This summer we are taking 10 weeks to read together David Mathis' book Habits of Grace. Each week different people will post their thoughts and reflections following our reading schedule. This week Megan Forrester shares some reflections on Chapter 2: "Read for Breadth, Study for Depth". You can download a PDF of the 10-week reading schedule here.
Our Approach to Bible Reading
Ours is a culture that glories in getting things done. Accomplishments are often achieved simply for the sake of accomplishing, rather than to receive the benefit of the finished task. No stranger to the desire for the sweet satisfaction that comes from a fully-conquered “to-do” list, I’ve been known to begin my own lists with an item I’ve already completed, just to have something to cross off.
But reading the Bible shouldn’t fall into the same category as folding laundry. You wouldn’t sit down for 10 minutes to talk to a friend or to your kids, then get up mid-sentence and walk off, thinking, “Ok, that’s done for the day.” It is special time spent connecting with a cherished person in your life. Connecting with God through reading His Word is no less important; in fact, it will feed your soul the way nothing else can.
Box-Checking vs. Relationship
In chapter 2 of his book, Habits of Grace, David Mathis gives this very pointed advice on Bible reading: “Don’t let the push to check boxes keep you from lingering over a text, whether to seek to understand it (‘study’) or to emotionally glory in what you understand (‘meditation’)” (45).
That sentence stopped me in my tracks. I read it about 8 times. I am the guiltiest of box-checkers. I guess it isn’t helped by the inherent blessing/curse of daily progress Bible reading plans.
The one I currently use provides one passage each day from four sections of Scripture: Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. The plan is tracked by a series of daily – you guessed it – check boxes
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, in and of itself. It can be a helpful tool to remember where I left off, or what portion I was reading during a particular time. But sooner or later, I get a few (or more than a few) days behind in reading, and there are all those unchecked boxes staring back at me. And I feel like a failure.
So, of course, I determine to tackle as many sections as I can cram into one sitting and power through to catch up. And then I wonder why I come away from reading un-refreshed, uninspired, and unchanged. The problem isn’t with the text, or that God had nothing to say to me in His Word. The problem is that I was too busy checking items off my list to stop and hear His voice.
The Bible is more than a historical account, or a manual for living – although it is those things, too. At its core, it is a beautiful love letter from an infinitely gracious Father to His beloved children. If I found an old letter that my Grandma wrote to me before I was born, would I skim quickly and then toss it aside? No! I would pour over every word, drinking in its meaning, studying the lines of her elegant penmanship, and basking in the affection that she had for me. I would do this because I love her, and I treasure what she had to say.
How much more should this be the case when I open the Bible! Let me linger over it, and let the Word fill my mind and heart.
When guilt or perfectionism would seek to corrupt the pleasure of spending time in the Word by reminding me of my failure to get through a predetermined number of pages, I will instead turn my eyes again to the cross, glorying in the boundless perfection of Jesus, and the wonder of His atoning sacrifice.
May I learn to say with the prophet Jeremiah, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O Lord, God of Hosts”. (Jer. 15:16)
Megan Forrester and her husband Josh have been a part of the Summit family for nearly a year. When she's not helping Josh run their business, Forrester Appraisals, Megan enjoys reading anything with a good story, playing music and board games, baking things she shouldn't eat, and cuddling with the world's most spoiled dogs.
Questions for Study and Reflection:
1. Donald Whitney says, "The basic difference between Bible reading and Bible study is simply a pen and paper (or some other means of preserving your thoughts)." What do you think he means?
2. In Chapter 2, read from the section "More Than Just Raking" through the end of the chapter (pp. 49-54). Is your natural inclination to dig or to rake? How can you compensate for your natural bent toward one of these two practices?
3. Read Chapter 3. How would you define Christian meditation? How is it distinct from meditation in other worldviews?
4. Refer to the section in Chapter 3 "Meditation Is the Missing Link". How do you think that meditation connects hearing God's voice in his Word to having his ear in prayer?
5. Thomas Watson, the English Puritan author and pastor, said, "The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation." Consider your own recent attempts at Bible reading without meditation, then answer the following questions:
a.) Did you come away cold?
b.) What was your heart truly looking for in God's Word?
c.) What was needed to warm your heart?
6. Consider your regular habits of hearing God's voice in the Scriptures. List ways to make meditation a consistent high point.
7. Read Chapter 4. Some people come to the Bible looking for things to do. Others come to the Bible to see and feel. Describe or illustrate the results of each approach.
8. In the section in Chapter 4 "God's Word is for Seeing," John Piper was quoted as saying, "We go to the Bible to be astonished, to be amazed at God and Christ and the cross and grace and the gospel." David Mathis noted that astonishment is the most important scriptural application to pursue. Why is astonishment so important? Does this statement change how you come to your daily Bible reading?