Thursday, September 24, 2015

God's Word - My Friend: How I Build A Relationship With God's Word

God's Word is living and active. It is powerful. It offers wisdom, joy, life and peace. It is the primary doorway to the knowledge of God. I want to be like the man in Psalm 1 who meditates on it day and night and who delights in the Word of God. I want to be like the Psalmist of Psalm119 who longs for the Word of God passionately. I want to be a person of the Word.

But how do I practically do that?

For ever 20 years I have been focused on this aim and in those 20 years I have developed several daily practices to help me build a great relationship with the Word of God. Maybe some of these will help you develop your own practices that will build and further your relationship with the Bible.

1. Saturation: I choose a book of the Bible to saturate myself in. I do this about once a year. I usually pick a shorter New Testament book (though I have done some Old Testament etc.). Each day for 3-6 months I read two things on top of my regular Bible and book reading.
   a. I read this particular book of the Bible every day. Sometimes I read the whole book in one sitting. Sometimes a chapter or two. But I read it every day, at least one chapter. I do this so long (over the course of a few months) that often I have read the book over 100 times in a row.
  b. I find as many commentaries as I can (written about that particular book of the Bible) as I can and put them in a pile by my morning reading place. (A commentary is a book about a book of the Bible). I read one chapter of one commentary per day. Most commentaries are about 10-15 chapters long so this means I will read it for about 2 weeks before starting the next commentary. My goal is to read a minimum of 6 commentaries and I have done up to 12. The amount of commentaries I can find on a given book of the Bible determines how many I end up reading. I enjoy Warren Wierbe's commentaries as well as the Life Application commentaries and many more. I buy all my commentaries used from used bookstores and thrift shops for $1 or $2 since they tend to be very expensive new. By the time I have finished my last commentary, I have saturated myself in a book of the Bible for 3-6 months.

2. Overview: I use a Bible reading program that gets me through the Bible in a year. I tend to do this part of my Bible reading fairly quickly and somewhat superficially. My goal is to read through the entire Bible every year at least once and sometimes twice. My goal is not depth but gaining a broad perspective on what the entire Bible says and is. I have been doing this every single day for over 10 years and I am still amazed at finding stories and passages that I didn't know were there.

3. Devotional: I pick the areas of the Bible that have been most meaningful to me (Psalms and Epistles). I read a chapter of two and invite God to speak to me. When I neglect this part of my Bible reading I find that my relationship with the Word and with God becomes more dry and mechanical.

4. Study: This part of my Bible study is less systematic. I listen to sermons, prepare sermons, read books, attend church and small groups, attend conferences and much more. Each of these offers me helpful insights into scripture from multiple angles. It keeps me fresh and challenged to get a wide variety.

5. Memorization: I memorize various verses. Sometimes the verses I memorize are ones that my kids are memorizing for school or groups they are a part of. Sometimes they are verses that are meaningful to me or that are related to something I feel I need to work on in my life. Occasionally I pick a passage that I am working on and memorize parts are all of it. My work in this area has been somewhat sporadic (rather than daily) but I have managed to memorize hundreds of verses this way.

These are my five main practices for building a relationship with God's Word and becoming a person of the Word. There are two other things I try to keep as attitudes in order to stay effective at this.
1. DAILY: I do most of these things every single day. No matter if it is a holiday, a busy day or a normal day.
2. TO KNOW JESUS BETTER. I remind myself that knowing the Bible is not an end in itself. It is means to the goal of knowing Jesus. God's primary means of self-revelation is His Word.
3. CHANGE IT UP. I do occasionally try new things (listening to the Bible aloud on cd, reading it aloud when I am reading it each day, writing out my favorite verse from each day, journaling about my Bible reading, lectio divina, etc. etc.) in order to keep things fresh and also to experiment with new practices that might be better than my current ones.

I hope this blog does not discourage you but rather inspires you to find and build practices in your life that help you build your own relationship with the Bible.