Published Sunday, August 26, 2012

A different Bible study

It’s time for a new Bible study.

Just the name of it invokes images of older women in sensible shoes, gathering at someone’s home or a special room in their church. Some may be carrying casseroles or cookies to share. A facilitator, Bibles and notebooks are the tools of the trade.

But it’s oh, so different today.

The Bible studies I first attended many years ago were pretty much as described above but when we gather now we do so with Bibles downloaded on our iPads or e-readers. We watch our favorite teachers on DVD and while we make notes in our workbooks we can also notate or bookmark pages on our virtual Bibles.

Our new study begins next week in a room at the local Baptist church.

One of the most compelling Bible study environments I have ever experienced was in one of those huge multipurpose buildings. It was the kind of building that became a church on Sunday morning with folding chairs and a stage, but with the removal of chairs morphed into a basketball court immediately following services.

The “classroom” we used for Bible study was a comfortable room off to the side and would accommodate about 20 comfortably.

It took me a while to embrace the way this group did things. Each time we met there was a rug that was put on the floor, somewhat ceremoniously. A candle was placed in the center. For the first few weeks the appearance of our study group resembled more of a séance to me than a Bible study. I had to think and pray a lot about that and it created conflicts in my heart.

Was I looking for the older women, sitting at tables or lined up in a Sunday school classroom manner? Probably. It’s all I ever knew. This was nothing like those previous experiences.

I returned each week, learning more and more about something called intercessory prayer. When it was time to kneel down on that rug and circle around the candle I declined, partially due to some problems with my back.

It was conflicting because the environment was so different but the Word I received was so fulfilling. I truly feel that God was reaching me in ways I’d never received before.

I talked to Ninja Man about it and prayed about it. In time I realized that my experience and growth in the Word of God had nothing to do with the environment at all; rather it was about moving closer to Him, and that is exactly what I received in this study.

The gathering, the rug, the darkness and subsequent small flame flickering between the women’s faces: isn’t that how this was done, far back in the days of Christ? If someone were blessed with oil to light lamps, would they not have done so, especially when hosting a gathering of believers for the purpose of worship? With the realization that God was reaching me and leading me to become an intercessory prayer warrior, it was apparent that my view of what Bible study should look like had drastically changed.

It doesn’t matter if there are tables and chairs in the room or a rug and candle in the center of the floor. It doesn’t matter if we “feel” accepted among the other attendants. It doesn’t matter if we carry a tattered Bible or an iPad. What does matter is that we are prayerfully seeking guidance toward a study that will feed us as Christians and that we faithfully attend.

Once I realized this gift that God has blessed me with I have found fulfillment. When I think back on the Bible study that brought me closer to God than any before, I don’t think of the uneasiness of those first few sessions or how studies have changed from the past. I think of the blessings of that particular one and I look forward to the next and wonder what God will reveal.

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