Read the Bible for a Change

I love broccoli. I think it’s delicious, and we should stop hating on all the tasty veggies out there. Vegetables can taste wonderful, but we condition children to think it’s a chore to eat your veggies.

Earlier this week, I got a long rant from a former student about how much she loves reading the Bible, and she hates that people bill it like veggies. She told me she hates when people present reading the Bible as hard because it prevents people from realizing it’s their favorite thing to do. She’s fought through the fog and discovered an absolute joy in reading the Bible – like I have. And the fog we’re talking about is people telling us it’s boring. As I tell my students often, if you think the Bible is boring, you’re reading it wrong.

Stick with me for another analogy.

I love The Princess Bride. It’s like my all time favorite movie (except maybe Moana might be better). At the start of the movie, the sick kid is super suspicious that his grandpa’s novel could be interesting. “Is this a kissing book?” a dubious Fred Savage asks the old man early on, but by the end of the movie when the grandpa closes the book and dismisses the last kiss, the kid is all in, “I don’t mind so much,” he tries to play it cool. The grandpa concedes, and we all enjoy the scene with the greatest kiss in the history of literature and movies. So there are times when we grow up a little over the course of an afternoon of a loved one walking us through an incredible narrative that engages us and grows us as a person.

I love The Princess Bride, I love broccoli, and I love reading the Bible. I know not everyone loves each of those activities as much as I do, but I do recognize the beauty of engaging well with the Bible as a way to foster loving relationships with God and other people. I try to teach that to my students, and sometimes I get to continue lessons with alumni. The same girl who told me she’s excited every day when she opens the Bible even if it’s just a few verses told me about how excited she was to register people to vote because that’s something that she passionately connects to her faith. I’m so proud of her for living out the words that she reads in the Bible each day.

One of my other students who managed to make it through the whole Bible two and a half times in a year discovered exciting connections about the through lines in the biblical narrative, but he tuckered out on the fast pace he started a year ago. He’s now committed to a deep dive in Isaiah to see how the prophet encourages people to love through their actions, to reach out to the struggling and oppressed, and to offer tangible help in the name of Yahweh.

Yet another alumni I talked to recently managed to read the whole Bible three times in the past year before he ground to a halt amidst teenage drama and whatnot. He was really excited about it the first time through, but now he can’t seem to keep reading through it. We talked about it this weekend, and he knows the Bible can help him grow, and he doesn’t know what keeps him from reading it. Instead of finishing another reading all the way through, he’s decided to take small books to read slowly and meditate on one week at a time. He’s starting with Jonah, a book he’s read dozens of times, but he believes me when I tell him there’s always more to learn when you read the Bible. We’ve got a whole lifetime in what I teach my students is the “comprehensive” level of Bible study – we’ll never reach “exhaustive” this side of heaven because there’s more God can teach us in the text.

These particular three students all have different responses when they come to the Bible, but each of them are committed to learning from the text and becoming more like Jesus. I also know each of them are imperfect and struggle with different things that the Holy Spirit convicts them of when the read the text. I know that’s true because I’m uniquely convicted each time I read Scripture, and it’s always different than whatever my friends are convicted of when we talk about our Bible reading insights. My friend Beckie happened to be visiting Kandern this week, and I didn’t know about it until we were in the cafeteria at the same time, but we had an impromptu lunchtime chat where she encouraged me to keep reading the Bible and sharing with my students the joy that it brings me. She shared some of the beautiful insights she had over the past year digging into the details of Luke and the other Gospel narratives, and I was so blessed to hear the new and different things she was learning.

Both of us are committed to a lifelong pursuit of Jesus and recognize the value and importance of the Bible in that. Today was Bible Sunday in the Anglican church, and my friends shared about their work over the past three decades on a Bible translation project in Asia. I’m so encouraged by the faithfulness of Joan and Esther, and I want to have a legacy like theirs. Young people have access to written language and education in their isolated region because this couple wanted to share the love of Jesus with them. The Bible changed this Dutch couple so much that they committed to moving their family to a foreign culture and offered years of their life to helping others.

The textbook I teach in my class is called Read the Bible for a Change by my professor Ray Lubeck, and the emphasis is on the “for a change” part according to Ray. I am changed by the Word of God, and I want that to be evident in my conversations and interactions with students. I also want to teach them to read the Bible in order to see change in their own lives. It’s a critical part of being a Jesus follower – I want to be more like Jesus, and the Bible teaches me how to do that if I read it well.

One of the greatest joys of my job is watching students commit to following Jesus and living it out; one of the greatest struggles is seeing the very same students make stupid decisions and know that there are simple solutions to help them hurt less and grow more. I know I’m not responsible for the choices my students make – bad or good – but some of them look to me as some kind of role model. The change it has produced in me is that I make every effort to care for others which I’ve recently learned involves taking better care of myself holistically. This week I need to take special care of several factors as I wrap up my quarter one in Bible and AP English class. I’ve got lots of grading to do before the marking period ends, and my traditional quarter end self care is a Starbucks grading date with Katrina. She’s going to show up in about half an hour to drive us with our laptops to settle into the upstairs of the Claraplatz Starbucks so we can stay ahead of deadlines like the responsible educators we both are.

My ongoing physical care is complicated, and I would love prayers for good sleep this coming week as the interruptions in my sleep lately have hindered my energy which slows down my productivity and ability to practice walking. Fortunately I get a couple days break from teaching at the end of the week, and I’ll be going on a brief adventure to visit one of my best friends from Portland who moved to Prague this past summer, so you can expect an exciting update about bus travel and Czech accessibility next week.

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