Many Bible readers get into a certain rhythm—reading 5-10 verses of the Bible text and asking certain questions to dig into the meaning. Perhaps they read an entry from a devotional booklet. This is a fine model for Bible study, no need to change it.
Unless you need a break.
Like a good sonata or pop song, we sometimes need to change our rhythms. If you find a new beat for your Bible study, even temporarily, you might discover a great new level of interaction with the Scriptures. Here are two simple options you might want to try.
Read a whole chapter, or perhaps a whole book. This might require some extra time in your schedule, and so it might be a good option for weekends or vacations.
The advantage of this approach is that you get the whole story. You have a wide-angle lens on the Scriptures rather than a microscopic view. Instead of trying to figure out what God is saying to you in this verse or that one, you're hearing a whole argument, a full scene. You're encountering God's message in context.
For instance, the book of Philippians is full of wonderful verses. It's very rewarding to read Paul's encouragement of the local believers (1:6), his view of his own approaching death (1:21), the example of Christ as servant (2:5-11); and the importance of prayer (4:6-7). You can derive many rich lessons from a verse-by-verse approach, but when you zoom out, you'll find a new level of appreciation for the Philippians' situation and where Paul was at the time, and how all those individual messages fit together.
Each of the four chapters of Philippians is about as long as this blog post. The average person could read it all in about ten minutes. So why not try it? Many of the short books of the Bible explode with new meaning when you use this wide-angle approach. Try it with Colossians, James, 1 John, Habakkuk or Jonah. It might take an hour to read through Romans, but you'll find yourself understanding Christian theology like never before. (Or you could read Romans in four-chapter chunks.)
It's not just a change-of-pace for your schedule, but also a new way to connect with God's message to you.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the bite-size approach. Take one verse and let it fill your mind. Diagram the sentence. Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why? Think about the meaning of every word. When you're paying that much attention to a single verse, it's easy to memorize it.
Then let the verse bounce around your mind as you go through the day. What is God saying to you? Ask the Spirit to connect the verse to your experience. Can you see the truth of the verse in the events that happen to you, the encounters you have, the people you meet?
Visualize the verse. If you were a painter, how would you portray it? Perhaps you are a painter; then you could actually paint what you're seeing. Use your full artistic gift to engage with Scripture through the visual arts and interact with the truth God is giving you.
What does the verse sound like? Can you sing Scripture? Or perhaps it calls to mind a different song, or three. Compile a playlist to celebrate the truth of that verse.
Could you act out the verse? Who would the characters be? What is their interaction? How would the truth of the verse affect their lives? Does this verse lead you into a dance of praise or devotion?
By shortening your scope, zeroing in on a single verse, you allow yourself to make it a part of you—in a hundred creative ways. Because of its brevity, you're able to not only memorize it, but breathe it, and live inside it for a day or so.
The rhythm of zooming in and zooming out
There is great value in an in-depth analysis of the paragraphs of Scripture. That rhythm has helped many Christians grow mightily in their faith. But maybe you could try something else for a time. Zoom out or zoom in, or both, and see how God fills that field of vision.
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