Reflecting on God's Word
Our hope is that followers of Jesus would be devoting themselves to the study of God's Word. If we really want to know God, and know what it means to follow and obey him, then we must devote ourselves to the primary means by which he has revealed himself to us - the Bible. However, reading the Bible is one thing. Reflecting on it and applying it to our lives is something else.
When you read the Bible there is the strong possibility that you do not perceive a great deal of fruit being produced in your life from what you are reading. It is one thing to have the discipline of Bible reading. It is something else altogether to have developed and refined that ways that you can meaningfully reflect on God's Word in order to hear and learn from what he is telling us. And the reality is that oftentimes we might read our Bible and when we get to the end of our reading for that day we really don't even know what we have read, or we don't know how it applies to our life. In order to do that we must refocus on what it means to reflect on God's Word.
The reason that your experience in reading God's Word doesn't meet your expectations is more than likely your method. If we want to truly hear and learn from God we must develop the proper methods in order for us to be able to do this. When it comes to reflecting and applying the Bible there are countless methods that people could do. We want to highlight a handful that the LifeSpring pastors and staff have found helpful as we have tried to reflect on God's Word more.
Before we jump into methods we just want to preface this by adding that in order for any of these methods to be effective, we must first slow down. Don't rush. Don't think that you will be able to meaningfully engage with God's Word in the same amount of time that you might have previously devoted to reading the Bible. A good place to start would be to give yourself at least 10 more minutes than you have given or that you think you need. Try to plan to have your Bible reading time when you will have the flexibility to extend that if necessary. If we limit the amount of time we are giving to reading the Bible, then we are limiting God's ability to speak to us, to teach us, to stretch us, and to grow us.
Now, let's check out some reflection methods!
The H.E.A.R. journaling method helps Bible readers to read in order to understand and respond to God's Word. The acronym stands for highlight, explain, apply, and respond.
First, highlight each verse from your passage that speaks to you by copying it in your journal.
Second, explain what the test means. Ask questions like: why was this text written? To whom was it originally written? How does this text fit with the verses before and after it? Why did the Holy Spirit include this passage in the book? What does the Holy Spirit intend to communicate through the text?
Third, ask a series of questions that can help you apply and uncover the significance of these verses to you personally. What does this passage teach me about God? What does this passage mean today? What would the application of this passage look like in my life? Does the text identify an action or attitude to avoid or embrace? What is God saying to me?
Finally, respond. This may take many different forms. Write a call to action. Describe how you will be different because of what God has said to you through His Word. Indicate what you are going to do because of what you have learned. Or respond by writing a prayer to God. Whatever form this takes this is your response to what you have just read and learned from God.
2. 4 Questions
Similar to the H.E.A.R method, 4 Questions seeks to ask very specific questions to help the reader draw out the meaning of the text and trigger a response based on what we learn from the text. For every passage you read, ask yourself the following four questions in regards to the text:
Who is God? What does this passage reveal about the character of God?
What did God do? What does this passage reveal about what God has done for us?
Who is man? What does this passage reveal about the nature of man?
What are we to do now? Based on the previous three questions, what should our response be?
3. 7 Arrows
Want more than four questions? The 7 Arrows method expands on the 4 questions by using uses 7 questions, as well as various arrows that serve as a memorable guide for studying any passage of Scripture.
4. Memorize Scripture
While you do your Bible reading pick a verse that sticks out to you. Ask yourself why it sticks out. Ask yourself what you can learn from this verse. And then memorize it. You can do this daily, or maybe just pick one verse each week to be your memory verse. Memorization stimulates reflection. When you are memorizing a verse, you are thinking about it. The mental repetition of the text required by memorization simultaneously fosters reflection on it.
5. Rewrite It
It can be really easy to read a Bible passage and then have no idea what you read. After you have read your passage for the day rewrite what it was about in your own words. If it is a narrative, what was the story being told? If it is a writing, prophecy, or letter, what is the passage talking about? Reflect on it and write it out in a way that makes sense to you. Repetition fosters reflection.
6. Use Devotional Commentaries
The word commentary can be daunting to some people. But not all commentaries are academic and technical. There are a number of commentary series out there that are more devotional in nature. Meaning, they explain and apply the text in an accessible way. If you have a passage in your Bible reading that is confusing or difficult to understand, a devotional commentary can be helpful to help you try and make sense of what is happening or being said. And many devotional commentaries come with reflection questions for each passage too.
Here are some great devotional commentaries that we would recommend:
Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Series (edited by David Platt, Danny Akin, and Tony Merida, from B&H)
God’s Word for You Series (from The Good Book Co)
Preaching the Word Commentaries (edited by Kent Hughes, from Crossway)
One word of warning for devotional commentaries - don't find yourself reflecting more on the commentary than on God's Word itself. We don’t want to develop dependency on them. We also don’t want to love the words of others about God’s Word to exceed our love for God’s Word. Our advice would be to use the before mentioned reflection methods first, and then if you are still having a really hard time understanding a passage, look to a devotional commentary.
There are a lot of other reflection method's out there! Find what works for you. But most importantly, focus on making reflection on God's Word a regular part of your engagement with God's Word!