The Bible is a rare book which embraces its reader’s heart with love. It knows its reader and it receives its reader with the same knowing love Jesus had when he spoke in parables. Our heart’s deepest questions are not just answered, but they are loving accepted and left unanswered until our fears are laid to rest by the testimony of God’s faithfulness, and then we find that the answer isn’t just in the Bible, but the answer is out there seeking the questioner. The book is like its author: loving, truthful, humble, and wise. Through the book, the reader comes to know what the Author knows about the reader, and then invites and excites gratitude to the Author for how well the Author understands, searches out, and resolutely stretches out its arms and his hands to bring the willing heart into right relationship with Himself. When reading it, one wonders, is it a book or is it a person? The Bible is obviously a book of books, but the Author’s love and truth so saturate every page that the Word– the message, the thought, the meaning– of the book come alive in the heart– as alive in the heart as the Author of both the heart of the reader and of life itself. O that every student of the Bible would learn the Bible’s ways of embracing the heart of the reader with all its questions, doubts, and fears, and of showing them knowing love that invites them to be saved!
As I watched a video on the Bible being historically accurate, I creatively learned this diagram to make sense of these three descriptors, and why they are important.
As a way to show it to people, the explanation of the “Snowman” diagram starts at the bottom with just the word “Narrative” in its spot at the start. Each word is put in quotes, it is filled into the diagram.
The Bible is “Narrative” which means it is “Story.” And what does a story have? It has “characters,” it has a “plot,” and it has “meaning.” That part of the story that really gets us. And a story is crafted by the imagination of a man, yes?
Now a lot of people are content to accept the Bible as a wonderful collection of stories for the most part, but the debate will really start to come into the next level up. Because the Bible isn’t just Narrative. It is
“Historical” Narrative. When I say Historical it means that the things in this story, “Really happened.” And in history we don’t have just any characters or plots, or meaning, we have real “People,” “Events” of history, and as we look at history we start recognizing patterns in history. Case in point: Roman Empire’s rise and Fall. This pattern of rising and falling has prevailed throughout history.
A lot of educated people will debate if the things in the Bible really happened, but evidence supports the Bible’s historical account, just like the Senacherib’s Prism. Some people who don’t accept the Bible as God’s word will say, “It is Man’s recording, and Man’s crafting of the story.” The debate may convince them that there is historical evidence, for the story, but the final part of the Bible’s descriptors, is the part that people who are not Christians will not accept at a heart level. Because the Bible isn’t just Historical Narrative. It is
“Theological” Historical Narrative. That means it reveals things about “What is really going on. The Bible gives voice to the part of us that knows this world is more than the world we can see, taste, smell, and hear. There is an unseen “God” and there are unseen “Spiritual realities” which are moving in the world: Angels, demons, blessings, curses, and at this level we actually get to the “Truth.” Now while The Story is Man Crafted, and History is Man recorded, Theological means it is “God revealed.”
The Bible is all three levels, and in order to understand the Bible, you have to accept it at all three of these levels. It is Theological, Historical Narrative. Because The Historical Level is written at the level of “Earth”: The events that concretely happened in time and space here on this planet. But the Bible also accounts for and describes the real of “Heaven.” And because it is story it also speaks at the level of the “Heart.”
Please get this: God has revealed something to Man about Heaven and Earth which He had Man record and craft so that it could reach your heart. This is why the Bible is the best and most all encompassing book ever written. It is Heaven and Earth, and the Human heart all wrapped into one Volume, and it sets all of them back into right relationship with God.
So yeah! The Bible is Theological, Historical Narrative. Isn’t that awesome?!
Hebrews 11:3~ “By faith we understand that the ages of time were created by the proclamation of God, so that, from what was not visible, things that are seen came to be.” (Translation mine)
Faith accounts for the unseen reality which is the basis for the seen reality. Faith does not just think there is something to the Unseen, it simply understands that the Unseen is real. We have already discussed this, and now let us look at the nature of faith.
Principle: It sees the Visible in terms of the Invisible. How are we supposed to make sense of the world of time in which we live purely by observation of the visible world? Even if those who claimed to have done so actually could, they would negate so many concepts that are unseen yet obviously real: such as meaning, love, happiness, even words. There is an invisible dimension behind everything, and faith sees it.
The Bible teaches us how to see the Seen world in terms of the Unseen.
Faith recognizes the designer in the design, the creator in the creation, and his word behind the thing. It is easy to think of Words giving us access to understanding things: a bridge between us and the world around us. This is not untrue, but words can also give access to the Person behind the Words behind the thing referred to with the word that is formed in your mind and heart. As words give access to the Seen reality, so words also give us access to the Unseen reality. Just as Paul wrote in Romans 10:13 “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the proclamation of Christ.”
This is also why faith can be trained by learning the Words of God, which we have in the Bible. The Gospel of Christ is the power of God bringing us to Salvation, because the very Gospel of Christ is woven into the fabric of the way God made the world. Paul wrote also to the Romans 1:20 that, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
Faith gives a person the ability to see the world through God’s eyes.
- Read the Scriptures, listen to them on audio, and let the word of God, the SAME word that created the whole world, be your access to seeing the Unseen realm, and also the world around you.
- Learn to see the world from the Word of God’s point of view. It’s like how Neo saw the Matrix. God’s Word in the Bible is the same Word for understanding all of the Seen world. By this I do not mean the “Bible Code” or DaVinci anything. I simply mean that a person’s words are a result of who they are, and God has revealed who He is in the words that He used to create the visible world.
My dear sister in Christ,
– – We all are fighting many battles. We each have many victories and many defeats of which we can boast. To aid you in your plight, I have some thoughts on Spiritual Disciplines that I hope may be useful to a practical person such as yourself. May you find the blessing of a loving brother reflecting the love of the Big brother too both of us: Jesus Christ.
– – It may not seem like it, but Jesus can really identify with everything that we go through. On the surface, it looks totally different: Jesus was not a wife and mother of two adorable yet sinful children. The reason he can is because all three temptations to which Eve and Adam fell, are the same three temptations with which Israel was tried in the wilderness for 40 years. and by which Jesus was tempted by the devil for 40 days. The three roots of all the sin in our lives can be boiled down to these:
- Cravings–Selfish desires to satisfy the lust of our flesh.
- Mistrust– Not fully believing that God is good, or His word is trustworthy
- Rebellion– gaining power for ourselves, independent of God, submitting to anything but Him.
Adam and Eve both fell to these three temptations in Eden, Israel fell to these in the Wilderness, but Jesus in the Wilderness did not. This stage of Jesus life comes after Jesus’ Baptism, and he enters by the holy Spirit’s leading into the desert and he beats Satan’s temptations and leaves with the Holy Spirit’s power, which he cultivated in three practical ways: Fasting, Prayer, and the Word of God. These three practices have a specific objective to teach a particular State of being, which can counteract the State of sin into which we are born. These three practices have the potential by the Spirit’s aid to strengthen the Christian for any struggle he or she faces: whether tangible or intangible, visible or invisible, emotional or rational, external or internal.
Preliminary caution: Nothing can be done except by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Make sure He’s even on board with you, or you are going nowhere like a boat with sail raised and no wind.
- Fasting. Jesus ate nothing for 40 days, and Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” In the Greek it is clear that he was not trying to get Jesus to doubt that he was God’s son. On the contrary, he was saying that since he was the son of God he had the power to gratify his own desires. However, Jesus humbly responds with the lesson that Moses told the people of Israel that God was trying to teach them in the wilderness for 40 years: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The key thing Jesus held to in his temptation here was radical DEPENDENCE on God. It is the only way we can beat this particular root cause of sin in our lives: we depend on God for everything. Jesus learned this lesson of Dependence on God through Fasting.
– – Practical ways to do this. Fasting means 1. denying ourselves something precious to us in which we find great happiness and joy, and depend on for our very livelihood for a period of time, and 2. replacing that very thing with reading God’s word, talking with God, listening for God in silence, doing things for others and serving God, focusing all your energies mental and physical on trying to know God intimately, doing nothing until you hear God’s voice tell you to, etc. Example: Instead of eating a meal, spending time reading scripture. Instead of watching TV, praying, instead of listening to music, practicing silent waiting on the Lord to Speak. Any period of time that practically works for you: an hour, a day, a week, a month, as the Holy Spirit leads you.
Again, the goal of this practice is to depend on God for everything, your sustenance, your sanity, your spiritual well-being. Not only will the fruit of the Spirit self-control be added unto you, but also the fruit of patience, and peace.
- The Word of God. In addition to Scripture memory, which we both have had and has served us well, there is an even greater importance on appreciating the whole Story of the Bible. G.K. Chesterton helped C.S. Lewis recognize the Bible as the True story meant to capture the imagination as well as the mind’s search for truth when he said this, “Christianity met the mythological search for romance by being a story, and met the philosophical search for truth by being a true story.”~Everlasting Man The Gospel story from Genesis to Revelation serves one purpose: to reveal God’s righteousness from faith to faith. (Romans 1:16) The Bible does not assume that we just assume God is righteous, it shows us how especially in the Old Testament leading to the Gospels. This way the Word of God reveals God shows us one thing “God is trustworthy.” When Jesus was tempted to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, Satan told him, “Son of God, God said he’d take care of you, so go ahead and jump.” Jesus’ response “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Indicates there was an implicit temptation of mistrust in Satan’s suggestion. Jesus however responds by saying in essence, “God has shown Himself to be trustworthy more times than I need. I will not test Him.” He learned this from reading the Hebrew Old Testament, and seeing the story of the Bible unfold to where he was. Through all he read, he learned radical TRUST in his father.
Practical ways to do this: Reading God’s Word as a true story will give your imagination opportunities to wonder at God again, to take into your heart the same truths you wish for your own children to embrace. The Bible isn’t a collection of laws, but a story with laws in them, and that story reveals two main things: God is good, and we are rebellious. One resource I highly recommend is the Bible Project. They have Youtube videos explaining the Bible themes, Books of the Bible, Hebrew words, and more all in engaging, animated videos which kids from 4th Grade and up can appreciate. I recommend their Video series on the Torah (The first 5 books) and their “read through the Bible” series on each book of the Bible, and also reading the books of the Bible trying to trace the story line from Genesis to Revelation.
Again, the goal here is to teach you the same radical TRUST Jesus had in His father by seeing how God has dealt with the world up to this point.
- Prayer. This is the big one, and I am glad to hear how you have already incorporated this one into your life so much! When Satan tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world, if he would simply fall down and worship Satan, there was only one way Jesus could say no to that temptation. DEVOTION: a love for God that would rather have Him than anything else. Fasting, and reading God’s Word foster this too, but there is something about the intimacy and communion of prayer, rivaling marital copulation in love shared. Prayer is where we meet with God, know God, love God, and are met, known, and loved. E. M. Bounds wrote a book, “Power through Prayer” explaining these principles that prayer is where a Christian derives his power. The secret to this is two fold: on the one hand, we are made in God’s image, and the more time we spend with the one whose image we bear, the more our broken image is remolded and reshaped into His likeness. (Example: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story the Great Stone Face.) But on the other hand, God is love, and this love can only be shared and expressed in a close intimate encounter and continual DEVOTION to the beautiful God whose beauty melts the heart of stone with His pure love.
Practical ways to do this: “Pray without ceasing.” I like to apply this by making God a part of every conversation: not talking about Him, but talking with everyone as if God is standing right next to you. Talking with Him about everything. It takes practice, but it becomes super easy the more intimate and excited you get when you recognize how He is feeling, acting, and thinking toward others around you in any given moment in time. Also, setting aside time to keep Him as the main thing. Everything else in the world will vie for your attention, and every responsibility will chain you up unless you make the choice deliberately that God is the the most important person in your life, and you would rather have Him than ANYTHING. Finally, praying with people so that it becomes not only a personal devotion, but a mutual encouragement to share God’s love.
One final thought: Please do not pursue the practical at the expense of the personal. It may be my personality coming out here, but I believe there is a personal root to everything. I encourage you to follow these practical steps wherever you can, and do not forget that He’s right there personally available for all of it. Expect to fail and learn to depend on God even in your failures.
May God bless you, my sister, and I hope that we both may mutually grow into the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. God’s peace be with your spirit.
The Bible is one of those rare books in which the heart of the reader is transformed while he reads.
The things the heart did not know are added into the mix
The things the heart thought it knew are shown to be multifaceted
The things that seemed complicated become more simple
The things that seemed simplistic become deeply rooted in deeper layers
And each layer of the Bible into which the heart breeches becomes at the same time a deeper layer of the heart of the reader.
So that whatever the Reader’s heart is searching for is found here in this book, and is found to lead to richer and more beautiful realities upon which all relaity is based.
The treasure of all treasures, the source of all meaning, the wisdom of eternity strung through time.
And all of this is brought forth from the mouth of One.
Who made Himself known to all the earth in Jesus Christ,
He is the Word, the Wisdom, the Way, the Wonderful.
And He is my Savior, my Lord, my friend, my beloved.
I am His and He is mine.
He is I am
יְהוָה Ἰησοῦς Χριστός.
Jesus Christ our Lord
– – To read the Bible honestly in any language is to dig deeply into the soul of humanity; because of this, every person who considers the intent study of the Bible must be willing to be honest with the darkest parts of himself. And he must approach it with the reverent care-filled trepidation of a man who has unsteady hands performing surgery on his loved one; perhaps an even better illustration would be a regular patient frequently returning to the operating table with a weak, sick heart, trying not to Jerk around while the Doctor performs surgery on him.
– – In this humble posture, the empty hands are filled with the riches of God’s goodness, one little piece at a time. Each piece can enrapture the reader with the warmth of solidified volcanic rock fresh from the mantle. Over time even this rock cools and the heart cools in response; it must feel His fire again. It must grow with the heat of the All-Consuming fire of God’s holiness, which is the only fire hot enough to keep the chilly emptiness of the World’s vanity at bay.
– – Such began my own “addiction” to reading God’s Word. That is the word that first came to mind: “addiction.” but it’s probably more like drinking soda all your life, and then one day you try just plain water; and it supplies all your body’s needs for replenishment of oxygen and hydrogen through the digestive system, and all without a sugar coma, or the slavish cravings for more. Soda was the “addiction.” Water has offered the freedom from that addiction, and allows the drinker to enjoy all other beverages better. And in spite of every other option being open and enjoyable, water becomes my favorite drink for as long as I live. This is more like what God’s Word is to me, in contrast to the empty philosophies and ideologies of movies, books, and stories which today’s world commandeers to assuage our soul’s deep thirst for meaning, value, purpose and identity. God’s Word is the Water of the World, by which all who drink of it may live.
– – I live out in the country with my family in two houses and a mobile home, and we all use well water. My Grandmother’s house has a well that was dug to a dept of 100 feet, with a water softener. It’s alright, but this water tastes like a tad of sulfur, and this iron-nasal taste that when I was a kid always tasted to me like boogers. Then there’s my parent’s house where I live, the oldest of the houses. And this house, built in 1960 had a well dug in the back yard all the way down to about 200 feet. They didn’t usually drill that deep unless they had to, but I will tell you, as all others will say who have lived in my family, and as visitors with fresh taste buds attest to us: It is the best tasting, sweetest water around. No sulfur taste; no iron. Just good hard water.
– – You can gather by now one of my points: The deeper you go, the sweeter it gets. The same is true of the Bible. The English Bible translators have done a tremendous job at reconstructing the flow of meaning in another language. It is now possible to read all the way through from Genesis to Revelation the Gospel of God in a language easy to grasp! What a depth of gratitude we owe to those who have interpreted for us God’s Word. God’s blessing be upon them.
Continued in Part 3
My Dear Readers, known and unknown,
– – I hope all had a very Merry Christmas celebration. Jesus is the reason for all the seasons and family and friends are the most precious gifts. My most prized gift I received this year is a close but definitive race between my very own blue ceramic, 12-hole, song-bird, “Ocarina of Time.” (Zelda fans will understand my glee!) and my very own black, single-bound, silver-edged, double ribbon-ed Readers Greek and Hebrew Bible! The Bible won by two words.
– – I am a student in Seminary and have learned to read, translate and exegete Hebrew. it’s a slow process, but I am gradually getting more cozy with it. I also took Greek in Seminary, but I had been translating in Greek since my Junior year in High school when my Dad taught me. As a result of studying the languages, the Word of God has opened up to me, like petals of a rose to expose the aromatic bloom of Jesus’ radiance! As Jesus said to the Religious Leaders in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures [Old Testament] Because you think that you have life in them, but it is these that testify of Me.”
– – Some of my friends, while they confess admiration for the scholarship, don’t see any reason or feel sufficient motivation to learn the original languages of the Bible. They have expressed to me different reasonings:
- “I don’t need it to do what God’s called me to do.”
- “I understand the Bible fine comparing different English versions.”
- “The English Bible I use is all I need for faith and practice and that’s good enough for me.”
These among other reasons are not bad reasons at all. In fact, I’d agree with the first reason that some people are called specifically to areas that learning to read the Bible in the original voice would be a superfluous expenditure of energy. And as for the second reason, the same way two eyes see three-dimensionally, so two or more English versions add a depth to anyone’s reading of the text. And the third reason does not have anything inherently wrong with it. they are right: understanding God’s word in a language of the heart and mind is really all one needs to be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
So, then, why learn to read one even two old languages just to read a book that is much easier to read in English? If you are a person who holds to the first reason, then by all means remain in that condition as God has specifically equipped you. If you are of the other two reasons or another and you are not sure why you would want to learn Greek and (or) Hebrew, allow me to share what I have discovered from my own personal study of the holy written Word of God in Greek and Hebrew.
Continue to Part II (I broke it up into four posts because it was getting long when I wrote it in my journal last night.)
King David wrote how Yahweh is his shepherd. As I was studying the 23 Psalm, I recognized that David’s biblical understanding of who God is so tightly woven with his own personal experience as a shepherd that it bleeds into one another and makes something profound, poetic, personal, and powerful. This is my own “23’rd Psalm” of sorts. I didn’t find an English word for this, so I made up the word, “Wonderer”
Yahweh breathed a mist:
A seed of whispy thought heart-warmed.
The cavern of my inward parts surged with passion
While in still, dark quiet a song was born.
A phrase, a seed, a dewdrop falling—
Echoed against itself in this secret place
Ever expanding to fill the structured space
Of the created temple of God’s goodness
Blossoming in Glory of Christ
My Beloved has come nearer
Your grace has illumined Your image-bearer
Who rules and overflows his life with creativity
Which resembles Yours in a humble fashion
For all my little heart–the spark–is Yours.
O come, my One, remake the landscape
Make this heart burn hot to see Your kind face
For just as all light comes from Your own heart
Abba, Your spirit searches out my very soul.
So, last Friday, I didn’t start off my day reading God’s Word. The result was not pretty. I ran around all day trying to do stuff, and it be futile, and trying to plan stuff and it falling through, praying to thank Him and things not getting better.
When I finally got home, I dove into God’s Word, desperate to find Him, and get back to Him. Just one verse,and my flesh was just retching, like a man encased in darkness, who is confronted by a bright light he cannot bear at first. One verse at a time, He restored me. This is what I saw as I wrote in prayer to Him:
Your Word is like a steady diet of meat and potatoes;
You spoon-feed me, and my body convulses as light is tasted again.
O the dark shadows that lick my heart with black flames
Meets a tiny brilliant spark as white as a snowdrop.
And are cast back to their tiny black foothold
Of hurts un-relinquished by my God-hating nature.
The snow drop soothes and bathes my soul
The tears that flow are purified with salt
The embers kindle a bright new flame afresh
And I laugh to thank God for His Good word to me.
Seek His face, and the shadows will be driven away, and the dross will be purged, and the dirtiness cleansed. Seek His face!
I sit here in the real: a couch beneath me, my socks are damp from the morning dew. The rustling of my mother moving past, and the quiet of my father on hold on the phone across from me.
I see in stillness what the eyes cannot see. I wish not to move lest I disturb it. I just read a book about the book of Genesis, and I can see the perspective of the author of that book and how it is correct in places, and not deep enough in others. But am I the judge?
People read the different books of the Bible all the time. The more one reads it, the more one sees through the letters on the page into the story beneath it. And the story is more clearly seen not only in terms of historical accuracy, but also worshipfully correct, celebratory interpretation of the historical events from with Him.
I had to get up to blow my nose. I am such a human. How grateful I am to be a human. What does it mean to be a human? If we take humanity as a whole as a clue, it appears it means to generally desire what is good, but to mess up and fail all the time. If we use humanity as a whole to help us interpret the scriptures that say, “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23) We may say, “Everyone is no good.” But if we interpret humanity through the lens of who God is, then we see humanity as He sees them: as bearing His image and His likeness. This is why He loves them, because His goodness is what makes humanity valuable. This is only seen from with Him.
I journal. It has helped me go deep into the heart of who I am, as a sort of “Soul Mirror” which I use to talk with Him about what I see. It is through my journaling that I have been able to honestly see how utterly corrupt I am– How inexcusably unworthy of being the judge of good and evil. As I have broken down all the childish follies which grow up in my heart like weeds every day, I have seen in the light of His word, the things that are of Him. But I can only see them from with Him.
Humans today scrutinize God, with an intention to pass judgment on Him. And why not? The church has been passing judgment on people emphasizing God’s wrath on sin, and our otherness from Him. (My Dad just playfully passed a trashcan between my face and the screen as I wrote this. It is like that when we speak of God in such an unloving fashion. It obscures the glorious magnanimity of His face with the garbage of misinterpretation from our own failures.) If only we could see Him. See his face. What would He look like? Would we see someone in the likeness of our own corrupted vision? Is there a way we can see Him better?
Dad just walked up to me and said, “You’ll discover this later, but I bought a rope, in case you want to use the rope for projects in the future.” Then he gave me two thumbs up and said, “I have set you up for success.” I smiled and thanked him, and now I think, hasn’t God done that for us? Has He not since the creation given us everything good? Hasn’t He been pleased to give us good things? I immediately think, “What about all the terrible things that have happened in my life? How can a good God give me that?” Then I continue to think from with Him, and I humbly admit that I don’t understand it all. I just have fully trusted and become convinced that He is good, and that I am not yet aware of just how good He is, because I don’t want to know.
It’s a pervasive problem of being human because we are corrupt sinners. We don’t really want God to be a God who is bigger, greater, more perfect than we can perceive. We also don’t want the “God” who has been interpreted to us by people who claim to know him, but are really painting a picture of God in their own wounded image. This is what we want: we want to be our own arbiter of good and evil. We want to make God in our own image. This is so unworthy of God that He is just to condemn, and punish sin with death, because it takes what is good and perverts it and twists it to its own destruction.
We try to be our own “god.” It’s how we read the Bible; it’s how we pray; it’s how we live this crazy thing called real life. It’s utterly foolish. It is not possible to know God from this standpoint. How absurd! It’s like the pottery saying to the potter, “Look! I don’t have hands, therefore, the Potter must not have hands.” I don’t think this is what Isaiah was talking about in His reference, but the point is still the same. We have a Potter who is beyond us, and has been pleased to fashion us after His likeness. It is the serpent, the enemy who has sown these bad, corrupt, fake, fruitless seeds that have mixed in with God’s goodness.
When I am with Him, I see things. (My Mom just came up to the lamp by the couch and replaced the bulb that had blown out. It is shining now.) And when I see them, I love Him. But it is because I love Him that I see them. And because I love Him, I do what pleases Him. And when I do what pleases Him, I see that He is good, and his reasons for what He commands are perfect and powerful. He is with me, and I don’t see that unless I am with Him. I cannot see Him unless I am with Him. I will not be with Him, unless I can find Him. And He hides from the proud, but with the humble, He is intimate. Why? *smile*
Like a father who wants his children to grow up to take after him, so God the Father is inviting you to grow up to be like Him. This is why Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Be imitators of God as dearly beloved children.” It is simple. There are an infinite number of ways to do life wrong, just like there are infinite numbers stretching both ways from “0.” But there is one way, one place where all of life comes to a whole. And it is Jesus Christ. All else is seen, done, and known rightly from with Him. And in this world, He is not stationary.