Where I used to be one who would read the entire Bible every year, I learned the great value of slowing down and residing in a single book for a long period of time.
Not too long ago, I picked the book of 1 John and read the entire book every day for a month. It was amazing how much I would still see even after 30 days! Then I decided I wanted to study it in even greater depth. I read a couple hefty introductions on the book itself for some background. Then, after watching this video, I had an idea.
I decided I’d start a morning book club centered around 1 John. I invited John Calvin, Thomas Johnson, Gary Burge, Marianne Thompson, Matthew Henry, Glenn Barker, any of the Church Fathers who had something to say, and a couple others based on the commentaries I owned on 1 John. The topic for the 1st morning was 1 John 1:1-4.
I quickly realized a few things. First, these four verses generated over 100 pages of discussion from these few scholars! Next, I saw where there were different ideas as well as those things that everybody agreed upon. And they raised so many ideas and questions I hadn’t thought of even after reading, praying on, and meditating on the same 4 verses every day for the previous 30 days. Their studies provided some extremely helpful background information too. I quickly grasped the reality of the Holy Spirit working in these people across all believers in all time and I was feeling very in touch with the Church through the same Holy Spirit working in me to illuminate Scripture. It was amazing!
The next thing I realized is that I didn’t have enough time in my morning to read all these pages. I quickly had to decide who to un-invite to this book club. Even though we were together for a single day, I felt such a loss not having all of them sitting at the table, enjoying a cup of joe and discussing Scripture. But, it had to be done. (I decided when I do this again with another book that'll have some of un-invited guys at the table next time if they have something to say on the selected book.)
As this went on for a few days, I realized that I was the dumbest person in the conversation and therefore had the most to gain. What a blessing for me that these guys where in my book club!
And finally, I became keenly aware of the isolation this placed me in. Sure, I was communing with God and that is good, but there was still something missing—live fellowship with others. While I was starting to feel as if I were in a conversation with these other brothers, all that was really before me were their books. It wasn’t really them; it wasn’t real people, just the product of their ideas on one topic edited by a team and then published. So the discussion was still lacking something. I decided then and there to always appreciate the fellowship God has placed me in. We need one another as God intended. (And I would love to have live people in my book club but it starts at 5:30am and I’m only wearing a bathrobe. So it’s just me and the Holy Spirit for now, and that’s good too.)
Non-the-less, my book club continues, slowly, a small amount of verses at a time. And as I move through my day, I find myself thinking about the verses. With this pace, I can nearly memorize them and hear them playing in my head throughout the day. And I hear and think on the “conversations” with the scholars and Church Fathers on those same verses.
It’s amazing how much this 'book club' has impacted my day, each day, and my walk with Christ! I highly encourage you give it a try and invite some theologians to join you.
* The photo used in this post is in the public domain.
** Special thanks to Tim Kimberly and the Credo House for their dedicated work to teaching theology and study methods.