How to make the Bible characters come alive when we read the Bible for ourselves and for others? This is one of my quests as a Bible scholar and teacher. I have read the Bible since 1983 when I encountered God through the Holy Spirit powerfully and was immediately filled with the passion to read His words. For nearly three decades I read His words consistently and systematically daily often in big chunks. In addition, I learned from many teachers and books. Most importantly, I learned how to hear God, listen to the Holy Spirit and receive revelation.
In the last nine months, and especially during the COVID 19 LOCKED DOWN, while having the luxury of living in a modern high-tech environment, I have had the opportunity to teach a fellow-locked-down person, a novice Bible reader how to read the Bible. How do I read the Bible characters and make them come so alive? That was her main question after I walked through a number of the characters with her. She is not a newly converted believer. But she had never been taught the way I taught her. After learning the new way of reading the Bible she is filled with fresh enthusiasm to read the Bible on her own and has been progressively practicing what she has learned. In March she requested me to compile a handbook of Bible highlights with emphasis on Bible characters for her. I went through all 66 books of the Bible and completed the task by the 12th of May just in time for her to return to her overseas home. She can use the material I have installed in her own laptop and go through the Bible herself. Knowing the way, she can dig into the Bible as the Holy Spirit leads her to go deeper.
This episode makes me realize the importance of showing an effective and yet simple and easily accessible way that helps and facilitates novice Bible readers read the Bible and thus encourages them to read increasingly more on their own and receive fresh revelations for themselves. They will themselves own the first hand revelations. This is my vision and main goal in studying and teaching the Bible. Everyone must DIY and can use a hard print Bible as your lifestyle. Power outage and stoppage of the internet cannot stop you from hearing God through His words.
This is essential for all today’s global Christians because not all can access and/or zoom and other digital ways to learn, read and understand the Bible, yet hoping to know what God is saying to them individually.
Here is a brief summary of what I do when I read the Bible.
- I read the whole book and other related books of the Bible which pertain to the characters and/or events. For example, when I study the two characters Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2-3, I read the whole book of Philippians and the relevant chapters in the book of Acts.
- I pray and ask the Lord Holy Spirit to lead me to read the right passages and meditate on them.
- I read related articles and studies about these two Bible characters, the historical context, the culture and society and other important background.
- I study and meditate on the missionary journeys of Paul, the early churches (mainly house churches) he planted, and his women disciples and coworkers, the kind of person and leader Paul is and how he handles issues raised by his followers and co-workers and churches.
- I familiarize myself with Paul’s way of writing, what he really means, why does he say certain things the way he says them, what is he trying to say to them, what results he is expecting, why is he confident of saying them and expecting those results? I ask myself lots of questions about the way Paul writes those letters which have become the Scriptures, a significant part of the New Testament Bible. Knowing Paul is absolutely essential for me to understand his letters. For example, a letter from your close one is always easier for you to understand than a letter from a stranger. Pick his brain. Pick his heart. You will find treasures you have never noticed before!
- It takes me quite some time to meditate. After the first round of reading I leave it and think about it a lot of time while doing other things. I will turn the verses over and over in my mind and talk to the Lord about it until my mind is crystal clear and certain what the Lord wants me to talk about. The apostle Peter actually tells us how it works, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” 2 Peter 1:19.
- Often it is at the clearest point like a morning star rises in my heart then I can put into writing the essence of what I receive and it just flows effortlessly as I read through the verses again while I write.
- When it does not become a fluent flow I will just record the pieces as notes for future reference.
- In the case of two characters Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2-3 I was alerted by the Lord to not restrict the reading to the mere context of 4:2-3 or even the immediate verses before and after. My spirit clearly says, read the whole letter of Philippians. Read 1:1 and see the difference between this letter and all other letters of Paul. This letter addresses not just the whole church (all the saints in Christ Jesus in Philippi), it specifically calls to attention episkopoi (supervisors/overseers/bishops) and diakonoi (ministers/deacons) in Paul’s opening greeting.
- When I read the whole letter I realize that truly the whole letter addresses the issue of reconciliation and restore unity in Christ Jesus, what is unity, why unity, the consequences of disunity, how to re-establish unity, the key problems, action points, the two role models, and the assurance that they can do it.
- I read with Paul in mind. I walk through the letter with him. I see him in his Rome house arrest. He cannot go to Philippi physically but he knows his people very well. He knows what is going on and he knows they will follow what he says in his letter. He has to write a positively encouraging letter to counter the negatives: lack spiritual knowledge of the true condition of Paul, anxiety, discouragement, loss of discernment, disagreement over trivial matters, disunity, loss of peace and joy in the two co-worker leaders and affected those who followed them.
- I learn from Paul’s way of writing: he starts off in the first chapter with something positive and commendable about them. He uses words like: joy, confident, good work, love abounding, filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ. He finishes off the letter in the last chapter with more positive praises of them: he rejoiced that their care for him flourished again, they have done well to share in his distress, their being the only church giving to his ministry, fruit abounds to their account, like sweet-smelling aroma, acceptable sacrifice to God, well- pleasing to God, and his assurance of their reward—God’s supplies of all their needs according to the riches of His glory.
- I read Paul’s letters with this in mind: Paul does not impose standard on others that he himself does not practice. he also does not impose on others requirements that they cannot follow. All he asks them to do is to practice what he has been doing and has already discipled them to do. in addition to his teaching and training, they have the same Holy Spirit in them to give them the desire and power to do exactly what Paul does. He himself does exactly what Jesus does and more just as what Jesus tells His disciples and followers to do.
I pray that this sharing on my part will help you to read the Bible in a way that makes the Bible come alive to you too.
June 17, 2020
June 18, 2020
Please share this article with those whom you know are serious about reading and knowing God through the Bible. Those who want to hear God for themselves when reading the Bible. Those who are not satisfied with a mere literal caricature of the Bible characters. Yes, all those who believe in chewing into the real meat of the Bible instead of drinking mere milk. I will be writing more on the way I read the Bible and conduct free zoom classes as well for the more digital and internet savvy group as well. Please watch out for my announcement in this AAAA Watchman blog.