When we want to know more about a Bible text, we study it. We look at the historical background of the book in question and then we look at the context of the verse(s) we are studying using a variety of study tools. We look for the original meaning of the author as inspired by the Holy Spirit so that we can properly understand and apply that truth to our life. Our goal in Bible study is growth in knowledge that leads to a growth in understanding that leads to a changed heart. Bible study is more intense and should not be confused with Bible reading.
To sit each morning and read and hear God’s voice through His inspired word has several purposes: to know God better, to be changed by the words of God and to live a life that gives him glory because our thinking has changed as we read. We must be sure that we are reading enough, too many people read far too little. These days I turn on the recorded reading of the Bible on my Bible app and listen as I read along. This slows me down and the practice allows my brain to receive through two, not just one, of my senses. I use a reading plan for my morning reading. Because if left to my own choices, I would read too narrowly, and it is helpful to grow from the whole Bible. The YouVersion Bible app has many helpful plans and many translations. I use this and listen to the audio version of the Bible and read along more slowly than a normal reading pace. Bible reading should not be confused with Bible Study which is next.
When I was a high school Bible teacher, I had my students memorize Romans chapter twelve. Week after week they would be allowed five minutes to sit and study the verse of the week so that when called upon, they could write out that verse from memory. To constantly focus on a passage and then to be able to recall that verse when least expected is a joyous thing. Some of the texts listed in “Praying Scripture” would be helpful verses to have memorized.
This is called Christian meditation by some. I’m calling it Bible Meditation to contrast from other kinds of meditation (such as that practiced in Asia where emptying of one’s mind is the focus). Jesus warned us to fill ourselves with Him, otherwise the Enemy will step in and fill the void. To work on a Scripture text through repetition as though I were trying to memorize it is an simple form of meditation. In doing such, I have slowed down, and am dwelling carefully and intentionally on God’s word. I find that slowing copying a Bible text in my prayer journal is especially helpful to focus my attention on God and His message for me.
To adore God and proclaim His greatness, remembering and expressing gratitude for His attributes is adoration prayer. Some have found that to dwell long in this kind of prayer brings the praying person to a place of deep communion with and awe of God. The Psalms are full of adoration prayers some are listed in a section that follows called “Praying Scripture.” To simply pray the Bible is one of the easiest ways to begin the discipline of adoration praying. Slowly praying aloud Psalms 136 and 139 have been especially helpful to me for adoration prayer. Other disciplines are useful for entering into adoration prayer.
We all need guidance. It is essential for the follower of Jesus to find and walk together with fellow disciples. But, often, this is not enough. It is wise to collaborate with a fellow disciple who has longer experience, knows how to listen, ask questions and is so devoted to the Lord that she/he may offer guidance for the life of a disciple. How often we speak with this fellow disciple will depend on their availability and our need. Sometimes we need more frequent conversations than others.
With whom are you collaborating and listening to?
Here is an excerpt from my thoughts on some spiritual disciplines from the revised and expanded A Fresh Start Toward Renewal.
I’m borrowing this title from C. S. Lewis who referred to “holy reading” in Mere Christianity. Indeed, to read that modern classic would be a great example of holy reading. Well-chosen books about the Christian life are often helpful to the follower of Jesus. But all are not helpful. We would be wise to seek the counsel of those who have read more and for a longer period of time (this is where guidance can be important). The disciple of Jesus should never replace the regular reading of Scripture with books about the Bible. It is also noteworthy that Lewis advised that 1/3 of our reading should be at least 100 years old. He didn’t want us to be caught up solely in the passing fancies of contemporary writers. There are many genres of holy reading. I suggest seeking a balance from: biography, books about the Bible (surveys, introductions and commentaries) and topical (this book is an example of the later). To supplement our reading diet with C. S. Lewis will never hurt anyone. Please remember that reading books about the Bible should not replace reading the Bible itself.
More about the book soon.