During His physical presence on earth, Jesus trained twelve men to do the things that He did and teach others to do the same. Eleven of those men were willing to die for carrying out that mission, and ten did die for that. His words compelled them. Jesus’ Word does not produce the same passion and power in us. Why?
Much of Scripture seems dull or far too difficult to many of us. We react various ways. Assuming that its richest secrets are available only to those who have seminary training and who know Hebrew and Greek, some stop trying to seriously study the Bible.
Others of us feel guilty. We don’t want to say that the Bible is boring or too complicated. So we spend our time in favorite passages and neglect the rest. Sometimes we resort to little snippets from devotional booklets or anxiously search for “a verse for the day.” We depend on a Bible teacher who can make the Bible “come alive” for us, overlooking Heb. 4:12.
Others take a seemingly more spiritual approach. They suggest that we are not preparing our hearts properly by confessing our sins and worshipping God enough. Perhaps we would make more progress with better motivation from a better system.
Unfortunately, these well-intentioned ideas do not address a root cause. Jesus repeatedly asked the most Biblically well-read people of the time, “Have you never read?” His point was that it was the way they were reading Scripture that was the barrier to true understanding.
Sixteen years ago I heard the book of Mark taught through in a unique way. The journey thus begun with Jesus continues to transform my view of Him, His Word and my life with Him. The teacher of this unique approach, Brian Onken, has recently started a ministry called The River that is doing the same for others.
Brian teaches the Bible as “God’s message telling what He has done so that He and you can enjoy each other forever.” He maintains that God gave all of His Word (even Leviticus and Revelation), so that all of His children would be able to understand it, enjoy it and continue to grow in it.
I got a taste of how that works in a class taught by Brian a few months ago. He told us to start in Leviticus 1:1 and read until we came to “wherever the end of the passage is,” which we discovered is probably verse 8. He gave us guidance on how to research for the main facts, then he “cut us loose.” After about fifteen minutes, he started peppering us with questions, asking what we noticed. At the end of the discussion, we in that group looked at each other in amazement at the truth that we had discovered.
Still don’t believe that the Bible is for every Christian to understand? Think about Romans, that treatise of tightly-reasoned and complex arguments. Its audience was not a council of theologians. Romans was written to tradesmen, homemakers, merchants and slaves, with names such as Andronicus, Hermes, Julia, Patrobas and Aquila (see chapter 16).
Brian uses many of the same methods that other skilled Bible teachers use in their own study. But unlike them, he does not merely download his pre-studied findings and conclusions to his listeners. He leads listeners to discover for themselves, with guidance from the Holy Spirit.
Most Bible teachers begin with what we do not know about the Bible. Brian begins with what we already know—we know how to read. He teaches how to unlearn our bad habits in reading Scripture. Then shows how to read and understand the Bible naturally, the way we understand all kinds of communication, (the same way you understood this post), every day.
I’m thrilled to report to readers in the Greenville, SC area that the schedule and description of River classes for 2013 is now available. The foundational class, “Reading Scripture,” begins January 24. For those not close enough to attend, in the next few weeks I will attempt to describe the process of natural Bible reading well enough that readers can begin using it on their own.
Are you ready to enjoy knowing God by reading His Word in a fresh and engaging way? Then meet me at The River!