This week we began digging into the individual spiritual disciplines, giving a Scriptural basis for practicing the particular discipline, as well as talking through some options of how to implement it (if not already done so). To begin the series, we talked about reading Scripture, as this is one of the foundational disciplines that drives and gives life to all of the others.
We briefly looked at a number of verses or passages talking about the importance and value of reading the Bible. For instance, John 17:17 shows us part of Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” just before he was arrested, and he prays to the Father, “Sanctify them [his disciples] in the truth; your word is truth.” God’s Word here is one of the means by which we are sanctified, or made more like Jesus. Psalm 1 talks about the blessing and life that comes to the man or woman who delights in the Law of the Lord (the Bible), and meditates, or ponders, on it day and night. Second Timothy 3:16–17 talk about how all Scripture is breathed out by God as his very words, and works to make the follower of Jesus “complete, equipped for every good work.” In addition to these, Colossians 3:16 urges believers to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…,” and Deuteronomy 8:3 reminds the Israelites that they cannot live only by food, but they must live by “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Reading Scripture is a source of life and guidance for the believer, as it is God’s own words shared with us.
We then moved on to discussing some different ways that we could practice the spiritual discipline of reading Scripture. First we talked about basic reading, which is simply reading portions of the Bible on a regular basis. One method for this that is popular, and that has worked well for me, is using a “Bible in a year” plan. The plan I used last year was put out by the Bible Project (https://d1bsmz3sdihplr.cloudfront.net/media/Quarterlies_Other%20Downloads/BibleProject_One_Year_Reading_Plan.pdf), and I thoroughly enjoyed using it—they split the reading into (generally) manageable daily portions, and then pair each day’s reading with a psalm to pray through. They also often supply videos or blog posts that help explain the books, themes, or ideas you’ll be interacting with that day. (*Disclaimer: the content in the videos/blogs does not always 100% reflect or agree with our church’s doctrinal statement, but I find their work to be tremendously helpful where we agree and thought-provoking where we potentially disagree*). For the average reader, it takes 15–20 minutes of daily reading to get through the whole Bible in one year, but it’s ok if it takes two, three, or even four years to get through it! For those who maybe struggle with reading, there are many ways to listen through the Bible. We discussed how this is a helpful way to ensure that we are exposed to all parts of Scripture, especially the ones we tend to avoid because they could be considered confusing or boring. “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” so it has been greatly beneficial for my own life to have a plan like this.
In addition to basic reading, we also talked about meditating on Scripture, which could be a deeper study or reflection on a portion of Scripture read that day. It is so easy to read a portion of Scripture, close the Bible, and then move on with the day forgetting everything we read. Meditation can be helpful to let the Scriptures sink more deeply into our hearts and minds. Journaling is another method to help do this, continuing the meditation and prayer onto paper. This is helpful because it can keep the brain focused, and gives an opportunity to look back in time and see how God worked in us earlier in our spiritual journeys. If I’m being honest, I’m pretty good with the basic reading part of this discipline, but meditation and journaling are things that I have historically not been the greatest at.
As we concluded this portion of the lesson, we reminded the teens that it’s most important to find what works for themselves. Reading comes more naturally to some than others, but maybe listening is a good method for those who don’t love to read. Some people love journaling, while others just can’t do it, and that’s ok! The most important thing is that we develop a love for God’s Word and allow it to nourish our souls and teach us about following him, and this can happen in a variety of ways. Reading Scripture every day does not automatically make one a good Christian, nor does failing to read Scripture every day automatically make one a bad Christian. The Pharisees knew the Old Testament forward and backward, yet most still missed Jesus as the One to whom it all pointed because they missed the heart of God in their labor. We are all on a journey of learning and growing. Psalm 19 talks about how beautiful and desirable the Law and Word of God is, even saying that it is more desired than fine gold and sweeter than honey. May we all continue to adopt and grow in this heart and attitude toward God and his Word!