Mining God’s Word…
…of His treasures…
…for ordinary people…
…to bless us to live loved by God.
God’s Design for YOU is to learn and become a lifelong LIFE-learner!
Jesus calls His followers “disciples,” meaning “learners” fashioned in His image.
Yet to many followers of Jesus today learning is an unpopular word.
Why such a disconnect?
Go back in your mind’s eye to the last half of the 1800’s, out in the mountains of the western US. In 1848 before gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California, California had a population of about 34,000. With the news of gold, approximately 300,000 people rushed into California from the rest of the United States and abroad. They streamed in from all walks of life, merchants and farmers, lawyers and gamblers, the vast majority with no mining skills.
Why did they do this (why? = motivation)?
What was their motivation to risk everything and subject themselves to horrendous circumstances where they aged rapidly and risked death from Indians? Why did they swing a pick and shovel and bend over with the backbreaking work of panning from “can see” to “can’t see”?
The gold miners were motivated by earthly riches, although the vast majority went broke. Followers of Jesus are motivated by heavenly treasure that changes us in life right now and extends into eternity.
However, until we change our mindset about diving into God’s Word from drudgery to delight, we will remain on the outside looking in. We then forfeit much of the grand treasure God has hidden for us in His Word.
And the good news is that God designed us to engage in mining the treasures of His Word because He longs for deeper relationship. He has fully outfitted us as competent miners. Although it will demand reasoning, persistence and effort, mining nuggets from the Bible move us on to another level spiritually. The treasures we mine are about Jesus! Invest time…
…in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 3:2b-3).
Look at Jesus as our Model. As Jesus lived all-in with His Father, He grew in wisdom and favor with God and man (Luke 2:49+52). If we want to accelerate our spiritual growth, intentionally align with Jesus’ ways since He reveals how God originally designed us, and restores His followers. Adult learners engage best when each brings all their interactive faculties to the process with safe, flexible space and structure to release insight and foster freedom in group discovery.
As we seek to rediscover God’s design for learning, let’s glance at the closely interrelated topic, our view of teaching. Which of these two broad styles better represents your view of a teacher? Please select one before continuing. Don’t choose the one you think I’m looking for. It’s crucial we begin with honesty in our active learning at the place we now are. What’s your view of teaching?
More “put in by telling”?
More “draw out by asking”?
Both reflect valid aspects of the teaching spectrum. My profs taught and modeled the first one, “put in by telling” (and this style is more difficult to perform well). My subsequent personal study and experience shifted me to value “draw out by asking” as the highest art of teaching to influence lives (and the easiest to learn and to pass on).
Each style is effective to accomplish the specific results it’s designed for. “Put in” is more effective to pass on knowledge and envision a larger group, like in a classroom. It’s what we have most often experienced and now expect. Most of us then come to a Bible-based group expecting to experience the teaching style with which we learned, “put in by telling.”
Although both are valid,…
…“draw out” best fulfills our purpose for engaging the Bible in the way adults best learn. God designed our brain to function best through “draw out.” Our goal is formation, not information. We come to God through His revealed Word with our uniqueness to experience direct communion with Him. Adult learners grow together best in community with the give-&-take of the more collaborative style of “draw out by asking.” Together, we both ask and answer questions, deepening understanding as both learners and teachers.
An organic connection exists between abiding and obeying as we engage God’s Word (John 14:21; 15:9-10). Quick obedience to do what God says aligns with how God designed us to learn cooperatively. Intentionally lean into Jesus to break off what lessens spiritual impact. Jesus’ short story with a powerful meaning asks us to discern the soil of our heart (Four Soils PDF on Mark 4:1-20).
Do you desire the good heart that welcomes and responds to God’s Word so we retain it?
Another key to unlock Scripture is simple dependency on the Spirit of God as our Teacher. Since the Spirit enlightens, first approach the passage without outside helps to release personal learning. Temporarily lay down our existing views so they don’t block fresh learning.
What if we could break off some of the incomplete ideas about learning from our past and see God’s original intent through His eyes?
Would you be game to experiment to learn this way together?
In my thinking, I attempt to begin with God. Imagine with me. Before creation, all that existed was God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit (yes, that fries my mental circuits, too!) So, God has all authority and therefore the inherent right to design people and His social and physical universes in the way He knows is best.
1st century followers engaged God’s Word in community. This free-flowing question asking/answering around God’s Word brings about understanding as they stirred each other to encounter life with God’s truth. Learning studies demonstrate that adults learn best in interactive, collaborative groups where each feel safe and respected. God designed our brains to best store and retrieve info in such a culture.
So, it follows, if we can discover His design for learning, we will learn easier and better and be able to influence others.
Begin by identifying keys to unlock improved adult learning.
Make your learning active by taking time for personal discovery in the following verses. After reading the verses, jot down what you see regarding learning before reading my brief comments. Add your additional thoughts by posting a comment below. The only way to have “good soil” in our heart so God’s Word can flourish is to become an active, lifelong life-learner.
First, Jesus is our Model. Read Luke 2:46-47+49+52. Circle the active responses from the text as Jesus learned in the temple at twelve.
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. ….“Why were you searching for me?” [Jesus] asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” [Jesus] grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 7:46-47+49+52, NIV).
Brief Summary: Jesus was listening with an open heart and mind, asking honest questions, and answering questions with understanding as an active learner as they sat together in community. As a learner, Jesus’ heart was attuned to His Father (2:49). He grew in favor with both God and man because Jesus was about His Father’s business (2:52). This free-flowing, interactive question asking/answering around God’s Word brings about understanding as they stirred each other to encounter life with God’s truth. Such a simple model for natural learning and teaching is within the reach of each of us.
Second, read James 1:22-25, Matthew 7:24-27, John 14:21+23-24. Bombard the text with “I wonder…” questions to gain insight (our Six Helpers, who, what, where, when, why and how). Then jot down how doing and responding bring personal change as truth encounters our life. The most crucial factor in growth is obedience.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:22-25, NIV).
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24-27, NIV).
Brief Summary: Highlight both the cost in James and Matthew (we deceive ourselves and build a foundation of sand if we don’t do the word). And the even stronger positive benefits of responding, a solid, unshakeable foundation and enjoyment of God’s love.It’s too easy for many Christians to simply fit what they read/study in Scripture into their own life, seeing what they have always seen and bypassing the hard work of change. Instead, learn to partner with the Spirit towards change by fitting our lives into Scripture to experience the results God has for us.
Third, the Spirit of God lives within us to teach us God’s Word. List what the Spirit does in this sampling: John 14:26, 16:14-15. Everyone who has the Spirit can come as both a learner and a teacher.
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26, NIV).
“[The Spirit] will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you” (John 16:14-15, NIV).
Brief Summary: The Spirit uses our hard work and disciplined effort as a channel to pour through His insights. Without the Spirit, the Bible is a closed Book. With the Spirit, the Bible becomes the revelation of God’s heart for His people.
Fourth, 1 Thessalonians is one of the earliest books, written to three-week old Christians. What were some of the elements in 1:6-7 that led to multiplying the faith-community in 1:8-10?
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7, NIV).
The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10, NIV).
Brief Summary: God designed our brains to best store and retrieve info in such a collaborative learning culture as we embed key themes in our brain to improve storage and retrieval. Note from the first chapter : prayer/worship (1:2-3), evangelism (1:4-5), and community (1:6-10). Notice also how community is deepened and widened as we respond with relational modeling (rub shoulders in community, 6a), Biblical responsiveness (embrace God’s Word with a welcoming heart as we experience joy from the Spirit in tough times, 6b), and intentional God-Assignments (as we give it away as models of what Jesus is doing in our lives as we are together on mission, 7).
We grow in such an incremental learning community as we look at every “gap” in learning or doing as a God-given opportunity for change. Because God designed us to give away what we experience in order to experience more, these 3-week old followers of Jesus did that (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10).
Fifth, Acts 2:42 sketches out avenues to sow Jesus’ new culture.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42, NIV).
Brief summary: “Devoted themselves” conveys their heart-attitude of “I’m all-in with You, Jesus!” Learning and growing together takes hard work as we partner with the Spirit. The four responses or pathways by which internal change happens is here described as: (1) doing the NT teaching, (2) embracing our shared life together in community (fellowship, koinonia, sharing our common life in Jesus), (3) taking the bread and cup, (4) prayer for each other and for our communities.
After deeply ingraining this process as a healthy pattern in your life, adapt it to your uniqueness as necessary. The only time we can’t learn is when we forfeit our listening hearts as lifelong life-learners. Of course, I’m simply putting feet to what Ezra knew some 2,500 years ago.
How did Ezra learn in Ezra 7:10?
Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel (NLT).
Brief Summary: Ezra approached Scripture with a determined effort to study, put truth into action, and pass it along to others, raising retention from 5-10% for hearing & reading to 70% as we do and 90% as we also pass it along to another.
How do these verses fit together into an integrated process to learn?
I call this type of learning that aligns with God’s design natural learning. And the best and way I have found to learn the Bible is BIG-small-BIG learning in community with a bias towards doing. We will learn these skills gradually but let me give you a quick sip now.
- BIG: Survey (grasping the panoramic view of the interconnected whole through rapid, repeated reading).
- small: Analyze (understanding the nuances of the individual parts, especially the “flow” of the passage).
- BIG: Synthesize (re-connecting individual parts into the dynamic whole through rapid, repeated reading).
Where do I go from here?
I’ve designed this “tree” of web pages with your self-learning in mind. These offer a number of ways for you to go, depending on your desire. This flexibility helps you learn how you learn best, chasing down what stirred you the most.
At the bottom of each page, I offer a hyperlink to a PDF of the page if you want to reflect more on it. Here is a PDF of much of this page.
I also embed hyperlinks to PDF’s on specific topics. For me, these are important at some time for a deeper dive, but I don’t want to break the flow of the page. Pull up any of the hyperlinked PDF’s, when you are ready (click here for PDF for benefits to a learner), (Four Soils PDF on Mark 4:1-20). As we weave these thoughts together, they better reveal God’s creation design for learning.
Go back to the second page on my home page for a broad view of the Christian journey, Learning to Live Loved.
Go on to the next page on the “tree” that develops this idea deeper and wider. For this page, the next to deepen Mining God’s Word is Seven Essentials for a Natural Learning Culture.
Perhaps the best way, though, is to dive in and begin to learn the Bible through natural learning. We are changed through the doing, not through our studying (although that is a necessary preparation for change). Best I can, I have interwoven what I’m passing on through these web pages into an integrated series called “DiscipleMaking Companion.” Gather a good friend or two with a desire to grow around God’s Word. Order the first book in my DiscipleMaking series on Amazon.com, Philippians, Joy Overflowing, Word & Spirit for an introductory price. This seamlessly integrates what I’m sketching out. Enjoy the process of Life-Change. Then come back and dive in more deeply into the “WHY?” it’s design like this as your companion.
What are some of the benefits to you the learner from this approach to God’s Word?
Make it personal and impacting by taking time to list all the benefits you can think of. Then, if you wish, compare your list with mine (click here for PDF for benefits to a learner), and post a “comment” on this page with some of the additional benefits you discover.
So, are YOU game to take another stab at trusting the Spirit to teach you from Scripture as we align our learning with God’s design?
Do you feel flooded, a bit overwhelmed with such a view of learning?
Please don’t! Jesus has your back! Jesus Himself calls His followers “disciples,” learners. Trust the Spirit to make it so for you.
Click here if you want a PDF of this page so you can mark it up, comment, and make it your own.
Read Learning to Live Loved for a high-level overview of this Christian journey, and the essential role God’s Word plays. Let’s begin with the end in mind as our compass and motivation.