5 Steps to Engage with the Bible

You might ask, Why employ a Scripture engagement process? Simply reading the Bible doesn’t automatically result in a person’s loving God and others. Reflecting on a Bible passage after reading it is imperative for spiritual growth. Similarly, reading a math book doesn’t mean you understand the math or are able to use it. You must engage and try the calculations. Therefore Scripture engagement serves to make passages more personally meaningful to you so they can result in godly living.

Here are some steps to help you prepare to engage with God’s Word.

Ready Your Heart

Your heart is the center of your being. God will not force His presence upon you. He will call to you and wait for you to open your heart to Him (see Rev. 3:20).

As you shape your attitude, much of the rest of the process will naturally follow. For example, the way you choose to approach someone influences the outcome of your meeting. Your attitude as you go in for a job interview, meet potential in-laws, interact with a teacher, or even talk with a friend makes a difference in your experience. The same is true for your experience with the Bible. Expect engagement; expect good things to result from your encounter with God. Ready your heart for dialogue and interaction.

Prepare to Meet with the Lord

Here you prepare to meet Someone specific—God Himself. The foundational premise of Scripture engagement is that when you engage the Bible, you engage God. Spiritual reading of the Bible is a relational process; we primarily read to meet and know God.

If you had the chance to be in the physical, visible presence of Jesus, would you go? It would probably be terrifying; think of all the times in the Bible where “fear not” was needed to calm the hearts of people who had a direct experience with God. But if you went, what should your attitude be? How would you prepare to meet God?

This meeting might cause your sinfulness to surface. Perhaps your reaction would be to confess your sins and ask forgiveness before your meeting. You also might come into Jesus’ presence with gratitude and joy at the chance to meet with your Lord and Savior. Surely your focus would be on Him alone. You would probably be quick to listen to whatever He would say, ready to pay attention to every detail and nuance. Psalm 123:1–2 gives us a good image of how we can prepare ourselves to meet with God: we look to God with the attentiveness of a servant and wait expectantly for instructions from our Master, not wanting to miss a single direction or signal.

We have access to God through Jesus by the Holy Spirit—what an amazing biblical truth (see Eph. 2:183:12). The more we prepare our hearts and minds for meeting God in His Word, just as if we were coming into the physical presence of Jesus, the more life-changing and powerful our experiences with Scripture will be.

Get Practical

Please understand that you won’t necessarily have an emotional experience every time you engage the Bible. The disciples don’t appear to have been overwhelmed by Jesus’ presence every moment they were with Him. But each time can be significant (see Is. 55:11). To prepare to engage with Scripture, do the following:

  • Pick a time. Set aside a specific amount of time in your weekly calendar to engage the Bible so that it becomes a rhythm in your life. Make it a habit just like brushing your teeth or eating three meals a day.
  • Pick the best time. Use your prime time of the day to engage with the Bible. Don’t save it for when you’re the most exhausted or distracted. Are you a morning person or a night person? Plan your time accordingly.
  • Pick a place. Go wherever you naturally go when you want to focus on something important. Using the same place repeatedly trains your brain to set itself to the proper mode when you go there.
  • Briefly ask God’s Spirit to teach you, meet you, and bless your time in His Word (see 1 Cor. 2:16). Commit to obey what you discover about His will.
  • Start small. It is better to start with modest goals and continue the practice than to start with huge goals, get disappointed, and stop.
  • Find a method that works for you. There is no single engagement tool that every person should use.

Deal with Distractions

Distraction is a lively topic for most of us. We have a difficult time slowing down and spending time with the Bible. Distractions seem to pop out of nowhere: external chaos, internal stress, weariness, or an undisciplined mind. With diligent effort, you will grow in your ability to give attention to the Bible. Try these tips:

Get rid of things that usually distract you. Or choose a place for engagement that offers the fewest objects that distract.

  • Journal before you enter the Word. Take a minute to write out your troubles, disappointments, frustrations, joys. Start a conversation with God and then turn to Scripture for what to do.
  • Keep paper handy so you can jot down things that come to mind. Do this throughout your reading. This gets thoughts out of your head as quickly as possible so you can refocus.
  • Change up your routine to a new Scripture engagement practice.
  • Read the passage aloud if you get distracted when silently reading the Bible.
  • Stop feeling guilty about distraction. It’s okay. It happens to all of us. Feeling guilty just adds another distraction. Ask God to redirect your thoughts to the Word.
  • Don’t give up. Scripture engagement, like all spiritual disciplines, gets easier with time. Disciplining the mind is work, but the chance to interact with God through His Word is definitely worth the focused effort.

Choose How Much to Read

Is reading larger quantities of the Bible (perhaps whole books at a time or the Bible in a year) better because you can see the big picture? Or is it better to read one book of the Bible over and over? Or should you take in small portions of the Bible (just a few verses or a paragraph) because you can go into more depth?

The answer is yes! You’ll want to take different approaches at different times. Perhaps begin with smaller portions and work up to larger ones. Experiment to find what is most effective for you.

No matter how much you read, remember the purpose of engaging Scripture: to meet, know, and obey God. Over time God will use His Word to transform you into His image if you let it soak into your life. If you don’t see an immediate change or the practice feels a bit dry, don’t give up engaging the Bible. Let God work in your life as He wants to work. Following these steps will help you get the most from each encounter you have with God in His Word.

###

The Abide Bible: Engage Scripture, Engage God.

Do you yearn for life-giving, intimate communion with God? The Abide Bible is designed to help you experience the peace, hope, and growth that come from encountering the voice and presence of God in Scripture. Every feature in Abide is designed to teach and develop Scripture-engagement habits that help you know the power and spiritual nourishment of abiding in Christ.

What God Hates the Most

 

NIV DAILY DEVOTIONAL

 (Proverbs 6:16–17, 19)

  • What does it mean to hate something?
  • What does God hate?

Hate is a strong word. And we know that God is a God of love, grace and mercy. So if the Bible tells us that God hates something, we should probably pay attention.

In fact, King Solomon wrote these verses in a form designed to get our attention. He wrote “There are six things” and then wrote “seven.” This used to be a common way for writers to build suspense and to make sure they had their audience’s attention. The knowledge shared in these verses is incredibly important. If we know what God hates, then we can make sure we avoid these things.

Solomon names seven things that God hates. And out of these seven, he mentions lying twice. He writes that God hates a lying tongue and that God hates a false witness who pours out lies. He hates it so much that Solomon said it twice.

It is important that we work to avoid lying of all kinds. Our lies do nothing for us; they only hurt us. And more importantly, they hurt God.

Prayer

Dear God, please keep our tongues from lying and let us tell the truth. Please give us the courage and confidence to always be honest. Amen.

Taken from Once a Day At the Table

 

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ACTS AND FACTS- INSTITUTE FOR CREATION RESEARCH

Looking Forward to New Days

As I’m writing this, the Institute for Creation Research is in the middle of stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, from my home office I’m reviewing articles for this issue of Acts & Facts. We’re highlighting Mount St. Helens because it’s been 40 years this month since the volcanic eruption. This event offers a good explanation for how enormous geologic changes can happen in a very short time, and ICR often uses it to illustrate how Noah’s Flood could’ve made catastrophic changes to the earth in a single year.

In “Mount St. Helens, Living Laboratory for 40 Years,” Dr. Tim Clarey and Mr. Frank Sherwin say, “In 1980, Mount St. Helens dropped an outdoor laboratory in geologists’ laps, forcing them to accept catastrophic events as major contributors to Earth’s overall geologic story.” That historic event provided a lab—a profound learning experience—for scientists around the globe.

No doubt, it also impacted the people in the area around Mount St. Helens. Today, as I look at the images of the smoking volcano, I’m not thinking so much about geologic changes—I wonder about the people who lived through it and, sadly, those who did not. Our cover photo gives a glimpse of the power of the volcanic explosion and reminds us of the terror for those who lived nearby. Fifty-seven people died after it unleashed its fury on its surroundings. There was chaos and pain. Grief. Life forever changed for many people that day.

I’m pondering our current place in time, in the middle of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, hunkering down in our homes. I see gray, like the black and white cover image of that deadly event in 1980. Bleakness. I’m reminded of the tragedy, the deaths, and the life changes that happened with the catastrophe.

In a pandemic, we understand fear. We see our vulnerable loved ones and fear for their safety. We’ve struggled with the chaos and uncertainty of sudden life changes. We wonder how long this will last and if our lives will ever return to normal. Some of us have experienced the illness or death of a loved one. We know pain and grief.

Looking back at Mount St. Helens 40 years later from a place of safety and with the assurance that the tragic event is in the past, we can see the catastrophe with a different perspective. We’ve learned some things from it. There are scars, but there’s also new growth. Dr. Clarey and Mr. Sherwin say, “Today, the 40-year-old zone is a lushly treed forest.”

For us, in the middle of this pandemic, we see lots of gray. This virus has touched almost every part of our lives. And while the world may have stopped for now, we know this tragedy will pass. I hope by the time this reaches your mailbox that the chaos caused by this pandemic will be nearing an end. I know for many the pain and grief will be all too real for much, much longer. There will be mourning and scars.

I hope for new days with the “lushly treed forest” for us. It reminds me of the Israelites when they struggled in difficult circumstances and Isaiah reminded them of a better future, telling them that the desert would blossom as the rose (Isaiah 35:1-10). The image with this article reminds us that God is in control and with time things change. The gray will be gone. We can look forward to life in living color. We’ll witness new growth in our world, and flowers will bloom again.

* Jayme Durant is Director of Communications at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Jayme Durant. 2020. Looking Forward to New DaysActs & Facts. 49 (5).

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Love in the Mirror

NIGHT LIKE FOR COUPLES

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.” 1 Samuel 16:7

The overemphasis on physical attractiveness in our society is frequently damaging to self‐confidence. A case in point is the story of Peter Foster, a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II.

During an air battle, Foster was the victim of a terrible fire. He survived, but his face was burned beyond recognition. He spent many anxious moments in the hospital wondering if his family—and especially his fiancée—would still accept him. They did. His fiancée assured him that nothing had changed except a few millimeters of skin. Two years later they were married.

Foster said of his wife, “She became my mirror. She gave me a new image of myself. When I look at her, she gives me a warm, loving smile that tells me I’m okay.”

That’s the way marriage ought to work, too—it should be a mutual admiration society that overlooks a million flaws and builds the self‐esteem of both partners. Let’s become each other’s mirrors, reflecting back love and affirmation every chance we get.

Just between us…

  • When was the last time I complimented you on your appearance?
  • Is our marriage a “mutual admiration society”?
  • Would you still love me if I became disfigured like Peter Foster?
  • What do you think the Lord sees in me?
  • How can I be a better “mirror” for you?

Lord Jesus, You came to bring Your presence and Your love to all—regardless of looks or ability, of health or condition. Thank You so much! May we reflect that same enthusiastic and unconditional love to each other in our marriage. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

God’s Justice

NIGHT LIKE FOR PARENTS

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways. Psalm 128:1

There are times when parents should allow their children to experience the unpleasant consequences of sin. Our kids need to understand that those painful consequences come by God’s design. Children have a right to know that our merciful God of love is also a God of righteous wrath.

When I was nine years old, my (jcd’s) mother read me the story of Samson (Judges 13–16). I heard that after this mighty warrior fell into sin, the Philistines put out his eyes and held him as a common slave. Samson repented before God and was forgiven, but he never regained his eyesight or his freedom. “There are terrible consequences to sin,” my mother told me. “Even if you repent and are forgiven, you will still suffer for breaking the laws of God.” I am thankful today that my mother had the courage to acquaint me with this “warning note” in Scripture. The knowledge that I would one day stand accountable before God led me to moral decisions at times when I could have easily chosen otherwise.

As you teach your children about the Christian faith, be sure to communicate that we serve a God not only of love, but of justice: “The Lord is known by his justice” (Psalm 9:16). To reveal only one side of the coin is to distort one of Scripture’s most significant truths.

Before you say good night…

Are you teaching your kids equally about God’s love and justice?

Do your kids understand that there are inevitable consequences to breaking moral laws?

Heavenly Father, may we be bold enough to believe in justice and honor as much as we believe in love and grace. Give us the courage to teach our children who You truly are, an infinitely powerful God whose every interaction with us has eternal meaning. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Parents, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Is Social Distancing Causing Distance in Your Marriage?

In the first days of the COVID-19 outbreak here in the United States, before we knew how bad the pandemic would get, we were given a short set of simple instructions by national, state, and local leaders:

  • Keep appropriate social distance.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Practice good hand washing.
  • Be especially careful if elderly or immunocompromised.

What I heard in the instructions: Be reasonable, just like with other contagious illnesses, just much more so with this one.

My wife, Ellie, heard something completely different: Stay at home unless absolutely necessary, stay away from people, don’t touch things in public, and worry a lot more than usual.

Our own social distance

I had planned to meet a couple of friends for bowling. There would be at least five lanes between groups of bowlers. But Ellie couldn’t understand why I would even consider it.

I had also planned to go to the store to pick up some supplies to plant our backyard garden. I assured her everything I needed would be outside, and I wouldn’t have to be close to anyone. Still, she considered it way too risky.

The huge chasm between our different perspectives didn’t keep us from coming together for a good fight, though.

I was convinced—over-reactor that I am—I might as well wrap myself in a bubble and live in the middle of a desert. Ellie was concerned any trip other than a walk around the block was not worth taking the chance with my health.

And rightfully so. I’m recovering from a brain tumor and despite being quite healthy otherwise, fighting cancer has given me a compromised immune system that makes me more susceptible to infection. She was worried she might lose me.

Despite our vast differences on the matter, cooler heads and kinder hearts prevailed. She understood I’m more social, and I realized what was at the heart of her concern. Even if everything turned out fine with bowling, it would have placed undue worry on my wife. So I cooled down and told her I wouldn’t go.

As for the trip to the home-improvement store, I assured Ellie I would practice social distancing (15 feet) from anyone else. She agreed we could go together to the garden center if she could take care of everything at the checkout while I went to the car and waited for her to let me load everything for the trip home.

Love in the time of the coronavirus

Now that we know the seriousness of COVID-19, it’s obvious Ellie’s point of view was spot on. But those kinds of things are beside the point when you’re in the middle of an issue that brings out the deepest differences in your personalities—and the deepest needs and concerns of your souls.

These times of quarantines, social distancing and health hypervigilance have us out of our daily routines and comfort zones. That can cause confusion, frustration, worry and a host of other emotions that quickly boil over into arguments.

It’s important for us to acknowledge these emotions are already close to the surface and only need a tiny trigger to set things off. The relationship is usually far more important than the thing that sets off the argument.

It’s about more than the facts of the disagreement. It’s about caring for each other and seeing unity in our relationship. We have to be ready to slow down, communicate our feelings, and extend grace and understanding of our spouse’s perspective and emotions.

Social distancing threatened us again the other day.

MORE HELP NAVIGATING THIS NEW COVID-19 NORMAL

Is social distancing an irreconcilable difference?

My wife is an incredible cook. Still, I have always enjoyed going out to eat. Not just to enjoy a different type of cuisine than we usually have, but to give Ellie a break from the kitchen.

Obviously, that’s not happening amid the coronavirus outbreak, but restaurants are offering drive-thru and delivery. I thought it would be a good idea to pitch to Ellie.

It didn’t go as well as I thought.

Immediately, she pointed out we could bring contagions into our home. When I mentioned our food would be in containers, she worried the food inside could contain the virus.

I didn’t push it any further. I asked if I could help her with dinner or clean up afterward to take some of the responsibilities off her shoulders. I’ll bring it up at another time. I know we’re both stressed and getting a little stir crazy.

In fact, we were doing a Bible study the other night about how Joseph was unjustly locked in prison. When he interpreted the dreams of the Pharaoh’s cupbearer, Joseph asked him to plead his case before Pharaoh.

Ellie pointed out something we hadn’t noticed before these days of social distancing and the coronavirus.

“Only remember me . . . and please do me the kindness . . . get me out of this house” (Genesis 40:14)

That gave me hope that she may be open to a takeout meal soon. In the meantime, I’ll just follow the teaching of 1 Peter 3:7: “ husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way . . . “


Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Since 1995, Scott Williams has been ministering to marriages and families. Since 2004, he’s been doing so as a senior writer for FamilyLife. In 2019, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, but by God’s grace, is doing remarkably well and is continuing to write for FamilyLife. Scott and Ellie live in Little Rock, Arkansas, and have seven adult children and three grandchildren.

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