The B.I.B.L.E . . .What is That?

Did you know that “Bible” simply means “book” in both Greek (Byblos) and Latin (Biblia)? It’s THE book. It is the best book in the world, and it’s also the best-selling book in the world. If you haven’t read it yet, then may I invite you to try reading just one chapter today? Granted, there are many passages in the Bible that are not easy to understand, but the Bible does come with the promise that it will speak to you if you listen. If you find the Bible puzzling or confusing, try this method of Bible meditation, which was recommended by my pastor this past Sunday in church:

  1. Pick a passage. Any passage. We were studying Isaiah 55 in church, which is so beautiful that I memorized it as a girl. That would be one good option. Or, you could just open your Bible and read whatever chapter comes up, or you could try one of the traditional “favorites,” such as Psalm 1, John 14, Romans 12, or 1 Corinthians 13.
  2. Sit down and pray before you start reading, asking God to speak to you through the passage. If you don’t believe in God, ask God to reveal himself to you if he is real . . . to give you a sense of his presence and his love for you. Listen for a still, small voice in your heart! Quiet yourself and clear your mind. If you are aware of any sin or rebellion in your heart against God—anything that makes you angry so that you really don’t even WANT to believe in God, even if he does exist—confess it to God. If you want to get to know God, you have to be “real” with him, too! Ask him to give you a desire to know him, to forgive you for any way in which you’ve been resisting him or deceiving yourself, and to cleanse your heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
  3. Read the passage thoughtfully, noticing anything that stands out to you. Is there anything at all that strikes you as true, or strange, or mysterious, or wise? Find something to “meditate” on . . . to chew on, like a cow chewing on her cud. Ponder its meaning.
  4. Think through how this passage or verse might apply to you today. Is there a good example to follow? A bad example to avoid? A bit of wisdom to remember? Something that might: impact a relationship? help with making a decision? prompt you to an action, change your direction in some area of your life? Find one nugget of thought to take away from your study, and ask God for the grace to allow this insight to impact your life in a positive way.
  5. Share what you’ve been thinking about with a friend. Also, this type of meditative study of the Bible can be done in community. You could read a passage with someone you love and work together on thinking through what the passage might mean. For many years, we were part of a small group that worked together, chapter by chapter, week by week, through many books in the Bible, doing just this! The more you study, the more you can test your thoughts against other passages from the Bible to make sure your thinking is clear and correct, good and true!
  6. Trust God to produce good spiritual fruit in your life from this practice. Meditation is like watering your soul. It might not change your life in a day, but it will change your life for good over time. That’s why it’s called “spiritual life” and “spiritual growth.” It’s not magic, but it’s even better! It’s transformation: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

The Bible, God’s Word, is alive in a way that no other book is. It’s a light to guide us, a sword to help us discern good and evil. It’s sweeter than honey, pure, and true. It’s like a hammer to convict us and help us change where we need it. Through studying the Bible, we find wisdom, understanding, and eternal life. If you’ve read it once or twice, don’t quit! I think I’m on about my 50+ time of meditating my way through its pages, and I keep finding new insights and understand more passages that seemed esoteric before. Become a life-long spiritual learner! If you want to get to know God, or know him better, there is no better way! Besides, the Bible comes with this guarantee: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Want success? Try meditating daily on the Bible for one month, and see if it doesn’t make a positive difference in your life.

(Just to get you started if you can’t think of a passage you want to read! Here is Isaiah 55.)

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.

Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Brain Research and Brain Dialysis

(By guest writer, Jane Anderson)

A few years ago, then President Obama approved $100M to start an initiative for study of the human brain. “There is this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked,” Obama says.  No doubt! I, too, have been fascinated by the way my brain works [or doesn’t]. In fact, I’m often baffled by how people think. And just so you don’t get the wrong impression, I fit into that classification of people with sensible thoughts one moment and totally illogical thoughts the next. Try mind mapping that!

I’m not slamming the research project. I understand the mission behind it, which according to the White House “aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.” I get that. However, there’s a much more significant brain research project available that’s 100% free and has eternal benefits, except it’s a do-it-youself project that no one else can do for you, and it starts with this observation: What we think actually affects the health (or illness) of our brain! In a very real way, we become what we think about. Every act started as a thought – in the brain. “Right thinking leads to right doing.” No amount of brain research is going to alter that truth.

There is a map in our brains, and all paths stem from the initial thought. To act right, thoughts must be right. But, how can we clean up our map of wrong thoughts and get on the path of right thinking? How often do we get onto a path of wrong thinking—worry, pessimism, negativity—and then wonder why we can’t shake the despair?

Have you ever wished there was such a thing as dialysis for the mind?  I sure have.  I have a friend who has dialysis on a regular basis. I have zero medical expertise, but I know that in that process her dirty blood is drawn through a machine that cleanses it and puts it back. It’s a fascinating process. In dialysis, man-made equipment and procedures perform the life-preserving act.

However, when it comes to our minds, it’s all up to us! We have to take responsibility for cleaning up our minds (although we can have access to the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us, of course).  Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This is the ultimate dialysis for our minds! Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold, but instead be transformed by renewing your mind. It’s not easy, but renewing our minds is the only way to think rightly.

It would be a phenomenal achievement if my brain could be mapped with all the right paths deeply embedded so I don’t fall off the track. It would be so much easier if I could hook my brain up to a machine and have the contents cleaned up and put back while I do nothing but wait. What are your thoughts on that? Well, don’t think too long because that’s not how it works. You know…free will and all. We have work to do in our minds, in our hearts, and in our acts.

If we get the inside right the rest will take care of itself.  How can we focus on the right things, so our acts will be right? We have some clues in the Bible.  2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Let me assure you, if our thoughts are obedient to Christ, the maps in our brains will lead to acts that follow Christ and are good.  1 Peter 1:13-16 from the Message translation reads this way: “So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, ‘I am holy; you be holy.'”

Maybe you have it all figured out, but I don’t! I’m still working on spiritual dialysis and mapping my mind to right actions, and I don’t think this research project will ever be finished until the Lord takes me to heaven one day!

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

(Image of the brain from Wikipedia.)