Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bible Study

Jesus on the Emmaus Road
I'm in a weekly Bible study not associated with any particular church, although it's held at a church and strongly advises participation in a local church.  It's been around for 50 years or so.  Each year the course covers a different book, or books depending on the study.  Rather than a topical study, we examine each book, chapter by chapter through a 4-step approach: 
Answer daily lesson questions on your own.                                                                                                Discuss your insights in a conversation with members of your discussion group.
Listen to a lecture that explains the passage, key principles from the lesson and the relevance of the Bible's truth to today's world.
Read lesson notes that further elaborate on the passage.

Both the notes and the lecture will often various interpretations of a scripture or a doctrine if it's commonly discussed. 

This is my 2nd year.  My friend had attended 2 or 3 prior years, desperate for spiritual input, a few years after leaving the former church and she was getting so much out of it, I finally had to try it for myself!  Last year was the study of Genesis and this year the book of Matthew.  How appropriate for someone like me who feels like a first grader again (after realizing what we had been taught for years may be 'slightly' off.  Cough) to start with the first books of the Old and New Testament.  Anyway, I'm loving this consistency of opening my Bible (and Bible Gateway App) in the morning, looking up scripture, aswering study questions after a few days of reading study notes and praying about whatever the Holy Spirit highlights for me that day.  As any student of scripture would know, you do so at your own risk because it eventually shines a light on your heart in ways you don't usually see coming.  Sigh. I mean, Clap! 

I feel really good about this expository type of approach to the Bible.  After years of not taking responsibility for my own spirituality, it's like finding water in a dry and weary land.  Too bad churches wouldn't use this method for weekly corporate services, but then again, maybe some do.  In my limited yet lengthly experience, the pastor has opted for a topical approach more often than not.  Not saying topical study is wrong - I love following a word like faith or fear through the Bible using a Strong's Concordance and jotting down the verses that will help me later.  We even have a Naves Topical Bible sitting in our bookcase.  But when the pastor-preacher-teacher chooses a topical presentation over expository methods most of the time, doesn't it give more opportunity to promote his or her interpretation of scripture which can easily lead to manipulation or personal agenda? 

In lecture style teaching with no audience participation or accountability, we the listeners take in what's given, often without question, because it's easier than doing the work of follow-through.  Just listening makes it so easy for us to go on our merry way till we come to sit and listen again, entertainment style, next week.  Don't we realize we are thus giving one man, or woman, the power to spoon-feed his thoughts and beliefs to us?  If we were to have a question, or beg to differ, how would that scenario play out?  How well would it go if we were to go up to the pastor at the end of the service, or write him an email during the week, and say I think you may be off the mark here? 

All that to say, this in-depth study of the word in a non-denominational setting has been slowly restoring me to spiritual health, if I ever was spiritually healthy in the first place.  In taking my spiritual temperature at this juncture, I can see how the Word is at least bringing me back to life spiritually.  I'm still prone to steer clear of organized church which is so socially unexceptable in the Christian Community across the board these days.  And yes, I am tempted to put my hands over my ears so I won't run out screaming when the teacher in the main session at Bible Study plugs the local church and how important it is .  If she only knew what a trigger that is for some of us.  And hey, if a church exists that didn't threaten to TAKE ME OVER hook, line and sinker with its own agenda-vision-projects and meetings, I might be open to participating once again in an organized community.  But for now, I'm loving the freedom of my 2 sweet friends and I studying together each week (with a little lunch follow-up after), relearning the heart and soul of the God we've chosen to follow; and that is Community enough for me right now. 

9 comments:

freeatlast said...

What freedom it truly is to study the Word of God for ourselves again! After years of being spoon fed dehydrated words and worse yet 'twisted scriptures' it has been very healing to study some scripture for ourselves and absorb it into our thirsty souls.
The next question is why isn't Church more like this? Why have we gotten so used to this 'Celebrity Pastor Culture' that has become the norm of most Christian churches these days? Why do think they need to be entertainers with rock star music shows? Or worse yet the super-spiritual atmosphere creators who have to give you a new deep meaning to a verse, usually one verse that only they have down-loaded from heaven? Always saying how deep they are going, or is a new level
I continuously ask other believers - 'so how's that working for us?' NOT very well ! We are going down a dark river at lightening speed but if you look at most mega-church websites their biggest concern is their new 'wonder project' and what super-sonic event is about to take place in their building this week. They are continually building a new building project, setting us simulcasts at a satelite church or creating a video. Again how's that working for us. We have become Biblically illiterate and we don't even realize it till its too late. We have pastors and teachers who don't study or really teach the Word any more because they either don't think its important or don't think their people really want to learn. They've bought the lie that we need the cool sermon, with the cool music and the coolest pastor in town. No we just need Jesus and His Word not your cool insights.
We are starved and anorexic in our thought pattern based on these 'pastors last sermons' that have no meat and very little milk. Help us Lord we're starving to death while You are The Bread of Life. Never have we felt more starved for Truth and it best absorbed when you study it yourself.
So glad you shared this story Detox. We need to get the word out - or is it The Word.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

My name is Meg, I used to write the blog "Tales from the Crypt" until i felt it was no longer in my best interests to dwell on the past. Thought I would drop you a line to see how you are going, I know you were a source of much encouragement when I was writing. It is good to see you have moved on in such a wonderful way and that you are doing so well.

If you would like to have a chat, let me know how I could contact you.

In Him,

Meg

NoJoke said...

Hi Meg,

Yes I remember you and Tales from the Crypt which really helped me out when you were writing!

Thank you for reaching out for a chat. Not sure if I want to disclose my email address here so if there is a different way let me know.

For now, I'll just say moving on has really just been living one day at a time and staying in tune with the Lord, my family and few close friends. And reaching out to those the Lord has brought me together with who don't know Him yet.

I still feel compelled to speak out when the opportunity presents itself especially since we have loved ones still caught in the vortex. Just about the time I think the past doesn't bother me anymore, I'm presented with another reason why it does - mainly because evidences of the pastor worshipfest is still happening at not only the former church but also at the Good Church. The only way to deal with it is head on when it's there and not worry about it when it's not.

But seeking out the study of the Word has been a saving grace :-)

So, to be continued...
and Take care!

NoJoke said...

Freeatlast -

Good point about how deep are they going with the spiritual downloads to a new level (there is so much in that sentence that makes me gag a little!) like they are the ones privvy to God's voice and are the blessed ones - when Jesus said His sheep would know His voice - that means all of us who care to listen!

Also, great point about being Biblically illitereate - which we've both admitted to feeling like first graders again. It's humbling but at least we are seeking to know an unbiased view of the Word, albeit the Bible study is an imperfect vehicle since bias may sometimes be present but they do their best. But we aren't looking for perfection and God isn't asking it of us; we just want to be a heart that seeks to know Him - the scripture says He rewards that. I think attempting to study the scripture may be like attempting to pray - we may not say it perfectly or eloquently or dot every i and cross every t, but we seek to connect with Him to pour out our hearts to Him and He honors that.

Yes, at last we are getting a little meat on our bones and returning to health!

freeatlast said...

No Joke,
No subject is more than important than returning to the Word - or rather the love letter that the Lord left us. It is the barometer of our healing. It is so important that you can't return to full Christian health without it. That being said it may be a process. The Lord is patient and knows when we're ready to eat again after our sickly existence is Mega Church Mania. Our last church rarely focused on Bible study. We were above that or thought we were. Right!! How did it end for us there? Not very good. We've found it has been incredibly important in returning to real spiritual health & dealing with all the weirdness you face when you leave a cult like group; a controlling church, a CEO driven Celebrity Pastor world or all of the above. It is one more step to healing.

I have been reading and researching other 'Survivor' blogs out there and so many believers are feeling led to get out of the vortex of the local mega church world where they are fortunate to hear even one real passage taught, or a sermon based on the Bible. I've personally talked to many who have left their local churches because they just can't stand to hear the pastors' favorite stories one more time! They are saturated to the top with the lack of anything remotely Biblical. It takes a while for them to detox from all the fireworks and entertainment the mega church world has fed them. Slowly they become hungry for the Word. They want to read the Bible for themselves and compare it to all the sermons they have taken in over the years without blinking an eye. If Pastor said it - it had to be true! Not necessarily! We are called to question and to stay as the Bereans - a group of believers who searched the scriptures daily to see if what they had just heard was so? When and where did we lose this ability to think and ask questions?
What begins to emerge is a pattern of deception and they start to realize that what they took as truth may or may not have been Biblical but actually an opinion given by the Pastor. Slowly they want to unravel the truth as they start to question everything and there is only one Book of Truth. Than they are really mad they were deceived and it increases the hunger for more Truth. Which is a good thing!

Like a sailor who has hung onto a raft for days you are dehydrated and malnourished so you have to return to real food slowly, but it does happen and what a joy it is!

NoJoke said...

Freeatlast! this is why I love talking with you so much - talk therapy as you've called it over the years - you have the heart of a Berean, getting down to the true nittygritty heart of a matter. You are so right - we would never get well apart from the Word - even though we did go through a time of only reading Psalms for awhile out of a need to detox the old voices. (But Psalms are part of the Word too so nothing wrong there - just after awhile a person is hungry for a fuller meal.) But like you say about the sailor lost at sea, our need for true nourishment drove us to spiritual survival and nothing could or can fill that need but through our connection to the Lord through His Word through which all else is weighed and measured.

Thank you of bringing up the Bereans which is something I need to add to the detox list of likes! To have that same spirit with others who seek the same way is something worthy and I love what you say "We are called to question and to stay as the Bereans - a group of believers who searched the scriptures daily to see if what they had just heard was so. When and where did we lose this ability to think and ask questions?" (Good question!!) Acts 17 speaks highly of them: "the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Did we ever hear our former pastors mention the Berean's?? Why would they do that when a question was an indicator of independent thinking, a sign of disloyalty?)

Anyway, thank you for your voice, my friend - just what I needed for today as a sweet supplement to my Bible study; speaking of I've got questions I've yet to answer before class tomorrow - lol!

Free At Last said...

Thank you NoJoke! May we continually use our voices to sharpen iron - asking those tough questions daily till we know we 'can give an answer for what we believe.' Its a key in the verse that says 'they were of more noble character.' A tip off that if we want to develop our character and keep our minds and spirits sharp so that we won't get deceived - we should take all information given in a sermon, or any form and run it through the mill of our discerning mind. What a concept - checking scripture DAILY to see if it lines up with The Word. Ours tools have gotten rusty sitting in the shed for years but we've gotten them out and are putting them to use till they are sharper than two edged sword. is gone and they are sharper than a two edged sword - via Hebrews 4:12. Its how it always should have been till we checked our brains in at the door. As someone said God doesn't want you to read the Bible to make Him happy, He already knows what it says - He wrote it. Its there to help us!'

NoJoke said...

Yes, and thank God we have the Oil of the Holy Spirit to sharpen those rusty tools :) Makes me think of our garden tools when springtime rolls around, we have to tighten the screws that hold them together and we have a sharpening blade to make the edges sharper. But often just the tightening of the screws causes the tool to cut better.

About asking questions and the parallel to character - wouldn't THAT be an about face in the Christian Community if asking questions (like the Bereans) became the hallmark of a mature Christian as apposed to choosing silence that reeks of false humility? i.e. I know what the pastor is doing is off but I'm going to cover him because if I submit to him the Lord will honor that; or i.e. I know the church leaders (pastor and family) are using the money for personal trips and extravagent clothing but I am called to only obey God and give my tithe - the Lord will deal with the pastor.

Not only is that false humility, it's shirking the responsibility of speaking up - being a voice saying this is wrong, this is against God's principles. Jesus spoke up about it in the temple - what greater example do we need?? When we check our minds at the door and let the pastor, or teachers, give us their daily bread, instead of seeking the Lord ourselves first, we also give up the right to speak. What do we know if we're not studying to show ourselves approved unto God a workman that need not be ashamed? Interesting that the scripture we are studying this week includes where Jesus tells the disciples to call no one Rabbi (could be interpreted as Pastor), teacher, instructor or Master because there is only one Rabbi, teacher or master and that is Jesus. He never asked or required of us to let the Rabbi do the thinking for us. Somehow we morphed into this, perhaps because of a natural propensity toward laziness. Our flesh loves nothing better than letting someone else do the work - but we sure do pay for it later.

Better to do the work now and be closer to the Lord as a result. He cares for us when a pastor doesn't even think of us. "They aren't even thinking of you, Mom"

NoJoke said...

P.S. I know that dear, that is why we left.