The reader of Foster’s Life With God might be surprised when they turn the page to chapter five and find the topic, ‘Reading with the Mind.’ This seems at first contrary to the theme of reading with the heart for spiritual formation but a little exploration leads us to discover that reading with the mind is not simply reading for the acquisition and collection of information. It is reading for understanding so that you and I can discover our place in great span of God’s redemptive story. As we engage the messy, complicated, roller coaster story in the scriptures, we find pieces of information that help us to understand who God is, how He interacts with His people, and our individual and corporate purposes in His plan.
We do not want our reading efforts to lead to the amassing of spiritually dead information that leads to pride but no transformation. This was one of the major critiques that Jesus voiced of the religious professionals of his day. They were intellectually deep, knowing the text inside out in all of its nuances but the Spirit was missing. The words were dead without the life giving Spirit of God and lead no one to a transformative experience. In our lives, we read the words under the supervision of Holy Spirit who brings the text to life showing us how to apply and understand the words.
We encounter several genres and a huge historical span of time as we immerse ourselves in the scriptures and find not a systematic and ordered presentation but instead, a messy, complex story of humanity in the presence of God. Recalling the Immanuel Principle is a lens that can focus the hundreds and thousands of lives that we encounter. God says “I am with you” and we read of the lives lived in response to the question, “Will you be with me?” The answers that we see are the struggles that each of us faces in life and the different ways that people have responded to God’s graceful invitation.
How does your Bible reading fit into this idea? Do you memorize bits and pieces of scripture that might pull the verse(s) out of their context? The Old Testament in particular can be a violent story. Does this make you avoid this part of book thinking that it has little application for modern life? I’d love to hear what everyone thinks.