God, teach me lessons for living
so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—
my whole life one long, obedient response.
Guide me down the road of your commandments;
I love traveling this freeway!
Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,
and not for piling up loot.
Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,
invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
Affirm your promises to me—
promises made to all who fear you.
Deflect the harsh words of my critics—
but what you say is always so good.
See how hungry I am for your counsel;
preserve my life through your righteous ways! Psalm 139:33-40 MSG
The columns I’ve posted about my recent men’s Bible-study initiative have generated some significant interest. What we’ve been doing, essentially, has been to look at the history of the Bible, and how it has evolved from a mishmash of “oral tradition” stories, hand-copied texts, parchment fragments, letters, and scores of “gospels” into the form we have today.
Yesterday evening we talked specifically about Gutenberg – who invented the printing press with moveable type, circa 1439, and then we covered the Geneva Bible of 1560.
The Geneva Bible – the first complete English translation from the original languages, and largely built on the work of Tyndale – gave us the scriptures as we have known them for the past four and a half centuries. Geneva introduced verse divisions for the first time, predates King James, and remains the cornerstone on which every other English language edition has been built.
DAILY WALK: Some readers have asked me to report on the conclusions my study group reaches. However, we’re not in the business of publishing scholarly inquiry so much as documenting how the words in the sixty-six book collection (the text) continue to teach us more about the Living Word (Jesus), and to inspire us in our daily walk as disciples and followers of The Way.
To that end, here are two of the questions I posed for discussion Wednesday evening:
- Why is the Bible important to you?
- Could you explain your faith by quoting a handful of short passages from the Bible?
Our conversation was both personally deep and collectively inspirational. I didn’t record the discussion, nor did I take notes (besides, we’re a covenant group, and we value confidentiality). But I can say that these men represent a powerful balance between a mature faith and a humble hunger to know Jesus more.
One man said he was unable to answer the second question without another week of deep thought. He was a little hard on himself for not having the information at hand; but I countered by pointing out how beautiful it was to see him unwilling to throw down a glib response, but instead committing to self-examination and further study.
“A lot of us have become a little more comfortable telling people that we love Jesus, that we consider ourselves disciples, and that we own a deep faith in God,” I said. “But there’s a reason I want us to pair those convictions with Bible content; rooting our faith in scripture brings the authority of the word alongside the testimony of our lips. It may be The Greatest Story Ever Told, but when it becomes our story then the work of the great Reformers becomes our work too.”
I don’t want us to learn the words rote, spouting off verses we can throw like darts; I want us to learn the Bible by heart. What I mean by that is not memorization so much as immersion. I want us to understand the story, to own the story, to live the story, and to be equipped to talk intelligently about the story.
I want our story to reflect our love of scripture, yes, but more importantly to point to our even deeper love for the God the Bible helps us get to know.