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Familiarity Breeds Wonder

What is the outcome, then brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26 NASB)

Kent and I are joining an Immerse group on Education Hill in Redmond, reading the New Testament through in 16 weeks. This is the first Bible-oriented group we’ve been in together since 2006 in Azerbaijan. I’m excited about it for that reason alone. Kent has a gift for going to the heart of the matter and framing great discussion questions. We still have his handwritten notes from our first study of the gospel of Luke from back in the late ’70s.

Kent wooed me by Bible study. Undergrad met grad student in an early morning summer church outreach. I was active in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) Bible studies in dorms. He had a desire to reach out to his fellow grad students. So he invited me to partner in forming a grad student Bible study.

What fun it was! Our group was diverse: tech and humanities, men and women, eastern and western (USA), one international student, one Catholic, one undergrad. And we investigated the Bible with our many perspectives, faith experiences and hot button issues. It felt like the Holy Spirit developed spiritual understanding among us through the unique contributions of each one.

Another favorite Bible study was with a group of Japanese tech workers’ wives, who were beginning English speakers, back in the 1990s. The women had minimal exposure to Christianity. We gestured, drew pictures, told stories and acted out scenes with great hope and laughter, “negotiating meaning” in a big composite game of Pictionary, Taboo and Charades. These friends asked questions of the Bible that I hadn’t or provided insights that were new or newly framed. I remember Eriko, early on in our Genesis study, responding to the creation story and saying, “God created creating!” That still inspires me.

So, here we are in 2018, Kent and I, Christians for 45 years, with lots of Bible reading and discussion, sermons and classes under our belt. Can the Immerse study be fresh and thought-provoking? Is there anything new for us to learn from the Bible?

I believe that studying the New Testament in Immerse can be like the mercies of God, new every morning, if I’m willing to observe with a keen and wondering eye, wait on the Holy Spirit, and listen to the diverse voices of others in the group. Then, yes indeed, the Bible will be fresh and thought-provoking.

I may have to resist the temptation to think, “Oh, XYZ passage, that just means this. Nothing more to be said.” Observe, wait and listen—this will lead to good things. These are critical skills to any “knowing”! How would I appreciate a sunrise if I were bored by a second one? How could I stay married for 40 years if I grew tired of my spouse’s face?

If I’m still seeking God after 45 years, I will find Him in the Bible and He will grow ever more astounding as He becomes more familiar.

Jani can be reached by email here.

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