As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God… (Psalm 42:1, 2, ESV)
My life has been changed when my perspective about how to read God’s Word changed about ten years ago. I remember hearing Anne Graham Lotz speak at a conference in Atlanta. At one point she was quoting a long section of Scripture and I thought, “God’s Word is in her cells. She has absorbed His Word into her very being.”
I prayed right then and there that God would do that in me.
Since then, I no longer read the Bible, but instead absorb it, digest it, and hopefully live it. Rarely do I read the Bible quickly anymore. I take it slowly, much like someone is enjoying a meal–chewing slowly while savoring the taste. Some people are talking about mindful eating these days. I guess you can say when it comes to the Bible, I exercise mindful reading.
God’s Word is different than reading another book, no matter how grand the message or how amazing the author.
God’s Word is God-breathed.
II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The Bible is no ordinary book. Somehow, verses come to mind at all the right times. Once it is read, once it is ingested, God uses it to change us.
Verses come to mind at all the right times, offering wisdom for making decisions, inspiration for living well, promises to trust, warnings to protect us, and truth that enables us to discern lies. Being God-breathed, there is a strong sense that His Words can live inside of us.
God’s Word is living and active.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)
Like you, I want God’s Word to have full reign in my life so that God can examine my heart with precision. Ever wonder that is driving your behavior or igniting your emotions? Ever wonder why you can’t stop a particular thought or line of thinking? God knows, and He will use His Word to reveal such hidden truths about your heart.
None of us blink an eye at the realities of heart disease and the crippling consequences of plaque and clogged arteries. None of us question the link between a healthy diet and the health of our heart. Few people hesitate to take cholesterol-lowering medicine when a problem is detected.
Then why do we run from a precise examination of our spiritual hearts?
Why don’t we purposefully subject ourselves to such an examination? Our spiritual lives depend on it exactly like our physical lives depend on it.
Some practices that slow the Bible down for proper “digestion” include:
- Pray the verses into your life.
For example, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29, ESV)
As easy as it would be to simply read this verse, pray it. Pray that you look like this verse, that you live it.
- Pray verses for specific others.
Regarding the same verse above, pray for others in your life that are struggling with unwholesome talk. Pray that they too gain the ability to live in such a way.
- Pray for every Christian around the globe.
About ten years ago when I had my ah-ha moment listening to Anne Graham Lotz, I recorded most of the book of Colossians in my prayer journal and assigned each verse (or section of verses) to a day of the month. For example, on day two of each month (May 2, for example) I pray Colossians 1:5-6 for all Christ followers.
I have prayed this for you:
That all over the world the the gospel is bearing fruit and growing through every Christian, just as it has been doing since the believers in Colossae first heard (based on Colossians 1:6).
Note about me: Please understand that I do not have what I would call “full devotions” every day. My life is as chaotic as yours. However, over a ten-year span, I have prayed most of the book of Colossians over you.
- Understand what you are reading.
If there is a word I don’t know, I look it up in my concordance. If a verse causes me to think of some further application, I journal.
In short, attempt to learn what you are reading. In so doing, the Bible becomes more familiar with each passing year. You will become better equipped to recognize good teaching or discern errors when the Bible is mis-applied, mis-quoted or mis-interpreted.
Since God’s Word is forever, we will all be learning forever. In a very real sense the Bible is unsearchable and none of us know anything compared to what there is to know. However, each of us is responsible to handle the Bible as well as we can.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15, ESV)
- Memorize Scripture
The more Scripture we have in our hearts, the more the Lord can call to mind right when we need it. As angry words prepare to leave my mouth, Ephesians 4:29 comes to mind instead of, “You shouldn’t say what you are thinking, Laurie.” The latter doesn’t work because we all do what we know we shouldn’t do. The Bible verses, however, change us. They are God-breathed and living and active, so they are used by God to actually change our hearts. As the years roll by, many angry words that once stopped at my lips (along with the fierce effort to do so) no longer even come to mind. And often now, even when faced with hostility, the ability to remain kind has increased. There is much work left to do in me, but I am staying on the path of God’s Word. It works.
I like what Beth Moore does every other year with her blog-based Scripture memory program. Two verses every month are placed in an index-card-spiral that can be carted easily in a purse. You know those odd minutes during a day when scrolling through social media occurs? This is better. Memorizing doesn’t have to be intense, just consistent. One day you will be ten years into your journey with a lot of verses in your heart (24 verses X 10 years = 240 verses for God to call to mind).
This new appreciation and handling of the Bible has drawn me closer to God and transformed who I am from the inside out. God is no longer my guide, my inspiration or co-pilot. He is everything. He is my breath.
I am concerned about the role of social media in Bible reading. As a user of social media myself, I know how easy it is to have a feel-good experience scanning Twitter for inspirational sound-bites of Scripture or picking and choosing the links I want to investigate (versus ones I want to skip). I know how fun it is to peruse Pinterest and pin Bible sayings onto my Spiritual board.
Social Media sessions do not replace digesting God’s Word. Not even close.
Sayings are not God-breathed. Neither are TED talks (of which I can devour).
NOTHING replaces the living and active word of God. NOTHING.
If your spiritual life has lacked depth or is feeling flat, try reading the Bible slowly and prayerfully.
Go ahead and eat mindfully, but also READ mindfully. Then get ready for transformation.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God… (Psalm 42:1,2, ESV)
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