Practicing Lent: Meditating on Bible Stories

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

My favorite novels make my feel as if I’m part of the story. Through the author’s skillful use of word pictures, I can feel the sunshine warm my face or hear the burglar rattle the door. I can see the moon’s reflection on the lake or taste the buttery frosting on a cupcake. I can laugh at the character’s mishaps and cry with her in her pain.

God’s Word is a treasure trove of beautiful stories. Of course, the wonderful thing is that all these stories are true.

Yet Bible stories do have something in common with great novels: they tug at our hearts.

Jesus was the consummate story-teller. In just a few words He helped his listeners envision a forlorn sheep on a bleak hillside or an estranged son returning to his loving father’s arms.

One of my favorite ways to contemplate Scripture is to meditate on Bible stories–especially Gospel stories. Because I’ve known these stories ever since I was old enough to sit on a tiny chair and listen to a Sunday School teacher with a flannelgraph, it’s easy for me to gloss over these well-known accounts and miss their richness. But when I slow down and contemplate them, I notice things I’ve missed before. Jesus helps me see where I am in the story and teaches me truth for my life.

Martin Luther wrote about this way of meditating. He recommended that when we read a Gospel story, we see ourselves as the person coming to Jesus or the one being brought to Him.

When you see how he (Jesus) works, however, and he helps everyone to whom he comes or who is brought to him, then rest assured that faith is accomplishing this in you and that he is offering your soul exactly the same sort of help and favor through the Gospels…Christ is yours, presented to you as a gift. [Grace Upon Grace (p. 102), by John Kleinig]

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Meditating on Bible Stories

To meditate on a Bible story:

  1. Read the text.
  2. Close your eyes and use your five senses to imagine yourself in the story. What might have you seen? smelled? felt? heard? tasted?
  3. Picture yourself as one of the characters of the story. How would you have responded to what is happening? What thoughts would have gone through your mind? What emotions would have bubbled up?
  4. Apply the story to your life in the present. What is the story teaching you about Jesus? How is God wanting you to respond?

John Kleinig, in his excellent book, Grace Upon Grace tells that Luther emphasized two principles in this type of Scripture meditation. One: We are to meditate on the story as the Good News of Christ. Don’t just see the story as a call to obedience. As you meditate on the Gospel story, keep your eyes on Jesus–the giver of grace. Two: Meditate on the story in faith. This is not simply an intellectual exercise; it is a means to grow in trust in our Savior. God’s Word is living and active and works in our hearts to produce faith.

Lenten Meditation

The discipline of meditating on Gospel stories can be especially meaningful during Holy Week. Personally, I want to take the time to “watch” Jesus parade through the streets of Jerusalem. I want to imagine Christ stooping to wash my dusty feet. I want to feel the horror when Jesus announces that one of my colleagues is a traitor. I want to be present in the hush of the Garden of Gethsemane.

Although it might be painful, I want to fully appreciate Christ’s sacrifice for me by meditating on the account of the cross. And I want to relive the joy of the empty tomb and hear the angel say, “He is not here. He is risen!”

 Let’s all take time this week to meditate on the accounts leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through God’s powerful Word, the Holy Spirit will lead us to a deeper appreciation of the Father’s love, the Son’s sacrifice, and the Spirit’s comfort.

God’s Word is more than a novel that takes us to times and places we cannot go. It has life-giving power.

Next step: Click here to access a resource that outlines how to meditate on a Bible story and lists Scripture references of stories relevant to Holy Week. Over the next five days spend some time each day meditating on and receiving grace from God’s Word.

204196 - Copy (2)If you would like more information about Spiritual Disciplines, check out my Bible study book: Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal. It is a great way to find rest for your souls. This book can be used for personal or group study. More information here and here.

Practicing Lent: SACRED Reading

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

One of the most memorable meals I ever had happened in Brussels, Belgium. My family and I were on a European tour–a bargain bus trip. One of those if-it’s-Tuesday-this-must-be-Germany tours.

We arrived in Brussels around 5:00 pm and were informed that we only had the evening to explore the city. Early in the morning, the bus would be on its way to Luxembourg. So my husband and two teenage kids strolled from our hotel to the city center. We had every intention of finding a nice restaurant for dinner, but then I saw it–the famous Leonidas Belgian Chocolate shop. I couldn’t resist a peek inside, thinking I would come back after dinner for dessert. But inside, I saw the hundreds of chocolate possibilities and had the bright idea: Why don’t we have chocolate for dinner?

So we all picked out a bag of our favorites and went out into the city square to savor our chocolate treasures. Each bite was so delicious I wanted it to last forever. I let each morsel melt until it was gone, enjoying each chocolatey moment.

SACRED Reading

SACRED Reading is a way to savor God’s Word like I reveled in those chocolates. It helps us to meditate on Scripture. As we savor God’s Word, it melts into our hearts and the Holy Spirit transforms us.

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To focus on Scripture in this way, I choose a short passage of no more than eight verses and use the word SACRED to guide the process:

Silence your thoughts. Begin by quieting your spirit. Call on the name of the triune God and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your time of listening. At first, your wandering thoughts may seem to crowd out any quietness, but simply bring your thoughts back to the Father and eventually the cacophony in your head will die down.

Attend to the passage. Read your chosen verses. Ideally, you will read the passage out loud. Read slowly. Pause when it seems that God is drawing your attention to a particular sentence or phrase. Let the words resonate in your heart.

Contemplate the Word. Meditate on the passage, especially on any words the Holy Spirit seems to be speaking directly to you today. Do not hurry this time. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring up any feelings, doubts, or fears buried deep in the recesses of your soul. Thoroughly explore your soul for your most genuine response to these words of God.

Respond to the text. After you have taken time to listen, speak. That is, pray, pouring out your heart to God in response to what He has just spoken to you. If the passage inspired joy, offer thanks. If it brought a sense of conviction, confess.

Exhale and rest. Read the text again and rest in the love of God. Simply wait with the Lord who loves you more than you can know.

Dwell in the Word. As you come out of this restful state, ask the Spirit, “What truth can I carry into my day?” Think about a truth or promise you received that will help you live out God’s Word.

SACRED Reading helps me slow down long enough to hear God’s voice. It’s the difference between gulping down a sandwich and letting every bit of a Belgian chocolate melt on my tongue.

Savor and Receive

Let’s savor God’s Word. God longs to speak to us. In His Word we receive His wisdom and instruction for our everyday lives. We receive His unfailing love and His transcendent joy. We receive peace and stillness for our souls.

As we savor God's Word, it melts into our hearts and the Holy Spirit transforms us. Click To Tweet

Next step: Try SACRED Reading for the next five days. Click here to access a resource that outlines the SACRED Reading process and lists some Scriptures that you could meditate on this week.

204196 - Copy (2)This post is adapted from my Bible study book: Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal (CPH). This book examines Spiritual Disciplines as a way to develop intimacy with the Savior and to care for our souls. It is available here and here.