Don’t Let Your Bible Keep You From the Bible

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In a recent interview with DesiringGod, Glenn Paauw, the Executive Director of the Biblica Institute for Bible Reading and author of Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well, shared how “Bible clutter” can provide a framework that warps how we engage with Scripture.

(“Bible clutter” refers to anything added to Scripture including chapter and verse numbers, study notes, cross-references, concordances, etc.)

The interview overlapped so much with the “Text and Framework” hermeneutical principle that we are compelled to share the interview mp3 and our notes below.



Unintended consequences from “Bible Clutter”:

  • Chapter numbers (added in the early 1200s by Steven Langdon, a church leader in England) and verse numbers (added in the 1500s by Robert Essien, a Frenchman working on a Bible concordance) can cause Bible readers to see books as fragmented collections of verses rather than an entire book.
  • Concordances, while being great reference tools, can change the way people interact with the text and hurt the plain reading of Scripture by neglecting the immediate or whole-book context of a passage.
  • While cross-references are helpful, they might prevent a reader from focusing on the text in front of them and wrestling with meaning. Again, what is primarily lost is a sense of context—something vital for faithful interpretation.
  • Many modern Bibles are designed for people who aren’t readers and who may not be very biblically literate. This pushes Bible publishers to make Bibles with helps, notes, and highlights because that is what buyers want.
  • While we may boast a confidence in Scripture, our true confidence might rather lie in a certain study Bible we align with theologically more than Scripture itself. Many feel Bible reading needs ‘guide rails’ to keep people from falling off of the theological cliff.
  • A temptation of using Study Bibles is engaging with study notes more than Scripture itself. Research on Study Bibles proves this is the case for many.
  • All of the colors and special designs common in many Bibles today (study notes, graphics, special sections, etc.) can draw people’s attention more than Scripture, which is generally left untouched.
  • We want to read Scripture and apply it to our lives fast. Our desire for quick application can short-circuit the study process by jumping to application to early or buying a study Bible that will apply it for us.

Two flawed approaches to engaging Scripture:

1. Seeing Scripture as a collection of inspirational quotations.

Many who do this take favorite verses like Philippians 4:13 and Jeremiah 29:11 out of context and virtually ignore most other passages of Scripture. This greatly misrepresents what the Bible is and deforms us spiritually just like a pure cotton candy diet would. (Interviewer Tony Reinke deems these using verses in this way as “Scripture McNuggets.”)

2. Seeing Scripture as a self-help manual.

Some want to gather all of the Bible verses on a certain topic and create messages from those verses. This also strips verses of their context and fails to take Biblical Theology into account. Biblical theological themes develop throughout the Scriptures in various genres, and, as Paauw reminds, some accounts are not to be taken prescriptively but rather descriptively. (For example, Paauw says we wouldn’t build a doctrine of marriage on the example of patriarchs.)

A Better Comparison

A better comparison for the Bible is “the collected papers of the American Antislavery Society” because,

“the Bible is a collection of different kinds of writings, each of which exist in its own context, its own literary form, and they have to be taken as this kind of a collection. It is true that the collection of the Bible comes together to tell this amazing, redemptive, restorative narrative of what Jesus the Messiah has done. But the books themselves are the core units. The Bible is the collection of those things. It is not a collection of verses, so not a collection of little how-to passages. Again, it is a matter of receiving the Bible on its own terms, receiving the Bible in the form that God actually chose to give it to us. That, I think, is something that our modern format tempts us to move away from.”


How can we fight against “Bible clutter”?

“The first and the primary and the most natural thing to do with the Bible is to read individual books at length in their own terms. So understanding the kind of literature it is, who was the author, who were they writing to, what was the issue, those kinds of things are necessary.”

“We need to make sure we are always ready to listen to the text first…[not] our material [or thinking], which is not inspired… A real high view of Scripture says: Let the text be the text, and always seek to let it speak to me, even on things where I think I might have my mind settled… But we need to always be willing to say: What does the Word of God say? Not: What have I always said that the Word of God says?”

The true spiritual riches are found in engaging God’s Word directly, not going through another’s explanation of God’s Word.


Related Story from Honduras: “Take that Bible Away from that Man!”

4 Signs of God’s Providence in Haiti

Since the writing of the story below, Hurricane Matthew has devastated Haiti, taking the lives of an estimated 1,000 and leaving another two million homeless. Countless homes and churches have been destroyed, and disease and famine are spreading rapidly. Would you join us in prayer for our Haiti brothers and sisters and for the gospel to go forth in power? Come, Lord Jesus!


Dear friends and partners,

When you think of Haiti, what comes to mind? Crushing poverty…earthquake devastation…billions of dollars of aid that seem wasted?

Haiti’s future may look remarkably different because God loves Haiti and has raised up a people for Himself. And, in His providence, God is inviting Leadership Resources to equip the pastors of this Caribbean country. Here are four signs of God’s gracious providence…

  1. God brought us the right partner

Our ministry needs in-country partners who are like-minded and strategic thinkers. God led us to Dony St. Germain, a Haitian who runs a ministry which, in part, is dedicated to equipping pastors. Dony has the connections and the local smarts to make this gospel partnership take root and bear fruit.

  1. God speaks Creoleimg_5806

Haiti has two official languages: French and Creole. Everybody in Haiti speaks Creole, while speaking French is a status symbol used by some to look down on others. For the Word of God to flourish in Haiti, training must be done in the heart language of Haiti: Creole. The only problem is finding a translator who shares our passion.

Enter Edvard, a Haitian man studying biblical exegesis at Wheaton College. When he was a young Christian in Haiti, Edvard saw a preacher read from the French Bible in order to impress his congregation. Then, when the preacher tried to switch to Creole, he completely confused everyone, including himself! At that moment, Edvard felt a call from God to see Bible training and biblical resources available to all Haitians in Creole.

  1. God transforms hearts

In July, our team met with 34 exceptional students who were hungry for training and growth. When Haitian pastors realized the curriculum handed to them was in their heart language, their eyes lit up like five-year-olds on Christmas. “Look, it’s in Creole!!” God used the book of Jonah to transform hearts and show His mercy toward sinners and wayward servants.

One pastor confessed hating a man who persecutes him and looking forward to the day of his death. Now, he decided to pray for that man everyday and to try to reach him with Christ’s love. Another man, who once avoided thoughts of a lengthy journey to an unreached village, is praying for strength to walk the twelve hours needed to share the gospel where it has not been heard. 

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  1. God is already multiplying His Word

Very early one morning a TNT (Training National Trainers) student surprised a barely-awake Sean Martin (LRI Trainer) as he made coffee, “Can I have another booklet that summarizes the LRI principles of Bible interpretation?”

“Why do you need the booklet?” Sean inquired, curious to both the request and its timing. Our student replied, “I talked to the principal at our seminary about how powerful God’s Word was in TNT training, and he asked me to share the training with our whole school!”

This isn’t the only exciting avenue for multiplication. Two TNTers have been commissioned by their denomination to share the LRI training with the leaders of all 1,000 churches!

Our joy and expectancy for God’s continued work in Haiti is overflowing. Many Haitian churches are still influenced by voodoo beliefs and practices and desperately need to understand God’s life-giving Word. This month, would you invest in us so that we can continue this valuable training in places like Haiti? By God’s grace, your gift will not be like the billions of wasted dollars, but rather will bring about a movement of God’s Word that flows through every Haitian church, to the glory of God!

Thank you for your partnership,

Craig Parro

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PS: Our new translator Edvard told us the story of his wedding. Edvard violated the custom of Haiti’s elite by having his wedding performed in Creole rather than French. Some found this scandalous… after all, Edvard was a highly-educated man… of course he should have a French wedding ceremony. However, wedding attenders’ initial doubts ended with amazement: they heard a Christian wedding in their heart language! If God brings about a powerful movement of His Word in Haiti, it will be through gospel-centered men like Edvard. What a privilege to partner with a courageous man like Edvard!

Former Drug Addicts Hungry for God’s Word

New Life

God’s Word brings life!

If you have been around the LRI world for any length of time this is likely a phrase you have heard. Why? It is the core conviction that drives our ministry. It is why we do what we do.

Speaking these words simply lends voice to what Jesus declared long ago, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus drew these words from Deuteronomy 8:3 (read along with the surrounding context), but perhaps he also had in mind the process described in Isaiah 55:10-11 (read the whole chapter for maximum benefit).

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

It is easy to hear the second half (“not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose”) but miss the first (“making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater”). This is an image of life. The Word that comes from God creates, nourishes and sustain life. Nothing else has this power and beauty. This is not only our conviction—it’s our delight. Over the years we’ve been so privileged to hear and see this truth in action. Every time we walk away in wonder and joy saying, “Isn’t our God great!”

Former Drug Addicts Hungry for God’s Word

Meet Daniel. He is one of our Mentor Trainers, a key graduate partnering with us to spread a Movement of the Word of God in his part of the world. Among other things, he is directly training some 25 former drug addicts. They have been transformed by Christ. Many of them with HIV, quite literally knowing what it means to be brought back from death to life. They have decided to serve Christ with their lives. They are hungry for the Word of God and eager to help and train others in addiction. Daniel will spend 4 years discipling them. For two years he will train them in how to study the Bible and for two more how to preach it.

One year into the training Daniel reports, “when they get these principles they apply the Word of God very quickly and effectively.”

Recently he gave an assignment regarding the two roads in Matthew 7:13-14. The broad road leads to destruction, the narrow one leads to life. He asked them to study it for themselves then report back.

When they came back together, it was clear God’s Spirit was at work in their lives. They said, “we used to be on the road to destruction, but now we are on the road to eternal life. They spoke not as one making a simple recitation, but as one whose spirit had been revived by the light of day. They bubbled up with the God-given awareness that through following Jesus may be hard it is worth it all. They not only saw, they perceived.

One of the students, in particular, is an example of such change. His wife testifies, “He used to be a cruel man, using his leadership to control others, but now he serves with humility.” She is so happy to see his transformation that she willing supports him through her earnings as a hairdresser to give 100% of his time to serve the Lord as a pastor to drug addicts. All attending his church are former drug addicts or family members of such and become Christians when they see his transformation. His wife is so happy.

The Word of God truly brings life!


Note: I have not identified real names and places though you may have guessed. If I were to do so, you would be filled with even greater joy.

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