Before You Read, Pray: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving transforms how you do what you do.

It’s a refocusing on what you have rather than what you have not. It’s the hinge on which your perspective turns, even when your circumstances don’t change. It’s the renewal of joy in the midst of the mundane. Thanksgiving changes us, and therefore affects everything we do.

This is why it’s so important for us to approach our time in God’s Word, first, with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving makes the daily discipline of studying God’s Word, a joyful journey, and as Christians, our thankfulness begins with Christ.

In regards to reading God’s Word, here are two ways we ought to give thanks to God for Jesus Christ:

1) We give thanks because Christ gives us a true understanding of God’s Word

When the Word of God, Christ Jesus put on flesh and stepped into human history, he brought fuller knowledge of God to man.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son, from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:1,14,18).

Jesus Christ was God dwelling in man. He was the Word, the full communication of the Divine to his creation. Christ is the only way man can develop true theology because, as the God-Man, Christ makes the knowledge of God to man, possible.

To quote Puritan Edward Reynolds, Christ is the, “sum and centre of all divinely revealed truth.” We understand God’s written word by knowing the eternal Word, Jesus Christ.

This leads to the next reason we ought to thank God for Jesus before we read our Bibles.

2) We give thanks because Christ won us the riches of God’s Word

The blood of Jesus Christ has won every blessing offered to God’s children in his Word. Christ has paid for everything precious from the hand of God.

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why through him we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:20-22).

Notice Paul’s words here. All the promises of God find their Yes in Christ. Also, It is God who establishes his children with Christ, that is, he predestined to save his children by the blood of his Son. God has anointed us. He has placed his seal on us by the Holy Spirit, who gives us the faith to believe in Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection. Because of the seal of the Holy Spirit, the promises of Scripture are guaranteed to us in Christ Jesus. There isn’t a single trace of human effort in attaining God’s promises. We only receive them by grace.   

Do you see what God has done for us? He initiated our blessings, sent Christ to achieve our blessings for us, and gave us the Holy Spirit to guarantee our blessings through faith. God has established his blessings for us in his Word, and his Word is explicitly clear that those blessings are only received in Christ.  

To summarize these two points, no one can fruitfully read God’s Word apart from having a saving relationship with Jesus. Only Christ provides believers with growing depths of understanding as the Centerpiece and the Treasure of God’s Word. Everyday, before you read the Scriptures, spend time thanking God for Christ and journey through his Word with rejoicing. 

-James

Before You Read, Pray

Every morning I’m reminded of how human I am.

While caught in a deep sleep my phone alarm stirs me awake before the sun rises. Still tired, I hit the snooze button to catch an extra five minutes of rest, hoping that somehow five more minutes will give me a burst of energy the next time the alarm goes off.

Never works.

Eventually I wake up, and am then pressed to find which gymnastics move I’ll attempt to get off the bed without waking up my wife. After sticking the dismount (about 6 times out of 10) I sneak into the kitchen and pour some store brand coffee into our Mr. Coffee machine. While the coffee is brewing I head to the bathroom to brush my teeth because morning breath and coffee breath make for an unpleasant combination. Then I head back to the kitchen, and pour my coffee into one of the mugs that, for some reason, won my affections that day.

And then, finally, I sit down at the kitchen table.

This is what a typical morning looks like for me. There is nothing mystical, or riveting happening here. Every act is natural and routine.

However, there comes a moment in every morning where I consciously kill my “daily routine” mindset, while still being in my daily routine.

I do this when I take out my Bible.

Every time I open up the Scriptures I make the conscious effort to stop for a moment and pray.

I do this because reading Scripture is not merely a natural act. It is a natural act infused with the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit who gave me eyes to see Christ Jesus as my beautiful and wonderful Savior, is the same Spirit who gives me eyes to see the beauty and wonder of God’s Word. He is the Helper whom Christ promised to teach his disciples truth.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13a) 

He is the one who graciously unfolds God’s Word to give light and understanding to men. (Psalm 119:130)

No follower of Christ can understand God’s Word correctly unless the Holy Spirit unfolds its truth. Therefore, if we don’t approach Scripture prayerfully, we read it pridefully.

This isn’t to say that the Spirit hasn’t been merciful to help us understand God’s Word when we’ve failed to pray beforehand, but we can’t expect his help if we don’t ask for it. On the other hand, we can expect his help when we do sincerely ask for it.

For me, knowing that the Holy Spirit is at my aid makes each new morning an exciting and confident journey through the Scriptures. This excitement makes my time in God’s Word worshipful, which is the highest end of all that we do as Christians.  

If you haven’t been praying for the Holy Spirit to help you understand God’s Word, thank God for how gracious he has been to teach you despite your lack of prayerfulness, repent and acknowledge your need for him.

No matter how natural and routine your day begins before reading God’s Word, the moment you sit down to read your Bible is the beginning of a new supernatural communion with God each and every day. Leave a note on your Bible, on the table or in your phone. Just remember, before you read, pray.

-James