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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"Meeting God in Scripture" (Jan Johnson)

TITLE: Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina
AUTHOR: Jan Johnson
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2016, (256 pages).

Do you want to get up close and personal with God? Why is it that some of us feel God is so distant and impersonal? If the Bible says that God is near us, why is it that sometimes we feel otherwise? Author and popular speaker Jan Johnson has provided us a way to practice the ancient art of lectio divina, via 40 guided meditations on the Bible. God has spoken but have we listened? God has written but have we read? God has revealed but have we discovered? Perhaps, we need to learn to put aside our distractions and to learn a way to hone our attentiveness to what the Bible says, instead of being anxious about our own needs when reading the Bible.

Having led many groups of people on Scripture meditation for many years, Johnson is well poised to share her experience and knowledge in writing. This book gives us an inside look about meditating on Scripture. In it, we learn about making space in our hearts and minds to prepare ourselves for reading Scripture. She divides the 40 meditations into eight sets of topics.

  1. What Does God Think of Me?
  2. Who Am I and How Do I Fit In?
  3. Living in the Reality of God's Kingdom
  4. Being Transformed into Christ's Likeness
  5. Facing Fears, Frustrations, and Discouragement
  6. Healing Life's Wounds
  7. Having the Heart of Christ for Others
  8. Partnering with God in Ministry
These exercises are part of the author's spiritual meditation exercises done at Fuller Theological Seminary between the years 2002-2012. Each chapter begins with a "Relax and Refocus (Silencio)" that helps participants slow down and prepare their hearts. Through breathing methods and bodily gestures, one stills the heart and mind to move to the next phase: "Read (Lectio)." By reading and meditating on the passage slowly, one lets the Word come into us rather than us trying to pick apart the verses. This is important because we are to be subject to the Word of God and not treat the Bible as some science book for us to analyze and judge. The third step is "Rest (Contemplatio)" or "Reflect (Meditatio)" where readers are encouraged to bask in the truth of the Scripture and to reflect on what it means for the ancient readers and what it means for us. The final step is "Trying it On (Incarnatio)" or "Respond (Oratio)" which is the application part of the verse. Depending on the verses, these various stages can be brief or detailed. Johnson gives us many questions to guide us along. Each chapter can be read quickly but I would urge readers not to speed read through. Spiritual exercises require time and effort. With practice, it would come forth naturally.

The book is aimed at people who want an easy to follow guide to read Scripture with an intent of meeting God. Sometimes, people approach the Bible as some factual document or a place to seek information. The Bible is called the living Word because it is where we meet and encounter God. For some people, meeting God in the Bible comes naturally and easily. For others, it takes guidance and systematic approaches. This book fits in the latter category.

Jan Johnson is a popular speaker and retreat spiritual director in Southern California. She has written several books on spiritual formation and spirituality.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Inter-Varsity Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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