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In chapter 3, Foster goes through numerous instances in the Bible where God reassures people, “Do not fear, I am with you.” Of course, this reassurance became necessary because of the Fall. “God the Initiator becomes God the Pursuer–not to destroy us for our disobedience, but to turn us away from it and draw us back to life.”

The question becomes “I am with you–will you be with Me?” Will we turn from our disobedience, and return to God. We return to God through believing and trusting him. The choices we make daily reflect whether we trust or not. “God wants relationship with us, not mechanical transactions.” That is, our relationship with God is not based on doing the right things in the right ways at the right times. Instead, are we seeking God even as he is seeking us?

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We’ve been basically offline for nearly two weeks now. I’ve been able to go to the library to check my email. For a while I could receive emails at home, but not send them. We had internet from the ethernet cable in our bedroom, but our wireless router wasn’t working. Standing in from of the dresser is not the best position for blogging. Then, finally getting the wireless router running and everything back online, I got hit with a bug. So, now I’m back (for a few days; I’ve got a trip planned for next week).

To continue with Richard Foster’s book, Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation, we come to chapter 2, “Entering the World of the Bible.” In this chapter Foster discusses the importance of our inner attitude as we approach the Bible.

First, we enter expectantly. Foster compares this attentiveness to the difference between just being in a room with someone else and actually being present to them. We’ve all had the experience of talking to someone and knowing that they’re not really there with us. “Where did you just go? You weren’t here,” we may ask. And so we come expecting to meet God in our time together.

Second, we enter attentively. The Bible is not nice and neat. It doesn’t list our six rules for growth, ten steps to a happier life. The Bible is story. We need to pay attention to the way the story is shaped and how it communicates.

Third, we enter humbly. Foster describes slowing ourselves until we are ready to come to God. He gives direction in reading. He writes, “To help offset the tendency to focus on our favorite passages, or to jump to a conclusion about what a particular passage means, I have found it helpful to read through the entire passage once, out loud. Then I got back a second time, reading silently, but this time highlighting the passages that seem particularly significant. A third time, I go back and read through only the highlighted passages to see if a particular image, phrase, or verse lifts itself to my attention. (I will often write out that excerpt on an index card and carry it with me throughout the day for reflection whenever I have a chance to read it again.)”

Try this approach this week. What do you think of this approach to reading?

We’re still experiencing technical difficulties at home. We hope to have our internet back up later this week. Until then . . .

Foster cites statistics that the average “Bible consumer” owns nine Bibles and is looking for more. However, that ownership hasn’t necessarily led to the transformation of life that we seek. Foster proposes that our problem is that we’re studying with wrong purposes. We’re reading for information, not transformation. We’re reading for quick fixes to our problems. Instead, “the proper outcome of studying the Bible is growth in the supernatural power of love: love of God and love of all people.”

Foster offers several guidelines for our reading:

1. We read the Bible literally. – We read broadly and seek to understand the whole of Scripture.

2. We read the Bible in context. – What was the original author saying to the original audience? Our understanding is tied to this context.

3. We read the Bible in conversation with itself. – The best interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself. We allow difficult passages to be informed by passages we understand better.

4. Christians read the Bible in conversation with the historic witness of the People of God. – We are not the first to read this book. We allow others who have preceded us to help us in understanding what God has said.

Richard Foster has a new book out, Life With God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation. Foster writes, “This book grows out of a deep, heartfelt concern that you and I and all peoples everywhere might discover the life with God to which the Bible witnesses so eloquently.” Foster explains that this book grew out of his work on the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible. In their work, Foster says they were struck by two great realities.

“First, we found that the unity of the Bible is discovered in the development of life with God as a reality on earth, centered in the person of Jesus.”

“Second, the biblical witness showed us how this with-God life works itself out in every conceivable way and in every conceivable circumstance.”

As we shared on Sunday, we read the Bible because it teaches us about God. We read the Bible not for information, but formation. We read the Bible to maintain and sustain relationship.

How do you read the Bible? When do you read? Where do you read? Do you take a particular approach? Do you think of certain questions while you read? Have any books about reading the Bible been especially helpful?

McLaren concludes his book with an appendix. In this appendix he includes a list of reasons he believes we departed from Jesus’ message. He includes transitions from a primarily Jewish to primarily Gentile make-up of the church, infatuation with Greek philosophy by early Christian theologians, the shift from persecuted fringe faith to established religion with the conversion of Emperor Constantine, and many more. But let me conclude with a quote that McLaren shares from Soren Kierkegaard.

“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?
“Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship in the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”

Seeing the kingdom of God is like hearing the sound of birds. So says Brian McLaren. McLaren describes how he is sometimes awakened by the sound of birds. He doesn’t mind. He actually enjoys it.

But for a time the sound of birds was just that, the sound of birds. Then he started to learn their calls. He could distinguish their songs. The robin, the mocking bird, the Carolina wren. All different. All unique in their way. But before, all he heard was the sound. Now he recognized so much more.

McLaren asserts, that’s what God’s kingdom is like. God’s kingdom is all around us. We just don’t always recognize it. We may see it, but don’t actually see. It’s breaking in on a regular basis. Until we learn to recognize it, until we learn to distinguish God’s workings, we don’t always notice.

And so, we train ourselves to hear anew the call of Jesus on our lives. As we begin to distinguish God’s working and strive to join him in his mission, we become more and more aware.