How Bible Reading Can Change Your Life

Last year, my wife and I were hosting a dinner gathering in our home and one of our dinner guests was a young woman from China. She was attending a university in the US and was visiting with us while attending a Christian conference. During our dinner together, we asked her to share her testimony of how she became a Christian. Her story confirmed to me the awesome power of the Scriptures and how simply reading the Bible can change a person’s life.

Reading the BibleThe Best Diversion

She began by telling us her story about growing up in China where she and her family were all atheists. She knew nothing of God or His word. However, while attending a university in China she had the most amazing experience.

She would often go to the library each day to seek some diversion from her studies. Though she was a student of math and science, she felt she would like to read something different—possibly something on philosophy. But when she searched the shelves of the library she could find nothing suitable to read.

Turning across the aisle she noticed the religion section. At the bottom of one of the shelves she found a large, white-covered book, with the title “Holy Bible” on it. Having never read a Bible before, she began from the first page in Genesis. She repeated this practice for a number of days and then stopped.  However, after a couple of weeks of not reading the Bible, she felt something was missing. She had this strong desire to continue her Bible reading.

The Awesome Power of the Scriptures

While she was reading she came to the Bible verse that says, “And the dove came to him toward evening time, and there in her beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had abated from the earth (Gen. 8:11).

When she came to this verse she was so deeply touched that she said, “I want to become a Christian.” No one told her that she needed to become a Christian, and the subject of this verse wasn’t even about becoming a Christian. Instead, the power of the Scriptures touched her related to the need of becoming a Christian, and this simple experience began her quest to find out how she in fact could become a Christian.

Although time does not permit me to tell the rest of her story, I cannot help but marvel at how a born atheist, without ever hearing the preaching of the gospel, could want to become a Christian just by reading the first eight chapters of the book of Genesis (which, by the way, does not even mention Christ’s name). All I can say is that the Spirit of God is ready to meet people on any page of the Bible.

How many lives could be changed if more people would pick up the simple practice of my Bible-reading friend. Many more of us could share how reading God’s word changed our lives.

I know my own experience confirms this. Though born in a Christian family, I can still testify that it was my own personal reading of the Scriptures that sent me on a quest to enter into the reality of what I read in God’s word.

A Simple Daily Practice of Reading God’s Word

I believe you’ll be amazed at what ten minutes of daily Bible reading can do. This simple daily practice of reading God’s word with prayer will change your life. For more details on this you may want to read my post entitled, “Practical Points on Bible Reading…

Since one of the main reasons people give for not reading the Bible is that they don’t understand it, I’ll also recommend my favorite study  Bible—the Recovery Version. It’s a Bible you can really understand. For more than two decades, my personal reading habit has been strengthened by all the helpful features of the Recovery Version. You can read the Recovery Version Bible online, and you can order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version Bible from Bibles for America.

Thank you for reading this post, and I hope that all of us can pick up this habit of daily reading the Bible to experience the power of God’s word.

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Strike the Spirit of the Scripture to Catch the Divine Fire

“All Scripture is God-breathed…” 2 Timothy 3:16

“This indicates that the Scripture, the word of God, is the breathing out of God. God’s speaking is God’s breathing out. Hence, His word is spirit (John 6:63), or breath. Thus, the Scripture is the embodiment of God as the Spirit. The Spirit is therefore the very essence, the substance, of the Scripture, just as phosphorus is the essential substance in matches. We must strike the Spirit of the Scripture with our spirit to catch the divine fire. [2 Tim. 3:16, footnote 2, par. 1 from the Holy Bible, Recovery Version]

I’m reminded of the importance of “striking the Spirit of Scripture with our spirit” whenever we come to the Bible. The Spirit is the essence of the Scriptures. Since the Scripture, the word of God, is the breathing out of God, it conveys His essence. Just like your breath conveys your essence. We need to touch this essence in the Scripture whenever we come to the Bible. Then we’ll “catch the divine fire.”

The Lord Jesus directed us to this essence when He said in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.” God’s word is not just letters on a page. It’s a living word, full of His breath, His essence.

How can we receive God’s living essence when we come to the Scriptures?

We need to learn how to strike the Spirit of the Scriptures with our spirit. It’s like striking stick matches on the phosphorus tip to get a flame. When we use our God-contacting spirit (John 4:24) to touch the Spirit in God’s word we get spirit and life (John 6:63). That is,  we get His essence.

The simplest way I know to “strike the Spirit of the Scriptures with our spirit” is to exercise your spirit, your deepest part, to mingle your Bible reading with calling on the Lord’s name (1 Cor. 12:3), praying short prayers (Eph. 6:17-18), singing, praising, and giving thanks (Col. 3:16-17). Try it and see if you don’t get divine breath from your reading and “catch the divine fire.”

“Dear Lord, thank you for showing us that Your word is “God-breathed” and that Your Spirit is the essence of Your word. Lord, teach us to strike the Spirit of the Scripture with our spirit to catch the divine fire. Whenever we come to the Bible, we want to touch You. Make Your word so living and even a burning flame within us. ” 

For more on this point, you may want to get a copy of “Pray-reading the Word” and read this short chapter for yourself. You can read it online at ministrybooks.org or you can get your free copy from Bibles for America as a part of Basic Elements of the Christian Life, Volume 3. It’s the last chapter in the booklet.

5 steps to vitalize your Bible reading in the new year

Holding to truth in love is not just about learning Bible doctrines. It’s a present, active participation in all the divine realities in God’s word, both personally and with others. So I’d like to begin the year with a fresh vision of how we can hold to these divine realities. A great way to advance practically is to learn from others and be encouraged by one another.

So in this post we’ll  appreciate the pattern of the God-seeking psalmist in Psalm 119 to be infused with a fresh love for God’s word and to enjoy it to the uttermost.  In this way we can experience all its positive functions and blessings. By the infusion of God’s living word, we’ll be prepared to be men of God personally (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and Christ’s loving bride corporately (Eph. 5:26-27). But, before we look at Psalm 119, I’d like to ask you to consider four questions.

First, “What are you seeking when you come to the Bible?”
If your answer was not a “Who,” then the first step is to adjust your view from things to a Person—the wonderful, living Person, Christ. The Lord Jesus told the Jewish religionists that the Scriptures testified concerning Him (John 5:39). Their problem was that they searched the Scriptures, but didn’t match it with coming to the Lord Jesus Himself so that they might have life (v. 40). My favorite hymn on coming to the Lord in His Word is “I Come to Thee Dear Lord,” by Witness Lee.

It’s important to see that Christ is the reality of God’s Word, even of the Old Testament law. Paul indicated that all the Old Testament ordinances were just a shadow of Christ. He is the “body” of all those shadows (Col. 2:14-17). He is God’s living testimony. In the same way the psalmist spoke of the law as God’s “testimonies” 22 times (Psalm 119:2). They weren’t just some laws to regulate man, but God’s testimonies to reveal God to us. For example, the kind of laws a person makes “testify” of the kind of person they are. Well, Christ Himself is a living portrait of what God is, and the Scriptures testify concerning Him (John 5:39, Luke 24:47).

The key to getting life from your Bible reading is not to separate your contact with the Bible, God’s written word, from your contact with Christ, God’s Living Word (1 John 1:1). So start your Bible reading by calling on the Lord Jesus, and turning your heart to Him by some prayer of fellowship (For more on this point, see my post 14 Words to Enrich Your Fellowship with the Lord.)

Today, the wonderful Christ revealed in the Bible is the life-giving Spirit in resurrection (1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor. 3:17). As the Spirit, He is the reality of every promise and blessing in God’s word—even of the law (John 16:13).

Second, “Have you prepared your heart to meet the Lord in His word?” Paul said of the unbelieving Jews, that a veil lies on their heart when they read the Scriptures. But, whenever their heart turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away (2 Cor. 3:15-16). The condition of our heart makes a huge difference in our reading the Bible. If our heart is wrong, we can read the Word but receive very little.

So we need to prepare our heart by dealing with seven conditions: 1) no exercise of heart for the Word, 2) a divided heart—one loving other things, 3) a lack of heart, 4) a heart with hindrances, like unconfessed sins, or unforgiven offenses, 5) a heart not consecrated or willing to be subdued by the Lord, 6) a heart not humbled before Him, and 7) then needing to exercise our whole heart, even our whole being to contact the word.

We need to use our eyes to read the word, our mouth to speak it, pray it, and sing it. We also need to use our mind to understand it, our emotion to love it. and our will to take the way of the word. Finally, we need exercise our spirit to contact its spiritual essence. This is the kind of practice we need to really “hold to truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).

When we deal with our heart and  exercise it properly, turning it to the Lord, the veil is removed from our heart and we can contact the Lord on every page of the Bible.

Third, “How are you contacting the Word—in the letter or as the Spirit?” There are two aspects of the Word—the letter and the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6). If we only contact the Word in the letter, merely caring for its commandments, we will come away deadened, because the letter kills. But, if we go beyond the letter, as the God-seeking psalmist did, to contact word in the aspect of the Spirit, we’ll get life from our reading—even from the law. Since all the blessings the Father has given to us in Christ are spiritual in nature, we really need to take God’s word in the aspect of the Spirit in order to receive these spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3). So if we contact the Bible—even the law, as the word breathed out by God whom we love, we’ll enjoy the Word in the aspect of the life-giving Spirit.

Fourth, ask yourself “What kind of Bible-reader will you be—a letter-keeper or a God-seeker?”  Whenever we come to the Bible we can be one of two kinds of Bible readers—a “letter-keeper” or a “God-seeker.” A “letter-keeper” is one like the Judaizers and Saul of Tarsus, who try to be blameless according to the letter of the law to fulfill it by their own efforts (2 Cor. 3:6).

On the other hand, a “God-seeker” is one like the psalmist in Psalm 119 and the apostle Paul (1 Tim. 4:6). Such a one seeks God, loves His name, entreats His face, walks in His presence, considers His word sweeter than honey to nourish them and a shining lamp to enlighten them. Such a God-seeker realizes that the living God is to be touched in every chapter and verse of the Bible and pursues after Him with every part of their being.

Which kind of Bible reader will you choose to be? After comparing the two choices, I hope you’ll join me in choosing to be a loving God-seeker.

Fifth, follow the pattern of  the psalmist in Psalm 119, to practice from A to Z the proper attitude of God’s loving seekers toward God’s law as His living Word:
A. Choose God’s word (Psa. 119:173).
B. Believe God’s word (v. 66).
C. Lift up our hands to it, receive it warmly, saying Amen to it (v. 48; Neh. 8:5-6).
D. Love God’s word (v. 97).
E. Delight in God’s word (v. 24)
F. Taste God’s word (v. 103; cf. 1 Pet. 2:2-3).
G. Rejoice in God’s word (v. 162).
H. Sing God’s word (v. 54; Col. 3:16).
I.   Regard God’s word (v. 117).
J.  Have a perfect heart in it (v. 80).
K.  Incline our heart to it (v. 36).
L.  Seek it, long for it, and hope in it with prayer (vv. 45, 40, 147)
M . Trust in it (v. 42).
N.  Muse on it (v. 15).
O.  Consider it (v. 95b).
P.  Esteem it to be right (v. 128a).
Q.  Learn it (v. 73).
R.  Treasure it (v. 72).
S.  Treasure up God’s word in your heart (v. 11).
T.  Remember it and do not forget it (v. 52)
U.  Stand in awe of it (v. 161).
V.  Cling to it (v. 31).
W. Do not forsake it (v. 87).
X.  Turn your feet toward it (v. 59).
Y.  Keep, observe and do it (v. 69).
Z.  Walk in it and run the way of it (vv.1, 32a).

“ Lord Jesus, I love You and love Your word. Lord, make all my coming to the Bible, my coming to You. Lord, deal with all the hindrances in my being that keep me from touching You in Your word. Grant me to go beyond the letter to touch the Spirit of the Scriptures. Lord, I choose to come to You in Your word as Your loving seeker like the psalmist. Lord fill me with the attitude of your loving seekers and Lord, establish my footsteps in Your word.”

This post was inspired by message eight of the of second Crystallization-Study of Psalms held in Anaheim, CA on December 29, 2011.

If you’ve enjoyed having your touch with God’s word vitalized, please share your experience so that we can learn together how to practically “hold to truth in love.”

Men of God, Living on God’s Instant, Spoken, Applied Words in the Gospels

In my last post I presented some Old Testament examples illustrating the proper attitude of contacting God’s word—an attitude of coming to receive the life supply—as seen in Moses living on everything that proceeds out from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3), the Psalmist tasting God’s words and being enlivened by them (Psa. 119:103, 93), and the prophet Jeremiah, finding God’s words and eating them (Jer. 15:16). Now I would like to continue along this line by considering how men of God, received God’s word as their food in the Gospels.

The Lord Jesus—Taking God’s Every Word as His BreadMatt. 4:4

In Matthew 4:4, the Lord Jesus, standing in His position as man, defeated Satan’s temptation to turn stones into loaves of bread by speaking forth God’s written word from Deuteronomy 8:3. He said, “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.” Footnote 3 on this verse in the Recovery Version points out that, “This word indicates that the Lord Jesus took the word of God in the Scriptures as His bread and lived on it.” It is interesting to note that the Greek word for “word” here is not the word “logos” but the word “rhema.” Hence, it not merely the constant, written word of the Scriptures (logos) that we live on, but the Scriptures that have been converted to instant, spoken words applied to our situation (rhema). It was with such a digested and applied word that the Lord Jesus defeated Satan. We also need to read, pray and muse upon God’s written words just as Jesus did (Deut. 8:3) so that these words may become our daily bread and our authority to defeat the enemy also. One practical point to note from this example was the Lord’s pattern of audibly proclaiming God’s words. Such a practice of speaking out, praying over and singing God’s word, helps us assimilate and digest God’s word.

The Disciples—Eating the Lord by Receiving His Words—John 6:57, 63, 68

In John 6, the Lord revealed Himself as the believers’ bread of life (v. 35), the true bread out of heaven (v. 32). But how could the Lord’s disciples eat this heavenly bread? Jesus revealed in this chapter the process through which He was passing in order to become their bread including: 1) being incarnated (vv. 32-51a), 2) being slain (vv. 51b-55), 3) being resurrected to indwell (vv. 56-59), 4) ascending (vv. 60-62), 5) becoming the life-giving Spirit (vv. 63-65) and 5) being embodied and realized in the word of life (vv. 66-71).

The practical application to our eating Christ (v. 57) as the bread of life is by coming to Him and believing into Him (v. 35). We should never separate our coming to Bible from coming to the Lord Jesus Himself (see John 5:39-40 and footnote). But how can we come to Him today? Verse 63, points out that it is the Spirit that gives life, referring to His becoming the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45b; 2 Cor. 3:17). To eat the flesh of His physical body was not what Jesus meant. Rather He can give us life only because He is now the Spirit and His Spirit is embodied in His living words. Note 3 on verse 63 points out that “First, the Lord indicated that for giving life He would become the Spirit. Then He said that words He speaks are spirit and life. This shows that His spoken words are the embodiment of the Spirit of life…When we receive His words by exercising our spirit, we get the Spirit, who gives life.”

From these two illustrations we can see how consistent the Bible is in revealing the attitude we should have in coming to read God’s word. May we be more deeply impressed that God’s words are intended to be our food and that His words can never be separated from God Himself. May we ever come to the Word, by coming to the Lord, exercising from deep within, and prayerfully speaking forth God’s words with a spirit of faith (2 Cor. 4:13) that the word would always profit us (2 Tim. 3:16; cf. Heb. 4:2).

Practical Points on Bible Reading and Reading for the Central Line

What I intend to present in this post are the practical points that have been most helpful to me in reading the Bible.  I have taken these points mainly from “Reading the Bible,” the sixth chapter in Lessons for New Believers  by Witness Lee. (You can read it yourself at www.ministrybooks.org, under “Additional Titles by Witness Lee” – listed alphabetically by title.)  There are twelve points that have greatly helped to enrich my practice of reading the Word. These I have divided into three categories: 1) the proper attitude, 2) some simple ways, and 3) some tips on time.

The Proper Attitude for Reading the Bible

The following three points have helped me to have a proper attitude in reading God’s word:

1. Have the attitude of contacting God Himself;  be inwardly prepared to meet God, with a true and sincere heart to draw near to God, and a quiet and open spirit to fellowship with Him; it’s good to begin with a short prayer— John 5:39-40; Matt. 5:8, 3.

2. Have the attitude of coming to receive the life supply; open your spirit, the deepest part of your being, to take in the bread of life from the treasure store of God’s word—Psa. 119:93; Jer. 15:16; Matt. 4:4; John 6:63, 68.

3. Have the attitude of coming to receive enlightenment; this requires both your heart and your spirit; it helps to pray when you read the Bible saying, “Lord, I come to Your Word to contact You. Cause my heart to incline toward You and my spirit to open to You. Cause me to love You more than knowledge and doctrine. May my inner being be nourished and enlightened by Your Word”—Psa. 119:130; 2 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 1:17-18.

Some Simple Ways to Read the Bible

 The following simple ways to read the Bible have rendered me considerable help:

1. Read the books of the Bible sequentially, consecutively and not randomly.

2. Don’t read too much at one time; rather, consider your own situation and develop a workable schedule; the most important thing is to be persistent; avoid impulsive reading. (Personally, I use a custom reading schedule that I made using www.readhisword.com.)

3. Blend reading of the Word with prayer; the moment you receive inspiration, briefly stop your reading, turn the inspiration into a short prayer and then continue reading.

4. Underline precious verses and portions that impress you; you may want to use different colors of pencils to highlight different topics; for example, verses on Christ’s titles, person and work might be one color.  I’ll try to cover this more in my conclusion.

5. Don’t seek too much understanding when reading the Bible which may cause you to be preoccupied with matters that you are not yet prepared to understand.

6. Muse on the Word; when time permits, muse on the Word by prayer, recall it and consider it with other portions of the Word; this doesn’t need to take place while you’re reading the Bible, but during any free time—Psa. 119:15.

Some Tips on Time

The following are a few points that I have employed in setting a regular time in the Word:

1. The best time to read the Bible is in the morning; when we come to the Bible every morning, we are actually seeking to touch the Lord and receive Him as the bread of life; this may be likened to the children of Israel gathering manna each morning—Psa. 119:147-148; John 6:33, 35; cf. Exo. 16.

2. It is best to read the New Testament in the morning and find another time during the day, for example, after dinner or before bed to read the Old Testament.

3. Try to set apart at least ten minutes at a time; twenty to thirty minutes is better, but start with what you can maintain and build up as your capacity grows; remember “the tortoise wins the race.”

Focusing on the Central Line of the Bible and Using the Recovery Version

These practical points on Bible reading are not a part of the central line of the Bible, so they are not points of contention. They are just a number of points that have rendered some help to me over the years. The most important of the points is the proper attitude in coming to the Word. The ways will change and develop over time but our attitude should only deepen as we look for the wonderful Person revealed in the pages of this unique Book.

In bringing this post on practical points back to the view of the central line, I would say that we should “bridle” our reading according to the central line of the Bible. That is to direct our focus to the Word of God, the Triune God, the economy (or plan) of God, the all-inclusive Christ, the life-giving Spirit, the Body of Christ, and the New Jerusalem. If you direct your reading to these great points, you’ll discover “the diamond” in box of the Bible. Look for these points. Pick them up and gaze on them. Pray and muse over them. Underline verses that relate to them. I’d recommend using a different color pencil for each one.

To help you focus on this central line and to get much more out of your Bible reading, I’d like to add one final practical point on Bible reading—obtain a copy of the New Testament (or better yet—the Holy Bible) Recovery Version.  This has been the most helpful tool in my practice of Bible reading over many years. You can get a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version online at:  www.bfa.org. You can also purchase the Holy Bible Recovery Version online at the publisher’s site: www.lsm.org. (The Recovery Version has rendered me the greatest help because of its understandable and accurate text, enriching and supplying footnotes, and exceptional and enlightening outlines.)

May the Lord richly bless your Bible reading with His dear presence, making it so fresh, nourishing, and enlightening to you, such that you’ll always want to come back for more.

Enjoying Christ as the Living Word in the Written Word

In my most recent post, I presented the central line of the Bible with the earnest desire to live in this central line, and pursue fellowship with those who also desire to know and experience this central line.

The Word of God—the First Item in the Central Line of the Bible

In this post I’d like to take a further look at this central line of the Bible by considering the first item on this line—the Word of God. All genuine believers in Christ realize that without the Bible we would have no way to know God, for who God is and what He has done are all revealed to us through the Scriptures. I would like to do more than simply reaffirm this basic truth of the Christian faith—that the Bible is the unique, divinely inspired, word of God. In this post, I’d like to go further to consider a more mysterious and subjective aspect of this truth—the relationship between the written word in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16) and the living Word, Christ, who is revealed in its pages (John 1:1; 1 John 1:1; John 5:39-40).

Christ Being the Living Word of God

Concerning the living Word of God, Christ, we can say that He is the living speaking of God (Heb. 1:2-3) not only in what He says but by everything He does. He is the Word of Life (1 John 1:1) from eternity past, being Himself the very definition, explanation and expression of the invisible God. In this One, who is God’s expression, there is life eternal (John 1:4). Hence we must come to Him, if we want to have eternal life (John 5:39-40). Herein lies a wonderful revelation, it is not that the Scriptures of themselves give life, for even Paul said that the letter kills (2 Cor. 3:6). Rather they reveal to us who Christ is and what He has done. Moreover, when we come to the Scriptures with our heart turned to Lord (2 Cor. 3:16) and our spirit exercised to contact Him (John 4:24), we are infused by His Spirit  receiving the spirit and life embodied in His words (John 6:63).

One passage that has impressed me very much is Romans 10:5-8. Here the apostle Paul expounds Deuteronomy 30:12-14 by way of revelation. Moses’ concluding word to God’s people concerned the God’s law being near to them, in their mouth and in their heart, such that it was not necessary to go up to heaven to bring it near nor to go across the sea to bring it to them. However, when Paul expounded this word, he applied it to Christ. That is, we do not need to ascend to into heaven, that is to bring Christ down, referring to His incarnation. He already came down (John 6:33). Nor, do we need to descend into the abyss (the lower parts of the earth into which Christ descended after His death and from which He ascended in His resurrection) to bring Christ up from the dead. He has already been raised (Acts 2:24)! Then Paul repeats Moses by saying that the word is near you in your heart and in your mouth. In so doing he is  indicating that the word is interchangeable with Christ. The word in our mouth is actually the very Christ who has already been incarnated to declare God to us, crucified to redeem us and resurrected to become a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) and who is now in our mouth as both the Word and the Spirit. Hence, He is both the Spirit for us to touch and the Word for us to understand.

My Earnest Desire—to Contact the Living Word in the Written Word

It is now my earnest desire that whenever I contact the written word in the Bible, I would simultaneously contact this living Word, the resurrected Christ, turning my heart to the Him to behold His glory and to be transformed into His image by His Spirit (2 Cor. 3:16-18). May all of our contact with God’s word in the Bible be filled with such a spiritual seeing, beholding, and handling of Christ as the Word of Life  that we may enjoy true fellowship with Him (1 John 1:1, 3, 6)

Let us turn the verses in the Scripture into a living fellowship with the Lord by calling on His name, praying to Him, thanking Him, praising Him and singing to Him so that His words may dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16) and so that Christ may have the preeminence in our lives (1:18)!