Is God speaking to you?
While in the UK this summer I visited the Isle of Iona, where Saint Columba and his band of monks landed in the 6th-century and proceeded to set up a monastery from which they not only evangelized Scotland but also carried on the monastic tradition of copying and illuminating biblical manuscripts. The most famous of which to come from Iona is the Book of Kells, an 8th-century manuscript of the four gospels in Latin. You can see a copy of the famous Chi-Rho page below with its beautiful, intricate artwork in a traditional Celtic style. The Book of Kells has been remarkably preserved, almost in its entirety and is now housed in Trinity College, Dublin, where I also got to visit this summer.
The whole experience of seeing the Book of Kells has quite the buildup, with tickets being purchased online for specific 15-minute windows, checking in with your QR code, and then proceeding to an audio tour through a packed exhibition room helping you to understand the history of the manuscript itself. Once you and 100 of your closest friends have made it through the exhibition, you have the opportunity to view the book itself. You enter a darkened room, where photography is not allowed, with a temperature and humidity-controlled glass cabinet in the middle. And there, in the cabinet is the manuscript itself.
And as I viewed the open page of the manuscript, which gets changed every 20 days or so, I was struck by the fact that here was the Word of God being visited by hundreds if not thousands of people each day. And yet…I don’t know how many of those people had any experience of God’s actually speaking to them through his Word. The manuscript is in Latin—a dead language—and the whole exhibition surrounds the writing of it, not the content of it.
And I was reminded of a moment earlier that morning, sitting in a coffee shop at 6:00 am reading my Bible of how God’s word had come to life for me. I was partway through reading the gospels one chapter a day with a new believer friend of mine and that day I had one of those moments when the word of God just jumped off the page. As I read the words of Jesus towards the end of that day’s chapter, it was like God was himself speaking to me. Have you ever had that experience?
There is a difference between hundreds of people walking past the Book of Kells and one person actually taking the time to allow God to speak to them through his gospel. There is a difference between just reading the words on the page and the Holy Spirit illuminating those words and bringing them to life. There is a difference between the transfer of information and the transformation of the word of God. Do you know that difference? Have you experienced God speaking to you personally through reading the Bible?
One way I often experience God speaking to me personally through his word is by using a practice called Lectio Divina, which means “Divine Reading.” It is a method of reading the Bible that incorporates times of silence and prayer. Here’s how it works:
- Read a passage of scripture, try Psalm 23, for example.
- Take a minute of silence, inviting God to be present.
- Read the passage again and notice any words or phrases that jump out at you.
- Repeat those words or phrases in your mind and ask God what he might be trying to say to you.
- Read the passage a final time.
- Pray back to God those words or phrases that jumper out to you, and any prayers that he inspires you to pray through them.
If you’ve never tried Lectio Divina before, I’d invite you to give it a go. There is nothing quite like the experience of God’s word coming to life and speaking to you in a direct way.