Thursday, August 05, 2010

Putting It On the Bottom Shelf

As far as I know, no one has ever confused my efforts at preaching and teaching with those of Ravi Zacharias, Tim Keller, or any of the "brights" of preaching and teaching. They have a worldwide focus and I have been given New Hope Baptist to love, care for, and help learn about God and His Word. Of course, they also have mad skillz.:) We preach from the same Bible. Occasionally I can tell that we even read some of the same commentaries or use some of the same tools. But there's a difference in what we deliver. Still...

This morning I have been thinking about what we do with Adults at New Hope on Wednesday night. Our hour together is split into prayer and Bible study. One of our deacons does a good job collecting prayer requests before I arrive from worship team practice which helps keep us from spending too much time talking about praying. After we pray in small groups around the tables, we begin Bible study.

We're in Hebrews at present, but we've covered several books over the years. When I chose Hebrews, I knew that it would be a book many of them had skimmed or skipped over entirely - save for a few choice memory verses here and there. As I did for years before I finally jumped in with a vengeance and enjoyed a richer understanding of what believers have in Jesus. I wanted that for them too. So we began a few weeks ago and arrived last night at chapter 4.

The previous chapter opened the concept of "rest" for the people of God, and it continues in chapter 4. I had briefly touched on it the previous week and was prepared to really lay out how rest (salvation) opens us to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit and what our role is. The role of God is filled. That leaves us as His "jars of clay" that should recognize our part in His story and let Jesus live through us in every single moment of our lives. The people of Israel failed even though God blessed them tremendously because very often they would decide "we got this" and walk away from God's direction. Everything was prepared for them to enter into the promised land - to enter the "rest" prepared for them, but they didn't have the faith.

When you are preparing to teach or preach a text, you make choices on what to share with the group and what to leave out. There's so much material - so many viewpoints and opinions - even on one chapter of the Bible that you want to pack as much in as you can. But as I started last night, I didn't get three verses in before I needed to back up and unpack what a verse meant "in English." Looking around, I didn't see that many Bibles. Quick prayer - and I slowed down.

What followed was Scripture, word pictures, and application - rinse and repeat. It seemed that as we got into it, people began nodding and the feeling that came across was that there was some real active listening going on. Hebrews is not light reading. It is filled with OT allusions, figurative language, types and shadows that really need a careful approach, a clear understanding of context, and work. My role is not to do the work for people, but to present the opportunity for them to learn in such a way that they will go deeper themselves.

Sometimes I get so excited about what I find in my study that I forget to remember to turn around and look at what the average person in Bible study will see. Thanking God today for His Holy Spirit who pulled me up short last night and helped me see how I needed to lead people from the shallows deeper, not pushing them off into the deep end.

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