I only remember enough of my high school Latin to give helpful hints while doing crossword puzzles, but today this phrase comes to mind: Caveat lector = Let the reader beware. While I don’t think there is anything dangerous* in these paragraphs, I want readers to understand that they are primarily for the Christian, the committed follower of Jesus.
For some time in Bible studies where I am the teacher or facilitator, I’ve emphasized two words: So what? Although all of us have learned how the three elements of think, feel, do should always be present in any lesson, how no subject should be taught without application, I’m afraid too often we give mental assent to application during the lesson itself, but allow it to remain within the walls of the classroom. That this happens is evidenced by how infrequently someone can describe the “point” of Sunday’s sermon on Thursday!
Especially for people well acquainted with the Bible, even those for whom Bible study and meditation is a daily practice, it’s easy to check off morning devotions or similar times as a fulfilled obligation. I believe asking ourselves the simple “so what?” question can become a valuable bridle to steer us into deeper thinking and ultimately more effective action.
Just mentally asking the question without some form of practice usually isn’t sufficient to produce the fruit of life change, however. Someone said, “Action without thought is impulsiveness; thought without action is procrastination.” For the Christian desiring to ever deepen the relationship with God, the word thought should be understood as reflect.
Biblical examples of this quickly come to mind. When Mary was confronted by the shepherds’ message that angels had appeared to them with news that the Messiah had been born, she pondered the words, she thought deeply, she reflected on their meaning. (Scripture doesn’t say she understood everything!) The psalmist writes, “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2).
I love the synonyms for ponder: contemplate, consider, review, reflect on, mull over, meditate on, muse on, deliberate about, cogitate on, dwell on, brood on, ruminate on, chew over, puzzle over, turn over in one’s mind! When was the last time you did any of that after reading the morning’s Bible portion or devotional paragraphs?
A man I greatly admire said once that when a word or phrase in his morning reading is highlighted by the Holy Spirit, he writes the words on a small card which he then tucks in his shirt pocket. Throughout the day, he pulls out the card and ponders the words. At the end of the day, he thanks God for the richness of the words and whatever their effect has had on him–and others–throughout that the hours.
This week Psalm 111 is the assignment for a group of us who regularly meet. This isn’t a study assignment but we rather read and re-read (ponder!) a psalm each week, seeking to answer the So what? question. My eyes stopped on a phrase in verse 10: …all who follow his precepts have good understanding… It was the word “follow” that caught my attention. My mental picture of following is somewhat passive, as in walking in the path of someone who is leading. But then I noticed that I’d written the word “practice” in the margin. Ah-h-h, practice has a bit more intentionality. To me it means to put a face on God’s precepts, to actually do something today that reflects one of those precepts.
To end my morning time with God, I coincidentally!! opened Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and read these words: …concentrate on staying in communication with Me…follow My guiding presence… My So what? question for today had been answered!
*On further reflection, perhaps there is something dangerous in these paragraphs! A re-reading of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters would suggest that the Enemy of our souls would prefer that we not take too seriously God’s revealed truth. Even Mark Twain said, “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.”