1. Living for the Word
Scripture supplies society with some of the most staggering claims ever made, claims that have not yet been disproven. From page to page we find declarations that challenge us in a far greater way than any man, woman, or child ever can. The words flow forth from page to person with a power that stirs hearts and minds towards transformation. These words arrive with authority and must not be neglected, denied, or taken for granted.
2. Living in the Word
The Word demands our attention every day. To know it, to learn it, to apply it requires that we spend time meditating upon it (see Psalm 1). I am not going to tell you how much time in Scripture you should be every day. Certainly I am not going to tell you how to spend your time in Scripture. However, over time it can be easy for many to be less motivated to steward their time management towards the Word, and so I want to share with you some various ways that might help stimulate your time in the Word.
The devotion that you have on a daily basis depends upon the purpose of your devotion. For the sake of ease, let’s look at a variety of methods under three main emphases: remembrance, review, and reflection.
3. For Remembrance
Let’s face it. There is a lot in Scripture and remembering who said what and where can sometimes be a problem. It becomes important sometimes to simply read through Scripture for the purpose of getting our minds around the layout of topics. For this purpose, I would suggest either of the following two methods:
- One Month, One Book: For the sake of remembering, pick a book and read the entirety of that book everyday for a month. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you will start to remember verses, passages, and the entire book. For longer books feel free to break it down into smaller section. If you’re Revelation, take half the book the first month and the other half the next month. At this rate it may seem to take forever to get through even the New Testament, but it is time well vested because you are likely to recollect what you read over that period of time.
- One Day, Ten Chapters: Also known as the Grant Horner Method, it divides the Bible into ten sections of varying length. The shortest is simply the book of Acts while the longest consists of the prophets. In one year you will have read through the entire Bible approximately one and half times. This includes reading through the Book of Acts over 12 times, twice through the Pentateuch, and four times through Paul’s letters. The focus once again is connecting you with Scripture so you start to see connection and the repetition will cause remembrance. For more details, and to get book marks to help you, click here.
Devotions of remembrance are meant to draw us into the interconnectedness of Scripture to the point that it shows God’s emphasis on details.
4. For Review
For those interested in a deeper study of the text, this section is for you. It is here that we focus on a deeper study of God’s Word. If your preference is to delve deeper into the Word, I would suggest one of the following two ways:
- By the Book: Take a month and focus on one book. Start with understanding the background information, its author, the cultural context, the literary context, etc. However, do not get so focused on this that you forget to actually read through the book. Let the information set a foundation for you simply so that when you read you are understanding the context and application. There is much information to be gathered from each book, the key here is to try and confine your time within the book to one month. Go deeper, but do not expect to exhaust all the information of the book. So focus on learning new things that you did not know before and then at the end of the month move on. I suggest this to you because of two reasons. First, we need to study all of Scripture, and while trying to help you go deeper, I think it is important for you to continue studying others parts. Secondly is that you can always come back and when you go through the same book again, it is likely that your study from other parts of Scripture will enlighten you even more as connections and points are made, since Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture.
- By the Passage: This is still technically by the book as well, but with a different methodology. While the devotional of a typical person is to read a passage a day, how about expanding that to a passage per week? Take the whole week to discover the passage. Reading through it every day, make notes and observations and soak in all you can from the teaching.
With both of these methods, the use of good, solid commentaries may be advantageous (but no more than one or two for the purposes here). However, the commentaries are not substitutes for your own study, but supplements it (just like my previous thoughts on study Bibles, which you can read here). Only after having exhausted your own thoughts should you look at the commentary to either confirm or contradict your thoughts to see if you are on the right track.
The point here is to drink in the Word, feasting on it greatly. Dwell upon it so that it may also dwell in you. It is here that you will learn to appreciate the intricacy of Scripture.
5. For Reflection
Finally, the last aspect I want to focus on is probably the most well-used aspect of devotional reading: reflection. Time in the Word should be time to meditate on the Word. It is an opportunity to know our Lord and Savior more so that we may develop Christlike character. Thus it requires examination of God’s Word, God’s character, and God’s children (ourselves) with humility. A reflective time in the Word provides us with opportunity for that. Again, there are two methods I would recommend:
- Without Resources: When we talk about devotionals, this is what most of think of. Each day choose a passage of Scripture and then simply read through it making notes about the passage (either in your mind or on paper). With those notes of understanding, work through the application in your own life.
- With Resources: This is exactly the same as above, but with an additional step at the end. Some people have a gift of being able to open up the Word for us to help us understand it. Here you can look for devotional commentaries in order to help you. With stories and applications these commentaries can help you as you reflect on the text. Some good commentaries to consider:
- The Reformed Expository Commentary: Depending on how the word ‘reformed’ is being used you may be hesitant to consider something with that in the title, but I have found that because these are devotional in nature, issues of reformed theology are not often present in these. Note also that this set is still being written, so it is not complete, but currently has a great selection available.
- Dr. William Varner: Dr. Varner is an amazing scholar and has written a number of commentaries. Most are technical, however he has two that are devotional in nature, one on Psalms and another on the Epistle of James.
The reflective devotion pounces on the opportunity to be entranced by Scripture’s beauty.
A devotion isn’t about methodology. What we offer here is simply some ideas in order to prompt and aide all of us in our time with the Lord. Previously I have shared some thoughts about our time in the Word and how to get the most out of it (you can read that article by clicking here). I think those aspects are extremely important, but in light of what we have shared together here, I want to make some specific notes that should not be overlooked:
- Don’t limit yourself. Do what works for you. This may mean changing from one way of doing a devotion to another periodically or maybe it means combining different aspects of each. For myself, I read using the Horner method everyday and in doing so, I try to make notes about how the chapter I am reading displays God’s character. Additionally, I try to study one passage a week.
- Whatever you do, you must engage in the basic and sound principles of hermeneutics when interpreting and applying a passage.
- Make your applications specific. It’s easy to say I need to love my neighbor, but think about specific situations in your life and work on applying it to those.
- Journal your thoughts. Even in brief. This helps you to remember what you read and learned and will keep you accountable later. As you look back you can ask, “How am I doing in that area?”
- Pray. Pray before you read, while your reading, and after your reading. This is a vital aspect of a devotional time because it is your time of communication with the Lord. Your prayer should be your own and not someone else’s, but I will confess, I like to also read through Valley of Vision, a book of prayers from the puritans, because of the powerful effect they have in transforming our mindset about who we are and who God is. It is an excellent book to make part of your devotional time.
Time in the Word is critical to the spiritual growth of the believer. It can never be overemphasized that this study is not merely about knowledge though. Sure, we study and learn, but all of it is meant to develop truth in our lives for the purpose of applying that truth. It should lead to a transformation. Furthermore, it should lead us into a deeper relationship with our Lord. Your devotional is not about knowing more about the Lord, but about knowing the Lord more.
6. Living By the Word
I recognize there is some simplicity in this article, but there is simply not enough space to allow for the details that would be needed to exhaust such a topic. Instead, I have written out of a concern for all of us, myself included, and our submission to Scriptural study and contemplation.
Sadly, Scripture is the most printed book yet it is also the most neglected. It is bought to be placed upon a shelf simply because there was a time when it seemed to be a cultural requirement for every person to have one. Yet the true beauty of God’s word is revealed when it is read, because it reveals God. To see God through the Word of God is one of the grandest privileges we have.
Perhaps because the Bible is so readily available in a variety of formats (print or digital), in a variety of locations, and in a variety of translations it is taken for granted. The privilege of having God’s Word at our fingerprints is often forgotten. For generations it wasn’t available in written form. Even today, there are many who have little access to it. Translating it cost men their lives. Proclaiming it today costs men their lives. If it is worth dying for, then it is certainly worth living for.