Route 66: A Crash Course on Navigating Life with the Bible by Kris Kandiah
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Week 1: Living faithfully 1
The narrative literature and its application to life
Day 1: The ride of our lives
Luke is funny. He is clever. He is 145 cm tall and has brown eyes.
What is your mental image of Luke from that description? Are you imagining a
small clown turning cartwheels? Are you thinking geeky and peculiar? Awkward
and studious? Scheming and tricking? I’m afraid all of these are way off mark.
Describing anyone in terms of a few physical features and personality traits falls
seriously short. So let me introduce you to my son Luke another way – with a story.
Yesterday Luke brought his schoolwork home. When we asked why he hadn’t
completed the work at school, he explained crossly that he had been waiting in
the queue to get the materials from the teacher when he saw one of his friends
struggling. He went over to help him out and rejoined the queue. Just as he was
almost at the front he spotted a girl crying, so he went over to give her a hand and
by the time he rejoined the queue again, she was smiling. By the end of the lesson
he had helped half the class in one way or another, but had hardly started his
project. When his teacher saw his work, she told him off for “doing nothing” and
gave him a warning.
Just from this one short story, we gain an insight into the way Luke relates
to others, his selflessness, and his sense of justice. We read “clever” as mentally
resourceful, and “funny” as good at making other people smile. But more than just
picturing him, you are probably beginning to relate to Luke. You may even have
begun to think about what you would do in his shoes or what you would say to
him if you were his teacher, his friend or his parent.
Statements like “Luke is 145 cm tall” are important. But they are merely the
bones of a skeleton when it comes to getting to know somebody. A story fleshes
out the description, giving us a clearer picture of the person and offering us the
possibility of intimacy and relationship. When God introduces himself to us in the
beginning of the Bible, he does so through story after story after story. This has a
number of effects:
1. Stories reveal God’s character12
Not just in terms of abstract concepts that could be misconstrued, but also in terms
of concrete examples. For the most part the story of the Bible is a retelling of how
God has connected characters, communities, continents and the cosmos itself in his
great big story for all of creation, making the character of the invisible God visible
2. Stories draw us into the story
Stories abduct our emotions, stealing them away into the drama as we recognize
the dilemmas and empathize with the characters.13 By experiencing the stories God
has given us in this way, our imagination, our ambition and our lives are drawn into
the captivating narrative of the Bible.
3. Stories draw us into relationship
As we see God’s character in action, we get to know different aspects of his
personality and foundations for a relationship are built as we share his hopes and
4. Stories make us who we are
“In order to make sense of our lives and to make our most important decisions,
we depend on some story.”14 In a world of competing stories the Bible tells us true
stories about the way things really happened so that we can be caught up into
God’s ultimate story of the grand sweep of history. Sometimes we zoom in and see
the fine detail – like in the story of Joseph and his jealous brothers. Other times we
zoom out to see the genealogies that summarize generations of stories where God
was faithful to his people. It has been said that history is His Story, but it is also
our story, as we too belong somewhere in the sweep of history described between
Genesis 1 and Revelation 21.
5. Stories change our lives
One sweltering summer’s day my wife and I heard a story about a beautiful
newborn baby girl who had no home to go to, as her birth mother was unable
to care for her. She was lying in the hospital that hot afternoon, oblivious to the
uncertainties of her future as social workers phoned around possible placements.
We were newly approved foster carers. On hearing this story we faced a choice.
Our decision to get involved in the story of this little girl had life-changing
consequences as we first fostered her, then adopted her, loving her as our own
daughter. Reading the stories of the Old Testament comes with a health warning:
the more we get to know God, and the more we get drawn into the Bible story,
the harder it will be to ignore the invitation to join the ride of our lives in God’s big
plan for the universe.
TRAVEL JOURNAL: Genesis 1:1–31
1. God is introduced as the lead character in the story of the Bible.
How does this story seek to inspire awe in you as you read?
(See verses 1, 3 and 16.)
2. The story of the beginning of the universe is told with great
artistry. Where do you notice repetitions, poetry or unusual turns
3. The hinge-point of the story seems to be the creation of human
beings (verses 27–31). Find four differences compared to the
rest of creation. Why are they significant?
4. Use the five points about how stories help us to engage with
Genesis 1. How does this story:
⊕ reveal God’s character?
⊕ draw us into relationship?
⊕ draw us into the story?
⊕ make us who we are?
⊕ change our lives?
Day 2: Mirror, signal, manoeuvre
Of the 4,000 or more volumes that my wife and I own, there is one that I
particularly treasure. It is one of my smallest and scruffiest books and even the
letters on its spine have been rubbed away. But every time I see it, I remember the
romance of a day twenty years earlier. I was in Shakespeare’s Stratford with my
soon-to-be fiancée when we discovered this compact copy of Romeo and Juliet in
a second-hand shop. Sitting by the river in view of the Swan Theatre, I gave that
book as a farewell present to my girlfriend as she left to spend a year working in
Germany. Somehow we survived the long-distance relationship and that copy of
Romeo and Juliet now sits on our shelf reminding us of young love, of the pain of
separation, and of the hope of return.
If I were to tell you that some recent visitors to my home spotted that famous
romantic tragedy on my bookshelf, and had never heard of it before, I guess you
would be surprised. But imagine your shock if I then added that I could summarize
the play in just thirteen words:
⊕ Hate destroys families.
⊕ Love is stronger than hate.
⊕ Love is stronger than death.
The statements are true enough, but the story has been stripped of its plot, its
suspense, its beauty, its emotions, its characters, and its context. My summary may
have left my visitors a little more informed, but I doubt I would have inspired them
to go away and discover the play for themselves.
Many of the sermons I hear, and even many I have preached, easily end up
as a bland set of bullet-points, often handily beginning with the same letter!
For example, you could go away from a sermon based on the story of the call of
Abraham in Genesis 12 with these lessons:
⊕ God is patient.
⊕ God is generous.
⊕ God is missionary.
Here are three true statements,15 but the Bible passage, which started out as a
story, has ended up as systematic theology. This is as dissatisfying as going into
a restaurant and ordering their best soup, and being given instead a list of the
ingredients. Or visiting the Louvre to see a Renaissance masterpiece, only to
discover that scientists had immortalized the exhibits by distilling the paints into
test-tubes arranged in alphabetical order of their chemical composition. Sometimes
we are in danger of reducing the Bible so much, that although we may find a truth,
we lose the sensation and the impact that the story was supposed to produce.16
It is the basic assumption in this book that God in his wisdom inspired the
Scriptures and gave us just the kind of book that we needed. It is no accident or
mistake that God inspired so much of the Bible to be in story form and preserved
those stories over the millennia so they would be handed down in the format we
see in front of us. Of course God could have sent us bullet-points instead, but he
chose not to. God’s aim was not that we boil these stories down to their bare
minimum ingredients. God’s aim was the opposite – that the stories could boil over
into the messy reality of our lives.
In order to understand Romeo and Juliet, we need to understand the language
and the culture that Shakespeare was writing in. But that tragic play set in the
fifteenth century, with its rigid conventions of marriage, still has an impact in our
more liberal society. The stories of the Bible are not human works of fiction, like
Shakespearean plays, but divine accounts of history and therefore have endless
potential to impact our own lives. Nevertheless, we still need to acknowledge the
presence of the two worlds, whichever part of the Bible narrative we are reading:
the world of the Bible text with its language, culture and time in history, and our
world with its very different language, culture and time in history.17 The following
tool of narrative Bible study is adapted from that vital all-terrain habit I learned in
my driving lessons: “Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre”.
⊕ MIRROR: Look back and try to understand how the original audience would
have experienced the Bible passage.
⊕ SIGNAL: Ask God to help you to understand the passage’s significance
today. How is the story used elsewhere in the Bible? How does the story set
the course for our lives today?
⊕ MANOEUVRE: What are you going to do now to change your actions,
attitude or understanding as a result of this Bible passage?
Looking back to what a story meant to its first hearers before we look to our own
situation may take some getting used to. However awkward and time-consuming it
may feel to first look back, and then look around before looking forward, this art
of time travel will protect us from the dangers of misapplying the Bible, and will
resource us to move forward confidently.
TRAVEL JOURNAL: Genesis 12:1–9
1. Flick back through chapters 9–12. What do we learn about the
world as Abram saw it? How do you imagine Abram felt about
God’s call in verse 1, and the promises in verses 2–3 and 7?
From Abram’s perspective, how does the story work out for him?
(Scan through Genesis 12–25.)
2. How does Abram’s call set the direction for how we understand
the life of faith? (See Galatians 3 and Romans 4.)
3. Ultimately God’s promise will be fulfilled at the end of time. How
is Abram’s call therefore still applicable to those of us who are
his spiritual descendants? (See especially Genesis 12:2–3.)
4. How does Hebrews 11:8–12 help us to live out this story? What
are you going to do about this?
12 See Newbigin, L., 1989, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, SPCK, p. 99.
13 See Sweet, L., McLaren, B. & Hasselmayer, J., 2003, A is for Abductive: The Language of the Emergent Church, Zondervan, pp. 31–33.
14 See Bartholomew, C. & Goheen, M., 2006, The Drama of Scripture: Finding our place in the biblical story, SPCK, p. 1.
15 Kevin Vanhoozer puts it well: “The gospel is informative: ‘he is risen.’ Without some propositional core, the church would lose its raison
d’être, leaving only programs and pot-lucks. At the same time, to reduce the truth of Scripture to a set of propositions is unnecessarily reductionist.”
Vanhoozer, K., 2005, “Lost in Interpretation? Truth, Scripture and Hermeneutics”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 48/1, March 2005,
16 For more on this theme see Arthurs, J. D., 2007, Preaching with Variety: How to recreate the Dynamics of Biblical Genres, Kregel.
17 Stott, J., 1998, I Believe in Preaching, Hodder & Stoughton.
I am always looking for any tools that will help me in my personal study of the Bible. This book si a great way to start out on studying the Bible expecially if you haven't done so before although it is helpful for even the most seasoned Bible Student.
The chapters by the except above are broken into Weekly segments each taking on a different genre of the Bible and each weekly segment if further broken up into 5 daily readings. The daily readings have a section at the end called the Travel Journal which has questions that help you narrow down what was discussed in that days reading.
The only thing I found difficult at times about this book was that the author is from England and uses phrases and talks about places that I had no idea what he was talking about because I am an American. I was able to figure most things out.
Highly recommended for everyone but would be very helpful for someone just starting out in their study of the Bible.
I received a review copy from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.