A Word From Grace: Monday Edition - Reading Scripture in Context

One of the common mistakes people make when reading the Bible is taking a verse or a passage out of context. The practice of studying the Bible this way makes it pretty easy to find biblical justification for just about anything or to arrive at faulty conclusions from God’s word. For example, Philippians 4:13 was a favorite verse of mine for years: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Like many others, I took this to mean that God wants to help me achieve my goals and overcome obstacles. In the previous verse, however, Paul says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Taken together, these verses are not about achieving our goals, but rather Paul is explaining how he has learned to contentedly endure through all of life’s ups and downs - as very different message indeed.

The way to avoid pitfalls like this one is the practice of reading Scripture in context. While God is sometimes gracious to speak through the old let-the-Bible-fall-open method, it isn’t the best means of reading God’s word for the fullness that lies within. Even last week’s spiritual discipline, meditating on scripture (the practice of dwelling on one verse or a short passage), is deepened by understanding context.

Reading Scripture in context starts with simply reading larger sections of scripture rather than just one or two verses. This better enables you to see and grasp the overall message of a particular passage or book. If you’re new to this, I would suggest picking up one of the gospels or an OT narrative book (like Genesis or Exodus) and reading through several chapters in one sitting. Instead of analyzing the minutia of each verse, look for the major points and the overall story. If you want to challenge yourself a bit more, read through a whole book in one sitting. You can pretty easily read through most of the minor prophets in one sitting as well as many of the epistles. The more you engage with Scripture in its larger context, the more that individual verses or sections will come alive, because you’ll see better how they fit into the overall message.

Just after graduating from college, I was challenged to read the whole Bible, Genesis to Revelation, in 90 days. It’s actually not as overwhelming as it sounds (about 15 pages a day), and books like Leviticus go by a bit quicker… While I didn’t quite make it (I needed an extra couple weeks), it was one of the most rewarding journeys I’ve been on. Not only does each chapter and book of the Bible have its own narrative thread and message, but the Bible as a whole forms an even larger narrative and message. If you want to see the story of Scripture come alive and receive a transcendent image of God’s redemptive action in the world, reading Scripture in context is a great pathway forward.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
- Romans 15:4

But he answered, “It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
- Matthew 4:4

In Christ
Pastor Sean

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Grieve Well - This short article, written by an Alliance international worker, emphasizes the importance of healthy grieving during the COVID-19 crisis.
Forgiving and Being Forgiven – Archbishop Desmond Tutu was instrumental in bridging the social and racial divide in South Africa following the end of apartheid. His words on giving and receiving forgiveness are powerful for us as we wrestle with social and racial issues in America today.

Missions Spotlight: The Holy Land

Effects of the coronavirus on our work. The global news story these days is the coronavirus. In Israel and Palestine, the authorities have put into place some very restrictive measures that affect every area of life. Tourists are banned from entering the country, schools have been canceled, restaurants and coffee shops have been ordered to close until further notice. And people are on edge and afraid.
In order to adhere to the guidelines on public meetings, we have postponed our church services. Pray with us that in the midst of these challenging times, God’s Kingdom would continue to go forward. It’s in these times of uncertainty that God can work most dramatically.

Additional Prayer. God is doing some shifting. 3 months ago, one of the local families most involved in Mosaic immigrated to the US. Some of our key younger leaders are taking steps to study overseas this next academic year. In short there’s movement happening on our field. We trust that God is at work in the midst of it all, even if we don’t know quite how. Pray with us that we would be able to clearly perceive how God is leading us to respond in the midst of all the shifting.

We love you all and God be with you in these challenging times..

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