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You are what you eat

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Biblicism applied

After a couple of decades of exposure to superpastors like Bill Hybels, Rob Bell, Rick Warren, and Mark Driscoll, I have had enough. If I never hear another story of the rise from a dream to the biggest, most dynamic church in the city, it will be too soon.

So a new Wayne Cordeiro book given to me by a local bookstore didn’t have much of a chance. Another megachurch pastor with answers for everything and a giant church to prove it? I gave it a 15-minute read and put it away.
But even with that dismissive treatment I started hearing a Cordeiro question among colleagues. “Do you Life Journal?” What generally followed was an observation or insight fresh as bread from the oven. It just had to be shared as soon as possible. It was infectious.

What is Life Journaling? It is a program of systematic daily Bible reading with a pen and notebook to record thoughts and insights. Nothing new or unique – except that people are actually doing it.

The early Anabaptists were “People of the Book.” No history of the movement misses this observation. But what does that mean? “For them [the Bible] alone was authoritative for doctrine and life, for all worship and activity, for all church regulations and discipline,” writes Harold Bender at www.gameo.org. They referred to the Bible as the “Holy Scriptures” and used them as such.

Because of this, they took seriously the claims of Scripture as a mirror into which we are to gaze and observe ourselves (James 1:23-24); a light that shines on the path before our feet (Psalm 119:105); the divider of soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12); food for the soul (Psalm 119:103).

This series of articles asks a specific question: “What does this mean in daily life?”

The early Anabaptists would have found that question easy. “That all members should read the Bible [is] a self-evident duty” (GAMEO). Self-evident because, for all its amazing qualities, Scripture must be used in order to be useful. A mirror does not perform its service unless looked into. A sword divides nothing in its sheath. A light in a closet shows no one the way. Food not eaten does not feed.

Our spiritual forebears expected Scriptures to make a difference in daily living just as a proper intake of food and water do. They considered intake of the Scriptures essential to the spiritual metabolism.

If we believe this too, there is an obvious implication. We must ingest the Word. Not just by way of inspirational sermons. Not just by reading innovative explanations of challenging texts. Not just by complex discussions about the nature of the Scriptures. Not just by studying them for the purpose of winning a debate or making a point.

All of these have their place but they do not substitute for actually taking the Scriptures into our beings by hearing, reading, and letting the ruminations of the mind, soul, and Spirit do their mysterious work.

I am blessed to have the memory of a father who practiced life journaling long before the current crop of superpastors was even born. I saw close up what the study and real life application of the Scriptures can look like. It was far from flawless but it was real and it carried my father through every season of life.

I also remember discussing the inadequacy of such a simplistic approach to the Bible and how it leaves many important issues unresolved.

Indeed. And just eating isn’t the final answer to a healthy body.

But consider a scenario in which the source and production of food is researched, its components isolated, their individual effects studied, and the controversies about these debated with passion and urgency.

These are good things – very good things – but they are not eating. Ironically, the conclusion to all the research still comes back to something we have known since the beginning. There is no substitute for a consistent diet of healthy food.

I may not have much appetite for the latest megachurch pastor, but in my opinion there are few better accolades a preacher could receive than “He/she inspired people to study the Scriptures.” The personal, systematic, regular study of Scripture is biblicism applied.

Next month: Community applied

—James Toews is pastor at Neighbourhood Church, Nanaimo, B.C.


Inspired by Wayne Cordeiro, the Canadian Conference of MB Churches and Kindred Productions developed the REALife Journal, a tool for intentional Bible study. The journal guides the reader to Read the passage, Explore the meaning, Apply it to life, and Link with God through prayer. Order at kindredproductions.com.


Anabaptism 101 series

The problem with Anabaptism

Walking in the ordinary way of peace

You are what you eat: Biblicism applied

Craving connection: Community applied

Paradoxical living: Practical separation

Getting to the root: Radical Anabaptism for today


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