:

1. Get connected. Don’t go it alone. When we read the Bible in isolation we’re more likely to run out of steam. So invite your spouse, one or two friends, or a sibling to join you in 2013. Work together to set goals, figure out how you’ll be accountable, find times to chat about what you’re reading and spur each other along.

2. Be realistic. Sometimes we set ourselves unreachable goals. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s better to read shorter portions of Scripture that you ponder on than read lengthy sections that go in one ear and out the other. So read less and meditate more. And, most importantly, read only what you can absorb and apply.

3. Use resources. Bible reading coupled with reflection is the primary catalyst in the development of our spiritual health and growth. If you’re a newbie to Bible reading consider using the E100 Challenge to get an overview of the major themes of the Bible. If you’re a veteran Bible reader consider using one of Scripture Union’s Bible Reading Guides – Daily Bread, Encounter With God, Closer to God. You can also download the eDaily Devotions for free.

Now onward and upward with this year’s Bible reading resolution!

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


2 Comments

Story

Story is integral to Bible engagement. Story, when used with a capitalized “S” delineates God’s Story as distinct from other stories. Story is the metanarrative, the immense Story of the Creator himself – about the One of whom the Scriptures speak and who entered our world as the Saviour, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from sin and death.

Story, when used as a term, is a summation of the narrative, saga, and drama of the Bible. It is more than an arrangement of facts, ideas, propositions, or a compilation of spiritual laws. Story describes God’s narrative – an account that is unified, immediate, multidimensional, relational, non-manipulative, unique and central to knowing truth and the One who is Truth. It is a spacious realm that we are invited to enter with imagination and faith, and once we have entered, to see ourselves as participants. Story invites us to actively engage it and get caught up in the saga by receiving it and reenacting it.

The meeting of our stories with God’s Story are not simple affairs. Encounters between people and God are complicated and convoluted. This is due, not to God, but to us. We have a tendency to confuse, digress and destroy. The problem is we are inclined to indwell an alternative story to the story God invites us to participate in. In our ignorance improvised scenarios are created, distorted roles developed, and conflicting dramas enacted.

True Bible engagement begins when we respond to the Great Storyteller (God) as He invites us to take the role intended for us. The roles are many and varied, including: listening, speaking, reading, studying, reciting, memorizing, interpreting, singing, preaching, receiving, and acting – both individually and communally. All our spiritual senses need to be engaged with the Story. We need to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8); open our eyes to it (cf. Psalm 119:18, 82); and open our ears to it – “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9).

The point is this: When the Bible is reduced to a handbook for church dogma, a moral rule book, a depository of propositional truth, or a collection of wise sayings to guide people through life; it is easy for people to take it or leave it. But when the Bible is shared, in the power of the Spirit, as the Story which runs deeper than the world’s stories, it invites people to enter into a different world and see themselves in a different light, that is, to share God’s view of the world.

© Scripture Union Canada 2012

 


Leave a comment

Defining Bible Engagement

Building on biblical, theological, historical, and cultural insights, and utilising relational and interactional language, here’s a working definition of Bible engagement: The process whereby people are connected with the Bible such that they have meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ and their lives are progressively transformed in Him.                                                   

To elaborate; Bible engagement is the process (that which occurs in and through the stages and courses that mark the journey of our lives) whereby people are connected with the Bible (reciprocating with the Story) such that they have meaningful encounters (significant meetings that involve coming together with and developing a vital relationship) with Jesus Christ (the One who by grace and through faith saves us from sin and sanctifies us by the Spirit) and their lives are progressively transformed in Him (marked by evident ongoing obedience and life-change that takes place individually and in community).

One word in the above definition of Bible engagement requires illumination – the word ‘transformed’. It refers to the process of change whereby a person becomes progressively more Christ like (cf. Galatians 6:15). That is not to say that transformation is something that people can do to themselves. Transformation does not happen naturally and it does not come easily. The prophet asks, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23). There is no outside force that can change people to become more like Christ. Something internal is required. Transformation begins when a person realizes that “the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint” (Isaiah 1:5) and proceeds when forgiveness for sin is sought and received (the heart is changed, Psalm 13:5), and by faith in Christ being “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2), a right relationship with Christ is formed (the heart believes and is justified, cf. Romans 10:10) and love for Christ ensues (cf. Mark 12:30). This is not of a person’s own doing but comes from the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:8-9), that is, transformation cannot happen apart from Christ. Thus transformation is being shaped by Christ and living out lives that imitate His life. It is refusing to “be conformed to this world” and is the change that comes “by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

© SU Canada 2011


Leave a comment

Letting the Bible Have Its Way with Us

Most of us think of Bible engagement as giving people a Bible,reading or studying the Bible, giving our loyalty to the Bible, or the work associated with Bible translation, linguistics and publishing. At Scripture Union Canada we believe Bible engagement should go beyond these transactional and cognitive elements to embrace and emphasise encounter, relationship, interaction, and transformation. That is, Bible engagement is the process whereby people are connected with the Bible such that they have meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ and their lives are progressively transformed in Him.     

Bible engagement is about people meeting the One of whom the Bible speaks and being changed by His Story. For Bible engagement to occur, transformation, not information, should be the desired end. When transformation is the desired end then Bible engagement is first and foremost about letting the Bible have its way with us.

Roy Harrisville in “The Loss of Biblical Authority and Its Recovery”, in Reclaiming the Bible for the Church, eloquently makes the point that the Bible “will have a man’s or woman’s heart and soul, and if not, it will work despair . . . whoever you are, if you do not repent and believe the testimony laid down in this book concerning God and his Christ, it will judge you to inconsequence, render your reading of it, your interpretation of it, your preaching on it a comic spectacle to the world to which you believed you had to adjust it.”

The point is this: Bible engagement should be more than connecting with a book (even when it is described or thought of as the Book of books). Bible engagement should be a connection with the triune God’s Story in a way in which a person’s or communities’ story intersects with, is changed by, and finds its place in the Story.

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2011