When considering the Bible, do you confuse the ark of the covenant with the ark of Noah? Or mix up Jericho with Jeroboam? Do you think Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife? Do you know how the Old Testament is different from the New Testament, but how they tell the same story? Do you get uncomfortably nervous when you’re asked in a group to look up a verse in the book of Zephaniah?
Bible Gateway interviewed Max Anders (@indianamax) about his book, 30 Days to Understanding the Bible: Unlock the Scriptures in 15 Minutes a Day (Thomas Nelson, 2018).
What need did you identify as the necessity for writing this book 30 years ago?
Max Anders: A little over 30 years ago, I led a young lady to Christ. A few weeks later she came back to me and said, “I need help! I don’t know anything about the Bible. I didn’t know there was an Old and a New Testament. What can you give me that will get me up to speed in a hurry?”
I pondered… I looked… I researched. There wasn’t anything!
I thought, “That’s not right. There needs to be a book that gives people an overview of the Bible quickly and easily.” So, shortly after that, I was able to spend the time (nearly a year, full time) necessary to write the book.
I didn’t even know if I could find a publisher for it, but I believed so deeply that the book needed to be written that I was willing to risk it. If no one else wanted the book, I wanted it! It’s been gratifying that others have found it helpful, as well, selling over half-a-million copies since then.
How did you decide 15 minutes a day for 30 days would provide a person with an understanding of the Bible?
Max Anders: That’s a very interesting question! I didn’t start with what I thought the reader should know. Whenever you start with the question, “What do they need to know,” you usually overwhelm the reader with more information than they can handle.
So instead, I started with the question, “How much time will they give me?” After studying bestselling books in the “how to” category, I became persuaded that when considering whether or not to buy a book, potential readers would give me 30 days, and they would only give me 15 minutes a day. Anything more than that, and I feared they wouldn’t try it.
So, I determined that I’d teach whatever I could teach in 15 minutes a day for 30 days, believing that it’s better for someone to get all of a little rather than none of a lot.
My first draft was 1,000 pages long. I knew that wouldn’t do. So I worked for several more months tightening the content and experimenting with teaching methods. In the end, I was able to teach nearly everything in 287 pages that had originally taken 1,000 pages because my commitment to “15 minutes a day for 30 days” forced me to be more efficient in my teaching methods.
What do you mean when you write, “master the Bible so well that the Bible masters you”?
Max Anders: The Bible was written not to satisfy our curiosity but to change our lives. It’s possible to learn information about the Bible without being deeply impacted by it.
You’ve heard it said that Christians are the only Bibles some people read. So it’s important that we reflect the God of the Bible, not only by what we know but how we live. So, for us to carry Bible content around in our heads without taking on the character of Christ is a short-circuiting of the Bible’s intended purpose.
So, our task as believers as we study the Bible is to give ourselves over to being changed by its truth. When we’re deeply changed by Scripture, reflecting the character and values of Christ and the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), then we master the Bible so well that the Bible masters us (James 1:23-25).
To this end, there are four steps to releasing this transforming power of Scripture in our lives:
- read the Bible
- study the Bible
- memorize Scripture
- meditate on Scripture.
Many Christians take one step. Some take two. A few take three steps. Very few take all four. Yet, it’s only as we take all four steps that the power of Scripture is fully released in our lives.
That’s why I wanted to be sure to include an entirely new section in the book that explains a surprisingly “doable” system for mastering the Bible so well that the Bible masters you.
How do you want people to use your book?
Max Anders: There are two niches of people for this book. One is a motivated Christian who’s interested enough to pick up the book and read it for him/herself.
The other niche includes people who might not purchase the book for themselves and read it, but they’ll go through the book in a class with others if someone will teach it.
So, I’m hoping that some Christians will just buy the book and read it for themselves… and that others will teach it, and thereby help reach a whole niche of people who might otherwise never benefit from it.
What’s a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Max Anders: I don’t have a permanent favorite… but the one that’s deeply guiding me presently is Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
When we work that passage backward, we see that we can be living demonstrations of the fact that God’s will is good and acceptable and perfect… but only if we’re transformed. And we’ll only be transformed as our minds are renewed.
Therefore, mental renewal is the key to the Christian life. So many Christians struggle with areas in their lives that need progress, but never sufficiently engage in the mental renewal activities that’ll give them the spiritual progress they long for. If their minds are renewed, their lives will be transformed. If their lives are not transformed, it’s because their minds are not being renewed. As we guard our minds from unhelpful mental input and strategically feed our minds sufficient helpful mental input, our minds are renewed and our lives are transformed.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway?
Max Anders: I use Bible Gateway all the time… to look up words and phrases, to compare translations, to find out how many times a word is used, to learn the different ways a given word is translated, etc. Bible Gateway is a goldmine of valuable resources. It’s blazing fast and one of the best resources on the Internet for studying the Bible. I could not do half of what I’m doing if it were not for Internet resources, and Bible Gateway, which I recommend to people all the time, is one of the best!
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Max Anders: Every moment of every day, something in our soul is being fed and something is being starved. As a result, because we live in a media-saturated society, and because much of what comes through media is an assault on biblical values, then in the course of living everyday life, the soul of the Christian is inevitably power-fed the things of the world while the things of the Spirit are starved.
As a result, Christians are being swept out to sea by the riptide of modern culture.
Therefore, one of the great challenges of Christianity in the 21st century is to devise ways to power-feed our souls the things of the Spirit, sufficient to offset the things of the world.
This involves boiling essential information down to its basic minimum and repeating until we master it, and until it changes us, which is the essence of the mental renewal process mentioned earlier. I expand this idea further in my book by Thomas Nelson, Brave New Discipleship, and on my website: www.maxanders.com.
30 Days to Understanding the Bible (website) is a valuable step in this larger process, enabling the reader to master a basic understanding of the Bible, laying a foundation for a lifetime of future learning.
30 Days to Understanding the Bible is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Dr. Max Anders is the author of over 25 books, including the bestselling 30 Days to Understanding the Bible. He has taught on the college and seminary level, is a veteran pastor, and is creator and general editor of the 32-volume Holman Bible Commentary Series. At www.maxanders.com, he provides information, resources and strategies to guide and accelerate spiritual growth to help Christians achieve their God-given potential.
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