About a month ago I was trying to find an article on how to read the Bible. I don't mean the advice on reading a gospel, then an epistle, then an Old Testament history book. I mean during my quiet time each day how do I read the Bible so that I am engaging with it, wrestling with it and learning from it?
It surprised me that I couldn't find one. Perhaps I didn't search long enough or have the right words in the search bar. So I've compiled a list of ways in which to engage with, wrestle with and learn from the Word of God.
I listened to a series of lectures a few years ago and one of the tasks the students were given was to write 25 different observations about Matthew chapter 28, verse 18-20. The following lecture they were asked to write another 25 observations on those three verses!
I participated in the first assignment, but started to run out of observations for the second 25. The point of the exercise was to help the students notice things they otherwise wouldn't.
A good tip for writing observations is to begin the sentence with 'I notice'. That way it doesn't turn into a question, or an implication.
After writing observations, it makes sense to ask questions. The 'Swedish Method' is a great method of asking questions. But there are also other questions you can ask:
- What is being revealed about God in this passage?
- How does this passage point to Jesus?
- What would God's Word be lacking if this passage weren't here?
- Are there any significant times or places? (Having a map out can be helpful!)
- Are there any metaphors or similes illustrating an aspect of something?
Journaling is a great way to help read the Bible. There are many different ways we can write a response to God's Word.
We could write a short talk on the passage we have just read, picking out the main themes and summarizing ways to apply the passage to our lives. We could write a poem, draw a picture, copy down the passage itself...
Praying through a passage and talking through it with God is a great way to engage with Him. He enjoys it when we rely on Him and we as His children enjoy thinking His thoughts after Him. This also means that you will be praying in line with His Will.
I came across a plan for reading through the whole Bible in four months. You could do this by listening to an audio Bible! YouTube has plenty of versions of the Bible read aloud.
The other day I was finding it very hard to focus my mind on anything, let alone reading the Bible. This led me to finding someone else reading a Psalm out loud. I was then reading with my eyes and listening with my ears, which helped me to tame the distracting thoughts, which were fighting their way to the surface, and allowed me to think after God's own thoughts.
You may try reading the Bible out loud yourself, or (if you are bi-lingual like me) listening to it in another language. Different languages help you to pick up on different concepts, which can bring to the forefront things you wouldn't have noticed otherwise.
With all the online resources we have, watching a short video on a passage is only a few keystrokes away! If I am reading, say Psalm 3, there are many helpful sermons on that passage, or videos on it, or even commentaries on it! Using these can be a great way of engaging with the Bible.
These are just a few ideas on how to engage with God's Word.
A way of using these could be reading the same passage every day and doing one of the above with it. Or you may read through a book of the Bible, but use different strategies each day.
Use what you can to focus yourself each morning on the mission we have before us, to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ in our world!
Rachel Bartlett lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her husband James and her puppy Pip.
Rachel Bartlett's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/Rachel-Bartlett.html