On the Bible

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, John Ryser recounts how even though he regularly read the Bible in his high school years, it “remained a mystery to me, the only version available being the King James. I had trouble applying it to my life.”

John isn’t alone. In 2012, we surveyed more than 200 high school youth at a Christian camp. Nearly 95 percent reported that they read the Bible, but only half could think of a time God had spoken to them through Scripture. Just over one third of the students surveyed said they couldn’t see how the Bible was relevant to their lives. Most said they struggled to find a regular time to read the Bible or that they didn’t know where to start.

John said a Sunday school teacher made a difference for him. “Gene was a shop worker who had no formal Bible training or higher education, but he had a radical reliance on God’s Holy Spirit and the self-discipline to read, study, absorb, and apply God’s Word.... He made the Bible come alive.”

John clarifies that it wasn’t Gene’s lack of training that made him effective. It was Gene’s love for God, his love for Scripture, and his love for people that made a difference. “He taught me that my belief would naturally be reflected in my behavior.” And as a result, “My life changed.”

John wonders if you’ve “ever thought about teaching others God’s Word through Sunday school, a small group, or Bible study.” Having training helps, but what really matters, according to John, is humility and a willingness to do what Gene did: he “lived exactly the way he taught.”

Each quarter, Barclay Press produces a Friends Bible study called Illuminate, and starting this month, we’ve increased the amount of Scripture included in each week’s study while replacing some of the commentary with discussion questions. 

One of yesterday’s passages – Matthew 4:12-17 – is paired with questions to engage your imagination: “Why might Jesus have chosen to make his home in Capernaum, a place where he had never lived, instead of Nazareth, where he grew up? Or Jerusalem, the center of Judaism?” There are questions to help you relate to the text: “What does Jesus’ use of this prophecy from Isaiah suggest to us about how he views his purpose?” There are questions for application: “Jesus refers to himself several times as ‘the Light.’ How does light overcome darkness? How do you experience Jesus as Light?”

Our goal has been to create a resource that might make it possible for one person or two friends or a small group or even a formal class to read and engage Scripture together. Just as Gene’s “love for God and God’s Word planted seeds” in John’s life, I’m convinced that when we engage Scripture together, we nurture those same seeds in one another. We grow together. We experience God’s presence together. We let God shape us through Scripture. Together.

Maybe you’re part of a group that would benefit from this resource. Maybe you’re already using Illuminate and have ideas for additional ways in which we might make it even more useful to you. Maybe you just needed a reminder – like I sometimes do – that the Bible continues to be relevant, useful, and important. John offers a closing prayer: “God, help me to absorb and to apply your word, so that I may teach it to others.”

I pray that this might be true for all of us.

Eric Muhr