A Seat at the Table

You know the scene — that tumultuous environment known as the high school cafeteria.

You know the feeling of walking in to such a setting, lunch in hand, scouring the room for a place to sit.

Am I allowed to sit at that table?

What would people think if I sat there?

I can’t sit with them; they’re not my crowd.

And many of us know the feeling from the other side — the person sitting at the table, monitoring the movements of the hopeful seat hunters.

Are they going to sit here?

What would people think if they sat with us?

They aren’t one of us, I hope they don’t try it.

We call them “cliques” in high school. At that stage of life, we’re identified by what we do and who we spend time with; by the sports we play or don’t; by the grades we get (or don’t); and by our general attitude toward this building we’re required to be in.

Honestly, it’s easier to eat lunch with people who do the same things we do. It’s fun to talk about music with other people who like it. There’s camaraderie in clowning around with the other guys on the football team. And it’s motivating to sit alongside students with the same goals of getting into a good college like we want to.

The problems come when we see anyone outside this circle — anyone not at this table — as “them,” and anyone inside it — anyone sitting at the table — as “us.”

And that isn’t just a high school problem.

As college students, and young adults, and married couples, and parents, and voters, and sports fans, and co-workers, it’s common to fall into the “them” and “us” way of thinking.

Honestly, we don’t need to talk about whether this is right or wrong.

We know.

Deep down we know it’s a shallow view of life to only commune with those who look like us, or act like us, or think like us.

But, we also know it’s comfortable.

It feels good to be affirmed, to be heard, to be able to say what we really think.

And the truth is, we also know being around like-minded people holds some value.

It is a valuable thing to be able to gather with people who will listen to us, understand where we’re coming from, and who can offer specific, tailored counsel to our situation and circumstance.

So, what do we do?

Do we sit at the lunchroom table with only “our” people?

Or do we allow others who might upset the established vibe to join us?

In the Bible, we see Jesus navigate this issue with beautiful balance.

Jesus, throughout his ministry, has his guys — the disciples — with him wherever he goes. He spends a lot of time with them. In the book of Acts we come to understand that these men are leaders he’s raising up to lead the church in its infancy, but they’re also just his buddies. He eats with them, teaches them, travels with them, and works alongside them.

But, Jesus’ purpose isn’t solely focused on these men. He has other things he’s trying to accomplish as well.

We see him go out of his way to speak with the woman at the well (John 4:1-42), and stay at Zacchaeus the chief tax collector’s house (Luke 19:1-10), and heal the sick like the paralyzed man (Luke 5:17-26) or the woman with the issue of bleeding (Mark 5:24-34), and love the hurting like Jairus the ruler of the synagogue and his daughter (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43) and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (John 11:1-44).

These aren’t the people it would have been most advantageous for Jesus to be around. These were the outsiders and outcasts, the broken and the beaten-down, the desperate and the dying.

If this were the high school cafeteria, Jesus would have been working to push all the tables together, including — and maybe especially — the ones where no one else wanted to be.

Jesus made room at his table.

Just like he made room for you.

This is the beauty of the Gospel, that Jesus would invite us in, that he would offer us a place in his father’s family, by doing for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves — despite our differences and despite our disobedience.

But it doesn’t end there.

Jesus not only invites us in to salvation and grace, but he then invites us into his mission of extending that same offer to everyone in the world.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

– Matthew 28:19-20

At Clear Creek Community Church, we say we want to reach every man, woman, and child, in our geography with the gospel, and that our mission is to lead unchurched people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

There are a lot of people in this cafeteria we call the 4B Area. There are many different cliques, a variety of people groups and social statuses, and a wealth of diversity. But if we want to live out the mission of not only our church, but of Jesus, then we must be willing to do the uncomfortable, the unconventional, and maybe even the “uncool” — to ask people who don’t normally sit with us to take a seat.

Is there room at your table?


 

Blessed Are the Meek

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

— Matthew 5:5

Meekness isn’t the most valuable virtue in our day and age. In fact, we often struggle to see it as a virtue at all. Even in those who are expected to be obedient to authority – children and employees – no one is likely to list meekness as one of their strengths in a job interview. Few of us pray for children who would be described as meek. Even those who might recognize a natural bent toward compliance or quietness often strive to cast off those characteristics and assert themselves more. I’ve never seen any high school label a graduate with a “Most Likely to be Meek” award.

Meekness in our culture carries a connotation of a doormat: a person characterized by fear and timidity, noticed only for being unworthy of notice. We may picture a mouselike personality who avoids conflict at any cost or never speaks up.

So, is this what Jesus is praising in the third Beatitude?

Is he hopelessly behind the times, a throwback to when children (and women) were to be seen but not heard? Or do we need to change our modern mindset and aim for doormat status, never speaking up or standing out?

Often, when we struggle to make sense of Scripture, it’s not due to a lack of clarity in the passage itself, but rather the cloudiness of the lens though which we’re examining it. In the third beatitude, we have to make sure we’re understanding Jesus’ words with his definitions rather than those of our culture.

The word translated meek in the ESV can also be translated gentle.

Honestly, gentle doesn’t feel much better. It’s certainly a very gendered word in our culture. Even when we use the word gentleman, we tend to mean something more like cultured or well-mannered. It’s okay for our daughters to be gentle, but most of us wouldn’t be excited for a football coach to describe our son that way.

But, I think we can get a little help seeing what Jesus intends in the third Beatitude from the idea of gentleness.

It’s a little easier for us to imagine an offensive lineman gently cradling his newborn, or a well-trained Clydesdale stepping gently around a corral with a young novice rider clinging to his mane. There’s a note there of strength, rather than weakness. It’s not that the gentle man is incapable of asserting his power, but that he chooses to restrain himself to safeguard or support another.

If you continue reading the book of Matthew after the Beatitudes, you see the author frequently portraying Jesus as the demonstration of each of these blessed traits, often even using the same word.

Gentleness is no exception:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

— Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and earth. He holds the power of the earthquake and thunderstorm in his hands. He is the King of Kings who will come at the end of days to judge the earth and conquer his enemies.

And yet, he tells us that his heart is gentle and lowly.

Jesus has restrained his strength for the good of another. He is patient and tender toward his children. He recognizes our struggles without disappointment. He is with us in our failures without disgust. His meekness is not weakness, but a gentle lovingkindness on our behalf.

If we begin to see meekness through Jesus’ lens, we will also begin to see opportunities to emulate him. Meekness is not a lack of assertion, but assertion used to provide for the needy. Meekness is not a fear of speaking up, but a boldness to speak on behalf of the widow and the orphan. Meekness is not an avoidance of conflict, but a choice to fight for the sake of the powerless. Meekness is humbly seeking the glory of God and the good of others.

Jesus says that the meek will inherit the earth, which can feel exceptionally false in our day and age, just as the idea of praising meekness at all feels farfetched in our culture. Look around you: it’s not the meek who are “winning.” Our culture fundamentally rewards arrogance, aggressiveness, and self-assertion.

But we must remember that godly inheritance is always a future promise. It’s not a gift given in the moment, but an intentional laying-aside for a time to come. And it’s coming is sure.

Our gentle and lowly Lord will come on the clouds to inherit the earth, and those who follow him in meekness will reign eternally with him.

May we spend our strength in a sacrifice of selflessness today.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

— Philippians 4:5 (NIV)

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

If you’re like me, reading through the Beatitudes can feel like a lesson in failure, none more so than when Jesus proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” (Matthew 5:8).

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

– Matthew 5:8

The greatest desire of my heart is to see God, but this same heart that so desires God, well, to say it isn’t pure is an understatement. Pure means clean, without blemish, perfect.

My heart, the innermost part of who I am, is anything but pure.

Jesus is consistently concerned, not with outward appearances, but with the condition of our hearts. A few chapters later, Jesus reminds us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In my life, the true condition of my heart is usually exposed first thing in the morning. My kids are late, there are 100 things to do, and my mouth quickly reveals my heart to my family and myself.

It’s not always pretty, and it certainly isn’t pure. And even when I am doing things right, the motivations of my heart are so often wrong. I give because I want to receive, I serve because I want recognition, or I take care of my kids and still resent their demands.

My heart is just not pure.

John reminds us of the vast difference between Jesus and the rest of mankind, “This is the message we have heard from him [Jesus] and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth,” (1 John 1:5-6). 

There is no darkness, no blemish, no sin in God at all. He’s perfect, but we are not. He’s pure. We are impure.

So how, then, can we ever “see God” like Jesus said the pure of heart would?

But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

– 1 John 1:7-9

Faith in Jesus leads to a pure heart that can see God. We see God, truly and only, in Christ.

The Sermon on the Mount was taught at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and announced the inauguration of the kingdom of God. This message, which includes the Beatitudes, wasn’t meant to tell everyone what their lives look like. Instead, Jesus was proclaiming what they can and will look like in his coming kingdom—if they follow the king.

I don’t know about you, but I make a lousy king.

My heart isn’t pure.

I am fearful when I should have faith.

I am selfish when I should sacrifice.

I lament when I should worship and laugh when I should mourn.

I just get it all wrong, most of the time.

But Jesus, our king — the true king — is the only one with a pure, unblemished heart. Jesus, who not only sees God, but is God himself, makes us pure through his atoning sacrifice and his living presence.

When we trust in him, we are declared pure in Christ, and we are also assured of seeing God one day.

Jesus’ promised kingdom, described in the Beatitudes, will one day be perfectly consummated. Jesus will return, and our hearts — unbelievable as it seems — will be cleansed forever and we will spend eternity in his presence.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

– 1 John 3:2-3

For disciples of Jesus, the Beatitudes shouldn’t be a list that leads to condemnation but, instead, a list that leads to hope in the eternal promises of God and the blessed life under the reign of Jesus.

Understanding our failings draw us to the feet of Jesus. Only there are we made new, whole, and pure. And only then can we see God.

108: Living in an Age of Outrage

During the series Salty: Sticking Out for the Right Reasons, we’re discussing questions related to each message on our podcast. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen, Bruce Wesley, and Greg Poore discuss the questions: Why do people have such a difficult time having constructive relationships with people who think and behave differently than they do? And how should Christians live in an age of tribalism and outrage?

Resources:

Love the Other – Fight Tribalism (sermon)

Blessed Are the Merciful

When my daughter received a donut-shaped palette of lip gloss for her seventh birthday, she squealed with such excitement that I questioned why I’ve ever spent money on Disney World tickets. For two dollars and fifty cents, she was thrilled.

It’s understandable then why my shoulder caught her heartbroken tears a few hours later after her younger sister destroyed her beloved gift.

I prompted my youngest daughter to reconcile with her sister by looking her in the eye, admitting her fault without excuse, and asking for forgiveness. But on this particular day, extending mercy had no appeal whatsoever for my tender-hearted seven-year-old.

“I don’t want to forgive her, Mom! She should lose something that’s special to her, too!” she continued to sob.

I’ve felt that.

In fact, I’m a lot more like my daughter than I’d want you to know. When my well-being is my sole concern, I can get so focused on my own cheap sense of justice that I forfeit the gift to my own soul that extending mercy offers.

Maybe that’s what Jesus hoped we’d experience when he taught about mercy in the “Sermon on the Mount.” To show his audience — full of followers and foe alike — what the kingdom of heaven is like, Jesus inverted everything they thought they knew starting with a list of qualities among the “blessed.” This list that praised the poor in spirit, the mourning, and the meek, would have been purposely polarizing to an audience of elites and outcasts.

In Matthew 5:11, mercy makes that list:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

“Blessed are the merciful…”

Mercy takes place where forgiveness and kindness collide. At least that’s how it’s felt to me as I’ve been on mercy’s receiving end.

I feel the effect of mercy when my sin hurts people I love but they still meet me with forgiveness, or when my needs are met by the kind help of others. In both circumstances, the givers of mercy fit Jesus’ description of the merciful: they are “blessed.” The blessed experience joy in the company of God because they have responded to Christ.

Joy and mercy are connected cyclically in the gospel: the joy that the merciful have in their relationship with Christ fuels their generosity, and their generosity deepens the joy they find in Christ. Mercy is as great of a gift to the giver as it is the receiver.

“…For they will receive mercy.”

Left to my natural sin-skewed view, mercy can appear weak. If I equate it to withholding consequences, I’ll scoff at the perceived lack of justice. But actually, it requires great strength.

Jesus highlights the juxtaposition of mercy by setting our assumptions about it against how it actually works; it’s not weakness, it’s strength. It’s not one-sided, it’s an exchange.

On the cross, forgiveness and kindness collided in the ultimate act of mercy. Jesus willingly died on our behalf to pay the penalty of our sin. He was merciful so that we might receive mercy, and because of his surrender and sacrifice, we get to experience joy in the company of God forever!

In the meantime, we have the opportunity to respond to Jesus’ gift of mercy by extending it to one another. And, although, it can be difficult for us we don’t have to do it alone! The gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to emulate Christ like we never could on our own.

Perhaps as we do, we’ll get a small taste of the upside-down kingdom Jesus taught about and find that extending mercy is as much a gift to ourselves as those to whom we give it.

Where is God calling you to offer mercy today?


 

Blessed Are You Who Are Poor

A major theme found throughout the Bible is God’s concern for the poor and his anger at the rich’s complicity in their oppression and abuse. We see this concern in the laws of Moses (see Leviticus), in the prophets (see Amos), and directly from Jesus in the Gospels.

The simple fact is that wealth can really mess people up.

Multiple studies have shown that those who see themselves as more wealthy or powerful than the average person behave in ways that show a lack of concern or even (in the worst cases) malevolence toward those who are poorer or less powerful than they are. The Bible’s concern for protecting the poor from the rich is merited!

In Luke 6:17-49 Jesus expounds on what it looks like to live in the kingdom of God. In Luke 6:20 Jesus begins this teaching by saying, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” This statement comes at the beginning of what is traditionally called “the beatitudes,” a list of blessings Jesus proclaims over those who are poor, those who are hungry, those who weep, and those who are hated because they follow Jesus.

In Luke’s presentation of the beatitudes, Jesus also proclaims a series of corresponding “woes,” saying, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation, woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep,” (Luke 6:24-26).

What is Jesus trying to tell us?

The real issue at hand is not about having wealth. Some of Jesus’ followers certainly had wealth, and some of them were so wealthy they were able to financially support Jesus and his ministry.

It seems the issue has more to do with desiring wealth, or worse, loving wealth (see Paul’s discussion of wealth in 1 Timothy 6). Desiring and loving wealth are bright red, flashing danger signs warning that wealth has become an idol. Jesus’ warnings to the wealthy come from a place of concern and love. He is showing us that idols enslave. Through idolatry, both God and neighbor are forgotten, and even despised. We cannot serve and love God while serving and loving an idol. We cannot not serve and love God while neglecting our neighbor.

Thankfully, Jesus offers hope to those trapped in idolatry.

Luke 18 records a conversation between Jesus and a “rich ruler.” At the end of this conversation, the rich ruler goes away sad, and Jesus makes the comment, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Those nearby asked Jesus, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”

For those who have let the idolatry of wealth creep into their hearts, or any other idol for that matter, the sacrifice, humility, and love of Jesus not only saves us from the punishment we deserve but transforms us into a people who look more like Jesus himself. Through his Spirit we are able to love and live as God calls us – as a citizen of his kingdom, no matter where we started.

One of the ways we can show our residency in the kingdom of God is through being generous. This was Jesus’ advice to the rich ruler. Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor.

For Christians today, generosity is a spiritual discipline that keeps us from becoming attached to our wealth and ensures we do not neglect the poor. Generosity as spiritual discipline is part of God’s work of sanctification in our lives.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

— 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Go and be generous!


 

Those Who Mourn

Take a moment to think about the struggles of these different people.

A single mom. She is working, raising kids, keeping up with the bills and the chores, and continually racing against the school schedule. The grind never stops. It is all day every day — and it is unrelentingly hard.

A woman caring both for her aging mom and her invalid husband. She has to keep working to provide what she can. She has to do all the household chores, monitor and administer medications, manage visiting care takers, and juggle continual trips to doctor’s offices. It is all day every day — and it is unrelentingly hard.

A dad regularly stopping by to visit the gravesite of his child. He has a wound in his heart that will never heal. He thinks about all the games that weren’t played, the graduations that didn’t happen, the weddings he didn’t celebrate, and the grandchildren he will never hold. His pain aches within him all day every day — and it is unrelentingly hard.

Matthew 5 tells us Jesus sat down on the side of a hill, and when his disciples gathered around, began to teach them. Jesus began with nine statements that describe the values of the Kingdom of Heaven now known as the “Beatitudes.” Jesus started with the Beatitudes because they set the tone for everything he was going to say about how radically different life the Kingdom of Heaven is from the conventional thinking of society. In fact, the values of the Kingdom of Heaven are the reverse of worldly values.

The second Beatitude Jesus taught was:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

— Matthew 5:4

It’s worth a lot to the people described above, and to us, to understand what Jesus meant.

But, a couple things need to be pointed out right away, so we don’t go awry in our interpretation.

First, Jesus does not only say, “Blessed are those who mourn.” There is nothing inherently good about mourning. The one who mourns is enduring an overwhelming and wretched situation. Mourning is not the destination God has in mind for his beloved children.

The second thing we need to understand is what Jesus means when he says, “blessed.” A common interpretation of “blessed” is “happy,” but that isn’t to say a person who is mourning feels happy. That doesn’t make sense. The word means “happy” in the sense of “fortunate” or “to be congratulated” or even as we might say, “it’s all good.”  Jesus is teaching they are “blessed” in the sense that mourning is not all there is for them — God is going to bring comfort to them. God is not going to abandon them to the wretched situation they are enduring without bringing to bear the promise of the gospel.

You could rewrite this Beatitude to say, “God’s people who are disadvantaged and struggling will enter better times ahead.” For those who believe in God, the unavoidable mourning in this life is not all there is. So, while the world views God’s downtrodden people as losers and wimps and prudes, in the Kingdom of God they will know victory and vindication. God will comfort them, give them an eternal inheritance, and set right the wrongs that produce mourning in this life.

Theologian Bruce Waltke provides a helpful definition of “wisdom” within the Kingdom of God. To be wise is to live life knowing that true life is life that is undiminished by death.”

Understanding this biblical wisdom helps us understand why followers of Jesus stand out in our culture. The world measures success and happiness based on the now. That’s what it means to be secular — life and even God’s goodness are measured by my satisfaction with my current situation. So, in the world, mourning is an unwelcome and unexpected experience, and when an immediate resolution can’t be found people descend into bitterness and despair.

Followers of Jesus stand out against the culture because they trust God will keep his promises. They can wait, endure, and trust God even through the worst situations and seasons without despairing or disobeying God because they believe what Jesus teaches in this Beatitude.

“Blessed are those who endure mourning with faith and obedience in God, because God will comfort them.” Wise people live through the worst of this life knowing there is better to come, because Jesus has come.

None if this is to say that people who trust Jesus are unscathed by seasons of mourning. God does not expect his children to act like it doesn’t hurt. Mourning tries and tires our hearts, and tests our faith. But Jesus teaches that in the Kingdom of Heaven “blessed” – fortunate, grateful, happy – are those who mourn, because God will bring our mourning to an end.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 

— Revelation 21:3-5


 

104: Should Christians Confront Sin in the World?

During the series Salty: Sticking Out for the Right Reasons, we’re discussing questions related to each message on our podcast. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen, Yancey Arrington, and Aaron Lutz discuss these questions:

Do Americans in general feel more positively or negatively about Christianity? If so, why is that the case?

Is it a Christian’s role to call out sin in our cultural?

Also, new for this series, you can watch the video of our podcast converation on our YouTube channel.

Resources:

Sticking Out For the Right Reasons (sermon)

To learn more about Clear Creek Community Church, visit clearcreek.org

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Reading the Bible Together

“I had tried to read the Bible on my own… but once I was in the group doing it together there was a lot more accountability.

Each week different perspectives come in to play, too. There’s lots of different views and points of view in our small group, which is awesome because then you hear other people’s interpretations on things.”

Reading the Bible: A Feast for the Soul

How would you describe the way you read the Bible?

Do you read devotionally? Maybe you read most mornings as a spiritual practice, reading for inspiration, encouragement, and to feel closer to God.

Do you read to study? Maybe you like finding commentaries written by popular Bible teachers or scholars, puzzling through questions the text presents, and finding joy in the intellectual stimulation.

Or maybe you lead a small group and you primarily read the Bible “homiletically,” or for the purpose of teaching or proclaiming Scripture and its relevance for a person’s life.

Each of these ways of reading Scripture are helpful, and we will likely read in all these ways at different times. But, the Bible asks us to go further in how we read.

Psalm 1:2, painting a picture of the model reader says, “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of the scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on this they meditate day and night.” This entire chapter describes the model reader as one who meditates on the Bible for the purpose of living in obedience to God.

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of the scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on this they meditate day and night.

– Psalm 1:2

The Hebrew word our English Bibles translate as “meditate” is hagah. In Psalm 1:2 the use of this word conveys the idea of a wild animal, with intense focus, gnawing, chewing, tearing at, and eating its prey. This is not an emptying of one’s mind as some meditative techniques encourage, but instead a filling of one’s mind and heart with the words of God.

Eugene Peterson’s preferred metaphor for reading Scripture comes from Revelation 10:9, where an angel tells John, the writer of Revelation, to “eat this book.” Peterson writes that the phrase “eat this book” focuses attention on reading Scripture “in such a way that the Holy Spirit uses it to form Christ in us.” The focus of reading meditatively is not on knowing more, but becoming more. Reading meditatively is about seeking to live out and participate in the story the Bible is unfolding before us, to learn how to participate in the story of God through prayer, obedience, and love.

In his book, Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson offers an approach for reading Scripture meditatively. First, read the Bible. Read for devotion, study, or for teaching, but don’t stop there. Also meditate on the Bible. Choose a passage to sit with for at least a week, then ponder it, chew on it, wonder what it is saying about how God is asking you to live. Find Christ in the passage.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that while reading meditatively we should, “not look for new thoughts and interconnections in the text as you would in a sermon. Do not ask how you should tell it to others, but ask what it tells you. Then ponder this word in your heart at length, until it is entirely within you and has taken possession of you.”

After reading and meditating comes prayer. Prayer should progress out of our meditation on Scripture. But this is not simply reciting the words of Scripture. This is spending time praying through and elaborating on each verse.

For example, if you were praying through the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6, beginning with the first line (“Our Father in Heaven”), you might focus on the good Fatherhood of God. A parent might pray that the parenting of their children reflects more closely the perfect parenting of God. Praying through the third line of the Lord’s Prayer (“Your Kingdom come”), one may pray for the full consummation of God’s Kingdom on earth, when all will be right with the world, where God will wipe away every tear, where death will be no more, where there will be no more mourning, or crying, or pain.

Praying through Scripture in this way focuses a person’s heart on how he or she should live. Which brings us to Peterson’s fourth step in reading Scripture meditatively: living Scripture.

After reading, meditating on, and praying through Scripture, we may put our Bible back on our desk or shelf, but it should still be held in our mind and heart. In this way, when we leave our homes to go out into the world, we bring Scripture with us and enact Scripture in the world, blessing those we meet and participating in God’s Story through our love of neighbor and our love of God.

In this way reading becomes a banquet for ourselves and others.

So, go and eat!