Devotional Reading

One of the promises that Jesus made to his disciples before his return to his heavenly throne, was that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth (Jn 16:13).  The Spirit accomplishes this guidance into truth in several different ways, including devotional reading.  One proven method of devotional reading that has helped Christians down through the ages is a method called lectio divina.  It is a Latin phrase which means “holy reading” or “prayerful reading.”

Lectio divina works in the following manner:

  • Silencio – Prepare your heart to hear from God by slowing down. Get settled and quiet yourself before the Lord.  Push out the noise and hurry of life, and focus on God.
  • Lectio – Select a passage of Scripture and read it slowly and out loud.  Don’t read quickly. Slow down! Pretend God is speaking to you directly.
  • Meditatio – Read the passage two or three times, slowly. Let the words sink deep into your heart and mind. Think about what God is saying to you through these words. How do the meaning of the words apply to your life right now?
  • Oratio – Pray the passage. Enter into a conversation with God. Be honest and truthful with God about this passage changing your life. Respond from your heart. What is God asking you to do?
  • Contemplatio – Rest and relax and wait patiently in the presence of God for a response from God through the Holy Spirit that lives within you. Yield to the Spirit. Ask the Lord to continue to do his transforming work within you throughout the day as you continue to listen. End with a prayer of thanksgiving.

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(Adapted from: Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, by J.Scott Duvall & J. Daniel Hays, Zondervan Pub., 2012, pp. 231-232)

Bro. Scott

The Puritans

The Puritans were a fascinating group of Christians.  Persecuted in England by the established church because of their fervent desire to discard pompous liturgy, and to “get back to to the Bible” in worship and practice, they eventually migrated to the New World across the Atlantic.  In this new land called America they were free to practice their brand of Christianity without fear of persecution and death.  They were some of the first settlers of what was to eventually become the United States of America.

We used to learn of the Puritans in school, but the anti-Bible groups have purged our history books of these determined and pious people.  It is to our detriment that we have lost sight of these Christians. They were a hearty people in a harsh and hostile new land, but it was in this environment that they learned to trust in the Almighty Giver.  Their stories and their prayers give us deep insight into their character and their love and devotion to God and Christ.  These prayers are recorded for us in a marvelous book called The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett (Versa Press, 1975).  I would like to share with you below the first Puritan prayer of the book, and the one that gave the book its name.

LORD, HIGH AND HOLY, MEEK AND LOWLY,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

thy life in my death,

thy joy in my sorrow,

thy grace in my sin,

thy riches in my poverty,

thy glory in my valley.

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Bro. Scott

Monasticism Rules

In my current class our professor posed the following question concerning the Benedictine Rule – What are the key elements of Benedict’s monastic theology and practice and what monastic principles are relevant for modern evangelicals who are not monks?  The following is my response to that question:

I have to admit this “Rule” by Benedict was both a fascinating and a lugubrious reading. It was fascinating in that all the rules that were formulated in the Rule for the Benedictine monks had, for its motivation, the goal of becoming more Christ-like and putting to death the desires and lusts of the world. The key elements of the Rule required intense study, regimented lifestyles, the memorization and repetition of Scripture on a daily (if not hourly) basis, complete separation from the society in which they found themselves, hard industrious work, giving all one has to the poor, intense focusing of worship on God and Christ, submission to Christian leaders, celibacy, harsh discipline for those who were deemed violators of the code of conduct (or the Abbott’s wishes), responsibility – are all positive components of the life of a Christian who truly and sincerely wants to submit his life and will to Jesus Christ. It was also interesting to note that in the time of Benedict (c. 480-540) this was how the Christians of that day thought they could find a deeper, and more meaningful, walk with Christ. What was disheartening in this reading, however, was that three to four hundred years after the establishment of the primitive New Testament church, the Church had come to accept the underlying theological premise of the monastic life – i.e., in order to be pleasing to God one had to submit to this type of religiosity, which was a works-based religion. In Benedict’s Rule, it was difficult to find any mention of, or reference to, the concepts of salvation by faith, grace and mercy alone apart from any works, accomplishments, or the man-made, rules-based monastic lifestyle. Worship of God had been reduced to a cold ritualism.

However, many of the above-mentioned “rules” of monasticism (in principle) do offer moderns positive goals to strive for in their daily living because the Rule was based on Scripture text (even if many times taken out of context). The NT Scriptures are full of admonitions by the inspired writers for God’s people to put to death the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16; Col. 3:2,3), and to live our lives in total submission to God, Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit so that the world may see us and glorify Him (2 Cor. 9:13; Matt. 5:16). There are other positive things we can take away from the “Rule of Benedict”, such as the emphasis on the memorization of Scripture, to be in the world but not of the world, a positive work ethic, contributing to the needs of the poor, supporting the godly leaders of the body of believers that we associate with, as well as recognizing that we worship a holy and sovereign God who demands our all and our best, and we are not to be sidetracked by the false allurements of the sinful pleasures of this world.

— Bro. Scott

“It is a contest, this present life: if so , to fight is our business.  It is war and battle.  In war one does not seek to have rest, in war one does not seek to have dainty living, one is not anxious about riches, one’s care is not for a wife then,  One thing only he looks at, how he may overcome his foes.  Be this our care likewise.  If we overcome, and return with the victory, God will give us all things.  Let this alone be our study,, how we may overcome the devil.  Yet after all, though we study, it is God’s grace that does the whole business.”  — John Chrysostom, Homilies on Acts (c. 347 – 407)

The Dual Nature of Christ

“He was baptized as man – but he remitted sins as God….He was tempted as man, but he conquered as God….He hungered – but he fed thousands….He was wearied, but he is the rest of them that are weary and heavy-laden….He prays, but he hears our prayer.  He weeps, but he causes tears to cease.  He asks where Lazarus was laid, for he was man; but he raises Lazarus, for he was God.  He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver; but he redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the price was his own blood….As a sheep he is led to the slaughter, but he is the shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also.  As a lamb he is silent, yet he is the Word, and is proclaimed by the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He is bruised and wounded, but he heals every disease and infirmity….He dies, but gives life, and by his death destroys death.”

–Gregory of Nanzianzus (c. 329-390 AD)