For roughly the past two years, I’ve been involved in an intense study of the Bible. This study, Disciple, is extremely structured and organized in its format and presentation. Daily scripture reading is required, as is a weekly class that lasts about two and a half hours. Class time itself is also fairly structured (at least it is intended to be, I must confess that our small group of Disciples, having been together for as long as we have, have tended to “do our own thing” from time to time!) In any event, we just wrapped up Disciple II, which was a detailed study into the books of Genesis/Exodus and Luke/Acts. In addition to delving deeper into The Word, this particular Disciple class took us one step further, asking with each class session, “Now that you’ve gone into The Word, what will be your response out in The World?” In other words, The Message is meant to be shared, there are many ways in which to do so, how are YOU going to share The Good News?
I believe there are some Disciples who gush forth with light and pure enthusiasm in sharing The Good News. It comes natural to them, not sharing would be akin to not breathing. I’ve known a few such souls; one who comes to mind was our wonderful neighbor Ralph, who recently passed away from pancreatic cancer. Even while in the midst of dying, Ralph was purposefully living out the act of bringing others to life and salvation in Christ. Ralph was not hesitant, or unsure of himself. He knew he could do all things, through Christ.
There are others, however, much like me, who, after hearing and finally “getting” The Good News, find themselves a bit unsure of what, exactly to do next. It can be, frankly, daunting; even though it is, truthfully, one of the most important things we can ever do. And we shouldn’t be afraid, or worried, about carrying this news, because He’s got our backs, so to speak; and if we sincerely are in awe of and trust in God, then nothing or no one else should be able to thwart us.
That’s the way it should be, it’s not the way it always is.
But, I take heart, because most of us, myself included, find opportunities to witness and share when there is a natural opening to do so. For me, I’ve found chances to talk about my faith have arisen simply out of people’s curiosity about my involvement in Disciple Class; my reading, studying and discussions of the Bible with others. I’ve heard things like, “I could never get through the Bible, it’s so boring!”, or, “I tried, I really did, but I couldn’t get past Genesis. I mean, seriously? People actually believe that stuff happened?” or, “What about science? I would love to believe in God, but I’m a scientist!” or, “Leviticus? Really? That is SO out of touch with my reality!” And so on. “Hey, I’ve been there, too,” I tell them. “Fairly recently, too.”
About three years ago, right around the time we returned to church, I decided, having never done so, that it was time to read the Bible. Yes sir, I was going to pick up one of the various versions I had stuffed in our bookshelf (kind of ironic, in hindsight, that two people who had not had anything to do with God in the past thirty years still had quite the collection of Bibles in their house!) and get busy! My first attempt was with a King James Version. Not, mind you, a NEW King James Version, but the OLD King James Version. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t get past Genesis 1. After putting that down with some disappointment, I recalled there was a version out there called The Message; the Bible in plain, modern day language. That sounded good to me, so I purchased one through Amazon.com. When it arrived, I eagerly opened it up, raring to get going on my quest to read the Bible. Guess what? I couldn’t make it through the book of Genesis. Although the language was easier to understand, I fell into one of the thought process mentioned above, that this stuff just couldn’t have happened. I was taking things entirely too literally, and, as such, was discarding the message itself.
Thankfully, a few month later, our church offered a Disciple I class (the first in the Disciple series). Although it was a major commitment of 36 weeks of class and daily reading (sometimes amounting to an hour a day, depending on that week’s lesson), both Mark and I signed up for it in September of 2012 and our lives began to change.
Having gone through this transformation (which, by the way, is still in process), I am now convinced that a Bible novice should never attempt to read the Bible on their own for the simple fact it can be flat out discouraging. Some people will fail with the Old Testament but find comfort in the New Testament; you know, along comes Jesus to make everything better. Plus, much of the New Testament is more familiar to most of us. But, having gone through reading the Bible in a guided, structured and purposeful way, I can see that, by skipping the Old Testament and getting to “the good stuff”, too much can be lost in translation. We may find ourselves giggling or rolling our eyes through all the debates of circumcision vs. no circumcision of the gentiles in Acts, because we don’t understand the importance or the symbolism of the argument. Or, if you’ve not muddled through the Prophets, the importance of what is cited in the later Gospel and the references to Jesus can be totally missed. Not to mention, understanding who wrote what, the time in which certain books were written, the history of the Israelites and of their country; is really needed to put everything into perspective.
Circling back to sharing The Good News, I’ve found most folks are pretty fascinated when I tell them what I’ve learned by studying the Bible. I’m not preaching at them, I’m sharing my experience, and that is a big difference. A huge difference.
As we wrapped up our study the other night, we were discussing what our next class might be. Disciple III (which is an intense study of the Prophets)? Or, maybe a new study entirely entitled Covenant? What would get others interested? We joked that perhaps we should suggest an offering of Disciple Lite or, maybe even (thinking of the popular yellow self-help books) Disciples for Dummies!
Although I know there is still much for me to learn about the Bible (there’s no wonder some people spend their entire life studying it), if someone who’d never heard of the Bible said to me,
“Wow, I’ve never heard about the Bible, what’s it about?” I’d say,
“Wow, I’ve never heard about the Bible, what’s it about?” I’d say,
“It’s the story of God and His never-ending love for us.”
“Really? And what did you get out of it?”
“Love God. Love one another. The End”.
Next Up: Love God