PRAY daily. WORSHIP weekly. READ your Bible regularly. SERVE at, through, and beyond your congregation.
RELATE with others in inviting and faith-growing, ways. GIVE a 10% tithe of your income.
(These “Faith Practices” are God-shaped activities that help us grow into spiritually-healthy followers of Jesus. As the Danish philosopher/theologian Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Christianity cannot simply be a doctrine to be taught, but a life to be lived.” These “Marks of Discipleship” are found all throughout Scripture. Lived out with intentionality, these particular behaviors enable us to grow much more fully in the experience of being modern-day disciples.)
When God invites us to regularly spend time in the Word, he does so, not expecting us to understand everything, but rather, the invitation is to enter into a relationship with him through both the written story of the ancient people of God as well as the ongoing story that continues to be lived-out through us.
The story of God and the people of God is a story held in “covenant”. “Covenant” is an ancient word, sometimes translated as “Testament”, another very old word. A more descriptive definition of both words is “a promise held in relationship”.
Do you remember?
The books of the Bible were written…
by many different people…
inspired by God…
in many different situations…
over the span of many hundreds and hundreds of years.
And our Bible is divided into the 2 key sections:
The Old Testament and The New Testament
(The First Covenant and The New Covenant)
The Old Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures) consists of 39 books which tell the stories that surround God’s covenant with the Jewish people, revealed to them through Moses and the Prophets. These stories span from about 2000 B.C. through about 500 B.C.
The New Testament, holding 27 books and letters originally written in Greek, tells of God’s new promise to all of creation, given and revealed through Jesus Christ. The New Testament tells the story of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It also shares the story of the beginnings and spread of the early Church up to about 100 A.D. It is the record of those who lived through these events, and, as such, it is the authority for our Christian faith and practice.
Mark Twain once said… “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” What do you think he meant by that?
What helps you in your reading of the Bible?
The healthy habit of regularly reading the Bible is one of the key ways in which we practice loving and knowing God. This is done through personal Bible reading, through the intentional family devotions, in small groups, and through even larger gatherings. In our reading, meditating upon, and our study of Scripture, the living Word of God becomes alive and active in our own living. The words of Jesus, the teachings of the prophets and the apostles, and the stories of God’s people all reveal God’s heart and hope for the world and for each one of us. The Holy Spirit inspires us through Scripture to see ourselves not only as we are, but also as God would have us become. As we spend time in the Word, we come to better understand how God works in the world, for the world, and through people like us.
Reading the Bible…
The Holy Spirit uses the words of the Bible to present to us the heart and character of God. But how might we truly discern the voice of God in our reading? How can we be certain that our understanding isn’t just our own limited thinking?
- First, in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted, ask God to speak to you through the words that you will read. Tell God that your desire is not to simply gain information, but for transformation.
- Second, read the passage, pausing when it speaks to you or when you read the end of your intended reading. Then ask these questions…
- What is the text saying? (Ask the “Who, What, When, Where and Why” questions.) What is being said and what is the context?
- What did this mean “back then”? What might it mean “now”?
- What does this passage tell me about God or about my life?
- How does what I read fit what I know about Jesus? How do I read it through the “lens of Christ”?
- What life lesson is here for me? How can I apply it to my living?
Reading the Bible daily enables us to “live” the Word of God. It connects us to God’s loving design and purpose for our living.
(I encourage you to also find the “Lectio Divina” page in the Contemplative Prayer section of this website for more helpful assistance as you practice praying with Scripture.)