When I became a believer I loved reading scripture yet somehow missed the adventure of discipling an entire community. It never really crossed my mind that scripture reading and culture forming were connected. It was as though scripture was useful in developing piety but not in changing cities; essential for character formation, less so for city formation. I'm embarrassed to say that I used scripture to escape the story of culture. Somehow, the way I read scripture afforded the luxury of ignoring culture.
Whilst it violated the text, it was common practice among my peers.
Perhaps in reaction to this mindset some have re-interpreted scripture in efforts to relate to culture. Sadly, it has caused us to create a text in our own image. Sad because in the beginning humanity came to life through His breath and voice. It still does. When we dilute confidence in scripture it robs us of authentic encounter with the Father and causes us to lose our inheritance in culture.
However, we can't retreat to an introspective spirituality that reads scripture simply for increasing personal piety, neither can we embrace an active spirituality that imposes scripture upon society. We need an expansive spirituality that recognises the voice of God written over and rewriting culture. We need, more than ever, to hear the voice of God in scripture and the promises of God over culture. So here, in no particular order, are my current musings on the joy and importance of reading scripture.
We read scripture to steep our souls in the story of God.
The story of scripture is the story of presence (nearness reaching for us) and voice (revelation recreating us). Reading scripture trains us to recognise the presence and voice of our Father. We can never separate scripture from presence. Scripture confronts us with the presence and scripture IMMERSES us in the VOICE of God. Through the discipline of reading we learn that our voice is never first. As we read we are…
hearing the thoughts of our Father
learning the voice of our Father
allowing His voice to be formed in us
Somewhat surprisingly, we begin to hear His voice even when we're not reading Scripture. We pay attention to the story as it surrounds us in nature, as it unfolds in culture. We hear it in the grocery store, at the ocean, among our neighbours, in the quietness and busyness of life. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. Those who live under His voice have the privilege of unveiling the beauty and describing His story already active in our communities.
We read scripture to learn to speak the words of God after Him.
All scripture is God breathed. All Scripture welcomes us to the world of INSPIRED speech.
Inspired speech is the sign of the Spirit moving among and upon a people. Eventually His speech over us becomes His speech in us. Those immersed in the Spirit begin speaking words from the Spirit: story, poetry, prophecy, proclamation, teaching, revelation, song, tongues - all indicative of immersion in His voice. All representative of the new covenant.
‘“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.’ @ Isaiah 59:21
My words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips... His word on our lips, in our mouths. This is why scripture should be read aloud. In so doing, we become familiar with our voice speaking His words in every environment. As we read Scripture, we learn to speak like our Father, to speak His word after Him. The privilege of reading the text includes the responsibility of releasing the promise within its pages. Only as scripture is released are lives transformed.
We read Scripture to release culture.
Therefore, we read scripture not only for the purpose of sin avoidance but also to release kingdom abundance; not to escape culture but to release culture. We read to protect our heart (an excellent reason for bible reading) AND to unleash His heart; His expansive word in the world that - as Walter Brueggemann reminds us - realigns and redefines our world. In reading scripture to release culture, we expand our view of the voice of God over all things. First word in everything…
first word in Business, first word in Family, first word in University.
God has spoken and is speaking over culture; over every industry, every economy, every family, everybody. He has purposes for business, destinies for universities, promises over cities. And those who immerse themselves in His voice find their lives impressed with His hope. They enter communities armed with the understanding that God’s voice holds the key to the identity and destiny of that community. The declaration of divine design is all over our cities.
Our task is to humble ourselves to hear from heaven so we discern divine design for our neighbourhoods and nations. Our task is to recognise the story of God in the lives of men and call it to the surface...
to the one who is an addict
to the one who is abused
to the one who is abandoned
to the one who is lonely
to the one who is lost
speak His word…
reset the story…
drag the promise to the surface.
And then wait (actively contend) for it to flourish. Release the promises of heaven into the earth in a way that rewrites the story of our cities and the landscape of society. And do it all with a soul steeped in the living story of the living God.