All scripture is not a collection of data from which we extract the right ideas or answers. All scripture–all the stories, accounts, letters, poems, etc. considered together–make up this vast world (like outer space) that we must explore with the Holy Spirit as our guide. Not because we should, but because it’s worth it. If we don’t explore this vast world, we’ll miss a powerful vehicle to God’s world. If we can find the courage, inspiration and perseverance to explore and continue to explore this mysterious world, we’ll find ourselves drawn to God’s world. We’ll find our place in it. In this way, “all scripture is inspired and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belong to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” Go be an explorer!
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Sunday message from October 20, 2013:
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Bonus! Some practical things to consider:
1. As you enter into all scripture, be an explorer, not a tourist or conqueror. A tourist visits a different culture (the Bible) rarely and is minimally impacted by it. A conqueror goes to another culture and aims to replace it with his own. A good explorer is content to see more and more of another culture, and the more the explorer sees, the more his culture is impacted.
2. Be an adventurous explorer. This is important for your ability to stick with scripture. We all learn in different ways, and we need to learn differently at different times. Read the Bible. Listen to it. Memorize some of it. Rewrite some of it in your own words. Explore a few chapters at a time. Explore a few words. The point: Try different things.
3. On that note, don’t explore just by yourself. In groups, there is support, structure, camaraderie, accountability. Most importantly, there is growth.
4. The most important companion in your exploration is the Holy Spirit. (This should really be #1.) Invite the Holy Spirit to be your guide in all things and at all times. As Jesus says, the Spirit will teach you everything. So relax. You don’t need to know it all and you can’t actually. The Spirit will show you what you need to see, if you’re open to it.
5. Find a Bible that can be yours. One that you can invest in, because after all you’re not just a tourist. One that can challenge you, because after all you’re not a conqueror. I suggest a study Bible. Here are a few I trust: NRSV Harper Collins Study Bible, which has an academic emphasis; Zondervan NIV Study Bible, which has a mixture of academic and practical stuff; Quest (several translations), which is thought-provoking, conversational and practical; Common English Study Bible, which is a new translation and new experience altogether; and finally, The Message Study Bible, which is highly accessible but also incredibly inspired (even though I know lots of people give Peterson, the translator of the Message, a bad wrap, and I did too…before I looked into his story and listened to him speak, after which I did a complete 180-degree turn).
6. Find a reading plan. There are lots of these out there. Find one that helps you to explore with a structure and pace that is comfortable and challenges you. Find one that ultimately helps you to see more and more of all scripture. A good place to start looking is on-line. Some Bibles have them in the front or back. The YouVersion Bible app for smartphones is a great resource for exploring, and it has lots of reading plans.
7. Keep in mind that this world of all scripture is not the one in which you live. These scriptures came out of historical contexts (which is a good thing, because it means people have struggled with God throughout history). That means in some places you’re going to have to familiarize yourself with the historical places out of which scriptures came. That’s why I say study bible. BUT, YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW EVERYTHING. The Spirit is your primary guide, remember?
8. Keep in mind that your world is not the world in which everybody else lives. The Spirit will guide different people to see different things. We should listen to what others see. It’s powerful when we’re in conversation with others about what we see differently. Oh, and with these conversations, ask the Spirit to be your mutual guide.
9. Keep in mind that this world is not the one in which God lives. It’s a world God inspired to exist. It’s a world that can be a vehicle to God’s world. I had a seasoned explorer once tell me that we don’t find God in the Bible as much as we find God through the Bible.
10. Don’t give up. You will have seasons of struggle and seasons of breakthroughs. In either case, you’re not suppose to figure it all out. You’re supposed to keep exploring and be moved to God’s world.
The Lord be with you.