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Using Your Head, Igniting Your Heart

Teaching others to love God’s Word

I love the Bible. I find it instructive and authoritative for my life. I find comfort and correction and challenge in the pages of God’s Word. I have a Bible on my phone, on my desk, and on my bedside table, and you probably do too. Years of seminary and ministry have taught me that I cannot lead or love very well without spending time with God through his Word.

I try to always teach the Bible with the passion I feel for it, and I remember once finishing up a teaching and having a woman approach me. I had talked about reading a bit of the Bible before bed every night, and she said to me sheepishly, “I have a Bible by my bed…but I wish I had you on my bedside table too.” What this woman was experiencing was a gap between how she felt I was experiencing the Bible and the reality of what reading the Bible felt like to her.

It’s always tempting to want to be an expert—to be seen as knowledgeable and special because of your gifting and experience. But since that conversation, I’ve found myself eager to impart not just truth from God’s Word but also basic tools for reading the Bible. One of the problems we encounter as leaders is forgetting what it was like to be new—but even more than that, one of the main problems I’ve faced is realizing that many believers have never learned the basics of Bible reading and are too embarrassed to ask for help! So here are two ways I approach the Bible when I teach, bringing passion to the very basic tools of understanding the Bible.

Using Your Head

Whenever possible, I work into my teaching some comments about using a study Bible. I mention the benefit of scanning introductions to each book of the Bible as well as reading introductions to chapters. I taught from Psalm 119 recently, starting with this verse: “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). I instructed the group to skim the intro to the chapter in their study Bibles, where they discovered this gem: “The author had a theme that filled his soul, a theme as big as life…” (Barker, K. (Ed), NIV Study Bible (2008), Grand Rapids: Zondervan). What a beautiful expression hidden deep in study Bible notes! Here are a few basics that I’ve found many people have never been taught:

• Skimming the introduction to a book of the Bible can tell you who wrote it, who they wrote it to, and the main themes of the book. This will help you immensely when you read a chapter or a set of verses.

• The comments in a study Bible come from a group of scholars and commentators—some of the best succinct commentary you can discover.

• Cross-references help you connect the dots. Follow cross-references in your Bible’s margins or footnotes to understand the verse you are reading more completely. I always make sure I walk a group through how to do this. It’s not as intuitive as you think!

Igniting Your Heart

An important but oft-overlooked component of teaching is inviting people to experience the vibrancy of Scripture through their imagination. We can use our imagination for heart transformation, but many people need help engaging in this way. I use two passages from the gospels as a way to start this process:

“Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them” (Mark 10:16).

“Anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).

I invite people to set these two scenes with Jesus in their minds. I paint a word picture using all five senses. What might it have looked like to see Jesus like this? What did it smell and sound like? Imagine what it would feel like to be swept up in Jesus’ arms. What’s your reaction to being held? What feelings does it invoke? I invite people to close their eyes and really feel and see this in their minds. It is our responsibility as teachers to provoke the heart, to draw people to deeper places of creativity and imagination in their relationship with Christ. Jesus is a living presence who calls us to close, intimate relationship with him. It’s anything but academic!

To grow in your heart acknowledgement, consider some new spiritual practices. Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline is a great place to begin. There are many excellent resources for heart engagement easily accessible online.

Head + Heart

The vibrancy and importance of God’s Word compels us to engage both head and heart, both intelligence and imagination. You won’t know God’s voice unless you know his word. As a leader, strive to make every effort to bring your passion to bear on the basics of the Bible, and pray that God will open heads and hearts through your work.

Nicole Unice is the ministry director at Hope Church in Richmond, VA, and author of three books, including Start Here: Beginning a Relationship with Jesus. Her recent title and DVD study Brave Enough releases August 2015.

July16, 2015 at 8:00 AM

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