I have recommended three practices that have helped me to grow spiritually. They are silence, journaling, and holy reading. These three can be found in many books on the spiritual life. Today’s practice is more peculiar to me.
Some 20 years or so ago I began to see a spiritual adviser. It was a time when I was considering a change of vocation and/or denominational affiliation. It was recommended that I begin seeing Rev. Steve Holzholb. One thing he advised changed my life. He suggested that I not read quite as much scripture in my morning devotions. At that time I was reading an Old Testament passage, a Psalm, a New Testament passage, and a Gospel passage. He said, “LaMon I want you to read only in the Gospels for awhile and nothing else.” 20 years later, I simply cannot omit reading in the Gospels everyday I do my devotions.
As a Protestant Christian, I had interpreted Scripture and life largely through the writings of Paul. This is the normal Protestant pattern. Paul’s writings become the grid by which we understand everything else.
Following my adviser’s suggestion, I began reading a passage from the Gospels daily. It took months, but eventually, my grid changed. No longer did I see everything through the eyes of Paul, but instead through the eyes of Jesus. I interpreted Paul by way of Jesus and not visa versa. If I am a better person now that I was 20 years ago, one of the reasons is that I immersed myself in the Gospel stories and teachings of Jesus. I believe this Gospel reading has made me more compassionate, forgiving, and welcoming.
It can work for anyone. Simply determine that, except for some vocational necessity, e.g. teachers, preachers, etc., you will read only in the Gospels for awhile. Do not read whole chapters. Read shorter selections. Read slowly, listening for a word from God about which you might write and pray in your journal. As I said, I started doing it “for awhile” and continue to do it some 20 years later–though I do now add some other readings from time to time.
May Jesus himself be your teacher.
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2 thoughts on “A More Peculiar Practice”
Thanks, Lamon. I have done this more lately than before. Due to our Bapt upbringing that all Scripture is equally inspired, I’ve usually done a more generalized review of Scripture. I am spending more time in a Jewish interpretation of the Torah from Hebrew to English in order to get a deeper understanding of the didactic context of Jesus’ take on them.
In the end, though, despite the inculcation of “equal inspiration” by our well-intentioned pastors and SS teachers, Jesus’ teachings should be the lens through which we view ALL Scripture, including Paul’s work. It is this prophetic message that is the “green fuse that drives the flower” and we would likely have had less ecclesiastical and social acrimony since the 1st century had we done it all along.
Thanks Mike. I agree with your response. I did not say so in the blog, but I consider my theology to be Christocentric, so it should not be surprising that I would emphasize the Gospels. In fact, I don’t think I have ever put those two together as I did in that last sentence in this way before. Thinking on the run, I wouldn’t want to change what I wrote in the blog however, since “Christocentric” might dissuade my “Theocentric” friends from focusing such attention just on the Gospels. And, Jesus was largely Theocentric, so reading the Gospels would not necessitate a change of perspective in that regard.