We are starting a new series this week on the blog about spiritual disciplines. Sometimes when we hear the word discipline, we also hear another word: legalism. The thought of discipline can drudge up feelings of forced rituals and stale religion. But in truth, these are nothing more than some of the means we have been given to draw in close to our Creator. Through these continual encounters, we come to know and walk with the One who is our source of life. The disciplined setting aside of time to get to know the one we love. The one we’ve committed our lives to. We make such endeavors to build human relationships, so why would we approach God with something less?
We’ll start today with time in the Word.
God chose to speak to us and make Himself known in a book. If you spend any amount of time pondering that, it’s a pretty incredible reality. The Word is the place we go to hear His voice in a concrete way. It’s where He tells us who He is, and what He cares about. How do we know God is faithful? We see His faithfulness in the stories of the lives of His people and the nation of Israel. How do we know He is loving? We see His sacrificial love played out as He lovingly give His son for us. How do we know of His justice? We see His love for the oppressed and outcast, where He chooses to show mercy and where he condemns. We cannot truly know God’s ways and character outside of the Word.
But sometimes getting there is hard. Sometimes time in the Word seems dry, like another thing on an already too-long to-do list. I have walked in many seasons like that. There is no easy prescription to get us from feeling like we are completing a mundane chore to loving the Word. There are a few things that can help make a start. One is prayer. James tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above” and that includes our desire for higher things. Ask God to stir in you a desire to know Him through His word.
Another thing that moves us along in our connection with the Word is consistency. The more we are in contact with the Bible, the more the Holy Spirit can use it to shape our hearts and minds, and the more He shapes our hearts and minds to be like His, the more we will love our time in the Word.
The last thing that can be a great help is having a plan. It’s very difficult to follow through and grow in something without first having an intentional plan for how you will do that. We’re going to look at some practical ways to implement this into our lives.
A great place to start, and a necessary place to continue is daily setting aside time to simply read the Bible. Whether that is in the form of a plan to read through the Bible cover to cover or reading one book at a time until you’ve read the whole Bible, reading methodically is the way we place ourselves consistently and regularly in contact with the Bible as whole, viewing it in all of it’s different parts. There are so many different ways to do this. My favoring reading plan is the M’Cheyne reading plan in conjunction with the For the Love of God companion by DA Carson. In it, you are reading through four different books at the same time. The combination of Old Testament and New Testament really breaks up the monotony when you get in a tougher book (Numbers anyone?). I also enjoy seeing the Old Testament against the New Testament. Reading about the wrath and the mercy. The companion is neither a commentary or a devotional, but just some thoughts that help me understand what I’m reading. It gives a little bit of context and a whole lot of insight. There are many other read through plans available on the You Version app. A great way to go through different books is with the She Reads Truth app we have been using collectively.
Daily reading has probably been the biggest means of growth for me. It keeps my heart in tune behind the noise of life. I can tell a distinct difference in my thoughts and attitudes when I am consistent in this. The steady drip of scripture is rarely revolutionary, but, over time, it’s transformational.
IN DEPTH STUDY
Reading gives us an overview, while in depth study gives us a deeper understanding of what the text means and how it fits into the Bible as a whole. Who wrote this and who was their audience? Why were they writing? How does the historical and cultural context affect our understanding of what the author is saying? As we dig deeper, we come to a better understanding of deep theological truths. John Piper tells us,
“Raking is easy, but all you get are leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.”
David Mathis adds,
“Without raking, we won’t have enough sense of the landscape to dig in the right places. And without digging, and making sure the banner of our theology is securely tethered for specific biblical sentences and paragraphs, our resources will soon dry up for feeding our souls with various textures and tastes.”
I love this deeper style of learning. It completely satisfies all of my nerdy intellectual whims. I can geek out on a word and what it means. I relish comparing commentaries. Learning who God is while delving into different doctrines.
There are many ways of pursuing in depth Bible study available. We are very blessed at our church to have different ways to gather with other women as we study together through Bible Study Fellowship or our many studies offered each semester. If you’ve never jumped into one of these, I would encourage you to experience learning in community with other women. It is truly a joy.
One of my favorite books on personal in depth study is Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. In it she shows the reader the process of breaking down a text and many different resources to find cultural, historical, and literary information.
Whatever avenue is taken, if we want to grow deeper, we must dig.
It’s easy to get to the end of your daily reading and realize you’ve spaced out the entire time and can’t even remember what you’ve read! Meditation helps us avoid this. It is taking a small portion of scripture and lingering over it, turning it over in your mind, letting it infiltrate your heart. Then taking it with you through the day as you continue to chew on it. What does this teach me about God? How does it then affect my actions? The way meditation works best form is through journaling. Writing out my questions for the text and letting it answer as I pray over it. Starting with questioning and ending with resolution. Slowing down to do this has really revolutionized my time in the Word.
“But his delight is in the Lord, and on His law he mediates day and night.” Psalm 1:2
“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” Psalm 119:15
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” Psalm 143:5
As we stop to ponder, He aligns our hearts to His.
Memorizing scripture is probably the most neglected of these four, and the reason is obvious, it’s challenging. Sometimes we can’t remember what we had for dinner last night or our children’s birthday, so attempting to memorize a verse or chapter seems like a Herculean feat! As a homeschool family, scripture memory is built into our curriculum, so my kids are often memorizing (their brains are also much younger!). When I talk to them about the reason behind why we do this, I tell them that the word we have hidden in our heart is the source the Holy Spirit uses to comfort us with His truth and convict us of our sin. Can He convict us outside of Scripture? Absolutely. God does not live in a box. But He has given us this source of truth and we would benefit greatly from utilizing it!
“I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sing against You.” Psalm 119:11
Memorization has helped me cling to truth in a better way. When someone comes to me with a problem, I don’t have to search through my reservoir of wisdom (or lack there of) and wing it, I have truth from God’s word that I can share.
Maybe all of that seems overwhelming. Maybe you’re rocking a newborn and just thankful you got to shower this week. Maybe you’re tending to an ailing parent. Know that these are means. Maybe even goals. Perhaps some of them will have to be futuristic. At this season, I’m much better at reading and meditating than fitting in in depth study and memorization. Just know these are tools that are available to you. Pathways to know Him. He will meet you however you are able and give you grace for each season. Feel encouraged and not burdened.
The Christian life is about relationship with our Creator that we have gained through the sacrifice of Jesus. Relationships grow through time spent together. As we read, study, meditate and memorize we come to know more intimately the King of all kings, and the more we know Him, the more we want our lives to be about His business. I’ll leave you with this beautiful video by John Piper.