Thursday, February 18, 2010

Eat This Book: Can You Handle the Bible?

This is a text that reveals the sovereign God in being and action.  It does not flatter us, it does not seek to please us.  We enter this text to meet God as he reveals himself, not to look for truth or history or morals that we can use for ourselves.  . . .We do not read the Bible in order to find out how to get God into our lives, get him to participate in our lives.  That's getting it backward.

As we cultivate a participatory mind-set in relation to our bibles, we need a complete renovation of our imaginations.  We are accustomed to thinking of the biblical world as smaller than the secular world.  Tell-tale phrases give us away.  We talk of "making the Bible relevant to the world," as if the world is the fundamental reality and the Bible something that is going to  help it or fix it.  We talk of "fitting the Bible into our lives" or "making room in our day for the Bible," as if the Bible is something that we can add on to or squeeze into our already full lives.

. . ."Biblical" does not mean cobbling texts together to prove or substantiate some dogma or practice that we have landed on.  Rather, it signals an opening up into what "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, [but] what God . . . has revealed to us through the spirit" (1 Cor. 2:9-10)

What we must never be encouraged to do . . . is to force Scripture to fit our experience.  Our experience is too small; it's like trying to put the ocean into a thimble.  What we want is to fit into the world revealed by Scripture, to swim in this vast ocean.

~Eugene Peterson

Monday, February 15, 2010

Eat This Book: Indigestion!

For most of us, our first experience with the Bible is sweet; we find ourselves in this book, and that is so wonderful.  We acquire a taste for the promises and blessings of God, we learn to appreciate the sound counsel and direction for our lives, we memorize a few psalms that we can recite in dark and lonely times and find comfort.  There is so much here to delight us...

But sooner or later we find that not everything is to our liking in this book.  It starts out sweet to our taste; and then we find that it doesn't sit well with us at all; it becomes bitter in our stomachs.  Finding ourselves in this book is most pleasant, flattering eve; and then we find that the book is not written to flatter us, but to involve us in a reality, God's reality, that doesn't cater to our fantasies of ourselves.

There are hard things in this book, hard things to hear, hard things to obey.  There are words in this book that are difficult to digest.  John got a severe case of indigestion...

It is far too common among us to develop a problem-solving habit of approach to the Bible, figuring out what doesn't seem to fit and then sanding off the rough edges, so that is slips into our ways of thinking more easily.  We want to use it for comfort, and if it doesn't work comfortably we reconfigure it so that it will.  One good friend warns his students against becoming expert text-nicians.  Text-nicians learn this text, master it inside and out, so that they can repair it when we sense it's a little "off," so that it will run smoothly and get us where we want to go with our needs and wants and feelings...

We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers.  And that is certainly correct.  The text of the Bible sets us in a reality that is congruent with who we are as created beings in God's image and what we are destined for in the purposes of Christ.  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.  The Bible is a most comforting book; it is also a most discomfiting book.  Eat this book; it will be sweet as honey in your mouth; but it will also be bitter to your stomach.  You can't reduce this book to what you can handle, you can't domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with.  You can't make it your toy poodle trained to respond to your commands.

~Eugene Peterson

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Eat This Book: The Bible Was Written For ME!

"...Here's the thing; every part of the [Word of God--every] revelation, every aspect, every form is personal -- God is relational at the core -- and so whatever is said, whatever is revealed, whatever is received is also personal and relational. There is nothing impersonal, nothing merely functional, everything from beginning to end and in between is personal.  God is inherently and inclusively personal.

The corollary to that is that I, because I am a person, am personally involved in the revelation.  Every word I hear, everything I see in my imagination as this story unfolds, involves me relationally, pulls me into participation, matters to my core identity, affects who I am and what I do."

--Eugene Peterson

I wish I could grasp that fully.  I wish I could completely understand that every word matters--to me--personally.

Even the begats.

Even the rules in Leviticus.

Even the details of wars about which I would rather not know.

Even the parts of Revelation that leave me confused.


Lord, I believe.  Help thou mine unbelief.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Eat This Book: Doing Produces Desire

Eat This Book is a six-week course exploring How to Study the Bible.  I will be teaching 2 one-hour classes each week for six weeks beginning this Tuesday/Wednesday.  (They are the same class).  Those taking the class are encouraged to participate in this blog discussion as well as any who cannot attend but are following along through the blog postings.

(I do ask that if you are attending the class in person, please do not get ahead of the postings by bringing up a topic that may have been covered in class but has not yet been addressed in the blog postings.)

I will not be posting any of the first lesson until after the Wednesday class has met, but would like to share some interesting introductory material that I may or may not have time to get to in class.

I have compiled much of the material from other sources, and have added my own practices and observations, also.  I have tried as diligently as possible to acknowledge any other sources when they have been used.

Disclaimer:  I am just a fellow sojourner on this journey toward becoming a disciple of Christ.  This study has once again reminded me of how far short I fall.  I have convicted my own self through my study and am in the process of practicing what I will be preaching.

I have been reminded one more time that the more I learn, the more I want to learn.

The more I study, the more I want to study.

The more I read the Word, the more I want to read the Word.

Doing produces desire.

And I intensely desire to know His living Word.

Is anybody with me?

Eat This Book

And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. 
And he said unto me, Take [it], and eat it up; and it shall make thy
belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.
Revelation 10:9

Several weeks ago, I began slowly reading a book by Eugene Peterson entitled Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading.  Reading that book, combined with the timing of several discussions regarding the lack of Biblical knowledge among those who read, ponder, and love the Word of God, prompted the formation of a 6-week class designed to further our knowledge of "How to Study the Bible." The class begins next week.  The plan was to limit it to eight people and go from there.  Well, it immediately grew to about 12-13 people, we added a second class and that one filled up, and now the classes are closed with a waiting list of 10 more asking to please do another one.  There is an intense hunger to know how to really unpack the Word!

So, in putting together the curriculum for the six weeks (I would NEVER just find someone else's curriculum and use it--no, no---that would be too easy!) my soul has been stirred and I have become increasingly convicted that I have not pursued the discipline of ingesting the Word into the fiber of my being like the Spirit intends for us to do.  But, instead of lamenting that fact, I am allowing this realization to change me and change my study lifestyle in order to be able to let my time on earth prepare me for eternity AND to allow any knowledge I gain to live on beyond the grave.  Hence, the formation of "Eat This Book" -- a study of what/how to fully become one with the living Word of God.

So, for the next few days/weeks, I will be posting snippets of the class.  It's where my heart, my mind, and my soul are dwelling right now.  I invite you to return daily (sometimes more than that!) as we explore some principles, methods, and treasures of The Book.