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Week Two | Loving God with Everything You’ve Got

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Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus Online Biblical Study
Reading Assignment – Chapters 3 & 4
Listen to the Audio version | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Bree: ๐ŸŽถโ€œIโ€™m diving in, Iโ€™m going deep in over my head, I want to beโ€ฆโ€ [record scraaatch]
Gloria: โ€œWait! What? What did you sing there? โ€˜Head over heels, I wanna be?โ€™โ€

Through a quick search, Google proved that Gloria had been singing the lyrics to Dive, the 1999 hit by Steven Curtis Chapman, incorrectly all these years (whoops!), and while I realized that though I had sung it correctly, I couldnโ€™t recall what the individual words were unless I sang the whole lick.

Turns out, I needed the context of the entire line for it to make sense.
And Gloria needed to hear someone else sing it, to know that sheโ€™d misinterpreted it.

Reading the Bible is a lot like that!

Better Together

Weโ€™ve all had those โ€œlight bulbโ€ moments when all of sudden, a passage of Scripture that we thought we knew and understood was shared from a different perspective – one of clarity – that revealed weโ€™d been mistaken all along.  Iโ€™ve had a lot of those moments since I began studying the context of Scripture.

It is interesting to consider just how much we end up misreading when we rely on our own understanding.  

In our last Online Biblical Study, The Gospel on the Ground, our community gave a collective gasp when we finally came to understand the meaning of Matthew 13:31-32, NIV.

โ€œJesus likened the kingdom of God to a mustard seed.  As Westerners, we look at the form (size of the seed).  As Middle Easterners, they look at the function (what the seed does).โ€

Kristi McLelland, Pg. 39 of “The Gospel on the Ground”

We learned the mustard seed in the Middle East is not thought of as this remarkable illustration of faith, at least not to gardeners or farmers.  Mustard seed is a weed!  The kingdom of God is a mustard seed, in that once it begins to grow, it is hard to stop.

I never would have picked up on this mustard seed-sized shift in perspective that completely changes the meaning of this passage on my own.  

I know that when I am left to my own devices, I have been known to read things into passages that do not belong.  Based on my personal history, current situation, or my mood at the time of reading, it has the potential to color what Iโ€™m reading in the Bible very differently than what the author originally intended.  And I know that Iโ€™m certainly not alone.

โ€œModern Christians, especially American Protestants, still maintain a strong sense of โ€˜Jesus and meโ€™ individualism, emphasizing oneโ€™s โ€˜personal relationship with Christโ€™ as the essence of faith.โ€

Lois Tverberg, Pg. 57 of “Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus”

No wonder we often fall flat on our faces when it comes to studying Scripture on our own.  The culture in which we live has taught us that weโ€™ve gotta do it all on our own and operate under the โ€œpull yourself up by the bootstrapsโ€ method to answer the complex questions that come with reading the Bible.

Thank God, we have such a vast number of Bible study resources available to us, quite literally at our fingertips, but also the wisdom (thanks to many blunders of others before us) that going it alone is not always best.  The number of concordances, commentaries, or different translations we use cannot compare, supplement, or be viewed as a replacement for communal study.

Often when with a study buddy revelations are made regarding our faulty understanding, and clarifications are given to help us better see and know the heart of God.

Within the Context of Community

In the ethical teachings from the Rabbinic Jewish tradition, Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, Hillel, the Jewish sage said, โ€œDonโ€™t separate yourself from the community.โ€ (Pirkei Avot 2:5)

Rabbi Joshua Lief, of Temple Shalom, recently shared that this ancient Hebraic teaching is not only adhered to in the every day but is a reminder to Jews of how one should approach Scripture; not individually but within the context of community.

โ€œJudaism throughout the centuries has declared that โ€˜life is with people.โ€™ Religion, in their thinking, is inherently communal. Whereas Christians seek out solitude for drawing close to God, many Jewish prayers can only be recited in the presence of a minyan (min-YAHN), a group that contains at least ten adult Jewish men.โ€

Lois Tverberg, Pg. 57 of “Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus”

Lois shares in chapter 4 how ironic it is that we often pray in solitude, even praying the Lordโ€™s Prayer, which in its first line specifically states a sense of unity, โ€œOur Father, who art in heavenโ€ฆโ€.  Since this is the example that Jesus gave His disciples to pray, it is important for us to recognize the need to come together in community, in prayer, and in our study.

We often struggle to balance our personal and communal faith.  Sometimes we feel the need to step away, inwardly reflect, and spend time alone with the Lord.  It is often in those times that we find strength.  But we need to remember to rejoin the community of faith and not lose our sense of connection with one another.  It is there where we can share what weโ€™ve learned in private with others.

1. Our many Bible study tools cannot compare, supplement, or be viewed as a replacement for communal study.
2. Judaism throughout the centuries has declared that โ€˜life is with people.โ€™
3. A balance of personal and communal faith can be a struggle.
4. It is within the context of community, where we are able to share what we’ve learned in private with others.

In what ways do you balance between private and communal Bible study and prayer?

Shop this study

Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus | Lois Tverberg

A 7-week study that will challenge you to follow Rabbi Jesus more closely by re-examining His words in the light of their Jewish context, to provide a richer, deeper understanding of His ministry, compelling us to live differently, and to begin to understand why His first Jewish disciples abandoned everything to follow him, to live out His commands.

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Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg - Fall 2022 Online Biblical Study | Intentionalfilling.com

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One Comment

  1. Great post! For the last 8 years Iโ€™ve struggled with chronic illness of various varieties. Iโ€™ve spent much time alone, and I really believe my faith has been strengthened through my pain and struggles. I started out primarily studying the Bible on my own. I think I needed that time to adjust to my new normal and to grow in my new and greatly improved relationship with Jesus. At a certain point, however, I found myself missing the fellowship of studying with other believers. Of course, my studying would be different than in the past due to chronic and intractable pain. I needed to find a way to join with others while staying at home. At first I thought this would be difficult if not impossible. Boy was I surprised! I had always participated in Proverbs 31 and First 5, and they were both online. I had been a group leader with BSF and discovered they had online Zoom groups as well. One of my friends from First 5 facilitates online Bible studies on a regular basis. I discovered LifeWay online Bible studies. And then I discovered Intentional Filling. Soon I was doing so many Bible studies I almost forgot I was chronically ill. I always had my head in a Bible or a commentary. Most recently I started the Bible Recap in January and tomorrow we will finish the Old Testament! I cannot recommend it enough. If anyone is interested, you can hop on the podcast for the New Testament starting Saturday, November 1 by going to TheBibleRecap.com and pressing the start button on Saturday! I have to say that Iโ€™ve never felt closer to God than I do right now. Itโ€™s a combination of so many things, but The Bible Recap is a big part of my growth this year. Just that everyday reading of Godโ€™s Word and listening to the podcast which really focuses on His character has made the tag line โ€œHeโ€™s where the joy isโ€ so much truer to me every single day! I am so blessed to be able to worship Him and learn about Him in every way possible!

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