If you had told me, upon entering college, that studying the Bible by printing out a few verses on a blank sheet of paper and then writing all over it would change my life, I would have thought you were crazy.
But that is exactly what happened when I joined InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as a freshman at the University of Oregon.
Over a decade later, I am still learning new things about God and how I should respond to him as I circle repeated words, underline confusing phrases, write questions in the margins, and then discuss what I am seeing with others.
Learning to study the Bible with this method, called inductive manuscript study, is probably one of the best gifts InterVarsity has given me. I’ve studied the entire Gospel of Mark three times like this and I can’t wait to do it again!
I will be forever grateful for that gift. But in many ways, I feel I have barely begun to take it out of the box.
During a prayer time with my staff team, God reminded me just how much I loved Scripture, both studying it and teaching it. So naturally, I took it to the extreme.
I had a front row seat to the greatest wedding ceremony ever seen. God bound himself to a nation of former slaves and gave them gifts of art, ethics, architecture, time, rhythm, and so much more.
And though they try and try and try to throw it away, he refuses to leave them.
I have been simultaneously frustrated and awed by his determination to work in and through people. He just won’t do it by himself! Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Joseph, Moses, Aaron – these flawed and fragile people are the very means by which he carries out his purposes.
Make no mistake, I have a long way to go. I am only about 3/4 done with Leviticus. And I’ve done the math. This thing won’t be finished for another 6 years!
But what else will I discover? How will my picture of God and Jesus and his people change? How will I change?
These are questions I am excited to answer. What about you? How has your picture of God changed through inductive study? How have you changed?
Ben Emerson is on staff with InterVarsity at Oregon State University where he pretty much has the most awesome students ever. You can follow along with his blog, “The Whole Dang Thing“ or follow him on Twitter.