Wednesday, January 8, 2020

5 Ways to Take in the Bible

For thousands of years, one hallmark of God's people is the belief that the Lord chose to reveal Himself through words that could be written down and preserved. Yes, we believe in Jesus and the accounts of Moses, David, Peter, and Paul. But the primary reason we know these things is because of written words preserving their stories and writings.

Evangelical Christians believe God is fully able to preserve his written revelation. When we read the Bible, we read the very words of God – not just man. When we hear the Scriptures read, we can do so with a trembling in our heart and respect in our mind.

Moses told the Israelites, “They are not just idle words for you--they are your life” (Deut. 32:47 NIV).

Isaiah proclaimed, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (40:8 ESV).

And Jesus said, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matt. 4:4 NLT).

These written, preserved words matter. In a video-saturated day, we are wise to train youth how to love the written word and how to sit still and listen to the spoken word – yes, without a video!

Different Ways to Read the Bible

Pastor Stuart Briscoe writes in his introduction to The One Year Devotions for Men, “There are different ways of reading the Bible. Some do it as a purely academic exercise . . . . But my concern is that we read it with a view of benefiting from it in our daily lives. We call this reading the Scriptures devotionally. It is reading with an inquiring mind and a thirsty spirit, longing to know God better and to live more in keeping with his principles. When the Bible is read in this fashion, it becomes a source of joy and delight, of encouragement and direction, of correction and instruction.”

The Navigators disciple-making ministry used The Hand Illustration for decades to teach people about Bible intake. Each finger represents a different form of consumption: hearing, reading, memorizing, meditating, and studying. And each type of ingestion of God’s Word yields different results:

Hearing helps the Word go into our subconscious.

Reading larger amounts helps us understand the general scope and sequence.

Memorizing allows the Word to become a substantial part of us, arming us with little daggers – or the rhema – as we seek to stand in the Lord.

Meditating enables us to absorb the Scriptures’ meaning, focusing our mind and spirit.

Studying helps us go deeper, digging into specific meanings, theology, and gems.

The palm of the Hand Illustration also reminds us that without application of the Word, the use of the fingers is, well, useless. It is when we practice all five habits of Bible intake and then apply – or obey – what the Word says, that we have a grip on the Word of God. And it has a grip on us!

As a senior in high school, I determined that I needed to put God’s Word in my life daily. The Billy Graham team in their early days agreed on the motto No bread, no bread. It simply reminded them that they would not eat physical food each day if they had not first eaten spiritual food.

5 Practices

Here are five practices I find helpful in receiving regular Bible intake:

1. Read the Bible systematically.

For years, my wife and I have used the One Year Bibles that divide the entire Bible into daily reading, including Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs.  This year, for the first time, I am using the One Year Chronological Bible.

And remember, the goal is not simply to read the entire Bible in a year. The goal is to meet God through the absorption of Scripture. To encounter Jehovah on a daily basis. To walk with Him in the garden of my soul.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t finish your reading plan. It’s ok. Some days I may read the entire section. Some days I may get stuck on just a few verses and meditate on them over and over.

2. Practice listening to the Word.

Because of digital technology, what amazing opportunities we have today to listen to the Word! I keep sermons, apps of favorite Bible teachers, and audio versions of the Bible handy. Driving in the car offers great time to renew my mind with the spoken Word.

3. Enjoy devotional literature.

I still have on my shelf the worn, blue copy of My Utmost for His Highest my mother gave to me when I graduated from high school.

No, daily devotionals should not be my only intake of the Bible. That would be like living off of green beans. However, devotional reading is a wise practice.
It helps me focus on a specific truth from Scripture.

It gives me the wisdom and counsel of a godly author – remember, there is wisdom in many counselors.

It offers a great spiritual vitamin during times of the day when I just have 3-5 minutes and need a spiritual boost.

Don’t let reading devotional books be your only source of Bible intake. But, incorporating this discipline in your life will enrich your walk with God.

I gleaned from Pastor Johnny Hunt the value of always reading three solid, meaty devotional books at one time. Through the years I have used many different ones: My Utmost for His Highest, Streams in the Desert, 52 Greatest Stories of the Bible, and Wisdom Hunters, to name a few. This year, I am starting the year using the following:

The One Year Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe

Every Step an Arrival by Eugene Peterson

4.  Find a way to memorize Scripture.

This year my family is using the Topical Memory System from the Navigators, which gives 52 verses to memorize by topics. We are attempting to learn one verse a week together word for word.

Many Scripture songs exist today on CD and in digital format for children and adults. Get some Scripture songs. Put them on your playlist, on your phone, and in your car. The Bible to music is an easy way to learn God’s Word.

5. Take time to meditate.

Dr. Charles Stanley taught me much about the value of Bible meditation through his sermons and his book How to Listen to God.

The 19th century pastor and caretaker of orphans George Mueller practiced the habit of reading his Bible on his knees.

Like many believers, I find it quite helpful to stretch out on the floor (preferably on carpet!) with an open Bible. In that posture, without other distractions, I expect to meet with Jesus one-on-one. I can slowly read one verse or a few verses, chewing on those truths, asking the Spirit of God to speak to me and illuminate my mind, and setting my heart to listen.

The Chinese translation of Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still until you are aware of God’s presence.” Meditation helps us do just that.

We need the Word. And a wise believer disciplines his life to take in that life-giving Word.

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

The Hand Illustration is used from the Navigators.

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