2024: Do this along your Bible Reading Plan
It is a new year! Maybe you've made goals or just pondered some goals. Maybe you're like me who isn't really into New Year Resolutions, but you love the idea of a fresh year and a new outlook on some disciplines.
Bible reading is often on such a list for the Christ-Follower.
"Read more in '24!" they exclaim, post, tell a friend, and write it down.
A plan is picked - read the Bible in a year! Or, New Testament in 90 days! But the delight soon wanes as check marks are already missed and suddenly they feel like they've failed before February.
I only say this because I've been there.
I know I need God's word in my life. But life happens. Surely He sees me!
Yes, He sees and knows my heart. He sees the distractions. And the anxious thoughts I'm willing to spend more time mulling over, too. And how much time I have a screen in front of my face. And how I trade the word for other things.
He sees and He longs to fellowship with us! We are His desire - are we returning that affection?
And one of the great affections is to spend time with Him in His word. (Of course, not the only one - must read: this great guide by Donald Whitney )
Yes, Bible reading is one part of this affection but meditation is possibly a missing link for this devotion to the Lord. One that reaps a beautiful return harvest.
David knew God intimately in this way. His first psalm sets the tone for the rest:
"Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers."
It is not mearly the reading of the word for our brains to fill, or to feel good about "doing the right thing". It is by meditation where we grow in our love for the Lord, and in turn grows our love for others. If you read something and it does not stir your heart, meditation might be the missing piece.
By definition it means to think deeply upon, contemplate, or to focus one's mind on.
In the Theological Workbook of the Old Testament it reads,
" In Ps 19:14 [H 15] “the meditation of my heart” is parallel to “the words of my mouth,” as the psalmist compares his own speech with what God communicates in nature and in Scripture.
Another positive use relates to meditating upon the Word of God, which, like the plots of the wicked (Ps 38:12 [H 13]), goes on day and night (Josh 1:8; Ps 1:2). Perhaps the Scripture was read half out loud in the process of meditation. The psalmist also speaks about meditating upon God (63:6 [H 7]) and his works (77:12 [H 13]; 143:5)."
We can either be meditators of ourselves and evil, or meditators on Him and His word and other observations in His creation. If our thought life is full of anxious thoughts, what-ifs, fearful suspicions about others thinking and actions, and worries about this life, then we will be manifesting anxiety and fear outwardly in some ways.
But if we are meditating on the Word day and night, David writes that we would be like a healthy tree planted with an abudant source of water RIGHT AT THE ROOTS. David's practice of meditation led him to notice the trees by the streams were healthy and related that to how we are if we plant ourselves into His word.
And instead of our leaves withering away, we bear sweet fruit. Fruit for others to pick and eat and see that the Lord is good.
So what does meditating look like? Day and night. Certainly, we must live our lives and actually think about our schedules, homeschooling, recipes, and more. But am I remembering even two words throughout the day of what I read? Am I investigating Scripture like one who is seeking to be at the feet of Jesus? Am I letting myself get too caught up and busy that I neglect to think about Him at all?
First, make a goal that is attainable to your season. Maybe reading the whole Bible in year isn't for right now as you have four little ones at your feet, interrupting all your scheduled times (even bathroom times).
Know that being in the Word could look like snacking on an open Bible throughout the day (you'll "gain calories" by snacking, too).
Speak a passage through the day. Say it, pray it, memorize it.
Set a Bible on your counter (beware of little ones with crayons!) and when you see it, read a verse and think on it for the next hour. Recite it while nursing your baby or gardening or eating.
(Bonus, the kids see mama read her Bible and always remember that)
But, maybe you need and are ready for a big goal. Go for it! Just remember your first love - Jesus.
Ponder the text and ask good questions. God is speaking through His word (2 Timothy 3:16-17) to us and for us to notice its living attributes for us to grow in the grace and knowledge of the truth (2 Peter 3:18).
What are some reoccurring words or themes?
What words are emphasized or repeated?
Who is in the passage - who is speaking and who is the audience?
What is the overall tone of the passage?
What does it really mean (instead of me applying my life to it, what can I draw out of it that God is revealing)?
Since the Bible is all pointing to the Gospel of Christ, what can I learn about Him here?
What does this passage say about our need for Him?
Define each pronoun being used.
List any imperatives.
Notice any "if this then that" type of scenarios.
When you read closely and meditate from all angles, like a good investigator, you reveal more truth and the heart of God.
When you read about Jesus praying in the garden it is commonly mentioned that His friends fell asleep and we can stop at one place - "wow, Jesus knew how it felt to be let down by friends."
But when we meditate closely, we can be led toward a heart of true repentance and truly see the heart of Christ.
"Wow, Jesus knew how it felt to be let down by friends.
Wait, I am that one that falls asleep on Jesus, too! Now, what was His response? Jesus didn't cast them out of His life like this TikTok therapist I heard say, 'if someone doesn't bring you happiness take them out of your life' - He loved them unconditionally, didn't disown and block them. What happened during them sleeping? (Read on) He even prayed for them personally even while He knew they were asleep and suppose to keep watch! Wow, Lord, forgive my lack of devotion to you and help me love like that and forgive others!"
And, Romans 12
Paul starts with a general statement of being a living sacrifice. But then he goes on to define what that looks like starting in verse 9.
But as a whole, we can't just "let love be genuine" by default. That would be a works-based approach. It comes from the transformation by the Holy Spirit - through the renewing of our mind (verse 2).
If this then that - if we are transformed (saving faith through the Gospel message is required), our minds also start the renewal process. Then, during times of trials and testing we will be able to discern the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Verse 2b) Repeat cycle until glory.
Slow down, observe, and meditate on His word. If we just rush through the check boxes all of the time then we will miss the beauty of Christ in every verse.
Then, let our love for Christ fill our mind throughout the day.
While we bathe, while we dress our kids, while we are driving, when we bake or cook, when we fellowship with other, when we lie down and when we rise (Deuteronomy 11:19), we can ponder and meditate and bask in His word.
Don't just read the words, but live in it, let it penetrate your heart, and become infinitely infatuated with the Savior of the World.
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14