Experiencing God in the Wilderness Through Fresh Bible Study
POKHARA, Nepal (April 8, 2011) – I’ve been traveling to Nepal for the past six years helping develop local youth work and outdoor ministry in the city of Pokhara. Many people go to Nepal to experience God, and I know a group of young leaders who are serious about helping Nepali young people experience God in their own back yard.
Pokhara is the gateway to the Annapurna Base Camp circuit, which is one of the most stunning treks in the world. And Pokhara sits at the base of Machupuchre (“Fish Tail”) Peak which is around 27,000 feet. To imagine this, if you are looking at the front range of the Rocky Mountains from I-25 as you drive north from Denver to Fort Collins, look over at Long’s Peak (a nearby Fourteener) and imagine from the horizon stacking three Long’s Peaks on top of each other–that’s Pokhara’s Fish Tail.
Part of our mission in Nepal has been to start a Trekking company called “Nepal Outdoor Adventures” to support local youth workers. Basically the way it works is we train the local youth workers in wilderness ministry and outdoor guiding skills, and then they use those skills to guide trekkers in the tourist season. Amazingly, the company can make enough money through just 10 paying trekkers to support 2 youthworkers in full time youth ministry for a year! We hope to help start up many more micro-enterprises like this in the future.
How Believers in Other Cultures Humble Me to the Core
Upon my return home, one of the things that always strikes after spending time with my Nepali brothers and sisters is how much they LOVE the Word of God, the Bible. As I reflect on Western culture where I live, I believe a growing area of atrophy is in our apathy toward God’s Word. Believers in some parts of the world cling to God’s Word tenaciously because they face poverty, violence, persecution, demon possession among people in their communities, and many other obvious spiritual darkness. I am humbled by their reverence for God and His Word.
The Intensity of the Wilderness Can Re-Ignite Our Love for God’s Word
We in the general comforts of Western culture may not see clearly how Satan is deceiving and tearing down our culture because it seems that he is working very subtly to lull us to sleep. One of the ways I think he wins the skirmish for our loyalty to God is by tempting us to go through our daily life without tenaciously clinging to God’s living and active voice in the pages of Scripture. By plugging our ears to His Word, our hearts begin to dry up and feel an emptiness that was never God’s design. So what do we do to resist this temptation to not feed on God’s Word?
Awake My Soul
For some reason when I’m out in the wilderness alone with God, that uninterrupted space helps me focus my heart’s attention on God’s voice. It “Awakes My Soul” to borrow a phrase from Mumford and Sons. One of the greatest gifts we give to people as we lead them in the wilderness is to teach them that God’s Voice is hearable through the pages of Scripture and through the humble practice of prayer. The silence the wilderness offers leaves me exposed before God. And natural sounds of Creation awaken my soul like Adam’s soul must have been leaping with joy as he heard God walking with Him in the Garden of Eden. Whether you can get away for time out in Creation or you can protect some time to daily study the Bible in the quiet of your own home, I want to encourage you with a simple Bible study method I’ve come up with to help experience God through fresh and regular intake of God’s Word. It’s called the V.I.S.I.O.N Bible Study Method, and I’ve outlined it below to help you as you lead others to feet of Jesus in the wilderness.
First choose a chapter of Scripture to study (by the way, I like the Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan. D.A. Carson has a devotional book that goes through this plan and offers commentary as well. His book is called, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word).
If it is helpful you can use my V.I.S.I.O.N. Scripture Study Plan as follows:
As you read along in the chapter and a certain verse jumps out at you, write the verse down on the left side of your page…
Make observations about the verse that stands out to you to get a basic idea of the context of the passage…
- What are the basic facts in this passage?
- Who, what, where, when, why?
- What do you notice about the way in which this passage is written?
- What repetitions, comparisons and contrasts, verb tenses, cause and effect are present?
- What kind of literature is it?
(S) Seek to Understand
After you have made observations of the passages, then go back and seek to interpret the meaning…
- Takes facts and builds on answers to the observation questions
- Why is the author saying this?
- How do we define these terms? (Look up vocabulary words you don’t understand)
- What is the significance of any of the observations you have made in the previous observation questions?
- What is the main point of the passage?
- What was the author trying to get across in this passage?
- What are some of the most important things this passage communicates?
- How might you summarize what this passage teaches?
This is the application part of your study. Putting faith and learning into action is what Bible study is all about. But we need to push ourselves here at this point of the study. First, consider what are the individual applications (meaning what is God telling you to do with what you’ve learned), and secondly, what are the community applications (in what ways does this passage relate to my church or mission community… maybe what God is teaching me is relevant for others in my arena of influence… who might I share this with?)
- What issues does this passage highlight which are still issues today in my culture?
- What does this passage say about God, about people, about sin, about salvation, about living?
- How might I/we build into our lives the truths in this text?
- When might we apply these truths (what timing and circumstances does this truth relate to my life)?
- Where might we apply them (relationships, school, work, family, when I’m alone, etc.)?
- In what ways does this passage challenge my modern-day values and lifestyle?
- What behavior does this passage call for?
- How might I put into practice what I am learning from this passage?
(O) Obvious Question
At this stage of the study, I often try to really quiet my thoughts and spend some time asking God if he is asking me a question from this passage? What questions do you discern He might be asking you? Or sometimes as I study it raises a question in my mind that I want to seek further clarification or guidance on… Write down any obvious questions that come to mind from your study so far.
(N) Nuisance (anticipated obstacles)
Any time you set out to apply Biblical truth to your life and cooperate with God in the way He is transforming you into the likeness of Christ, there is going to be a battle. Satan will leave us alone as long as we are living a bland, salt-less life… but the moment we step out into the light and say “YES” to God and seek to obey and follow Him, there is going to be a skirmish for our loyalty. Realizing that the Devil really does have crafty schemes to snatch away what we’ve learned, it is wise to think ahead and consider your weaknesses to discern any anticipated obstacles you foresee that would keep you from following through on what you’ve learned. Temptations are a nuisance to our spiritual life and they arise out of our own sinful desires or they are sent as a messenger of deceit by the Devil in order to damage our souls. So don’t skip this step… think through, “If I were the Devil, how would I attack me regarding what I’ve learned so that I wouldn’t apply it to my life?”. Once you’ve thought through how you might be distracted by internal or external temptations, then make a game plan to stand up to temptation and follow through on what you’ve learned.
If you would like to see a one page example of the simple sheet to implement this Bible Study method, then feel free to click here to download a sample page of the VISION SCRIPTURE STUDY. Feel free to copy it or make your own version for your own personal study. Also, my recent book, Christian Outdoor Leadership: Theology, Theory, and Practice, also explores how to listen to God through studying the Bible while spending time in the quiet space of His Creation.
May the Lord bless you as you resist the temptation to go along with your life outside of the covering of God’s Word. The spiritual discipline of study is one of the most important ways we can abide in Jesus so that we can be the light and salt that our community and world desperately needs.
Sincerely in Christ,
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