If there is ONE thing I can say about practicing spiritual disciplines it’s this: it’s personal.
Even though we’re all reading the same study (Enjoying Jesus) and following along with the same series here (Come Closer), we are all getting something different out of it.
That’s the beauty of such a wonderfully creative God. We are each unique. We each respond to the vast aspects of His holy character and His call on our lives differently.
And while I know study and meditation may not necessary sound amazingly exciting on the surface, these two disciplines we are covering this week are my jam. They are my entire heart toward God wrapped up in one luscious package. They are the love language in which God speaks to my heart and the voice with which I hear Him most clearly. There is NOTHING I love more than some good, solid alone time with my Bible, a pen, my journal, and GOD. As a matter of fact, I even told all the sister friends this week that if Tim were ever to ask them what the perfect gift would be for me, they now know they are supposed to say: “A weekend away at a shwanky hotel tucked away with cozy pah-jeejees (aka pajamas), Prosecco, Perrier, and a Bible.” Well, and maybe this handsome devil, as long as someone was willing to walk him for me.
I’m a simpleton at heart, aren’t I? 😉
The point is, I LOVE these two disciplines and if you aren’t sure about them yet, I’m hoping to convert you today!
We read and study scripture to get to know the sound of God’s voice and heart. We get to know the things that matter to Him, to His heart, and we also get to know the things He doesn’t like. It’s not so much knowledge for the sake of knowledge (although there really isn’t anything wrong with that unless we use that knowledge in order to be a know-it-all or to somehow distort the teaching of it). But it’s more about getting to know what’s important to God because that information beings us closer to Him.
Think about it. In your best relationships, you know what is important to the other person, right? So it makes sense that we should know what’s important to God! He reveals His character to us through His Word – His Living Word.
In other words, “study”, in and of itself, answers the questions of what does God say, what does God like, what does God want us to do.
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11:18-19, NIV
Meditation, which of course goes hand-in-hand with study, answers the question of what does God want this information to mean personally for me? So while study could stand alone without meditation, meditation would be difficult to be independent of study because it’s hard to think about something you don’t know about!
So in order to get the most out of scripture, we should be doing both.
One of the videos for this week’s chapter has Julie talking about how meditation allows her time to dwell with a specific portion of scripture. I love that, especially if we put that in context with how we defined “dwell” a few weeks ago as in “pitching a tent with”. So when we meditate, we are sitting down and hanging out with God and His word for a little while and letting Him speak to the importance of that piece of wisdom to us.
There are tons of different formulas to studying a piece of scripture. But the first thing we should do before we even begin the study piece of this is to come quietly before God and ask that He guides our study. We ask that He would be with us and help us to get a little bit of wisdom out of what we are reading. We surrender our own agenda or preconceived ideas that might be lurking in our hearts and minds, and just ask the Holy Spirit to guide our reading.
And then, I think it comes down to personal choice in how you decide to study. I found this graphic on Pinterest this weekend and think it’s just brilliant.
I already put one in each of my Bibles, I love it so much! Basically, study is a way for us to answer the question for ourselves: “What does this say and how can I make this as easy as possible for me to understand. You all should know yourself well enough at this point to know how you learn best. Maybe you’re a memorizer or maybe you are a list maker. Maybe you are artsy or a journal-er. Whatever your preferred method of learning something, do that. And don’t rush through it. It’s not a race, it’s an exercise, a practice, a discipline.
As you first start out, you might find it difficult to decide what passage to study. You can always think about your favorite Bible stories or verses and start there. Maybe there is something particular on your mind and heart that day and so you can use your Bible index or Concordance to look up a few verses that speak to that topic until you find one that seems to really resonate.
You can use a devotional or the gospel of the day or anything like that to get you started. You can use any of the verses we’ve looked up so far in this study. The key is to pick something digestible in one sitting. In other words, a few verses or a short chapter – not an entire book. Read it and play around with it for a bit. You will know God nudging you to it if it piques your interest, makes you want to ask a question about it, or if you want to sort of insert yourself into the story. Stay with the study piece until you get it. Take it with you throughout your day, your week, etc. Maybe read it a couple times a day. Share the facts of the story with someone else (even if it’s me – I’m always up for some good Bible stories!).
Once you are able to close your Bible and sort of factually retell the “story” or verses you’ve been studying, you’re ready to move on to meditation!
Meditation basically answers the questions of “What does God want me to know about Him through these words and what is He calling me to do about it?”
Now. Just like study, there are a bazillion ways you can go about this. You should’ve tried out one method in our book on day 2 with Psalm 1, which I hope was a good experience for you. Maybe it feels weird at first, but it is insightful, right?
And AGAIN, the first thing to do is always invite the Holy Spirit to guide you through the process! Otherwise, it’s just you deciding what YOU think about it, not what God wants to reveal to you!
I personally have used a method called Lectio Divina (which is Latin for Divine Reading), which is a contemplative sort of prayer meditation that originates from the Benedictines I think dating back to the 6th century. And sort of like the Ignatian Daily Examen, it can be morphed a bit to suit your needs. Here’s a graphic that explain it more clearly than I probably can in words! If you want more info on this, just Google it!
The most important piece of this dynamic duo of study + meditation is this: quiet your mind and ask God to guide you. He never turns down an authentic, intimate invitation like that, girls. And be patient with yourselves. We are a society of BUSY BUSY BUSY. And these disciples we are learning about and trying are all about QUALITY TIME spent in pursuit of drawing closer to God. It’s counterintuitive to our nature. But the payoff is well worth the time and effort!
Following along with our Come Closer study?! Make sure you’re up to date with all the reading so far (you should be finished reading through Week 3 in the Enjoying Jesus Book). This week, I encourage everyone to find two or three verses and attempt to study AND meditate on them! We will be back here on the blog in two weeks (we are using next week to have extra study and meditation time!). Get ready for the next two disciplines (one of which is my LEAST fave…fasting 😉 ).
Here’s a great link to our fifth song by The Afters. I LOVE it!
May God’s peace, love, and JOY infuse you FULLY this week!
So much love,