Reading between the lines
Updated: Sep 14, 2022
We are excited to begin a series on Real Faith for the next few weeks here on re(a)lationship. When we began this project almost a year ago, we sent out a topic survey to over 8,000 people, and, by far, the most requested topics were topics of faith and the Christian life. We are going to have a lot of fun together looking at different areas of Christianity and our Faith and we are so glad you're along for the ride with us!
Today's topic is "Reading the Bible" and we are excited to have a guest author with us for this post. Cole Forehand is the Creative and Communications Director for Stained Glass Ministries. He also serves as Worship Leader at Oak City Church in Birmingham, AL alongside his wife, Kelsey. We believe you are going to enjoy his suggestion on a new way to read and experience The Word of God!
Dale and Jena Forehand are the founders of Stained Glass Ministries a non-profit 501 C3 ministry. They offer conferences and resources to build real relationships.
To find out more about their amazing grace story of marriage, divorce, and re-marriage to one another visit their website www.daleandjena.com.
You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram at @daleandjena
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I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the term that we are going to dive into today. I was a student at Samford University in a Biblical Foundations class being taught by, to this day, one of my favorite and most respected collegiate professors. We had been over many different facets of Christianity and I had experienced multiple eye-opening, heart-shifting moments during this class by the time we reached a moment when the term lectio divina was mentioned, and quickly explained, before we moved on to the rest of the syllabus.
But, something inside of me stirred at the mention of this term and I knew that I would need to learn more about this way of reading and experiencing The Bible. Since that day of class, I have studied and learned more about this ancient (rooted in the 3rd century) and well-loved (from St. Augustine to modern church leaders) process of reading and consistently use it in both my studies and casual Scripture reading. I am excited to share it with you today, and I pray that this becomes a new and useful tool in your Bible Reading!
Lectio Divina translates to Divine Reading - and the entire idea is simply found in those two words, reading whilst being influenced and impacted by The Divine (that is The Godhead). Usually, this process of reading is broken down into four steps with four Latin names - Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, and Contemplatio.
I have found that an additional step, a prologue if you will, is incredibly beneficial
I like to call it Invocatio.
Let's look at each of these sections to see how they function in this reading process and learn how to put this into practice with a passage of scripture
- Invocatio -
The action of invoking something or someone for assistance or as an authority.
This "first step" should not come as a surprise to anyone who has a history with Jesus. It is rather commonplace, and it very much should be, for us to begin any moment of focussed time with The Lord to invite His Presence to be with us. It's the second part of the definition above that holds that extra ummph for this process - as an authority.
When we read Scripture using the Lectio Divina process, we begin by actively requesting The Holy Spirit to take the lead (authority) of our reading time.
I would encourage you to view this moment as more than a short prayer and instead a longer "pressing in" to His Presence, Voice, and Nearness. A great place to start is laid out for us in the worship mandate of Psalm 100 - enter his courts with thanksgiving. Give yourself some breathing room and then being by thanking Him for Who He is and what He has done before inviting Him to lead your time of reading. Without a set-apart section of time requesting Holy Spirit to lead your reading, you might find yourself missing something pretty great!
- Lectio -
The action or skill of reading written or printed matter silently or aloud.
This step is also pretty obvious since the whole point of this exercise is centered around reading The Word. However, it is the act of reading, within itself that holds something special for us here. In an age where the local Barnes and Noble has thousands of books available, where most of our conversation is actually done through reading (text messaging and emailing), and where we can easily add text to our filmed entertainment view closed captioning, reading has lost some of its luster and wonder due to its commonness. However, reading is a beautiful and powerful tool that The Lord has given us, it amazes me what our brains can do with some letters on a page - and I think it might amaze you too if you take a second and think about it.
When we read Scripture using the Lectio Divina process, we actively participate in the action of reading and place it in a position of honor and importance
- Begin by reading your selected passage for the day in it's entirety.
- Read the passage, in its entirety, once more.
- Read the passage, in its entirety, one last time.
- once you have actively read your passage a few times,
you can move to the next step -
- Meditatio -
The action or practice of meditating.
Here is where some of the fun begins! Now that you have read your entire passage a few times, it is time to pick a smaller section of the passage and let it sink down deep into your heart and soul. This portion may require some risk, imagination, and the ability to give yourself grace if it takes a bit - but I promise you, if you'll push through that resistance, you will see great reward!
When we read Scripture using the Lectio Divina process, we actively partner with The Text to gain deeper involvement, connection, and encounter.
- Choose no more than 3 or 4 verses from the entire passage and read them again.
- Take note of the setting and be attentive to the details found within.
- Try and place yourself into the narrative via sights, sounds, smells, etc.
- Consider any knowledge you have of the context or background of the passage.
- Note what stands out to you - underlining or highlighting is your friend.
- once you have actively meditated on your passage,
you can move to the next step -
- Oratio -
The expression of thoughts and feelings by articulate sounds
Now we get to the really fun part - conversing with Holy Spirit about your shorter passage! The Holy Spirit is listed as our guide to all truth (John 16), so it should not come as a surprise that He is the best person for the "reading the bible with" job - it's literally on His calling card. The important portion of this stage is the leaning into a conversation with Holy Spirit instead of just talking at Him. This is a time for you to speak in short, simple questions and allow Him to answer them in profound and powerful ways - remember, this is Who He is and what He longs to do for you, sit, wait, and rest if you must but know that He is ready and able to converse with you!
When we read Scripture using the Lectio Divina process, we actively partner with The Holy Spirit to gain our knowledge, lessons, and understanding of The Text.
- Thank God for His word - written and spoken.
- Share with Him your initial thoughts on these verses.
- Ask Him what He wants to show you, teach you, impart to you in these words.
- LISTEN and write down what He says
- once you have actively conversed with Him about your passage,
you can move to the next step -
- Contemplatio -
The action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit desire for you to know The Word well. It is through the knowledge and understanding of The Word that we grow in the sanctification process as we implement that same knowledge and understanding. As we grow in connection with The Word, we grow in connection with The Godhead - this is an incredibly important step in the Lectio Divina process because this is where life change and growth take root!
When we read Scripture using the Lectio Divina process, we actively partner with our brain to remember and prepare to practice what is revealed to us.
- Look back over the notes you took as you listened to Holy Spirit speak.
- What does this mean for you?
- What is your next right step in response to this revelation?
- If there was a desire to receive an impartation of something - take that moment.
- Write out what your next step, new revelation, or received impartation is.
- once you have actively contemplated what He has shown you in your passage,
go back and start again with the next smaller section of verses -
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There you have it.
From this point forward it becomes a bit of a Lather, Rinse, Repeat moment where you break the passage down into small sections and process them using the steps above. It becomes almost second nature after a while, but even in that, there is always something new to be revealed, learned, or imparted!
Lectio Divina is my favorite way to read The Bible because it calls me to actively partner with the action of reading, the text itself, the Holy Spirit's authority, and my own God-given ability to think and reason as I read The Bible
I hope that you take the opportunity to include Lectio Divina in your Bible reading and I pray that you are impacted in powerful ways through this process of reading Scripture.
May The Lord Bless you and Bless you indeed!