My partner and I have occasion, from time to time, to introduce people to the Bible, or parts of the Bible they’ve never met before. Or at least never met before that way. Or never seen how that bit connected so nicely to this bit, over here. When one of these things happens, we look like absolute geniuses. In fact, genius has very little to do with it. The Bible is at once a simple and a demanding book, and as we seek to engage it fully, there’s certainly room for genius if there happens to be any lying about. But the genius is not the point, and in fact it’s not really required.
On a good day, someone will ask us how we do it, and we have a chance to engage that discussion. On a bad day, they just assume that it takes something they don’t have, and they could never do what we do. Now, in all modesty, God has gifted us in certain areas, and no amount of training and schooling can put in what God left out. Understanding Scripture, though, is for everyone; this is a thing that can be learned.
We have accepted a fairly simple set of practices — hard, but simple — into our lives. These five things have shaped us into the sort of men who can do what we do. There’s nothing magical (or even especially academic) about it, and the truth is that we learned relatively little of this in seminary. It doesn’t take a degree or time in the classroom; it doesn’t take knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. Again, there’s room for those things to find expression, if you should happen to have them, and if you want them, I can help you get them. But they’re not essential. Diligence is essential, a passion for pursuing God. It was our passion for pursuing God that led us into these things to start with.
So, without further ado, the five core practices that I’ve dubbed my “insight engine”:
Walk with God personally. No excuses, no imitations, no treating God as a thought experiment, a set of principles, or a vending machine in the sky (even if it’s just dispensing spiritual blessings). It is the birthright of God’s children to hear their Father’s voice, to know it for what it is and converse with Him, and to partake by grace in the dance of the Triune fellowship. Accept nothing less. The better you know a person, the easier it is to understand what he writes — and God is a Person. Three, actually.
Map your world with the Word of God. What is man? Dust and breath. What is the sun? A power made by God to rule the day. It’s not a “love scene” in a movie — it’s not even a “sex scene.” It’s a “fornication scene.” Take everything that happens in your world and go back to the Word with it. Find it there, in the Word, and then you will know what it is, and what to do with it. This is a key part of the task the Scriptures describe as meditation.
Talk like God talks. Having done the hard work described above so that you can think of the things in the world, talk that way. Constantly. With everybody. Yes, when you say, “Can we fast-forward through the fornication scene?” they will look at you funny. So?
Walk with the wise. Spend lots of time with people who are skilled in these things. We don’t learn nearly as well from lecture or musty classrooms as we do from apprenticeship, working together with someone else who is more skilled. Find those people and spend all the time with them you can.
Know your limitations. Jesus could walk up to a guy mending nets on the beach and say, “Leave your dad and his servants here, drop your nets, and come follow me.” He was walking so closely with the Father that He could see exactly what the Father wanted, and He could speak it out directly. If I don’t hear the Father quite that clearly, then I ought to be hesitant about speaking that clearly and authoritatively. I am not, in fact, the Holy Spirit, and it’s not okay to poach on His territory.
So that’s it. If you like the biblical insights you find here, this is where they come from, and there’s nothing in the list above that you couldn’t do just like I do. (If you think I’m a nut, well, these things are to blame. But I think all the people who thought me nuts quit reading a while ago.)