How Do You Read the Bible?
A simple practice to help you grow in your faith.
When you open the Bible do you feel intimidated? I know I do.
You read that right, the professional Christian with a graduate degree that included the study of both Hebrew and Greek is intimidated by the Bible.
How can that be?
It's simple really. I have seen the Bible used to cause great harm. I am sure that in my years of ministry that I have caused great harm with my interpretations of the Bible. Every single day I see the Bible used and abused as a tool that hurts others. I desperately want to avoid doing that. I also find many parts of the Bible confusing and hard to understand. That's part of the reason that I loved pursuing my divinity degree. This gave me loads of tools to get behind the text of the Bible to try and untangle the sticky wickets of the text. I also get to spend inordinate amounts of time reading research about the Bible, which I find really helpful.
If I'm intimidated, I can only imagine the level of intimidation that many of you might experience. This is particularly true if we take the Bible seriously.
Most people can't pursue an advanced degree, nor do they need to.
For the vast majority of the history of Christianity people didn't even have personal access to a Bible text. They heard it in bits and pieces shared in the communal setting of the gatherings of believers. When we experience the Bible this way, there will be certain things that stick in our minds because they resonate with us. Other things will not be remembered.
It really wasn't until the creation fo the printing press that the idea of a personal Bible even became feasible.
Now, we find copies of the Bible in drawers of hotel night stands. I'd guess most homes have at least one Bible, even if it's just gathering dust.
There's nothing particular special about the Bible, per se.
It's a book.
It's not magical.
It's a collection of writings of Hebrew and early Christian believers.
It is beautiful, ugly, challenging, and inspirational.
In particular, it gives us insight into the life of Jesus. Jesus, the one after whom many of us are trying to pattern our lives. Because of this, the Bible is important to our spiritual lives.
So, how can we engage with this intimidating text?
Over the long history of the Christian faith there was a manner of reading that became known as “lectio divina” or “divine reading.”
That seems a bit intimidating too. Or at least a bit mystically creepy.
Over the last few years, after reading Eugene Peterson's book, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, I have become convinced that this kind of reading is fundamental to our spiritual lives. I really like the idea of “Spiritual Reading.” I think it is a helpful re-framing for what we need when it comes to approaching the Bible.
This is not studying. This is something altogether different.
Peterson uses the metaphor of a dog with a bone. He compares spiritual reading to the way a dog takes a bone and just enjoys it. Turning over and around and savoring it.
What if we approached the Bible to savor it and turn it over and around? What if, in some sense, we let the Bible read us? What if we sought to intentionally engage the Bible with a sense of wonder and meditation?
Peterson describes the process as stop, read, ponder, pray, reflect, live.
When I sit down to practice my reading of Scripture this is the process that I use.
Stop: Before beginning I pray and ask God to meet me through the reading of the Scripture.
Read: I read and re-read the passage that I'm engaging with. So, it's not typically very long.
Ponder: I reflect and think or meditate on the things that “jumped” off the page to me. Why did they jump out to me? How did they make me feel? What do I like? What don't I like?
Pray: Often the time of pondering or meditation leads me to prayer. This is a time when I am responding to what I think God might be communicating through the text. Many times, I just stop and am quiet and allow the text to run around in my head and spirit.
Reflect: Meditating more on what is being surfaced in me. Typically this is ends up being a question that I am going to continue meditate on throughout the day or until the next time I read the Scriptures.
Live: I want to be attentive to how this needs to play out in my day to day life. How do I move forward by applying this to my life?
This process has been helpful for me. It has made the Bible less intimidating because I have a plan of how enter into the reading of the Scriptures. It moves it from an intellectual exercise into something of the heart and the spirit.
I would encourage you to give this a try. Perhaps with Psalm 19 or Matthew 5:1-12.
What do you think? Does this sound doable? Do you think this might be helpful to you?
If you made it this far, thank you for reading! If you found this helpful, insightful, interesting, or even just kind of average, would you please share it with your social feed?
If you aren't receiving these posts in your inbox please subscribe right here: