Lectio Divina–An Obedient Spirit

lectio divina

If you have ever tried to make an extremely sharp change in direction on your bicycle while traveling a trail at high speed only to find yourself face down in the mud, you know that this type of change is not only dangerous, but it is also extraordinarily difficult to pull off. In contrast to the sharp twist of the handlebars that resulted in the endo, a gradual shift of a couple of degrees can take you swooping through the ride of your life. So it is with obedience.

Lectio divina as a spiritual exercise transitions our encounter with the scriptures through four steps, starting with a reading that listens for the voice of the Spirit to rouse us. He calls us to linger in the scriptures, perhaps on a phrase or even a single word. We reflect on this text, allowing the Spirit to wring His message for us from the words. Our prayer centers upon this message, not to simply receive it, but for the wisdom regarding its proper application. Our final step is to obey this call.

The final step in the spiritual discipline of lectio divina is contemplatio. The disciple contemplates the application of the Spirit’s message to our lives. In other words, we obey what we have been directed by our Lord. Without this step, all of the rest is for naught.

The contemplation that we engage in is twofold. Initially, we are seeking to understand the meaning of the message for our choices today and tomorrow. Caution is required not to reduce the obedience to a series of check-list items—treat people better, check!—but instead to see it as an incremental step toward a more Christ-like image. The message that we encounter in this spiritual discipline is often subtle, but it is designed to works its way deep into our souls. As our souls are transformed, our outward expression to the world is transformed as well.

The second order of contemplation is this outward expression. Christ’s sanctification is not purely for our own good but for good of all. As we become more Christ-like as a body, our influence as salt and light has much more of an effect. We become less two-faced and present the singular image of Christ to the world.

We must not underestimate the effect of even the smallest shift in obedience when played out over the scope of a lifetime. The slightest move in obedience to our Lord is not to be dismissed. What seems minor today can become radical when viewed over the span of our lives.

Grace and peace to you.

image JL outdoor photography

Lectio Divina–A Praying Spirit


Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabonni!” (John 20:16)

Lectio divina as a spiritual exercise transitions our encounter with the scriptures through four steps, beginning with a reading that listens for the voice of the Rabbi to call out to each of us individually. It is His call to slow down and reflect on what we read, moving the content from head to heart. Meditating on the word that the Spirit has brought to our attention piques our desire to apply it in our lives, and for this, we require prayer.

The third step of this discipline is oratio. We pray at the sound of the voice of our Lord, turning almost involuntarily toward the One who is whispering in our ear. Just as we strain to hear every word uttered by our human lover, we lean into the voice of the ultimate Lover. At the sound of His voice we are moved to look Him in the face, to look deeply in His eyes and know that what He is telling us is true and right.

Through prayer we engage the text in which we are centered. As we pray in response to the voice of the Lord, the written word of God recorded for all of the people of the world has transformed into a personal word to me alone. This sounds dangerous if it is understood as the interpretation of theological truths on an individual basis. It is not. Remember, we are not interpreting the scriptures in this exercise, we are listening to hear God speak through the words. These are safe waters in which to tread.

Our prayer, intertwined with the intercession of the Spirit, leads us to grasp the reality of what the Lord says to us. We are overwhelmed by gratitude, confession or lament or any of the innumerable attitudes that guide our interactions with God and man. The lectio divina prayer is unconcerned with other things at this moment. It is only in response to the voice we have heard and where that voice wants to lead us.

Grace and peace to you.

image c jill reed

Bible Reading Plans

Planning the Scripture Habit

imageSoul growth doesn’t happen by itself, it requires effort, devotion and commitment. As recent posts have endeavored to show, reading the Bible regularly in an ordered fashion is one of the most important practices to develop early on. Getting into the Word (and the Word into you) opens the conduit to God to hear Him speak.

Starter Plan

If bible reading is new to you, a plan that starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation is not recommended. The narrative history of Genesis and Exodus will sweep you along and then you will hit the wall of Leviticus and Numbers. These books are important, but tough going for new readers and they tend to break down the momentum. An alternative plan that I discovered at The Christian Library has great potential in keeping up your pace while giving you a broad sweep of Christian thought. Over the course of five or six weeks, devote yourself to reading in this order:

Mark – It is written in chronological order

Matthew – Based on Mark and much more detailed

John – Written so that you might believe and includes material not in the other Gospels

Luke/Acts – Written by the same author who records the history of the early Church

Galatians – A condensed explanation of the change in dispensations between the Old Testament Law and the New Testament Grace

Conclude this plan by reading the remaining New Testament books. If you devote yourself to an average of 5 chapters per day you will find yourself enriched by the Word of the New Testament in a little over a month. More importantly, you will have developed the important habit of time reading the Scriptures.

Alternative: The 21 Day Challenge

Lifetime Plans

The most common plan that readers follow enables you to read the entire bible over the course of a set period, usually a year. A plan that covers the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation presents you with a few chapters from each book every day. As the months pass by, you will accomplish a feat that many in the Church have never done, reading the Bible in its entirety.

Some plans sample both the Old and New testament each day. For example, this 365 day plan from BibleGateway opens up Exodus 7-8 and Matthew 15:1-20. The readings are short enough that you will have time to not only read the scriptures, but to spend time pondering their meaning as well.

I would suggest that you avoid plans that subdivide too much. Some reading sequences include the Old Testament, New Testament, a Psalm and some selections from Proverbs each day. The reading units become very small and the skipping through the pages leads to discontinuity in your understanding. If you are interested in this type of reading, perhaps you can take a selection from the Psalms once weekly and make that the reading for the day.

Alternative: Bible-Reading

Concentrated Plans

A reading plan that is attractive to both new and experienced bible readers is one which spends a year or some other period of time concentrating on the New Testament alone. The core of modern Christianity is Jesus, and this is His story. The pace is slower but it also enables you to focus your attention on the history, ideas and truths uniquely found in the New Testament. It is also a good place to start your habit of scripture memorization. Start with John 3:16.

The Old Testament also benefits from a long concentration. Complex law and ritual become clearer when you slow down and are able to spend time thinking about why God brought these to His people. The triumphs and failures of Israel and their ultimate effect on the people of Jesus’ time help you to comprehend the New Testament more fully.

Other concentrated plans center around certain books or types of books. For example, the many Epistles (personal letters) make up a good reading plan that give you a unique insight into the writer’s lives and battles, and the issues that confronted the Church then and now. The Pentateuch ( the first five books of the Bible ), the Psalms and the four Gospels and Acts all have benefit for the reader as points of concentration.

Alternatives: Bible Reading Plans

Avoiding Lethargy

Struggling to read the Bible day after day is a common malady. It is a practice that requires training because, for most people, the discipline to read the Scriptures in our distraction-filled world is not easy to come by. Even those who develop the habit find themselves becoming bored by repeatedly poring over the same pages year after year. One of the things that I do to avoid this threat is to read a different translation each year. This year I’m back in the NIV (New International Version), but last year it was the ESV (English Standard Version).

Build some slack into your reading plan. If you are new to Bible reading and trying to develop the habit, 365 day plans can fill you with guilt if you get a day or two behind. The usual result of this is to abandon the plan and the practice. Set up your plan so that you read every other day or five days a week. Both methods give you open days to catch up so you are less likely to give up.