Reading the Word, Meeting the Word

Last week I wrote about how I can often focus more on what I’ve heard said about the Bible, rather than what the Bible is actually saying.  I set myself a challenge to try to see one of my favourite passages in a new light.

I choose the account of The Rich and the Kingdom of God, taken from Luke 18:18–30.  I’m very familiar with the passage, and even wrote an essay on it at Bible college, but I know that there’s always something more to learn. I wanted to avoid complacency in reading the Bible and really press into the word to discover something new.

As I reflected on this passage over this past week I realized that I didn’t need to learn something new from the word, but that I really needed to meet with God through the word.  I was challenged on Friday hearing Ash Barker speak at the Proximity 2013 conference.  Ash spoke of the need to be filled with God’s compassion in order to show the same compassion to those around us.  Godly compassion comes not from knowing about God, but from being in His presence and being ministered to by His Spirit.

I realized that I’m very quick to learn about God, but that I don’t often take the time to let Him fill me in the way Ash described.  Reading the scriptures should be about developing an intimacy with God, and being prepared for joining in with God’s mission.  To paraphrase Philippians 3, any Bible studies, commentaries, scholarly studies, expositions and homilies, no matter how good in themselves, can be considered as filth when compared to the surpassing value of knowing Jesus as my Lord.

It’s dangerous to talk about ways to meet with God through the scriptures.  Methods and techniques so easily become mechanical and legalistic.  But there are definitely things we can learn from others who have sought to know God.  Lectio Divina is something I learned about at Bible college.  It’s an old spiritual practice, intended not for studying the Bible, but to help the readers encounter God through His word.  I highly recommend watching the YouTube video of Archbishop Collins on the linked page.

So I decided to re-read the account of Jesus and the rich young ruler, not seeking to learn from it, but seeking to know God.  It wasn’t a grand religious experience where the heavens opened and God came down announced by trumpeting angels, but it was spiritually nourishing, something which gave me one more tiny taste of God’s character, and a time of meeting with God.

I definitely didn’t expect when I blogged last week that the lesson I would learn from this exercise would be so major, challenging me on such a deep level about how I approach reading the scriptures. I know that it won’t be easy to change my learning mindset, but I believe it’s an important step for me to deepen my relationship with God and join Him on His mission.  And I’m humbled by how God has set me on this journey by asking me to consider just a few words spoken by a child!

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