Helping People Study and Understand the Bible
Berean Insights’ purpose is to provide training and resources to help you go deeper in your study and understanding of the Bible.
Berean Insights is a registered charitable trust in New Zealand, founded by Ian and Tania Vail of Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Where does the name “Berean Insights” come from?
The name I chose for the activities I am involved in is Berean Insights. The idea comes from the following verse from Acts 17:11.
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.
This is a verse which greatly impacted my early life as a Christian. I realised that I needed to be like the Bereans both in checking what I heard against the Scriptures, the Word of God. But also to gain insight for myself from God’s Word by paying careful attention to the text of the Bible. The insights which come from reading the Bible deeply and using the Bible to interpret the Bible. I believe the Bible to be the ultimate authority on matters of spiritual life and truth.
The Berean Insight logo depicts the B of Berean (the blue background) with the I of Insights represented by the lighthouse which shines His light on our life’s way.
As we search the Scriptures God lights the way ahead in accordance with the principle ‘Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
God taught me early in life as a disciple not to just read the Bible daily but use it to come to know Him. “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” (John 5:39-40)
Everything I do comes under the banner of Berean Insights. The insights we gain when we search Scripture and apply it to our walk through this life with the insight of the Holy Spirit .
A Registered Charitable Trust
Berean Insights Trust is a registered charitable trust in New Zealand. Charity registration number CC56264.
As such, Berean Insights can issue donation tax receipts for donations given.
Who is Ian Vail?
I lived the first 23 years of my life as an atheist, reasoned and purpose from something which happened when I was nine. You will find the detailed accounts of major turning points in my life hidden in the Gems and Nuggets I have written over the years. Those personal stories can be found under Stories on this website. On August 19th 1973, I became a Christian, a follower of Jesus. On June 8th 1981 God called us to work in Bible translation with Wycliffe Bible Translators.
We went to Bible College of NZ so I could learn Greek and Hebrew and were led to work among the Rongkong (Tae’) language group on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
All I have learned in the process of working with Wycliffe over almost forty years is what is applied to the postings on this website.
During my time with Wycliffe I have worked as a linguist, a translator, I worked in language surveys, taught linguistics in a University, have developed many seminars and training packages. I accepted the role of Director of Wycliffe New Zealand for eight years.
I have deep love for God’s Word, a high view of Scripture and a passion for passing on my knowledge to others.
I taught high school geography and social studies for eight years and I love meeting new people. I am left in awe and wonder of the depth of the Bible and love to pass on the Gems and Nuggets I find as a result of my study of the biblical text.
I have been trained in a very unique way which God himself arranged for me which you can read about in the stories. I was taught by my Greek Professor, Dr Basil Brown, to suck every verse like a sweetie. Basil Brown pointed out to us the places to dig to find gold. It is that passion and approach that I share with you in everything I have created in the context Berean Insights.
The Beginnings: God’s Awesome Book
God’s Awesome Book is a 7-part seminar series I created to “Restore Faith and Confidence in the Word of God”.
In 1998 I travelled to numerous conferences in areas of the world where Wycliffe worked to discuss the need for new recruits at a time when enthusiasm for the Bible in the traditional sending countries was waning.
I headed back to Auckland on a flight from Europe and was pondering what to do. I concluded that “we” ought to address the elephant in the room. A decreasing confidence in the Bible as the Word of God.
I listed features of the Bible which needed promoting. Then the LORD prompted me to be the one to do something about it. So I created the seminar series which has 17 hours of seminar content spread over 7 seminar sessions. It has been presented in multiple countries around the world and made into a video series for churches or homegroups to use to strengthen their faith and trust in the Bible.
Radio Rhema Stories: “What on earth is God doing?”
While Wycliffe NZ Director, I had the idea of sharing mission stories from the various mission agencies of what God was doing around the world. I had a dream of multiple missions sharing a building together and working in synergy.
I went to Rob Holding and Cathy Jenke of Radio Rhema and put the idea to them. Rob said, “Ok tell us a story.” I pulled one out of my head and told it in my way. They both liked it. Cathy said tell us another one. So I did with the same result.
Rob said “We like it but rather than each mission telling their own stories we want you to front the programme. You are a natural story teller.”That series continued on Radio Rhema for three years. I met people all over New Zealand who followed those stories every Friday morning. Many would look at me puzzled trying to figure out where they had met me, only to realise it was the voice they recognised. Those stories will be loaded on to the website in future developments.
Where Nuggets Began
Within the first months of arriving in Jakarta in 2004 we found Jakarta Praise Community Church (JPCC). We immediately felt we had found our spiritual home.
After a year of being a part of the body of believers in JPCC I was asked to write a monthly article called “Nuggets from the Word”. I had shared God’s Awesome Book with the church leaders. Senior Pastor Jeffrey Rachmat asked me to write articles which strengthened the saints’ confidence to trust the Bible. Hence the Nuggets were born.
The early Nuggets were primarily focused on evidence substantiating the Bible text but later expanded to include any topic which the readers wanted me to explore.
This new feature has been added as a result of the suggestions or requests of several people. Some asked if it was possible to talk with the people who feature in some of my Gems & Nuggets in stories or anecdotal examples. The people marked as a Friend Link are open to talk with readers about their side of the story or the ideas expressed in the story related to them. Many of you are excited about the idea and think it adds a nice interactive feature. When you see a name emboldened and coloured purple you will known that person has agreed to being a Friend Link. To communicate with them you will need to ask me for their email address.
The Inspiration Behind Bible Gems
In 2009 Twitter was becoming very popular. Initially I wasn’t at all interested in joining, but when the topic of Twitter came up in conversation with a church leader over lunch one day, he encouraged me that all of the short pithy Bible related things I quote would work well on the social media platform.
While thinking about what to do I had the inspiration to start a live Quiet Time online. I decided to work my way through a book of the Bible and share the Gems I came across.
The Gems began on 9th September 2009 (09/09/09).
In addition to posting Gems, I decided to add related quotes. Many people have told me over the years they would sign up for the Bible Gems just for the quotes!
Many pastors have asked that the quotes be made accessible separate from the Gems and searchable. I’m very pleased that with this new website that is now possible. You can search the thousands of quotes by the author, a quote topic or just search for a word, on the Quotes page.
The Gems have been translated into Indonesian, and are working towards translating them into Brazilian Portuguese. The translated versions of the Gems will be added to this website over time.
Developing Deeper Bible
At the same time as the Gems were conceived, Tania and I were looking for a new sponsor for our efforts in Indonesia. I approached Jeffrey Rachmat at JPCC to see if they could use our skills. Jeffrey said “Yes! Yes! Yes!” He asked me to develop a training package to teach his leaders how to go deeper into the Bible so they in turn could teach others. Deeper Bible was conceived.
Jeffrey asked if the plan could take the people down into the depths of the Bible layer by layer.
I prayed and felt God lead me to build the concept on three houses of Hebrew learning or approach to the TANAKH – the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.
- Beth Sepher – the House of the Book
- Beth Talmud – the House of Interpretation
- Beth Midrash – the House of Allusion
Rather than just telling people a lot of information or content about the Bible, I wanted to teach people how to dig into the Bible for themselves. I had already developed two seminars for Wycliffe called Digging In and Digging for Hidden Treasure. Deeper Bible would be an extension of those with a different purpose. The approach is to give you the tips on how to go deeper into the text of the Bible and give you the practice to apply the tips for yourself.
There are over 100 tips in Deeper Bible designed to show you how to make your understanding and interaction with the Bible more satisfying.
The techniques enable students to dig into the Bible and find their own gems and nuggets.
My Greek professor used to say, “Class, there’s gold behind this passage . . . this verse . . . this word.” Deeper Bible teaches how to dig for that gold.
Deeper Bible will:
- Give you hot tips for deepening your Bible study.
- Give you a deeper knowledge of many familiar passages of the Bible as we seek to apply the tips mentioned above.
- Excite you as you learn to draw on all you are taught and amaze you as you discover just how deep the text of the Bible is.
Supporting Berean Insights
The vision for Berean Insights is just beginning. This custom built website is the beginning of the next phase of our vision of helping more people around the world to dig deeper into scripture.
Our future plans include loading the translations of Gems in multiple languages, making Deeper Bible available online and continuing to unpack scripture through more Gems and Nuggets.
Our work is funded by donations from generous people who believe in what Berean Insights does. If you’re interested in supporting the work of Berean Insights, you can find out more about donation options on our donations information page.