My basic devotional practice is to read a portion of scripture and then write my response to the Word in a journal. What I right may be a summation of the chapter or section I have just read. Or, I may right some theological conclusions I draw based upon the reading. Or, I may write something very confessional, very personal, as God's word awakens in me a consciousness and awareness of my own spiritual walk. No matter what I write, is stems forth from my reading of scripture. I am at my best when I do this every day. I am letting life get too hectic when this simple practice is neglected and I only get to it once or twice in a 2-3 week span.
What would I do without the word? Would I miss the Bible if I was never able to read it? Obviously as a pastor, I have to read, interpret, teach, and preach the Bible every week. But, on the personal level, would I miss it if I didn't have it?
The first century Christ-follower John was taken into a vision to Heaven where he went into the throne room of God. He saw in the right hand "of the one seated on the throne" (as God is referred to) "a scroll written on the inside and on the back" (Revelation 5:1). What's written on the scroll? John desperately wanted to know, but "no one in heaven or on the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it" (5:3). And John began to weep bitterly.
At this point in the drama of Revelation, he has already met the resurrected Christ in his fully glorified form (1:13-16). He was given specific messages for seven churches (chapter 2-3). He was drawn into the throne room of Heaven (chapter 4). John has been privileged to see things most believers never see in their lifetimes on earth. We believe we are invited to resurrection by our resurrected Lord Jesus, and one day we will see clearly though now we see only in part (1st Corinthians 13:12). But John got to see a bit more clearly than most do on this side of Heaven. He wept for what he didn't get to see. He was sure that scroll had information he wanted, and no one was found worthy to open and read it.
Do we long for God's word that strongly, that we would weep and be utterly broken without it? John was encouraged by one of the elders (first mentioned in 4:4). He said, "Do not weep. See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals" (5:5). Note the depictions of Jesus in the elders' words. Jesus then appears to John as a Lamb that was slain. I capitalize "Lamb" as do the interpreters of the New Revised Standard Version because in Revelation the Lamb is Jesus.
Jesus is the Lamb, the Root, the Lion, and the Conqueror. Jesus is also the one who opens the scroll and opens the message of God so John can hear it, understand it, live by it, and share it. That's the way the Word needs to be at work in us. First, we have to hear it (Romans 10:14-17), and we need to understand it (Acts 8:30-35). Then, once we know the Word, we need to live by it (Matthew 4:4; 2nd Timothy 3:16-17). Finally, we must, as men and women of Jesus, share the Word (Matthew 28:19-20).
Jesus makes it possible. A trained scholar can study an ancient text whether it is from the Bible from some other ancient source. The scholar can study all the parchments and papyri available and determine how the text was transmitted over the centuries from Hebrew to Aramaic to Greek to Latin to German to English. That scholar can study the grammar, the genre, the literary technique, and several other features of the text and how it influenced the community of faith. A casual reader of scripture can also, with no training whatsoever, read a passage and get a lot out of it.
However, there is a different way of reading, a way that comes only when one is enlightened by the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit of God, sent by Jesus, opens our hearts and minds as we read, the Word becomes a Living Word that shapes our lives. And it is for that that we weep.
In Revelation 5, the action of the Lamb, Jesus, taking the scroll from God sitting on the throne evokes worship. The living creatures (described in 4:6) and the elders fall before the Lamb (v.9) and sing of Jesus' worthiness. Thousands upon thousands of angels join in the worship of Jesus. Then, "every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea" join in the worship and singing (Revelation 5:13; this recalls Philippians 2:10). This is universal worship of Jesus and it comes when he takes the scroll from God with the purpose of making the contents of the scroll available to women and men.
Sometimes, I get spiritually lazy. I fall out of my habit of reading scripture and commenting on it. Sometimes, I am committed and I do my reading and keep my journal, but it is a chore. I have days where I don't feel any great movement of the Spirit in my soul. The Word of God feels dry. It feels like I am just slogging through a task I assigned myself. I think, though, that slogging through is worth the effort. There's a worship song that goes "this is the air I breathe." Reading scripture and (more importantly) meeting the Lord in the scripture is the air I breathe.
The days I slog through, God is quietly, almost imperceptible, at work deep inside me. The work God does in me on those days when I force myself to read is highly valuable and the breakthrough (God breaking through the walls of sin I have erected around my heart) eventually comes. When it does, my spirit takes flight and I join those thousands of thousands of angels. I sing that worship song to Jesus because he has called me to himself.
If you are reading this, I urge, you, make it a habit to read God's word every day. Pray as you read. Ask God to open His deep truth to you and ask Him to open your heart to His love. Ask God to give you such passion for Him that you will weep for His word. Do this, and eventually, in God's perfect time, you'll discover what all that singing in Heaven is about. In you'll know Jesus in ways that change you forever.