Want to Suggest a Question?

To submit a question for James, Richella, and Nate to consider discussing on Friends in Formation, email [email protected]​renovare.​org.

Show Notes

In this month’s episode of Friends in Formation, James, Richella, and Nate discuss different ways to read the Bible (big chunks, small bites, meditating, memorizing, and changing it up), what to do with tricky texts in Scripture, and how to spot spiritual abuse.

  1. [:53] How do you approach Bible reading?
  2. [16:28] How do you handle tricky sections of Scripture?
  3. [30:20] How widespread is spiritual abuse and what are its dangers?

[:53] Between intensively reading through the bible in a year or, alternatively, meditating on a single verse for an entire week, how do you approach the Word of God? Either I feel like I’m skimming it to get through large portions, or I feel like I’m hardly consuming any of it. I’d love to hear how the three of you balance this out.

It’s very important in engaging with the Scriptures that the intent is to hear God speak. The entry point for us engaging with Scripture is hunger, hunger for God, to hear God, to have a relationship with God. It’s not the amount we consume; it’s not the amount of calories that we can eat our way into Scripture. It’s about the quality of the interaction. We’re reading for relationship, not just for understanding. So, what satisfies your hunger at the time? Sometimes what you need is to take in large amounts of scripture, and sometimes you need to sit with some small part so that it penetrates the deepest recesses of your soul. Ask yourself, How should I approach Scripture this year, this month, this week?” When we come with that posture of openness and hunger, God is quite faithful to let us know how we should interact and what would be the most helpful. Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and others were approached by their publisher to create a study Bible with the idea of spiritual formation as its guiding principle. Reading the introduction has been one of the most helpful things to approach Scripture as a gift of love from God, a grace, instead of this hammer or obligation. 

God, in sovereign grace and outrageous love, has given us a written revelation of who He is and what His purposes are for humanity. And God has chosen to accomplish this great work through his people on earth. This written revelation now resides as a massive fact at the heart of human history. There is simply no book that is remotely close to achieving the significance and influence of the Bible.”

Look at the life of Jesus and see how he talked with his friends and how often he quoted the Scriptures; even when he was tempted by Satan his very answers were quotations from Scripture. When we look at his last words on the cross, one of his last words was quoting a Psalm. His mind was saturated with the Scriptures as they existed in his day, the Jewish Scriptures that he’d grown up learning. That is so much of what formed him, and this was Jesus Christ, the son of the living God in human form, who understood that the Scriptures are a gift from God. Scripture is at its best when it’s part of an interactive relationship with God. 

Ideas for Reading: meditating on a small passage for a day or a week or a month; memorizing Scripture; precise translations for study, and then the freer translations for major portions; change it up.

[16:28] How do you handle tricky issues with Scripture or tricky sections of Scripture?

Don’t be afraid – we don’t have to defend the Bible. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral has been helpful in coming to a place of understanding: Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason. Scripture – what does Scripture say about itself? How do I view it in its entirety? Tradition – What have faithful followers of Jesus been saying about this or working with this through the ages? Experience – What has been my experience with God in living my life? Reason – We’ve been given a brain and that’s a gift and a tool. So press into that, even when there are pieces that just don’t make sense; don’t give up; keep at it. And don’t be afraid to use your reason. Also, read the bits you don’t understand in the context of the things that you do understand. Don’t hold back from asking, from wrestling with it, having a conversation with it, pushing it, arguing with it. It’s an invitation to understand more, to go further into God and Scripture. If you’re struggling with something in Scripture, you’re not the first person to have come across this. We can challenge it, we can argue with it, and we can find answers as well. These are also invitations for prayer. We need friends in formation, safe people with whom to talk about these difficult issues, good friends of like mind with whom we can open the Scriptures and pray together, approach God together, remind one another not to be afraid. We’re not meant to do any of this on our own; we’re meant to do this in community. And read out loud. The Bible was an oral book.

[30:20] I’ve been hearing more about spiritual abuse lately. How widespread do you think it is and what, in your opinion, are the key dangers?

A quick question, but not a quick answer. It’s ripe for abuse, because religion holds a position of power. Key dangers: when systems become closed, when you’re told not to question, is there a charismatic leader who sets the stage in a messianic way. If your religious experiences lead you to destructive control and manipulation outcomes, it’s worth questioning. Abuse is any behavior that reduces a person or an aspect of that person to an object, a thing to be used for the purposes of another, that can be commodified. Abuse is a violation of someone’s boundaries — you’re infringing upon someone else’s autonomy or agency. Watch out for coercion or control. So many bad things can happen in the name of Jesus. Whenever you’re opening yourself to someone speaking into your world, wherever there’s a power imbalance between two people, there’s a potential for abuse. Spiritual abuse can be very subtle. Wade Mullen says, Spiritual abuse leads to confusion and captivity.” But in Christ, what we have on offer is freedom. This is what we want to offer the world – the increasing freedom of becoming more and more like Jesus. And there’s just no place for confusion and captivity there. In the movie, The Book of Eli, the villain in a post-apocalyptic world wants a Bible, because if he can get a Bible, then he holds the key to rebuilding society with him in control. We’re dealing with incredible power to control and manipulate people, and we must be careful with it when we’re tinkering with power. Oh that it would be used only for good, not as a weapon. It’s the sword of the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the one who can be entrusted with this sword. 

Resources Mentioned

    Facebook Twitter

    More Episodes >