Reading the Bible – A Simple Truth

May 18, 2009 — 7 Comments

I guess I’ve been in a reflective mood over the past few weeks, and have been dwelling on some of the things I have learned over the past few years.  Since college, my view of the Bible has been drastically altered from a book filled with nuggets of wisdom to the narrative of the glory of God.

One simple thought that struck me recently is that reading scripture ONLY in a verse by verse way, it’s way too easy to miss out on the overall theme of the Bible.  Similarly, reading Scripture without a theological foundation is like trying to put together a shelving unit without a parts list.  This was, in part, why I think I struggled to really love reading God’s word.

Verse by verse, inductive study is very useful and helpful, but if you only study Scripture from the inductive lens, which is the predominant mode I was taught, it is very difficult to see the overall storyline of God’s redemptive work.

I think the best way I’ve come to understand this is by analogy.  I need to have an overall vision for where my life and ministry is heading, while I also need to do the daily discipline of managing tasks that align toward that end.  If I don’t have vision, I’ll be busy for the rest of my life without really accomplishing much, and if I don’t do the daily tasks, I’m never going to fulfill God’s calling on my life.

I think it is pretty similar with our reading of Scripture.  If you only read the Bible as a great story, you’re going to miss much of God’s grace in momentary, day-to-day life with specific verses.  If you only read it verse by verse, mining for nuggets, you’re going to miss the forest for the trees, and accomplish a ton, but never really “get it”.

The meta-narrative of Scripture helps me to understand each passage in the context of God’s overall plan, and the day-to-day discipline of reading and studying passages is when I receive very specific, applied encouragement, correction, or wisdom from God.

I am thankful for God’s divine inspiration of the Bible…it has, does, and will continue to transform me.

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

7 responses to Reading the Bible – A Simple Truth

  1. This might be my favorite of all your posts. Loved it.

  2. so simple–“read it all, but not at once (an oversimplification)”. incredibly powerful. thanks for the good word, toodus!

  3. This is so true but it takes some growth to get to this point! Thanks Todd! I will use this in my study with my Esther Group tonight.

  4. Todd – I’m currently trying out Bible Storying with my small group and oh my goodness, I can’t even say enough great things. We’re learning so much about the character of God that we often can miss out on/forget about when we do inductive study. I’m not at all discounting inductive study, but I’d say that definitely say that by doing this, our group is getting a great picture of God’s power, control, mercy and faithfulness — and we’re only at Cain and Abel.

    Thank you so much for this post and for making me remember God’s story.

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