Be Thou My Vision, Session #1 - Filling Our Vision with Jesus by Being Women of the Word
If you were at the last women's breakfast you will have heard me share this verse. It is my hearts desire for us as women.
Psalm 144 is a Psalm of battle, or war. David is speaking. Verses one and two read: "Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge..." That sets the tone. Then we move down to verse 12: "May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, and our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace..." THIS is my desire for every woman in this room. I think we talk often about being strong. But it is in the context of relationship - to men or friends or students or government or our children. But when we really dig into the Word of God we see where that strength comes from and what it is in relation to. Turn to Psalm 1. Verses one through two: "Blessed is the man (woman!) who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers but his (her!) delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." This is where true strength is grown - in the delighting and meditating on the Word of God. And when we do that we will see what happens. See verse three. "He (She!) is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he (she) does, she prospers." This delighting and meditating produces a strength that yields fruit and does not wither and prospers. This is our desire. This what we are praying for this weekend. So - let's dig in!
It is NOT the story of us. Matt Chandler has one of my favorite quotes: "The Bible is about Jesus. It isn't about you. You're in there but your part is not attractive." So true. But we often choose to ignore this fact. We need to wrap our brains around the fast that this is the Word of God - Jesus (the Logos of John 1). We are called to know Him. To study Him. This book, the Bible, boldly and clearly reveals God on every page!
So many of us as Christ followers spend our time longing to be Christ like. Our goal is to be transformed into the image of God. Jen Wilkin says: "It has been said that we become what we behold. I believe there is nothing more transformative to our lives than beholding God in His Word. After all, how can we conform to the image of a God we have not beheld?" So often we spend our time in the Word beholding ourselves. Who am I? What should I do with my life? When we come to the Word with these two questions we are making the Word centrally about us and how we feel - not who God is. Our hearts and our emotions are important - but we need to use our brains to dig deep into this Word and study our God. Our hearts cannot love what our brains don't know. And in learning and love the Word we are transformed as Christ followers. We sometimes go through our day meditating on us in the Word. I want to encourage you to study GOD in the Word. It is how He reveals Himself.
Let's say I have a friend. I love her dearly. I talk about her all the time. But I never let her speak. Ever. Would I really know this friend? Would I know her heart? No! In order to speak on her behalf I would have to construct a whole identity for her - a context and personality and likes and dislikes. I could construct something - but it would likely be false. Do I do this with God? I can confess to love him. But, if I do not let Him speak for Himself and study what He has to say about Himself and His story, then I have to construct my own version of Him and His story. How awful would that be? To speak for the God of this universe? Especially when He has given me a beautiful resource in which He has revealed Himself. I must let God speak for Himself, reveal Himself.
And I can take joy in the words he uses to reveal Himself. Jeremiah15:16 says: "Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts."
Colossians 3:16 says to "let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly..." Psalm 119:2 "Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole hearts."
So... who are we seeking? Read Isaiah 6:1-5. Put yourself there in the temple with Isaiah. Be overwhelmed with God's glory. "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!' And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: 'Woes is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!'"
This is who we study.
[At this point I asked all the women to stand for reading of the next passage of God's Word. Often we lose sight of who our God is. Let's remind ourselves.]
Revelation 19:6-16 [And maybe I got pretty emotional when I read this out loud...]
"Then I hear what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure' for the linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, 'Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he said to me, 'These are the tru words of God.' Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, 'You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God,' For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothes in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." The Word of the Lord
Take a moment - since you are reading. Read it again!
Now - we are going to get practical. How are you doing studying the Word of God. Jen Wilkins in her book talks about some different ways we study. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- Letting the wind pick the passage! I actually did this last month while trying to decide what to speak on tonight! Not a good idea. Ever.
- "Xanax approach" - from Women of the Word - Using the Bible to address our issues. I am anxious I will read Philippians 4:6. I am tired so I will read Matthew 11. I am feeling ugly so I will read Psalm 139. Sure, there is a time for each of these readings... but this cannot be how we study continually. Remember, the Bible is the complete story of God - we are not the center.
- "Magic 8 Ball" - again from Women of the Word - I have questions. I have a problem. I need a yes or a no from Scripture. Then I find a passage about ME!
- Telephone Game - This is where we rely on what other people are learning in the Word. Other people read it, study it, digest it, and then feed us. Ms. Wilkin writes: "We're called to love the Lord our God with all of our mind, not John Piper's mind." Hilarious!
What ways have you studied the Word of God before? There are lots!
Let's look instead at four ways we can effectively study the Word of God. Four ways that will help us to be those strong women spoken of in Psalm 144.
Four Questions - From The Journey (St. Louis) and SOMA (Tacoma, WA)
- Who is God? When we study God’s word, we always want to start with God himself. Write in your journal what you see in the passage about God and his character.
- What had He done? God’s character is often expressed in his actions. What do we see God intending and doing in the passage? Write it down in your journal.
- Who are we? The Bible reveals the people were made in God’s image, and so our identity is rooted in and derived from who God is. We also learn that people have rebelled against God, and so we are identified that way too. Write in your journal what we learn about people as rebels against God, but even more importantly, write about what we learn about what people are made to be as image bearers of God.
- What are we to do? How does this passage call us to trust God to empower us to change in response to who he has created us to be and to how he is changing us into the image of Jesus? Write it down in your journal. Note: some Christians would call this the “application”, but because it is rooted in God’s character and actions first and foremost, rather than in our morality or self-righteousness, we try to avoid that word and it’s Christian sub-cultural implications.
Choose a section of Scripture. Begin broadly by getting an overview of the book you have chosen. Read your passage carefully and repeatedly. Understand the context of the chapter then narrow your focus to the paragraph you have chosen. Within that paragraph focus on one verse, then possibly even one phrase or word that peaks your interest and speaks to you. Consider using Bible dictionaries and commentaries to expand your understanding of the passage. Often it is helpful to spend days or even weeks in the same chapter to delve into the meanings of words and phrases within the context of your chosen paragraph, chapter and book. Always being mindful of what God is revealing about himself and how the passage fits into the overall story arc of Scripture.
- ROAD - From the Journey (St. Louis)There are many different methods for reading the Bible. This one is fairly simple: It’s called R.O.A.D. journaling. The acronym R.O.A.D. contains the directions. We encourage you to actually write down your thoughts (ie journaling) if you use this method. Here’s the meaning of the acrony
- R (Read) Pray for understanding, then read through the text slowly and deliberately. If you have time, read the text twice.
- O (Observe) Observe the details of the text and try to understand what the author is saying. For example, pay attention to things like: facts (Who? What? When? Where? Why?), repetition, contrast, cause and effect, definitions, explanations, questions, quotations, commands, prohibitions, warnings, promises, etc.
- A (Apply) Answer two questions: What do I hear God saying in this text? What am I going to do about it?
- D (Depend) Pray for continued understanding, trust, and obedience. Ask God’s Spirit to help you apply these truths to your life right now. As the Spirit leads, feel free to praise God, confess and repent of sin, embrace God’s grace, etc.
- The Five P’s from Women of the Word by Jen WilkinStudy with PURPOSE
Study with PERSPECTIVE
- Understand where your text fits into the Big Story of creation-fall-redemption-restoration
Study with PATIENCE
- Understand the “archeology” of your text (its historical and cultural context)
Study with PROCESS
- Resolve not to hurry; set a realistic expectation for your pace of study, focusing on the long term
Study with PRAYER
- Begin methodically reading for comprehension, interpretation, and application
- Ask the Father to help you before, during, and after your study time
Now, in closing let's read Ephesians 3:14-20 This is my prayer for us. This is how we become strong women!
For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. The Word of the Lord