Tag Archive for: Bible

Watch All 4 Episodes of Feasting on the Scriptures

The Institute for Bible Reading recently joined Bible Gateway for a Facebook Live series titled Feasting on the Scriptures. Each of the four episodes gives practical advice on the steps to take toward “reading big” on the path to great Bible engagement.

If you didn’t catch these episodes on Facebook Live, you can watch them all right here. To get notified of future Facebook Live events, make sure you Like and Follow the Institute for Bible Reading and Bible Gateway on Facebook.

Episode 1: Reading Whole Books

The natural building blocks of the Bible are whole books which are meant to be engaged as complete works. Learn about why reading whole books is the first and most important thing to do with the Bible:

Episode 2: Reading the Bible as a Story

Not every book of the Bible is a story, but every book does contribute in its own way to the grand narrative of the Scriptures. Find out how that works:

Episode 3: Reading the Bible with Jesus at the Center

Every book of the Bible, whether First Testament or New Testament, should be read through the “Jesus Lens.” What does that mean? Glenn Paauw explains:

Episode 4: Reading the Bible Together

The Bible is meant to be a community formation book. While private devotions and quiet times are valuable, Paul Caminiti explains that they can’t be a substitute for communal engagement and discussion:

Prequel: Bible Reading Is Broken and It’s Not Your Fault

Feasting on the Scriptures with Bible Gateway

The Institute for Bible Reading and Bible Gateway are teaming up for a series of Facebook Live events titled “Feasting on the Scriptures”, beginning March 30.

Feasting on the Scriptures Bible Gateway

This series will be focused on what it means to “Read Big.” We’ll be exploring the importance of reading whole books, which are the natural building blocks of the Bible. From there, we’ll talk about how all these books work together to tell the true story of God and his mission for the world. Here’s the schedule:

Episode 1: Why We Should Read Whole Books
Episode 2: How to Read the Bible as a Story
Episode 3: Reading the Bible with Jesus at the Center
Episode 4: Reading the Bible Together

How do I tune in?

The best way is to go to Bible Gateway’s Facebook page, then “Like” and “Follow” them. After that, do the same with the Institute for Bible Reading page. Make sure that underneath the Following tabs on both pages, Notifications are checked “On”:


We’re looking forward to discussing these ideas and concepts with our friends at Bible Gateway. Hope to see you there!


Advent: Reading the Bible For the Real World

The biblical narrative knows all about times of change. It knows about seasons of darkness that that last way too long. How long was Israel in slavery before Moses was called? How long did God’s people sit in sadness by rivers of Babylon? How many days and nights did Anna, daughter of Penuel, sit in the Temple, fasting and praying for the redemption of Jerusalem? (She was there continually, Luke tells us, until she was 84.)

Exile. Suffering. Sadness and death. How long? How long?

Of course, the Bible knows all about days of rejoicing too. It knows about seasons of rescue, of God showing up and turning the tide, changing the story. It knows about times of refreshing, about good harvests, about a Messiah born amidst singing angels. There are seasons of light in this tale.

But think for a moment about the big story in the Bible. Think of what we learn about God’s founding intentions for the world, and for his people in the world. God wanted flourishing life, tended by image-bearing humans. God wanted to live with us in his creation-temple. God wanted us to trust him, to trust what he said, to follow his ways.

We struggled to live up to God’s call for us. We failed him. And he in turn struggled with us. He struggled with the family of Abraham that he called to rescue us, to bring us light and love and blessing. The story tells us about covenants and then more covenants, a never-ending series of promises about real change, about a new kind of future.

But the story seems stuck in pro and con, con and pro, an unending battle. It is about floods, but then doves with olive branches. About slavery, but then Exodus. About war, but then Promised Land. About tribal chaos, but then King David. God is trying and trying and trying, but it’s always a struggle. A new start, but then a turning away. It feels more like circles of frustration than straightforward progress with this biblical narrative, this so-called story of salvation.

We can get fully three quarters through the Bible and the same questions remain: Will God’s first intentions ever be realized? Will there be faithful God-imagers on earth? Will life flourish the way God wants it to? Will God’s plan to bring goodness and life to all peoples through Israel really work? When already?

What I like about the Bible (the actual Bible, not the filtered-cherry-picking-nice-verses Bible) is that it’s like real life. Real life is a struggle. Real life is about waiting. Real life is about watching the world fall apart on my news feed.

What I like about the Bible (the actual Bible, not the filtered-cherry-picking-nice-verses Bible) is that it’s like real life. Real life is a struggle. Real life is about waiting. Real life is about watching the world fall apart on my news feed.Click To Tweet

We are in the season of Advent these days, waiting once again for the coming of something genuinely new. And I’m noticing that the questions of Advent are the same questions of the entire biblical narrative before the New Testament.

Will he come? When? How long?

Advent teaches us, among many other things, to read our Bibles big and whole. Screening out the longing stories, the waiting stories, the struggle stories, won’t serve us well in the end. Our super-friendly, super-nice, super-encouraging piecemeal Bible won’t actually sustain us in real life. It’s better to know that God knows like we know that life is hard.

And when we read all of it, and are honest about all of it, then when that Messiah does really come, when those joyous songs do fill the night skies over the Judean countryside, then it’s so much better because it’s so much more real. This is reading the Bible for the real world.

God is in it with us for the long-haul. But the only way to understand the depth and truth of this is to know his whole story. Not just the easy parts.

Read the Bible for life.

How the Bible Is Like the Sistine Chapel

In 1508, Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The project – if we can reduce this massive undertaking to a word as small as “project” – took four years and, as we all know, resulted in one of Michelangelo’s most famous works, as well as one of the most stunning and revered works of art in the world.

The painted area of the ceiling measures approximately 131 feet long by 43 feet wide, which means Michelangelo painted over 5000 square feet of frescoes. Nine scenes from Genesis run down the middle, including the famous The Creation of Adam. The border contains depictions of Israel’s prophets, including Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. The scale of Michelangelo’s work is truly monumental.

Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Of course, Michelangelo didn’t paint these stunning frescoes inside a climate-controlled museum, but inside a functioning chapel. This meant that they were exposed to many harsh elements that made it difficult for the paintings to survive, and practical measures had to be taken to ensure the paintings could be enjoyed by future generations. Linseed oil was applied to the paintings in 1547 to counteract some of the effects of water penetrating through the floor above. Then, in 1713 a layer of varnish was applied to protect them from the soot and grime accumulating from the candles below.

As the years, decades, and centuries passed, the smoke & wax from burning candles and smut from car exhaust fumes built up and made the frescoes so uniformly dark that critics accused the great sculptor of being insensitive to color.

Then, in 1980, a major restoration project was undertaken using modern technology and preservation techniques. They discovered that the layers of varnish and glue that had been applied over the years had hardened and become opaque. Animal fat and vegetable oil had been applied to counteract salination, but had also created a sticky layer that accumulated even more dirt.

So the restorers got scrubbing. They used a variety of different solvents to wash away the layers of dirt, grime, grease, soot, varnish, and exhaust that had accumulated on the original paintings, and what they found was stunning.


“The Fall and Expulsion of Adam and Eve” Before and After


“Daniel” Before and After






When the Sistine Chapel reopened after the restoration, people were shocked at the vividness of the artwork. Michelangelo hadn’t been “insensitive to color” after all. His incredible original work had simply been covered up by years and years of accumulation.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, it’s a pretty good metaphor for the Bible.

Beginning around the year 1200 when Stephen Langton introduced chapter numbers to the text, and followed by the addition of verse numbers in the mid-1550s by Robert Estienne, modern additives have been accumulating inside our Bibles. Fast forward to today and you’ll see most Bibles come complete with chapters, verses, section headings, footnotes, red-letters, callouts, and cross-references, and all squeezed into two columns so that more information can fit on a single page.

These modern additives, of course, were all put into our Bibles with the best of intentions. Chapters and verses were both added so that referencing small pieces of Scripture became easier (for writing a commentary or concordance, for example). Footnotes undoubtedly showed up because publishers wanted to help people grasp more of the context around what they were reading.

But what has it all amounted to? Information overload. The Bible’s text almost seems hidden, overpowered by all of the extra “helps” we’ve included. Chapters and verses have papered over the natural structures of ancient literature, hiding them behind a uniform numbering system. Two-column formats make it much more difficult to see the parallel structures of Hebrew poetry that we find in the Psalms.

There’s a natural beauty to the Bible that is waiting to be uncovered. If we scrub away the years of varnish and soot, we’ll be surprised and awestruck by what we find. The encouraging trend of “reading Bibles” entering the marketplace shows us that the Bible can indeed be beautiful, and that we can actually have a more authentic, transformative experience with God’s Word if we get rid of all the modern additives and just let the text breathe.

5 Tips for Reading the Bible in Community

Bible with coffeeIn a recent survey the Institute conducted, we asked our audience where they usually find themselves reading the Bible. While 92% of them said they read the Bible alone or during their quiet time, only 31% said they read the Bible during their small group or Bible study. Clearly, reading the Bible alone – maybe accompanied by a cup of hot coffee and a pen – is the way most people choose to engage with God’s Word today. There’s nothing wrong with this on its own, but there’s a whole new world of understanding and engagement waiting for us if we regularly experience the Bible in community.

For most of Christian history, the personal Bible did not exist. Reading the Bible was a group activity because most churches only had one Bible. Only with the invention of the printing press in the 15th century did we see the Bible make its way into the hands of individuals on a mass scale. Since then, Bible reading has evolved into a solo sport. And while it’s certainly nice to have Bibles around our house that we can call our own, we’ve unfortunately lost the ancient practice of reading and wrestling over the text together.

If you’d like to try reading the Bible with your community of believers, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Don’t make it all about finding the right answers

Most group Bible study guides today take a question-and-answer approach to the Bible. How does Paul identify himself to the Corinthians? Why might he do it this way? What does the word “sanctified” mean? All you have to do is open up your Bible and find the answer to the question. This diminishes the Bible into a sourcebook for answering the right questions to grow your faith.

Unfortunately in many group settings this can also lead to the person who is most knowledgeable about the Bible – perhaps they know Hebrew or Greek – taking over and providing all of the “answers” to the study guide’s questions. Other people in the group don’t get a chance to participate in talking about the Bible because they don’t know as much and therefore don’t think they bring value to the group. This situation can be especially intimidating for new believers.

Instead, open the discussion up for opinions and questions about the reading. A question like, “So, is there anything that stood out to you?” opens the text up for discussion at all levels.

2. Read big portions of Scripture

Try modeling your Bible discussions after book clubs. When book clubs meet, they usually don’t only discuss one paragraph or one sentence of the book. While they may dwell on a short passage for a while, they’ve often read large chunks of the book and can talk about how the story is progressing or what shifts they’ve seen in the characters. They can pick out turning points in the story and discuss what they think might happen as a result.

When your community reads the Bible together, read and discuss big portions. Read an entire letter from Paul or an entire story from the First Testament. Don’t be bound by chapters and verses – look at the content itself and determine a good stopping place.

3. Avoid “application” as the universal end-game

Bible StudyMany of us have been conditioned to automatically ask, “Okay, now what does this mean for me?” as we read. If a story or passage doesn’t have direct application to our lives today in the 21st century, it can be difficult to know what to do with it. Large portions of the Bible end up ignored because it’s hard to find something we can draw from it that we can start practicing immediately.

When talking with your community about a passage in the Bible, if you’ve found something you feel speaks to you that you can apply to your life, by all means share it with the group. But if it’s not there, you don’t need to reach for it.

4. Talk about things that bothered you

There are a lot of things in the Bible that are hard to digest. When we read alone we don’t have anyone to process these unsettling passages with, and when we’re in a group setting we sometimes focus discussion on the easier, more manageable parts of Scripture. We have a hard time talking about parts of the Bible that bother us, so we usually try to just push it out of our minds.

Talking through these uncomfortable passages with your community can be extremely helpful and valuable. It will help your group grow closer, and somebody within the group may have some insights to the difficult passage that can help make it more understandable. Even if your group can’t come to a satisfying explanation of a hard passage, wrestling over the text together will bring you all closer to God.

5. Be open to disagreement

Part of the beauty of group discussion is the opportunity to wrestle together over a passage and work together to sort out its meaning. It’s almost inevitable, though, that at some point there will be disagreement about the interpretation of a passage. When this happens, we have the opportunity to learn to see different angles on a Bible passage by listening well to other members of our group. And while we may end up holding different opinions, it’s important for these differences not to become deal-breakers for our relationships.


If your community has been in the traditional “Bible Study” mode for a while, I encourage you to try this “Book Club” approach. Read big chunks of Scripture together, then just open it up for group discussion. I think the results will surprise you.