There is an indispensable principle of Bible study:
total reliance on God’s Holy Spirit.
Have you ever studied under a Bible teacher who was just in tune with God? What marked this person? Why did hearing this man, or woman, cause you to have a different reaction than other teachers and preachers?
A lot of people remember a teacher who was, for some reason, special – possibly more than one. Maybe they helped you realize your potential, brought a subject to life or had some other quality that enriched your education. I have had a couple of teachers I would consider mentors. One was a professor and the other is a Bible teacher.
Dr. Ullery was different from other counseling professors because she cared whether the information she taught became real to her students. I remember her tirade the time none of us knew how to write a position paper (this was in a grad school class – I guess we should have known). She wasn’t mad at us though; she was mad at the poor education we had received during undergrad. I also remember a journey she sent me on that would change my life.
I trusted in the truth that is Christ at the age of nine, but for many years I had been wishy-washy in my living. Dr. Ullery was my adviser, so I had to meet with her throughout each semester to discuss my progress and what I was thinking about as a thesis topic. In class one day she made a comment I disagreed with and I argued with her about it. The next day I went to see her and when I asked her about it she told me, “Gaines, if I lost one minute of sleep worrying about what you thought…” Then she set me on a journey.
The argument concerned how some element of my Christian belief conflicted with a notion within the psychology we had been studying (this happened a lot). She told me that I needed to examine my beliefs and make sure that they were mine and not just rehashed versions of what my parents believed. It set me thinking, then looking.
Remember, I said that I was saved when I was nine, but I had always had doubts. People – pastors, teachers, other church members, my parents – all said doubt was normal. I would get past it as I matured in Christ. So I often doubted and given the advice of the admittedly non-Christian Dr. Ullery, I “work[ed] out [my] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). In the next ten years, I looked everywhere, but I only found comfort in one place. I eventually found that Jesus had been walking with me the whole time and guiding my search. I became a stronger Christian, more dedicated to the cause of Christ, because of that search. I thank Dr. Ullery for making me one who always tests my motives. Is it for Christ? Or is it for me?
There was another teacher who is famous among many for the seed I started both today’s and yesterday’s posts with. His name is simple, Ed Miller, but he is probably the greatest teacher of the Bible I will ever have the privilege of knowing or hearing. He taught me, and continues to teach me, how to dig deep into God’s word.
Ed has a ministry he calls “Bible Study Ministries” (download some of the studies, they’re on his website). On the site are hundreds of studies he has completed throughout the years. Every book of the Bible is included and many other topics. He also has messages he delivered at different conferences (like Black Rock where I met him). They are profound, but simple. With the Spirit as his guide, he takes II Timothy 2:15 to heart: “Study to show thyself approved, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Over the years I have listened to many of Ed’s studies and I am always struck by something within the study. His rendering of Esther opened the book up to me like it never has been before. I am indebted to him more than he will ever know.
So there are my two mentors: one a secular college professor, the other a godly man of the Bible. I have been blessed to know them both and to listen as God spoke through them.