Posts Tagged ‘Bible study’

Advent Day 24: In Your Own Words

Advent Day 24

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

Today’s spiritual practice is another way of reading and studying Scripture:  rewrite a passage in your own words.

Earlier I gave you a study method that works better with narrative passages (like the story of the birth of Jesus), and this re-writing exercise works better with poetry and songs.

Try today’s reading from Isaiah, or Isaiah 9:2-7 (a traditional Christmas Eve reading.)

I love doing this exercise with two types of people:  those who excel at poetry and song-writing, and those who absolutely believe they don’t have that gift.  (I think everyone can use their imagination, and everyone enjoys beauty.)  It’s great to hear what the poets come up with; they can come up with something I’d like to frame and put on the wall.  It’s also beautiful to watch when the scientific, technical people begin to let their imagination out.   Technical folks write beautiful poetry!  They make sure it has rhyme and rhythm, they search for the perfect words, and in general they work really hard to make it right. 

Keep your re-written passage in your pocket or on your computer somewhere in a place where you can look at it from time to time.  Use it as a prayer.

Today’s daily Scripture reading from the PC(USA):

Advent Day 11: the Word

Advent Day 11

… one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Today’s spiritual practice is a certain way of reading Scripture.  In this method, you read a story and imagine yourself in it.  Take as much time as you need, and if you like, go back and imagine yourself as a second or even third person in the story.

Here’s a short outline, and you can find more in Prayer and Temperament (see “Resources“)

  • Read the story once and choose a person.   A good story for this is Luke 17:11-19.  (Here’s a Bible website:
  • Dwell with this person a while (let’s say you chose to be the leper who came back, if you’re reading the Luke passage.)  Read one or two verses at a time, pausing to consider what the leper might have been seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting.  What if he’s so sick with leprosy that he experiences very little with his five senses? 
  • Consider what your chosen person is thinking and feeling.  Imagine yourself in his situation as he turns around to return to Jesus.  What is going on in his mind?

What I love about this method of reading is that it forces us to read slowly, and let the words sink in.  In our college group we’ve talked about not skipping to the moral of the story when you read Scripture, and not looking for immediate inspiration.  The Bible is so much more than pretty sayings you can post on your status update — but you have to take time with it, and give it time to speak.

This season of Advent is about getting ready for the Word Incarnate, as we sometimes refer to Jesus Christ.  We say he is the Word of God dwelling with human beings, and that he was the Word God spoke at creation (see John 1.)  But you can’t rush this Word.  You have to give it time to create, imagine, and work within you.

Happy reading!

today’s daily Scripture reading from the PC(USA):

Advent Day 4

Advent Day 4:  Scripture

As a pastor, I often hear two complaints about reading the Bible. 

One:  “I tried this daily Bible reading program, but I stopped at _______.”

Two:  “I try reading the Bible, but I have no idea what some of the stuff in there means.”

If either of those statements apply to you, consider yourself free from guilt today.  It is hard to read a bunch of words day after day if you aren’t connecting with them.  It makes you feel even worse if you think you are supposed to have a grand revelation every time you open your Bible.

Try going at it a different way.  The method I’ll outline today is easy on the surface, but can lead you to deeper study if you so choose.  It goes by different names, but “Reporter’s Bible Study” is a good name.  You can read about this and other methods in Prayer and Temperament (see info on my “Resources” page.)

First, choose a passage that is more like a story (poetic or instructional passages don’t work as well with this method.)  Try Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.  A great passage for trying this method is John 8:2-11.

Then, after reading the passage, answer the following questions:

  1. Who is in the passage?  Is anyone unnamed or silent?  (In the John passage, the woman doesn’t have a name.)
  2. Where (2a) and when (2b) are the events happening?
  3. What is happening in the passage?
  4. How are the events described in the passage playing out?  How are the events being presented to you, the reader?  For example, this passage in John is very brief, and so many details are unknown.  Another “how” question:  is there an image or word that appears more than once in the passage, and if so, what might that mean?
  5. Why do you think things happened the way they did?  There is no right answer here.

If you choose to dig a little deeper after looking at these five questions, head to a library and look for a Bible dictionary.  In a Bible dictionary, you can look up words like “stone” and read all about the punishment the woman in John 8 was facing (death by stoning.)  You can look this stuff up on Wikipedia or in an online Bible dictionary, but keep in mind that Wikipedia doesn’t always have complete information, and many of the online Bible dictionaries are written by people who want to prove a point.  You’d be better off with the print versions published by Eerdmans or HarperCollins.  And while you’re at it, ask the librarian for more books with background information about the Bible.  (Sometimes the good stuff is a little old-fashioned…)

Today’s daily Scripture readings from the PC(USA):