Study—mindful reading of scripture and other texts with the purpose of being formed by it.
Romans 12:2—Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Philippians 4:8—Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
John 8:32—…You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Psalm 119:9—How can those who are young keep their way pure? By living according to your word.
Hebrews 4: 12—For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Think about how many words you read on any particular day. Whether you are reading the newspaper, magazines, books, memos, reports, email, the headlines on your homepage or the Bible, the sheer amount of information that is consumed can saturate and overwhelm. We read with many motivations: the intention to be up-to-date on what is happening around the world or the current ranking of our favorite team. We read to know what is going on in our place of employment, the local school or to gain a foothold in a particular area of interest. We read to learn and for enjoyment. But how often do we read to be transformed?
When we enter into the Spiritual Discipline of Study, we will be changed and transformed as we invite the Holy Spirit to work through the texts of Scripture—the Living Word of God—to penetrate our hearts and minds and to break down the untruths and misguided notions that we hold to. Study changes us. Through it our minds are reformed to understand the truth and the wisdom of the Kingdom of God.
Marjorie Thompson invites us to come to scripture as we would anticipate sitting down with a letter from someone we deeply love and wish to hear from. Knowing that this person desires to communicate with us out of love and interest, we will savor each word and phrase, look for meaning beneath the written symbols and consider how we will respond.
The scriptures are God’s letters of love to his beloved. Through it he seeks to self-communicate and reveal his heart, his plan, his will for his people and to use it to conform us more and more into the likeness of Jesus. This is not something to rush through, to pass over quickly and check it off on a list of accomplishments. This is an endeavor to sink into and linger there. It needs to be worked into our schedules and planners.
1. Choose a large book of the Bible and read it through. Notice how it is structured. Notice the themes throughout. How was God at work? How did the people respond? Use commentaries and other good reference material to dig into this chunk of Scripture.
2. Choose a small book of the Bible and reread it in its entirety for many days in a row. Look for the structure and flow of the writing. Write your findings each day. Look for something fresh and new each day. As you return to the same words each day, what do you notice?
3. Select a portion of scripture and answer these questions:
a. What is the context?
b. What is the author trying to say in that context?
c. What does this text convey to us in our time?
d. How does this speak to or touch my life today?
4. Select a portion of scripture. Approach it like a journalist. Ask:
5. Choose a story from the Bible that is contained in 10-20 verses.
a. Write out the text in narrative format (like a play):
John 1: 35-39 as example:
Narrator: The next day John was there with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said.
John: Look, the lamb of God!
Narrator: When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked:
Jesus: What do you want?….etc.
b. Analyze the narrative by asking the following:
1. Who speaks?
2. Who acts?
3. Who sees? (How many perspectives are we getting in the story?)
c. Answer the following questions:
1. If God is mentioned, alluded to, or is a character, what is God like?
2. What are the interactions between God and others like?
3. How are human beings in relation with one another and with God?
6. Choose a story from the Bible that is not too long.
a. Write out the text in narrative form as described above.
b. See what you discover about the four major elements of a story:
1. Place: What is the setting for the story? City, village, church, home, wilderness?
2. Time: If the text speaks about time, what kinds of time indicators does it present?
3. Plot: What is the major action of this story and what or who moves the action forward?
4. How are the biblical figures described by the narrator or by others? How do the biblical figures act and what does this say about their characterization? What do the biblical characters say and what does this say about them?
5. Silence: Where do you notice silence. Or what is left unspoken, unquestioned, etc.?