“The Bible is not Jesus Christ, who is the living Word. The Bible was not born of a virgin, crucified, resurrected and elevated to the right hand of the Father…While (it) is the written Word of God, the word of God is not simply the Bible. The way we know that this is so is, above all, by paying attention to what the Bible says.” – Dallas Willard (Hearing God)
There has been a lot written and spoken about “The Bible” for centuries. Good, bad, or indifferent, everybody has an opinion about it…even the ones who want nothing to do with it.
But ignore it, burn it, leave it alone, or embrace it… there it is. Sitting on your shelf. Stuck in the floorboard of your car. Packed away in a box in your mother’s attic. It is there.
And so you have to deal with it.
And so most of us begin dealing with it like we do most books. We sit down somewhere (usually a quiet place) and begin reading from page 1. From page 1 though, we find that we have not entered into the world of an ordinary book.
There are chapters and verses, characters of all kinds, writings of all different literary genres, and a God whose face we’ve never seen. Instead of simply reading the Bible, we need to understand how to let the Bible read us.
This is not reading simply to be entertained.
It can’t simply be reading to be informed.
This is reading that forms and transforms us from the inside out. And for this kind of reading, we need to know of a way to read that forms and transforms. Otherwise we will get lost and give up. And that is not what the author of Scripture intended for us.
LECTIO DIVINA (Sacred Reading)
Today I want to introduce you to a four step method of reading that was practiced by the ancient Christians. For the sake of your reading sanity, this will be brief. But I want to encourage you to step into this practice this week. I believe it will help you understand better the way to interact with the Bible and ultimately how to get closer in your relationship with God.
He wants you and I to be drawn into intimacy with Him. Today’s points are taken from Dallas Willard’s classic book Hearing God.(pg.49-51) Here we go. Begin by picking a passage of scripture. Today use Psalms 139 as your passage.
- Read (lectio) – “Read the passage slowly, considering the invitation that reading Scripture is ‘encountering God himself or hearing his voice’.” Once you’ve read through the passage, read it one more time. “Listen with the ear of your heart for one of the following…a word or phrase that stands out to you…(and) where you find yourself in the passage.” Don’t force this, allow the Spirit of God to open your eyes to this. Use a highlighter to mark the words or phrases that stand out.
- Think (meditatio) – “Read the passage again slowly. As you do so and for a few minutes afterword, reflect on one of the following”:
- The word or phrase that stood out to you. Why do you think these words resonated with you?
- Who or what you found yourself to be in the passage. How does it feel to be this person or object? What draws you? What are you thinking or feeling about God?
- Ask yourself, “How does this connect with my life today? What do I need to know or be or do?”
- Pray (oratio) – “After reading the passage one last time, talk to God about what you think the Spirit might have said to you or what came to you. Pray in whatever way you are led. You might thank God for something or ask Him for something.”
- Live (contemplatio) – “Do as you are led. You may wish to wait on God -to simply be with God. You may wish to pay attention to God, pondering especially, How did God seem in this passage? What about God makes you want to worship Him, or at least be with Him? Sit in the companionship of God -the one who invites you to come away and be with Him.
This is not a Protestant or Catholic activity. It is not some ceremonious ritual or religious hop-scotch. This is you allowing God to form and transform your soul. It is a process that you enter into everyday… not a one time quick spiritual fix.
In what ways have you found yourself better reading and understanding the Bible? Is there a sense in which you have postured yourself to give yourself over to God rather than only trying to take something from His Word? It’s all in your approach. Read the Bible with new eyes today.