When he first put pen to paper back in the late 1990s, Rev. Dr. Lane Burgland hoped his book, How to Read the Bible with Understanding, would help Christians sort through Scripture’s sometimes complex teachings. He never imagined that his translated book would be a Godsend to new believers in countries like Vietnam, Burma and Cambodia.
“The Lord works in unexpected and surprising ways,” reflected Rev. Burgland, retired pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Churubusco, Indiana. “As we learn so often in Scripture, He has a wonderful plan for salvation and moves His Kingdom forward using all kinds of people. We are so blessed when we glimpse Him at work!”
Regardless of whether the reader is sitting on the couch in Minnesota or stretched out beneath a coconut palm in Vietnam, “the book can be helpful to people across the world today in whatever culture, language, or circumstance,” said Rev. Burgland, who also has served as an associate professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. “It would be useful in mission work, to first time Bible readers, to first generation believers who open the Bible and ask, ‘How do I make heads or tails of this stuff?’
“For example, you’re reading something that was written anywhere from 2,000 – 4,000 years ago (depending on the part you’re reading), in a culture we don’t understand,” he said. “We may read a passage and not get a handle on it really quickly. We may even misunderstand it… [so this book explains] a bit of geography, history, culture, and so forth.”
Sopha Khorn, coordinator of LHF projects in Cambodia, agrees the book has been crucial for their growing Lutheran church body.
“Many Cambodian Christians read the Bible and interpret the Scripture by using their own thoughts, feelings and understanding without any method or structure, and…they often misunderstand the true meaning of the Scripture,” he said. “They sometimes change the meaning of Scripture, such as when Jesus said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body,’ in Matthew 26:26, to say ‘Take, eat; this represents My body.’”
“Reading the Bible with Understanding is very useful as a guideline, so that they are able to read and understand it correctly,” continued Khorn. “Therefore, this book will help the Bible readers and enlighten them to see how we should interpret the Bible correctly, otherwise we may be misled by our own understanding.”
LHF’s Translation Coordinator for Southeast Asia, Rev. Ted NaThalang, sees Reading the Bible with Understanding as an opportunity to educate Southeast Asians on how to learn and gain understanding from the Bible.
“My emphasis in teaching Southeast Asians primarily is the Word of God, not trying to convert them to be Lutherans, because I believe that if they are taught correctly how to read Scripture they will want to be Lutherans,” said Rev. NaThalang. “In having Rev. Burgland’s book available to pastors and teachers, it should help them to understand the Word of God correctly, whether they are Lutherans or not. They are many Christians in Southeast Asia who want to read and study the Bible correctly so they would know what God wants us to live and teach to our people and children.”
“If you take time to pray for the guidance and gift of the Holy Spirit before reading, He will help you to see what He has written, and to open eyes and hearts and minds to believe it,” said Rev. Burgland. “Trust in Jesus Christ, and you’ll find yourself absolutely captivated and on a journey that will last your whole life long.”
To order Reading the Bible with Understanding in the Khmer, Burmese or Vietnamese (or coming soon, Chinese) language, send an email to info@LHFmissions.org. The English edition can be purchased at Concordia Publishing House (CPH.org).
– by Anna Bagnall, LHF Staff Writer