I’m embarking on a journey that might interest you and enrich your own spiritual walk.
I take different angles on my Bible study so that I might see new things in the Scriptures. I look for things that are genuinely present but which I had not noticed before. (I’m not making them up or inventing them.) I believe strongly in having the Word speak for Itself, but I also believe that we tend to rely way too much on the standard things we always see in the Bible.
For example, take your favorite verse and read it aloud. I’ll bet that you read it the same way you always do, emphasizing the same syllables. How you read it goes along with how you interpret it. It’s your Biblical habit. Your “Bible rut.”
What would it be like if you read it a different way? What insights would you glean? Would the meaning change? The emphases certainly would.
Years ago, when I was running the Christian Learning Center in Ellijay, Georgia, my students would tell me that they would read the same Bible page as me but could not get anything out of it. We’d look at a passage together, I’d make observations which to me seemed obvious, and some of them would be clueless to see anything in the passage. Adults in my evening study told me the same thing. It was as if the Bible were a “wall of words” to them. Present, but impenetrable.
I started to take their concern seriously, and I began to look for solutions. Eventually, with insights gleaned from a drama conference, I developed a program called Making the Bible Come Alive (MBCA). Rest assured that the Bible is already alive (Hebrews 4:12), but what I mean is, How can we take a page of black and white and make it come alive in front of us?
I field-tested MBCA at a youth retreat and it went far better than I could have ever dreamed. Since then, I’ve used it in many different settings, all the way from the mountains of Georgia to the highlands of Sri Lanka. It has always been a powerful experience. The wildest test happened when I was in the middle of China and spontaneously joined a training class for some 30 Sunday School teachers. Yes, in China. That China. With translation, I explained MBCA on the spot, and we experimented with a couple of Bible stories. It was a hit!
I believe in the power of taking different angles on Bible study, and I am convinced that you can help someone glean nuggets of insight from the Bible like they never have before.
What angles could you take? Well, some years I don’t read through the Bible, I listen through the Bible. Because most Bible voice-overs sound too lily-white American Baby Boomer to me, I look for other versions. My favorite reader is Max McLean, and often I will listen to him read the King James Version. His intonations give me new insights.
Or, I’ll read through sections of the Bible and focus on the themes. Sometimes I’ll take my computer Bible program (the fabulous Accordance) and see what words are used the most in a book. For example, earlier this year I was amazed to find how often Paul used some form of “all” in Ephesians. You’d like that study, and I plan to write it up.
Recently, I chose to do something I’d never done before: I took the New Testament and read ONLY the “red letter words.” The red letter words are the quotes of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong: Those words are not the only inspired words in the Bible. All of the Bible is God-breathed and inspired, so the red letter words are not more accurate or more spiritual than the others. It’s all His Word.
Because the red letter words are quotes of Jesus, they are found primarily in the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Again, that doesn’t mean that these books are “better” than the Old Testament or the Epistles (letters by people such as John, Paul, George, and Ringo).
Reading the red, I wanted to see things such as: When did Jesus begin to be quoted in each Gospel? What were the first things He said? What did He talk about, and what did He emphasize? Were there differences in what each Gospel emphasized?
I thought I’d gain some insight, never expecting that it would rock my world. But it did. What I found in the Gospel of John floored me.
This blog is already longer than I wanted it to be, so I’ll start walking us through the discoveries in my next blog. Meanwhile, here’s a hint: What you see may revolutionize your relationship with God the Father.
Until then, here’s your challenge: Get out of your Bible rut and roam freely through the wilds of the Word.
By the way, the picture is of George Washington's Bible. You can find it in Federal Hall, New York City, right across Wall Street from the New York Stock Exchange. With this Bible he took the oath of office.
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