This morning I didn’t know what to read or where to start, so I prayed, “Lord, what’s on your mind today? What’s on your heart today? I want your thoughts to be my thoughts. Show me what you want this morning.”
I then prayed for my friends Donna and Amanda, brave women enduring a lot and glorifying God while doing it. I then opened a devotional book and the day’s devo talked about unity with God and His will, not becoming double-minded with hidden motives or agendas.
Then I looked at a pamphlet that one of my favorite authors wrote, entitled, “Reading With Your Ears – How to Hear the Voice of God in the Bible.” It’s basically a study guide teaching how to read the Bible conversationally. He begins by saying,
“Have you ever stopped to think how amazing it is that God wants to talk to you? The creator of the universe, God Almighty himself, wants to talk to you! He loves you. He is concerned about every aspect of your life. He has something to say to you every day. And he wants to hear from you every day, too. As followers of Christ, we can all have conversations with God. We just need to learn how to listen.”
He goes on to talk about how to read the Bible conversationally, and encourages to read “for depth, not distance.” Find a passage, either by using a devotional, the material from Sunday’s sermon, or one you’re fond of, and read it. It shouldn’t be overly lengthy, nor – if you’re just starting out – difficult passages. (Difficult to understand, difficult to pronounce, difficult to read)
Read it once all the way through. Then read it again, stopping at anything that catches your attention. Read it emphasizing certain words, then read it again, emphasizing different words. Reading it aloud helps here.
Then let it seep in. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Colossians 3:16) Be a hot cup of water and let the Word be a tea bag. Let it steep and allows its color, flavor and aroma to saturate you. Ponder the meaning of words. Let the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts. Let your mind wander but be mindful of what you’re thinking about. If thoughts about today’s work or activities pop up, have a pad of paper handy to write those thoughts down and then come back to the Word.
I did that this morning, and went back to the calling of Matthew, the tax collector, in Matthew 9. I wrote about his encounter with Jesus yesterday, but just felt the passage might hold more for me. As I read the end of the scene, Jesus says in verse 13,
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
In my Bible, there’s a footnote after the sentence, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” and it refers me to another verse, Hosea 6:6 in the Old Testament. Jesus just said, “Go and learn what this means,” so I turned to the passage.
Hosea is a prophetic book that talks about the “adulterous” people of Israel, who walked away from the God of their forefathers, pursued other gods, or were just going through the week-after-week motions of their religious lives. They may have gone through their daily or weekly rituals, going to the synagogue, singing their songs, praying their prayers, and making their sacrifices, but their hearts weren’t in it. Sound familiar?
And then God speaks through the prophet and says:
O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you? asks the Lord.
For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight.
I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces – to slaughter you with my words,
with judgments as inescapable as light.
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
(Hosea 6:4-6, NLT)
The Message paraphrases verse 6:
I’m after love that lasts, not more religion.
I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings.
Today’s message to me: God wants me to know Him more. He wants to talk to me. He wants me to know His thoughts and His heart.
He wants to have a conversation. I need to (re)learn how to listen.