'Spiritual Formation' let me ask you, where do you come face to face with the love of God the Father? Over the next weeks we want to orient our hearts and find grace paths (disciplines) to help us engage with God. This morning we talked about who we encounter God through the scriptures.
The Scriptures are all about human life “with God”. These ancient scriptures are our guide to this “with God” life, how it’s possible. One of the richest ways God displays His relationship to His creation is through names of God. A name in Scripture is often significant to the nature of the person. The Hebrew’s say of God and His name, “Himself is His Name, and His Name is Himself”. One of The names that describes His relationship with His creation is Immanuel two Hebrew words, God/with us. God’s intent has, is always to be with us. This with God life is on nearly every page of the Bible. God with His people: with Abraham, Moses, with Esther and David, with Paul and Peter, Timothy and ?(you can add your name here).
Why is it sometimes we put the scriptures down and pick up a novel or a car magazine or stick in a DVD? Let’s take this book from the bible (data, info) to the scriptures. The scriptures are sacred writings there is the mystery that we encounter the living God. The scriptures appear boring when we divorce them from encounter. If we allow God to engage us through the scriptures He will meet us in a deep way. Not deep in the academic thinking, not deep as in data and information, information will in itself not change your life. It’s the deep where we are changed from the inside out; it’s deep where the Spirit of Christ is alive in our soul, compelling us to fall more in love with the Him.
Practically speaking how do you start and sustain a regular reading of the scriptures? It starts by winning life’s biggest battle. The battle of the blankets. The best way to win is by going to bed early the night before, and then getting up when you waken up. Start your day with scripture and then you can draw upon it during the day. As Hudson Taylor said, "The best time to tune up your instrument is before you play the concert, not afterwards!" You don’t have to read lots; One or two passages is great.
Then you will want to schedule time to read the bible at a time of the day when you are at your best. The best time to have a quiet time is when you are at your best . You might be a morning person. Read it then. You might not be –that’s okay. The important thing is not when you read it its making the effort to consistently read.
When you do begin to read, choose a version that you connect with and that makes sense to you. Occasionally you will want to compare it with other versions. I personally find the Message and the New Living Translations to be useful companions to the NIV. As you read try not to dip and skip but rather read it systematically. In this way you get to work your way through the scriptures. You might start by reading the gospels and the wisdom books.
Read small amounts each day. Ten or fifteen minutes is lots. Its better to read a little daily that to read a lot weekly. Its not the amount you read that makes the difference its what you do with it. Read it through a couple of times and then reflect on what you are reading for part of the time. Think about it. Then record the parts that are most applicable to you and where you think God might be speaking to you. Take notes on what you read."We must pay more careful attention to what we've heard, so that we do not drift away!" Hebrews 2:1
Mix it up. Try reading a whole letter in a day. Try reading it out loud. Try reading together with a group of friends. It doesn’t have to be private to be personal or beneficial. Try reading outside. Take the scriptures to a cafe or a park. Mix it up. One day try listening to the bible on CD.
Step One — Pray for Insight on How to Apply the Passage
Ask God to help you apply the Scripture you are studying and show you specifically what He wants you to do. You already know that God wants you to do two things: obey His Word and share it with others. In your prayer tell God that you are ready to obey what He will show you and that you are willing to share that application with others.
Meditation is the key to discovering how to apply Scripture to your life. Meditation is essentially thought digestion. You take a thought God gives you, put it in your mind, and think on it over and over again. Meditation may be compared to rumination; that's what a cow does when it chews its cud. It eats some grass and sends it to its first stomach; then it lies down, brings the grass up, chews on it, and swallows it again. This process of digestion is repeated three times. Scriptural meditation is reading a passage in the Bible, then concentrating on it in different ways. Here are several practical ways you can meditate on a passage of Scripture:
Visualize the scene of the narrative in your mind. Put yourself into the biblical situation and try to picture yourself as an active participant. Whether you are reading the historical books of the Old Testament, the Gospels, or the Book of Acts, imagine yourself in that historical context. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were involved in that situation. What would you say? What would you do?
If you are studying John 4, for example, visualize yourself as being right there with Jesus, the woman at the well, the disciples, and the inhabitants of Sychar. How would you feel if you were the one whom Jesus asked for a drink of water at the well near Sychar? What would your emotions be if you were one of the disciples who witnessed this incident?
Another example of visualization in meditation is to imagine yourself as the Apostle Paul in prison writing the letter we know as 2 Timothy. Picture yourself in that Roman jail, condemned to death, and awaiting execution, and alone except for Luke. Feel the loneliness Paul must have felt, but also feel the triumph he must have felt as he wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7). When you start visualizing a scene, Scripture comes tremendously alive to you.
Paraphrase the passage under study. Take the verse or passage you are studying and rephrase it in your own words. As you think on it, use contemporary words and phrases to express timeless biblical truths. The Living Bible and J.B. Phillips' The New Testament in Modern English are two examples of paraphrases of Scripture.
Personalize the passage you are studying. This can be done by
putting your name in place of the pronouns or nouns used by Scripture. For example, John 3:16 would read: "For God so loved Jason Scott that He gave His one and only Son that if Jason believes in Him he shall not perish but have eternal life."
Step Three — Write Out an Application
Write an application of the insights you've discovered through your meditation. Writing your application out on paper helps you be specific. If you don't write something down, you will soon forget it. This is particularly necessary when you are dealing with spiritual truths. If you can't put it down on paper, you haven't really thought it through. It's been proven that if you write something down, you'll remember it longer and be able to express to others what you have learned.
You need to remember four factors in writing out a good application:
1. Your application should be personal—you should write it in the first person singular. When you write out an application, use the personal pronouns "I," "me," "my," and "mine" throughout.
2. Your application should be practical—it ought to be something you can do. Plan a definite course of action which you intend to take. Design a personal project which will encourage you to be a "doer of the Word." Make your applications as specific as possible. Broad generalities can make you feel helpless and produce little action.
3. Your application should be possible—it should be something you know you can accomplish; otherwise you will get discouraged.
4. Your application should be provable-you must set up some sort of follow-up to check up on your success in doing it. It has to be measurable so you will know that you have done it. This means you will have to set some kind of time limit on your application.
Record applications for future use as well as present needs. What if you find an application that does not apply to you at that particular time? You are studying a passage that has to do with death and how you can overcome grief and sorrow, but this is not your problem now. What do you do with these verses? Write them down anyway, for two reasons. First, the application might be needed in the future when another situation comes into your life. Second, it might help you minister to someone else who is in that situation. Ask yourself, "How can I use this verse to help someone else."
Step Four — Memorise a Key Verse from Your Study
So that you can continue to meditate on the passage you are applying, and to help remind you of your project, memorise a verse that is a key to the application you have written.
Sometimes God will work on one area of your life for several weeks or even months. It takes time to change ingrained character traits, habits, and attitudes. New habits and ways of thinking are not set in one day. We must be aware of this and be willing to let God continue to reinforce a new truth in our lives. We should not fool ourselves by thinking that writing out one application will be a magic formula which will produce instant change. Rather, it must be thought of as part of the process of growth. The memorised verse will help in that process because it will ever be with us-"in the heart."
Devotional Study Form – Sample 1
Date: 1st Jan 2008
Passage: Gen 1 & 2
1. Prayer (check when done)
2. Meditation: God engages with His creation, the earth was His plan and more than that humanity was His dream, His desire and delight. God longs to walk in the cool of the day with me. I can rest stop enjoy creation and the creator.
3. Application: I need to learn to pause to stop with God before doing and talk with Him face to face. If I am to follow I must stop and listen to His voice daily.
4. Memorization: 1:18 It is not good for man to be alone
How to Read the Bible Book by Book. Gordon D Fee and Douglas Stuart
How to read the Bible for All Its Worth. Fee & Stuart
Daily reading plan: https://www.vineyardcincinnati.com/biay.php