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City Grace Scripture Challenge

October 30, 2017
Benjamin Spalink

I kicked off a new campaign to increase scriptural literacy and change lives by encouraging my congregation to be more closely shaped and formed by God's Word. It's called the City Grace Scripture Challenge, and the challenge is this: within the next year, become an expert in one book of the Bible.

I mean "expert" somewhat tongue in cheek, but the idea is that you would focus this next year on one book of scripture, and make it your business to learn as much as you can about that one particular book. This doesn't mean you don't read other parts of the Bible too. I'm challenging you to allow God to work on you by becoming intimately familiar with the thoughts, concepts, themes, nuances, history and impact of one particular book. Far too often, we're reading for breadth rather than depth if we're reading at all. We cover huge portions of scripture (maybe even reading the entire Bible in a year), but never allow the deep truths of a particular work to seep into our souls, and since our vision as City Grace is to be growing roots in the Gospel, it would make sense that we encourage a deeper and more thorough engagement with God's Word. Also, by learning one book really well, you will inadvertently learn about all of God's Word. It's like a person who gets an obscure PhD in one particular aspect of the subject becoming quite versed in the entire field.

Here's what I suggest.  Don't pick Ezekiel.  It's too long and too ambitious.

Do pick a book of the Bible that has resonated with you in the past, but which left you with a lot of questions.  Each book of the Bible will form you and impact you in certain ways. Reading Judges will teach you about faithful leadership. Reading the Gospels will make you intimately familiar with Jesus himself. Reading Romans will help you understanding salvation by faith and the righteousness of God. Reading Psalms will teach you how to pray.

Pick a book of the Bible, and determine to read through it repeatedly. First read to get a sense of the whole book. Try and compare various translations. Read introductions to that book, usually located in the intro sections of Study Bibles. Look up the cross references.  Then begin to slow down, and obtain some study help tools to help you go passage by passage. Ask your pastor for recommended commentaries or books (not all commentaries are created equal).  Try different forms of reading, such as Gospel Contemplation or Lectio Divina.

One exercise I love doing is to write my own commentary. Obviously, it's not as academic and technical as one you might read in a book. But, I cut and paste the portion into a Word doc, then write a paragraph or so in response to each verse.  Imagine if you could do that for the whole book you are studying. It would be an incredible record of everything you're learning and thinking about in response to the Word.  Sometimes, in my "commentary" I paste quotes that I find from other sources as well to get other people's interpretations or thoughts on a particular verse

Another exercise I've enjoyed in the past is pretending I'm an ancient scribe and handwriting a copy of the entire book.  Depending on how large the book is, you may also consider memorizing the entire work as a way of internalizing the teaching over time.

What will happen after a period of time is that you will begin to appreciate the depth that your particular  book has to offer.  In my experience, the average person doesn't appreciate the depth of wisdom, insight and instruction in the Word because their reading is far too cursory.

Do you accept the challenge? Let me know how its going and if you get stuck, have questions, or need help, feel free to reach out.

To make the most out of your Bible reading, check out the POINT Method for interpretting scripture.

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