IBRA shines a spotlight on David Painting, Fresh from The Word Editor!
David has a beautiful vision “To support our our readers, readers to delve deeper into the Bible, learn about God’s love, support and very ready presence; to daily receive His riches for our lives.”
We asked David a series of questions about his faith journey, ‘church’ life, reasons why he decided to follow Jesus, how important the Bible has been in his faith journey and more. So, here goes...
1. Tell us a bit about yourself…
Got confused when introducing myself as the speaker at a Christian conference saying that I was “Married with three wives and one child”. Wasn’t invited back strangely! Actually, I’m married to Janet, we have three adult children and four grandchildren.
I’m a science nerd and it was my interest in astrophysics which drew me to explore faith – I asked my parents if we had a Bible that I could read when I was about 14. They gave me an old KJV which I opened at random and began to read the book of Ruth. I came to the passage:
“And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”
I realised that Ruth must have seen something in Naomi that inspired wholehearted commitment – and I decided to discover what it was that she had seen. That began an adventure of discovering Jesus that excites me as much now as it did then.
I continued with the science theme in my degree and worked in the defence industry designing communications systems before migrating into computing and then management in commerce. Alongside that career, aged 25, I was invited to become the first pastor of a small village Baptist church. In three years, we saw how God can use the extraordinary faith of a few (elderly) believers to transform a church and bring life to their community.
In 1992, we felt God calling us into YWAM, spending time as a family in Romania and leading a UK based Discipleship school which had a Relief and Development focus. This season gave us a more global perspective – alongside work in Romania, we had the privilege of teaching across four continents.
Then began a season of pastoral work – first in a mid-sized free church and then as Associate Pastor, Senior Pastor and finally Executive Pastor of one of the UK’s largest Baptist churches. Towards the end of this time, we were being challenged to rethink our expressions of church and in 2012 formed a ‘missional community’ which eventually became a house-church which we absolutely love!
And now, I balance family life, co-leading the church, software development and writing children’s books with a friend (the ‘Jack and Bea’s Survival Guide to Church’ series) – as well of course as editing Fresh from The Word!
In the midst of all of that, my passion for science, and in particular space, has grown over the years – friends and family bought me an 8 inch dobsonian telescope which allows me to see the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter – I feel like that other David ‘O Lord my God, when I consider the works of your hands…’
2. How important has the Bible been in your faith journey?
The Bible was there at the beginning of my faith journey and has shaped it ever since. The Bible points to Jesus and Jesus fully reveals God, so my relationship with God is framed by the Bible. For example, if I believe God has said something to me, I can test that against the Bible – was I hearing His voice or perhaps my own desires, my own preconceived ideas, the subtle lies of the enemy…So whilst my relationship is with God, not the Bible, the Bible provides a safe framework in which to have that relationship.
3. How do you read the Bible? Where do you read the Bible?
I read the Bible online – both on my desktop and on my phone, but I still love picking up my old RSV and reading it from that. I read it everywhere! It’s as natural a part of my daily life as checking in with friends on social media, catching up on the news, emailing about work…
4. Do you have one (or a select few) Bible verse(s) that is central to how you live your life?
I guess that we all have parts of scripture that are especially meaningful to us – the passage I referred to in Ruth; ‘The Lord will provide’; ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God…’ have all been key for us – but my passion when it comes to the Bible is context – you really need the framework in which to fit the verses, you need the picture on the box to understand where the pieces fit… so, whilst individual verses might stand out, my passion is for it all!
5. Do you have a particular translation of the Bible that you prefer?
All translations inevitably carry the preconceived views of the translators – no matter how hard they seek to set those to one side. That’s fine – as long as you understand the inherent bias. So, to be safe, I like to read different versions and to use an app to help me understand the original meaning of some of the words where it’s still not clear. That’s why we encourage a range of translations in FfTW.
6. Do you regularly read the Bible with others? What benefits does this have for you?
I do! I meet in person or online with individuals several times a week. Each study is from a different book, which definitely keeps me alert and helps me keep a broad sense of what scripture reveals. Reading with others is a great way to grow together towards God.
7. Why is it important to understand the Bible?
If we don’t understand the Bible as a big picture, it’s easy to get led down blind alleys – people with an agenda will argue persuasively from a few verses and if we don’t have that breadth of understanding, it’s easy to get led astray
8. Why is it important that people read the Bible every day and what challenges do you face in doing so
I think the question is the problem! It presupposes that reading the Bible every day is a goal in itself – and I don’t think it is. Certainly, we want people to learn a hunger for the Bible, we want people to know how to handle it so that they can read it intelligently. We want them to know the breadth of it. But I don’t want to make people think that reading the Bible every day is some kind of legalistic requirement that is of automatic benefit. On the contrary, I want our readers to experience more of the thrill, the joy, the enriching discovery of more of God as they read. I don’t want them to see daily reading as a task.
I want people to read the Bible and I’d love FfTW to be a devotional part of that. But if they miss a day because they are still processing yesterday’s reading, that’s great! If they read a week of FfTW and it so moves them that they need to realign their values, refocus their priorities, then I want them to feel free to do that, even if it means not going near their Bible for a while… We’re called in the Bible to ‘meditate on this book of the law, night and day’ – ie read it, process it, act on it, have it constantly in our heart and mind. It would be unbiblical for them to be prompted to act by God through one day’s reading but for them to avoid the challenge it brought because they had moved on to the next day’s reading…
9. What do you think people should do when it comes to reading the Bible?
- Recognise it is there to frame your relationship with God, not replace it.
- When you’re starting out, read Luke / Acts to get a grasp of who Jesus is
- Then read it all as quickly as you can, as often as you can, interpreting it all in the light of who you know Jesus to be. Don’t stop when you don’t understand bits – keep going, get a grasp of the big picture – don’t get bogged down in the detail!
- Alongside that, use FfTW to encourage yourself and others to go deep. And when God speaks – stop – listen, respond – and if that means you miss a day or two that’s ok – the goal is a dynamic relationship with God!
10. Following on from this, how do you view the Bible?
My Mum and Dad ‘met’ each other through letters that they wrote – it was a couple of years after they started corresponding that they finally met in person. My Mum still has the letters and finds re-reading them helpful – especially if something has happened to confuse the relationship. For me, this is what the Bible is – the key is our relationship with God – reading the Bible isn’t a substitute for that, but knowing the Bible is vital in shaping and maintaining that relationship. Which leads me to make this point: When my Mum received a letter, can you imagine if she just read a couple of sentences and then put it down until the next day when she would read another fragment? How would she make sense of the letter, how could she get to know my Dad by only reading a bit and dissecting each word, searching for special meaning? Of course, after she’d read it all several times, she knew it well and could happily recall a paragraph, a sentence, a phrase that spoke to her in particular circumstances. That’s how I think we should come to the Bible. Some books are probably a bit long to read in one sitting, but lots of them aren’t – so, as quickly as possible, get a grasp of the overall – don’t get bogged down in the detail – and use FfTW to refresh that big picture and help you hear from God each day.
It's with that in mind that FfTW follows a reading plan that covers the whole scope of scripture every year. It’s why we’ve introduced a complete overview of the Bible story in the 2023 edition and why the 2024 edition will look at the different types of writing in the Bible.
11. Wherever we are up to, What's one top tip can you give someone that will help them read the Bible?
Read it in big chunks to get a sense of what the overall picture is. Always read it in the light of who you know Jesus to be, so start with the gospels – then, if a verse or passage doesn’t sound like Jesus, park the passage for now, don’t allow it to change what you have discovered about God in Jesus.
12. How can Fresh from The Word help someone read the Bible?
The danger with any reading notes is that we read the notes, absorb what the writer has said and don’t actually read or engage with the passage at all! (I’ve certainly been guilty of that at times!) But, when we do read it for ourselves, we can use the writer’s insights to inform our own understanding and thinking. And because we have contributors from all sorts of backgrounds: different demographics, different churches, different theological perspectives, we can provide a kaleidoscopic insight into the Word.
13. What is special/unique/different about Fresh from The Word Bible reading notes?
Diversity - we have diverse contributors: lay people, clergy, young, old - from different backgrounds and regions and from different parts of the church. We have diverse readings – thematic studies, profound insights, consecutive readings, fun interludes – reflecting God’s abundance. And of course, we have a diverse readership.
Community – we love that IBRA is and always has been a global community of people who come together – physically or virtually, to read the same passage, be inspired by the same contributor and to encourage one another to live out the challenge of discipleship each day.
14. What is your vision/ hope for someone who commits to reading the Bible regularly?
The promise is that when we seek the Lord with all our heart, we find Him. Understanding the breadth of scripture, committing to get to know Him through His word is a key part of that dynamic.
15. How do you select content themes for Fresh from The Word?
IBRA has an amazing “Reading’s Group” who meet to put together an outline for the year, partly based on the lectionary, but taking into account the passages and themes used over recent years and anything that will be topical when the edition is published. Once we’ve agreed that outline, weeks are assigned to each group member who researches what would be appropriate passages for each day. Finally, when Orion has collated all of that, we meet again to review the whole, to ensure we are not duplicating passages and that we are happy with the overall balance.
16. What 2023 theme/s excite you? What are your highlights in the 2023 edition?
Ah, I think that would be unfair of me to answer – like nominating a favourite child!
17. How does from Fresh from The Word find and select its contributors?
Every editor comes with their own network of people whose writing they have found helpful. So, when current authors retire or are unable to contribute in a given year, it provides an opportunity to bring in fresh voices. I’m very keen for us to have as diverse a team as possible and we’d love to extend that, so if you know someone, don’t be afraid of letting us know!