Seven Ways to Make Scripture Come Alive
Confession time: I don’t always enjoy reading Scripture. Sometimes, it’s routine, even boring. Yet, I’ve also experienced incredible “Aha!” moments as God has spoken wisdom into my life. God’s Word has often encouraged me to carry on, even in the face of a big challenge.
I’ve discovered that the times Scripture impacts me the most is when I actually engage with what God is saying―to meditate on His words.
I’d like to offer seven ways for engaging Scripture that I have found life-changing.
Pray Through Scripture
I am currently using a Bible reading app on my phone to read through the Bible in 18 months. I like this approach, but sometimes find that I’m just reading to get it done. What has helped is to purposefully pray through the passages as I read them. For example, when reading Psalm 46, I can praise God that He is my refuge and strength. I may find myself confessing those times when I have tried to find safety outside of God. Depending on what I’m going through, I may respond to this passage by committing challenges to the Lord that need His strong helping hand. Praying through Scripture is a way to engage in a conversation with God about what He is showing me. It makes Scripture real and personal.
Journal in Response to Scripture
Journaling is another great way of engaging with Scripture. When I went through the two-year Navigator 2:7 Bible Study Series, we had to journal about our Bible reading each day. The approach was simple. We recorded a key idea and then applied it to our lives. Many have found that life journaling is a great way of getting into the heart of Scripture. One of the great benefits of journaling is that you can trace themes that God might be emphasizing in your life.
Mrs. Husenetter was a spunky, godly senior who lived in Caronport, Saskatchewan as I was growing up. It was the summer between my first and second year at Briercrest College, when I had one of those trajectory-changing conversations with Mrs. Husenetter. She was telling me how she was memorizing Scripture. I thought, “That's nice.” To be polite, I asked, “What are you memorizing?” She said, “Ephesians... and I’m almost done chapter six.” Wow! That really spoke to me. If an 80-year-old could memorize an entire book of the Bible, maybe I could do the same. I am so thankful for Mrs. Husenetter's good example. It led to many passages of Scripture finding their way into my heart (here's a blog that lists creative ways to memorize Scripture).
Teach Scripture to Yourself
Okay―this idea might sound a little crazy. I’ve found that talking about a verse or teaching it to myself helps me engage with Scripture in a deeper way. Maybe this is just something that works well for verbal processors, but I’ve found that when I talk about a passage I invariably learn through the process.
Study the Word
Taking the time to really study a passage can reap huge learning dividends. It could be as simple as asking many questions about a portion of Scripture and then researching the answers. Doing word studies can often enlarge one’s perspective on a passage. Using software like Logos Bible Software can often provide insight into what the original language of the text meant. Using commentaries and other Bible study tools can also lead us deeper in our understanding of a passage. I find that a deeper understanding often leads to new and/or deeper applications in my personal life (check out the Random Order: Read, Memorize, Study blog for a great discussion of how reading, memorizing, and studying Scripture work together).
Think about What God is Saying
In our fast-paced society, we like to squeeze everything into small snatches of time. A simple Bible study discipline that can have huge benefits is to simply reflect on what you read. Take time to think about the meaning and its implications for your life.
Lectio Divina is an ancient practice of reading a passage a few times with breaks in between to process what God is saying through His Word. Before reading the passage the first time, invite God to speak to you. As you read the passage, listen for the word or phrase that God is addressing to you. At the end of your first reading, reflect on how the word/phrase you identified speaks to your life right now. Now, read the passage again, using a different translation. What is your response to God based on what you have read? Read the passage one more time (with a different translation again). Rest in the Word of God and resolve to live out what God has spoken to you through His Word.
Note: Ruth Haley Barton does a nice job of describing Lectio Divina in her book Sacred Rhythms.
Even though I enjoy studying the intricacies of Scripture, I find that my time in Scripture comes alive when I personalize it. Each of the above approaches is most effective when they result in a deep application of what God is saying to us.
As I look back over the 30+ years that I have been a committed Christian, I am convinced that an ongoing engagement with and application of Scripture has been the single most important factor in my growth as a Christian. God’s Word is powerful.
Randy Wollf is the Director of MinistryLift and Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Leadership Studies at MB Seminary.