We all talk about the things we are excited and confident to speak about. I’ve noticed many men need both of those elements (enthusiasm and confidence) to open up, whereas women are more apt to speak on themes and topics they are excited about, and ask questions when we lack confidence. So, while I rejoice that women around the globe are diligently studying the Scriptures, I lament that us men tend to let others seek God for us and we’ll just sit here and watch. We’re missing out.
Yesterday I borrowed from the May/June 2011 Bible Study Magazine feature, Breaking Down Your Bible Study Type. The author listed five types of people who engage the Bible: the Newbie, the Perpetual Planner, the Nonconformist, the Extreme Extrovert, and the Ascetic. I confessed I am a mix between the ascetic and the nonconformist, which isn’t always help since I lead people and its often helpful for a pastor to set the pace and pattern and not deviate from it. Thus I’ve learned to color between the lines and trade color crayons with other people too.
Are their others? I think so. Today I want to expand the list of “types” to include many of those I interact with weekly.
- The Scatterbrain. You thrive off information, and especially those tidbits that capture your imagination. Stories particularly captivate you. The narratives of Jesus make you feel closer to God, but did He turn the mud into water, or walk on wine, or was it the bay of pigs that fell into the sea? It all mashes together, and really only makes sense when someone else makes sense of it for you. ➭ Try this: pick a plan for a month, a handful of New Testament books. Start with Philippians, Ephesians, and 1st John. If you need a more historical analysis (to make connections), add in the Book of Acts. The letters will flesh out the skeleton of Acts. In this what I hope you will begin to see more clearly who God is, and who He is calling us to become.
- The Trivial Pursuit Master. You likewise thrive off information, but subconsciously you sort of believe that your superior knowledge will save you. God is pleased that you know the times, places, and events of the Bible. NO, God is pleased when we know His Son, and live in Him. ➭ Try this: Make it personal. Preach the Gospel to yourself first, internalizing what you are learning. If wisdom is the appropriate application of truth, then in all your getting knowledge be sure to live it out. Open up your heart, and be honest with who you are and what you are thinking, feeling, desiring. Engage with God in the Psalms. If you long to make connections, start in Psalm 25 and see how that relates to Mark 3. See how Psalm 57 and Romans 5 go alongside one another.
- The Zipper. Sunday morning your Bible is in hand as you head off to church. Once the service is over, you zip it back up in its carrier, and put it in the backseat of your car. For you, Bible study is what Pastor does to prepare to “feed” you, but you have never really thought about “feeding” yourself or others before. You generally believe what you’re pastor says, or you disagree and don’t give it much more thought. Bible study is on the backseat, right with your Bible, all zipped up. ➭ Try this: Unzip that Bible; take out the old bulletins, and grab a pen and paper. Take the Scripture text(s) from last Sunday’s message and re-read it three times. What does it say? Why does the author say it this way? What would it mean to the original hearers/audience? Do you see the contours and main emphasis of this passage? Now ask, ‘So What?’ What are the implications of believing this truth and living in it? If this message is true, how will it change who you are and how you live this week?
- The Scanner. You scan through most of what you read, and then anchor your soul to the one thing that jumps off the page. There’s a danger here (partly having to do with context), for it puts self in the driver’s seat and not God. God wrote all kinds of words we don’t like to put on coffee cups. If assuming is hearing what we want to hear, then this person reads the Assumer’s Study Bible of sorts. If we only glom onto the truths we already agree with, we won’t be changed. We cannot be changed that way. ➭ Try this: Follow Paul’s charge to Timothy — “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). Perhaps one reason you scan is that you haven’t developed confidence to know what the other parts of the Scripture mean. Sit there; think it over. Write it down. Start with a book, not just a single verse, and read it through. God will meet you there. Because Paul’s words come with a promise: “… the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” When we obey what we already know, we will enter into new adventures of understanding. Try beginning with John 14-16.
- The 2nd Hand Experiencer. This is an amalgamation of many of the others, and can be described as a person who lacks confidence in approaching the God the Bible personally. There is a good facet to this: humility. He or she feels more comfortable learning through the experiences and truths described by others. But since we cannot live vicariously through others, there’s a problem here. I can neither learn for you nor obey for you. I cannot have faith for you. We each need to engage with God, through Jesus our Mediator, and develop a personal history with God. Otherwise, when trials come our way how can we handle them? If we lack a root in daily faith with Christ we won’t know how to respond. ➭ Try this: Take up a Scripture text, reading it aloud (perhaps walking outside in a park or a field, or on your back porch). Ask God to meet you there. Where do you begin? Try Romans 8. Read it and re-read it. Ask Him to make it real, for you, and to give you a message to speak to your own heart and to others.
Recognizing who we are, and how we’re wired, will help us launch into meaningful and life-transforming devotions before God. Let’s learn our habits and idiosyncrasies, so we can develop in view of them, and past them. God wants to grow you. Right where you are.