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Reading the Bible is not doing it for me? What’s wrong?

To listen to Nancy's answer recorded live on Moody Radio, click here.

Some Christian leaders have a vision for 2020 as the Year of the Bible for millions around the world. The movement hopes to help believers and nonbelievers alike to engage with the Bible like never before.

Sounds great, but is it? Reading the Bible can be a great thing, but simply reading words does not promise understanding or closeness with God. I read parts of the Bible as a nonbeliever, and it left me totally confused. How can we read the Bible and be inspired to love God more and change from our self-centered ways?

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1: 1,2).

What does it mean to delight in the Lord? Delight means not only to obey or to comply to what God tells us to do, but it means to love what God has commanded for us to do. Believing that God wants the best for us all of the time makes it easy for us to obey, especially with those things that seem difficult or even impossible. That is when our attitudes change from the duty of obedience to joy as a way of thanking God for all He has done for us.

What does it mean to meditate on his law day and night? Meditate is to think out the words we read in the Bible as to how it applies to all of life. It is the way to build a strong and passionate relationship with God as it gives us a greater purpose to live even through the hard times. The world has nothing to offer to us in time of struggle, but God’s Word gives us resilience like a tree whose roots go deep into the eternal source of living water.

Meditation is not unique only to Christianity. Many non-Christian religions make meditation the central part of their religious practices whose purpose is to disengage, silence, or empty their minds. Transcendental Meditation, Buddhism, or other New Age practice meditation in that way. Contrarily, the Bible teaches us to keep our minds engaged and actively thinking about what we are reading and to pray that the Holy Spirit would clarify and teach us what we need to know that will change the way we love others and live full lives.

Psalm 119:15 says, “I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways” So biblical meditation involves taking even a single verse and speaking it back to God and asking Him to make it come alive in our lives. Many times other verses in the Bible on the same topic can be found that will add depth to what we are reading. When we pray through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit can make it come alive in a practical way. Some of the questions to ask ourselves are: What is this saying? How can I apply this to my life? and, How can this make me love others better?

Meditation requires time and effort. It can’t be rushed. It requires an intentional plan of getting away from those things that cause distractions. Some people go early to work and stay in their cars and pray. Others might actually have a closet they can sit in or a special place outside they like. By shutting out the noise, we position ourselves to focus our attention on God and His Word.

Psalm 34:15: “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.”

Psalm 5:3: “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

In Philippians 4:8–9, the apostle Paul gives us this beautiful and complete picture of biblical meditation: “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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

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