What did you read in the Bible yesterday or today? What did your pastor preach on last Sunday? I know, those are hard questions. It’s not that you weren’t paying attention but we all struggle to remember things we hear and even learn. We listen to sermons and read the Bible and often move on without doing something to help it “stick.”
My point in this post is straightforward. To improve how you reflect on (meditation) and respond to (application) the Bible, try writing out your own short summary of what you just read. Or on Sundays, do this with the sermon and text your pastor preached on.
I recently finished a four-week class on studying the Bible. With a four-week class we skimmed the surface and focused on learning some practical skills for doing an inductive Bible study, and then spent time trying it out. It’s always a fun class and really helpful. We all know we’re supposed to read the Bible but we often don’t know how.
One thing we talked about throughout the class is shifting our mindset from reading a lot of the Bible without thinking much about it, and instead, reading smaller portions but really chewing on it. While sometimes we might want to “read the Bible in a year” to cover lots of ground and see the whole story, most of us need to read the Bible in smaller portions and at a slower pace. The goal is to really understand, to be gripped by what we read, and to abide with Christ, not simply check off boxes and knock out books.
One simple practice is summarizing what you read in one or two sentences. I’ve found that summarizing my Bible reading in my own words helps with the following.
- It forces me to understand the passage enough to summarize its key points, and/or the main thing that stood out to me.
- This kind of summary gives me something small enough (but memorable) I can take with me, bring up in my thoughts later, meditate on, and try to apply. You can’t act on everything you read, but this gives you something to believe, think, or do.
- It leads to Bible-based prayer. It’s always good to pray in response to what we see in God’s Word, both because reading and praying is the back-and-forth dialogue (as God speaks to us through the Word and we speak back in prayer) and it seals truth in our heart. This summary gives us something to pray back to God, then and later.
- It provides something you could share. There will likely be some point in your day or week you’ll have the chance to speak encouragement or truth to someone or share what’s going on in your life (in your home, at work, with friends or family, small group, etc.). These little statements you’ve written down keep God’s Word fresh in your mind for the sake of sharing it with others.
Ask yourself, “How could I summarize this passage in a tweet?” This forces you to be clear and concise rather than writing a paragraph.
EXAMPLES FROM EXODUS
The last three days of I’ve been reading a chapter of Exodus a day (and a Psalm) as part of our Lent Reading Guide. Below are three examples of what I’ve written down as my short summary. You’ll notice that none of them are mind-blowing or beautifully crafted sentences (and they don’t need to be). I’ve also written them different ways to show there’s no right or wrong way to do the summary. It’s simply a tool to get you thinking and help you meditate on and respond to what you see in God’s Word.
1) God powerfully protects & preserves his people.
2) Fear God, not man.
3) God’s promises will always come to pass.
4) Real evil & enemies have and will war against God’s people.
5) Obeying God pays off in the end.
God HEARS our cries God SEES our struggles God KNOWS us and what we’re going through God REMEMBERS His promises and acts
Moses provides an example of how God providentially prepares his people for what he calls them to do, and God goes with them and accomplishes the mission in his power.