Listen Up!

When I was in college and later the Navy, I was highly influenced by the ministry of The Navigators. Their ministry helped me develop a relationship with God by teaching me to spend time daily with him in prayer and in searching his word to me from the Bible.  One of the tools they offered was the “Hand Illustration.” Each finger on the hand respected some aspect of engaging the Bible: Hear; Read; Study; Memorize; and Meditate.  Most importantly, the palm of the hand represented Application.

Picture only your fingers holding a Bible. In that case I could easily walk up and snatch it from your hands.  However, if you tucked the Bible deep into your palm and then gripped it with your fingers, I would have a hard time taking it from you.  The point is that we need to apply the truths we learn from hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Scriptures.

In the next few posts I want to talk about each of these aspects of the Hand Illustration.  Today, let me focus on hearing the word of God.  Thirty years ago the only way for me to have “heard” the Scriptures would have been by someone else reading them to me. That would have been awkward and just wasn’t going to happen. Perhaps I could have read them out loud to myself – but isn’t that the same as reading?  So, we listened to sermons and called that “hearing of the word of God.”  Now I am all for preaching.  I preach some myself and I certainly listen to my own pastor and a number of others through podcasts.  However, we live in a day where we can easily hear the Scriptures being read. There are numerous audio versions of the Bible available to us.  One of the least expensive (it’s free!) ways to access these is through the YouVersion app.  I really believe that today’s smart phone technology was inspired by God for the very purpose of allowing this app, and others like it, make the Bible accessible to millions.

Think about this: How did the early believers receive the word of God?  They received it by hearing.  For example, when Paul’s letters were sent to the various churches, they were read out loud from the beginning to the end.  There were no chapter breaks, no interruptions in the middle to “study” the meaning of a phrase or word.  The people simply listened to someone read the letter to them.  No one passed around photocopies of it beforehand for them to follow along.

I have found listening to the Bible to be the single most useful way to learn the Scriptures.  I can listen to the Bible much faster than I can read it.  Plus, it forces me to receive the Scriptures in their context.  When I listen to the Bible, I am unaware of when one verse ends and the other begins.  I hear the flow of thought.

Here’s an assignment for you: Sit down and listen to Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Start at the beginning and listen to as much as you have time.  Close your Bible.  Just sit and listen as attentively as you can.  Tell me what you learn from this exercise.  How is it different from reading? From study?  Does it give you insight that you had never “seen”?

Why I Think It’s Time to Change Bibles

Interesting article by a friend I really respect.  Why I Think It’s Time to Change Bibles.  Like Jim Renke, I use a number of translations when I read and study the Bible.  I have used NIV84 as my primary devotional translation for years.  It is the translation from which I have memorize verses.  For that reason it is hard for me to make the change.

Back to the Present

In my post Do You Use SOAP? I wrote that I usually write the Observation part of my journal entry “in past tense and in the third person.” That probably conjures up some bad memories of high school English, right? Here’s the point: During this part of a journal entry on a passage of Scripture, we need to understand what the original audience was reading/hearing. It was written to them (third person) addressing their time and situation (past tense).

However, on further reflection I realize that when I journal I often write this in present tense. I do this because it make the scene come alive to me, as if I am there with them in the past.  So instead of writing, “The Lord told (past tense) Abraham to take Isaac to the mountain to offer him as a sacrifice,” I might write, “The Lord tells (present tense) Abraham… .” This make the scene come alive to me and begins to help me think about how to bridge the historical gap from what happened (Observation) to how it applies to me (Application).

I was teaching SOAP to a class at my church once and one of the members of the class decided to write their Observations in present tense/second person.  We were working through 1 Thessalonians. So she would write something like this: “Paul, you (second person) are telling (present tense) us that you are always thanking God for us in your prayers.”  Do you see how this really makes the passage come alive?  It is as if we are one of the Thessalonian believers hearing the letter read to us for the first time.  This approach doesn’t work for all passages, but it certainly does for the New Testament letters.

What do you do to help you put yourself into the shoes of the original audience when you read the Bible?

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