(This is part 4 of a multi-post blog)
Romans 12:1- 2 have been some of the most influential verses in my entire life… I hope that they can act as a blessing to you today:
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
For the purpose of this blog post, I want to focus more on verse 2. This whole series of posts centers around the idea that one of the only ways that we can grow as believers and really come to look more like Christ is by saturating ourselves with the word of God… as Paul says here in Romans, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. this is not something that magically happens, it is something that we actually need to work on, something that we need to invest in. The best way of doing this is by completely immersing ourselves in the word of God. So far in this mini-series I have addressed the importance of the word and hopefully helped give a vision for the word, now I want to get a bit more practical, what are some ways that you can actually engage with the Bible?
Mediate on Scripture
“If we hope to move beyond the superficialities of our culture, including our religious culture, we must be willing to go down into the retreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation.” –Richard Foster
Meditation is about changing the pace of our lives. We live in a world where we are surrounded by voices and noise. So much of this world is trying to tell us how to live, what to believe, what you should need. Taking time to meditate on scripture is a conscious decision to silence the other voices in our lives and allow the voice of scripture to speak the loudest.
Before I go on, I want to just quickly differentiate Christian meditation from Eastern meditation. Eastern meditation is about emptying oneself completely of any thing in order to find some inner peace within oneself… to try to find divinity somewhere deep on the inside (this is a very simplistic understanding of a very diverse subject, but remains a unifying factor between different methods of Eastern meditation). Christian Meditation is about taking time to silence the voices (both inside ourselves and out) in order to be able to hear the voice of the Father with much more clarity and be filled with the Spirit at a deeper level. Richard Foster simplifies this, saying
Christian meditation is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey His word.. it opens the door and invites Jesus into deeper communion with us.
So what does this have to do with reading scripture? I firmly believe that the most true and consistent way that God speaks to us today is through His word. God can and does speak in other ways, but it is through and against His word that these other methods must be measured. Because of this, my primary time of mediation is spend directly in the word… but how does one go about doing this?
- First of all we need to differentiate meditation from Study. In study we seek to understand the passage, in meditation we seek to internalize and personalize the passage… the written word becomes the living word… Put yourself in the scripture, imagine Jesus’ words being spoken directly to you… ask the Holy Spirit to make the word alive in Your heart.
- Corey Russell suggests that we can meditate on scripture by reading slowly and inviting the holy Spirit to “Highlight” different words or statements. This is an invitation to stop, to see what the Holy Spirit may be trying to communicate with that specific word or phrase… spend some time reflecting on the truth of it…
“We must stop reading the bible just so we can get done, and actually begin to stop and meet with God through it. The Holy Spirit’s favorite chariot is the word of God and it will be through the word of God that we are transformed.”
- Prior to your time of reading the word, take a moment to invite Jesus to come and meet with You. As you are reading, treat your time like a conversation with Him. Let it fuel and guide your prayers.
Another way that we can approach scripture is through studying it. After four years of Bible college and a lot of time devoted to studying the word of God, I still feel like I have only scratched the surface of what God wants to say to me through the scriptures, and studying it has really made the truth become more real to me.
Below I have posted links (click the covers) to two very good resources on studying scripture. Both of these books takes time to look at each book of the Bible and give a good outline of how we can read this book as an act of study.
So what does it mean to really study the scriptures?
- Seek to understand the context of the book that you are reading, the chapters that you are reading… Where do they fit into the greater story of scripture? How does a specific verse fit into the though of the chapter you are reading? What is the genre of the book you are reading (prophecy, poetry, narrative)?
- Seek to understand the situations around the book/chapter/verse you are reading. Why was this book written? Why did Paul write 1 Corinthians? What was the situation at the time? Knowing the answers to these questions can really make the scriptures come alive
- Seek to understand what was intended by the original authors for the original hearers? This is a big one. It’s easy to forget that the Bible is a cultural book, written by many different Hebrew people to many different Hebrew people… it’s important to ask what the original intent was… as much of our cultural lenses can blur our understanding of scripture.
Resources for Study:
- http://www.preceptaustin.org/ (Great site with a links to a lot of great resources)
- http://www.globible.com/ (An amazing Bible you can download to your computer with a lot of pictures, maps, and information dedicated to helping make the Bible come alive
- ESV Study Bible (The most comprehensive and (in my opinion) useful study Bible out there)
Scripture can be a tool for engaging with God through prayer. Praying scripture is one of my favourite ways to engage with His word. The Bible is filled with different prayers. The Psalms are literally a book of 150 different prayers. The New Testament is filled with prayers prayed by Jesus and the apostles (for a list of these prayers click here). Revelation is filled with Hymns of praise that are being sung by the angels and, in ever increasing measure, the Church world-wide. Because of this, the scriptures can give language to our prayers. We can pray the word of God back to Him. This is exciting because the reality is that we never have to wonder if our prayers are in agreement with the will of God as they are prayers that are inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Journal Through Scripture
Journalling may not be for everyone, but for those who find it easy to get distracted, this may be a good way to be more disciplined in your Bible reading. Journalling thought scripture is a great way to be intentional about what is being read. There are a few different ways to journal through scripture:
- SOAP (Scripture (What did I read?), Observation (What is this saying?), Application (What am I going to do about it?), Prayer (Convert your thoughts into a prayer)
- What is this passage saying about God? What is this passage saying about me? What am I going to do about it?
- Be creative! Feel free to express yourself as You are engaging with God through His word.
Bible Reading Plan
Actually having a Bible reading plan has helped me tremendously in sticking with my Bible reading. Some days I will admit, I have to check my heart as it is easy to approach the word legalistically (just to get it done). The reality is, though, that I would rather make sure that I am reading the Bible every day even if one day out of ten feels more like a chore than a pleasure. If I don’t have a plan, I find that I am reading with far less frequency!
Thanks for taking the time to read this! I hope that you have been encouraged, but more than that, I hope that you are going to be making the word of God more of a priority and that you feel equipped and ready to do this today! Feel free to post thoughts or comments on this blog and to pass this along. If you have any questions, please let me know!
Thanks so much,