Your Soul on Scripture

YOUR SOUL ON SCRIPTURE

By Art Toalston

This is a free resource, drawing from the vitality of Scripture, for use in churches and small groups and for individual study. Art Toalston gives permission for Your Soul on Scripture, though protected by copyright, to be reproduced for participants in settings where it is used.

POSSIBLE USES OF YOUR SOUL ON SCRIPTURE:

1) Small groups or discipleship programs in churches; home Bible studies; homeschool networks –settings where Bible-based resources like Your Soul on Scripture can be used by God to help transform people’s lives, enhance their prayer experiences, and empower their witness for Christ.

2) Christians who innately know that prayer can rightly encompass Scripture memorization/re-memorization and meditation as key elements of spiritual vitality. Your Soul on Scripture is a Scripture-based resource that can help make prayer a consistent, joyous venture in people’s lives.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

Your Soul on Scripture is a resource on prayer, with a you-can-do-it approach to Bible study, Scripture memorization/re-memorization, and meditation that can used, perhaps as a nine-week course, for small groups or discipleship programs in churches, home Bible studies and homeschool settings or as a workbook for personal study.

Your Soul on Scripture can provide clear insight into how prayer drawn from Scripture memorization/re-memorization and meditation can become a life-changing, joyous facet of any Christian’s life. It need not be daunting or laborious. Your Soul on Scripture features a different theme in each session – supernatural God, new birth, worship, prayer, Christian living, hardships/worry, stewardship, and relationships – with five relevant Scripture passages (forty in all) from which people can begin developing a list of Scriptures they would like to memorize/re-memorize during the coming months/years.

Your Soul on Scripture includes 1) a simple methodology for examining each of the Scripture passages, which also can be used as a discussion guide in group settings; 2) a discussion question appendix encompassing each of the forty Scriptures; and 3) a “Quick Note” for each session providing instruction and encouragement toward enhancing the use of Scripture in daily life and in prayer. Your Soul on Scripture can be offered as a companion study for two other books on prayer by Art Toalston: When I Meditate and Meditation & Morality.

Let’s begin!

INTRODUCTION

Don’t panic. Think of it as an opportunity for Scripture to nurture your soul, helping you to pray as never before. Your Soul on Scripture will not demand that you do something laborious, burdensome, or dreadful. There is no intent to cause frustration or panic.

Rather, Your Soul on Scripture simply sets forth an opportunity to consider how Scripture – even the attempt to learn just one sentence from the Bible – can lead you into times of prayer that are more precious, more powerful, and more plentiful.

You can utilize Your Soul on Scripture individually. If you do so, it is not necessary to maintain a weekly pace through its nine sessions. Although presented in a workbook-style format, you can focus on portions of any session if your time is at a premium, just as you might read a few pages from a book during idle moments. Or if you have an abundance of time, you can do more.

If you are part of a small group study utilizing Your Soul on Scripture, feel free to set your own pace each week. Some participants may only have time to familiarize themselves with that week’s topic before the group meets, while others may be able to ponder the five Scripture passages at the core of each week’s session. Still others may have time to memorize one of the passages.

Don’t make the mistake of measuring yourself against others in your group. Rather, let God speak to your heart and guide you into fledgling moments of Scripture-based prayer and meditation. Day by day and week by week, trust his quiet, tender help in balancing your good intentions alongside the real-life demands on your time.

If you are one who can easily memorize Scripture, do so with the greatest humility. Any haughty attitude toward those who struggle to memorize even a few words from Scripture can undercut their sensitivity to the wonders of God’s compassion and his written revelation to mankind.

If you believe you cannot memorize Scripture, don’t feel guilty. You may be a victim of an unfortunate, even evil deception. Ask yourself who has convinced you that it is impossible to memorize a single word from Scripture and another and another over the course of a few weeks or months. Certainly not God. He will rejoice with every word, every phrase, every sentence you memorize from his loving counsel in Scripture. It will become part of your relationship with him. And if a Bible passage slips from recall at times, he will graciously help you refresh it, perhaps in a periodically recurring process that can make it even more precious to your soul.

GETTING STARTED

One simple passage undergirds Your Soul on Scripture in setting forth the foundational goal for memorizing and then meditating on Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23, “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (NIV 1984). This Scripture conveys perhaps the most succinct description in the Bible of the qualities that God desires for our attitudes and actions. It is a catalyst, a checklist that Jesus can use in beginning to renovate our hearts through his Holy Spirit.

Consider memorizing this verse as the starting point for your new connection to God through Scripture. One way to commit it to memory is to start with the Scripture reference, Galatians 5:22-23, then add letters representing each facet of the fruit of the Spirit: LJ for love, joy; PP, peace, patience; KG, kindness, goodness; FG, faithfulness, gentleness; SC, self-control. Quite often, you will see patterns in each Scripture, whether in representative letters or in phrases and ideas, that can be helpful as you seek to memorize additional Bible verses in the ongoing venture of opening your heart and mind to new junctures of divine encounter and transformation.

Another pivotal verse is James 3:17: “… the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” A potential memory aid: PP (pure, peace-loving); CS (considerate, submissive); MG (mercy, good fruit); IS (impartial, sincere).

Again, remember that no one should pressure you to learn any Scripture verse overnight or within a few days. Nor should anyone pressure you to use a specific method, such as the examples above. Pick a method that fits your personality. Memorizing a single verse from the Bible might span months. But here’s the choice we all face: Not adding any Scripture to our lives or adding one Scripture. Without doubt, “one is better than none.” And, yes, two will be better than one. Each added Scripture in the years ahead will yield an enhanced grasp of God’s care for your soul.

Remember, too, that Scripture-based prayer and meditation never are a substitute for regularly reading Scripture and studying it. Nor does Scripture memorization/re-memorization ever exempt you from God’s call to be active in the body of Christ. Your unique personality and spiritual inclinations as well as the stewardship of your time and your monetary gifts are key facets of God’s design of the church to show forth his love both in your community and throughout the world.

MOVING FORWARD

Each of the nine sessions of Your Soul on Scripture will focus on a different theme foundational to the faith that believers have shared through the centuries: supernatural God, new birth, worship, prayer, Christian living, worry/hardships, stewardship, relationships, and witness.

For each theme, a list of five Scripture passages will be provided (among dozens and dozens, even hundreds, that could be chosen from the Bible). Read through the five Scriptures. Ponder them. Lift them to God in prayer and meditation. Perhaps select one that stirs your heart or speaks to your innermost needs, or search the Scriptures to find a passage that is even more relevant to your life’s circumstances.

Make a note, then, of this passage as one that you hope to memorize, whether immediately in the days/weeks/months ahead or at some point in the future.

Typically, most people settle on one translation of the Bible as a primary reference point for their devotional times and Bible study and, all the more, for much of their interaction with God in prayer and every other area of life. If you do not have a favorite translation, ask your Christian friends about their preferences. Or visit a Christian bookstore to talk with someone familiar with the readability, clarity, and scholarly methodology of such widely used translations as the King James Version (KJV), New International Version (NIV, 2011 and 1984), English Standard Version (ESV), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), New American Standard Bible (NASB), New King James Version (NKJV), Good News Bible (GNB), and New Living Translation (NLT). In this text, the NIV 1984 is utilized.

As you will see, nearly all of the suggested Scripture passages for each session encompass two or more verses, which typically is important for understanding a teaching within its biblical context. This is why an unhurried period of time and daily patience generally are needed to memorize substantive passages from the Bible and to engage in ongoing re-memorization of any passage whenever your soul beckons for its nurture. If your initial apprehensions push you to focus on single verses of Scripture, you will find ample options within the five Scripture passages for each session’s topic. Later, you may decide to venture beyond the one you have memorized and add the other verses if you sense a prompting from the Holy Spirit. (Some Christian ministries, it should be noted, have developed Scripture memorization plans utilizing single verses from the Bible. Certainly feel free to consider these as an alternative approach to seeking God’s transformation of your life through Scripture.)

NEW VISTAS

Each sentence from a Scripture passage (sometimes, each word or phrase) can fortify and enliven your moments of divine encounter with God. To supplement your initiative to memorize Scripture, you may want to obtain 3-by-5-inch note cards and copy your selected passages onto them for any idle moments during the day wherever you may be. As an ongoing resource, spiral-bound note cards can be especially helpful for quickly accessing the various Scriptures you are adding to your life. These note cards can be purchased at office supply stores and various other retail outlets.

If you lose your Scripture cards, don’t fret. Just patiently start again. Even the effort to re-copy your chosen passages can be fruitful to your soul.

Some of the weekly Scripture passages may prove to be hard to believe. At least at first. One or more of the verses may set forth a reality that seems impossible to attain in our normal human existence. But repeating the passage during the process of memorizing it will take you deeper into God’s supernatural revelation, which indeed may call you to a level of faith seemingly beyond earthly comprehension. At various times, no doubt, you will face the challenge – and opportunity – to trust God above all else.

Other Scripture passages may deal with areas of faith where you have struggled, where you are weak, where you have been resistant to the tug or beckoning of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it involves your generosity of time, possessions, and finances. Perhaps it’s placing your soul fully in God’s care for eternity. Whatever the issue, your study of Scripture can lead you to passages that can help carry you through any fear or worry about your present or future circumstances, any doubt that troubles your mind, any guilt for past failings, or any moments of need and responsiveness to the invitation of Jesus: “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

It will be a spiritually satisfying moment each time you begin to sense that a Scripture passage or a single Bible verse is becoming easier to recall, easier to ponder, easier to quote in God’s presence in times of prayer. Etching words into your memory and onto your heart is just part of a wondrous process of spiritual transformation. Let each Scripture become a resource for conversations with Christian friends and with those who yearn to meet God. And let each Scripture become a precious resource for times of meditation, of divine encounter, when your soul is resting in God, or when your soul is stirred to thanksgiving and praise, or when it is searching for a new depth of awareness of God’s love and wisdom.

Let’s now venture forth in Session 1 of this wondrous opportunity. If you are utilizing this workbook as part of a small-group study, make every effort to work on the initial session, Supernatural God, before your first meeting.

Session 1: SUPERNATURAL GOD

  1. Read through each of this session’s Scripture passages. Think about them. In prayer, talk to God about them. Don’t be in a hurry; perhaps ponder a different verse each day.

1 Corinthians 2:11-12

Hebrews 4:12-16

Psalm 19:1-4

Psalm 139:7-10

Psalm 139:13-14

(NOTE: For visual appeal, perhaps the Scripture passages could be fashioned into graphics depicting them as handwritten on 3-by-5-inch note cards).

  1. Select one of the passages, or a single verse from one of the passages, that could be helpful, fruitful, or crucial for your life. Or search out a pertinent verse in your Bible. Copy it onto a note card or piece of paper, or into the space below if spacing is inserted for each step], thinking about each word and each phrase.
  1. Think and pray again. This time, use a simple word or phrase (or a paragraph or two if you’re so inclined) to write down one or more ways that this Scripture, when empowered by God through the Holy Spirit, could make you more like Jesus in your heart and mind. Or note how this passage might help you in any challenges you may be facing, or how it might add graciousness and wisdom to your attitudes and actions in any sphere of life. You might simply complete a sentence such as, “This Scripture could help me to …. .”
  1. Now, take another close look at the Scripture you’ve selected. Perhaps write down a flow of any key words that could help you memorize it, and maybe develop a short chain of letters from the alphabet that can be a starting point. (See the earlier examples of the fruit of the Spirit and the wisdom from above). Or make an outline of the basic points in the Scripture passage or the progression of thought it conveys. And don’t rule out the possibility that you, uniquely, might see a technique that can aid your Scripture recall – and one that might be helpful to others.
  1. Check the Introspection & Discussion appendix for a question regarding each Scripture passage that can serve as a catalyst for additional thought and prayer.

Quick Note: If you don’t seem to do well with workbooks, don’t become frustrated or feel guilty. It’s quite okay to just pick a Scripture and begin memorizing it, toward making it a part of your times in prayer and your daily life. If, later on, a part of it fades from memory, simply begin re-memorizing it alongside other verses that are moving you closer to God’s heart. Don’t be stymied: Just use each week’s list of Scriptures as a resource for Bible passages that can lead you to new vistas of divine encounter.

Session 2: NEW BIRTH

(NOTE: The same format as above will be used in each session.)

Romans 10:8-10,13

2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2

1 Corinthians 15:45-49

Isaiah 53:3-6

1 John 4:15-17

Quick Note: When memorizing a Scripture, also include where it’s found it the Bible and add the reference each time you repeat it in your mind or say it aloud, and add it again at the end. There may be times, for example, when you realize in a conversation that you can’t recall a Scripture passage adequately enough to quote it to someone. But you may be able to write down the Bible reference so that the person later can find it, read and re-read it, and hopefully pray about how God may be speaking to him or her through it.

Session 3: WORSHIP

1 Peter 1:3-9, 13-16

Psalm 100

2 Corinthians 3:7-11

Psalm 8

Psalm 51:14-17

Quick Note: Be sure to note your Scripture memorization verses (those that you’ve learned and those that you someday hope to learn) in the front of your Bible. Or write them on a note card or sheet of paper to insert into your Bible. Another idea: Use a set of spiral-bound note cards as a Scripture storehouse. These are ways of having a reliable place where you can record the verses that are particularly important to you – Scriptures that have nurtured your moments of divine encounter. If you do not have a personal Bible, discuss the various translation options with your Christian friends or a knowledgeable attendant at a Christian bookstore. If cost is a factor, remember that many Bible translations are printed in quality paperback editions.

Session 4: PRAYER

Ephesians 3:16-19

Ephesians 1:17-19

Philippians 1:9-11

Psalm 1:1-3

1 Chronicles 4:10

Quick Note: To strengthen your recall of a Scripture, perhaps ask someone to follow along with your note card or in the Bible as you say aloud as much of the passage as you’ve memorized or as much as you can recall. Ask the person to help you with the next word or phrase if you come to a point of uncertainty. Also ask the person to interject the correct word or phrase at any point where you aren’t voicing the Bible verse(s) accurately. Among those who may be willing to help: a good friend, a co-worker, and your spouse or a child if you are married and have a family. Your effort to memorize Scripture may give them winsome encouragement to try doing the same.

Session 5: CHRISTIAN LIVING

Matthew 5:3-10

Philippians 2:3-4,14-16

Matthew 12: 34-37

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Psalm 19:7-11

Quick Note: In offering advice to someone, nothing carries the authority of quoting Scripture whenever it may come to mind. No lecturing is needed; simply the gracious use of Scripture tends to elicit a distinct attentiveness from a person who hears it. If you are a parent, for example, it may be especially fruitful to enlist a child in your efforts to memorize God’s written revelation. Too often, Christians think Scripture memorization is a children’s activity. A clear reminder is needed: Every exhortation in the Bible applies to believers of all ages. A parent-child conversation (or any human interaction) that can tenderly draw from the heart of God through Scripture is far more effective than one marked only by human exhortation.

Session 6: WORRY/HARDSHIPS

Philippians 4:4-7

2 Corinthians 4:7-10

2 Corinthians 1:3-5,8-10

Romans 5:1-5

Romans 8:28,38-39

Quick Note: If you wake up at night and can’t go back to sleep, you can do something other than toss and turn, think and worry, rehearse any mistakes you may have made in recent days, and/or conjure up a fleeting to-do list for the days ahead. Try adding Scripture to the mix of your nighttime stirrings. Quietly ask yourself, for example, how the fruit of the Spirit might apply to any issue buffeting your soul. The wisdom from above might help in the same way, or any Scripture you’ve sought to memorize. You might reflect on a Scripture that may yield a few moments of worship amid your sleeplessness, such as Psalm 63:6-8: “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” After a while, you might even fall back to sleep, this time in the arms of God.

Session 7: STEWARDSHIP

1 Timothy 6:6-12

Philippians 3:7-11

Proverbs 30:8-9

Colossians 3:23-24

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Quick Note: Be creative. Make the most of your time to memorize Scripture. If you exercise, say, on a treadmill or by walking in your neighborhood, occasionally glance at a Scripture you’re memorizing, having copied it onto a note card. If you doodle, try doodling a Scripture. It might even make an impromptu gift to someone who has been watching. Write the Bible passage in colored chalk on a sidewalk; shape it into a screensaver for your computer; place a Scripture note card on your bathroom mirror to see each morning. It’s probably impossible to turn every idle moment toward Scripture, but many ticks of the clock can become tiny touches of the Rock who is our redeemer.

Session 8: RELATIONSHIPS

Colossians 3:12-14

Ephesians 4:29-32

1 Peter 3:8-12

Matthew 7:1-7

Galatians 6:7-10

Quick Note: Broken relationships are among life’s greatest sorrows – a broken relationship with God due to our waywardness and broken relationships with loved ones and friends whether stemming from callousness and meanness or misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Redemptive relationships that flow from our supernatural God, new birth, prayer, and Christian living are among the most satisfying outcomes of Scripture’s transformation of our minds and hearts.

Session 9: WITNESS

1 Peter 3:15-17

Matthew 5:43-48

Romans 1:16-17

2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Matthew 28:18-20

Quick Note: The forty-five Scripture passages in Your Soul on Scripture represent but a tiny fraction of the wealth of God’s revelation of love, redemption, and wisdom. Here, in miscellaneous fashion, are a few other verses through which the Holy Spirit can speak volumes to your heart: Titus 2:11-14, 1 Peter 5:5-7, Philippians 4:8-9, Philippians 2:5-11, Matthew 22:36-40, Proverbs 22:7, Psalm 51. Don’t worry about becoming a walking encyclopedia of biblical knowledge or a practitioner of piety immersed in Scripture twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Be patient with yourself if an inexplicable inner resistance derails your good intentions from time to time. In prayer, through as much Scripture as may be in your mind and heart, look to God for his steady rejuvenation of your soul.

Appendix: INTROSPECTION & DISCUSSION

The questions provided here are not the only questions that may be drawn from the various Scriptures explored in Your Soul on Scripture. As you ponder each passage, additional questions may come to mind that could prove to be more helpful, more substantive, or more personal. Also, consider other Scriptures that might add to your awareness of how God is speaking to you, and these may give rise to further questions for introspection and discussion and, ultimately, soul-level meditation.

Session 1: Supernatural God

1 Corinthians 2:11-12:

In what ways does “the Spirit who is from God” make himself know among those who trust in God?

Hebrews 4:12-16

Because Scripture renders everything “uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account,” what course(s) of action should believers take?

Psalm 19:1-4

When you see “[t]he heavens declare the glory of God,” how might your innermost thoughts be affected as well as your outward actions?

Psalm 139:7-10

What counsel can you draw from Scripture to be more constantly aware of God’s presence in and around your life?

Psalm 139:13-14

Amid our various struggles and ailments in life, how might it nevertheless be true that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”?

Session 2: New Birth

Romans 10:8-10,13

In salvation, what do we do and what does God do?

2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2

What are some of the ministries God has given to those who are “a new creation” in Christ?

1 Corinthians 15:45-49

In what ways are the lives of those who believe in God changed?

Isaiah 53:3-6

What is the gravity of our sin?

1 John 4:15-17

What happens when a Christian “lives in love” because he or she “lives in God”?

Session 3: Worship

1 Peter 1:3-9, 13-16

To what extent do you see God as worthy of worship because of trials you’ve been through?

Psalm 100

Examine your personal worship in recent days in terms of its joyousness and ask God if it is pleasing to him.

2 Corinthians 3:7-11

In what ways might you describe your faith as glorious?

Psalm 8

How do you react to Scripture’s declaration that God has bestowed great honor upon mankind?

Psalm 51:14-17

Because “a broken and contrite heart” is part of worship, how do you assess your repentance and humility?

Session 4: Prayer

Ephesians 3:16-19

Repeat this Scripture several times to the Lord, whether silently or aloud. What effect did this meditation have within your heart?

Ephesians 1:17-19

How attuned are your mind and heart in moments of prayer to embrace supernatural realities?

Philippians 1:9-11

In praying to be a more loving person, how are your spiritual vision and godly actions likely to be affected?

Psalm 1:1-3

How can a person turn his or her life toward a spiritually dynamic life versus one mired in sin?

1 Chronicles 4:10

If you were to pray for God to expand your sphere of influence and to keep you from harm, how would you want God to be glorified?

Session 5: Christian Living

Matthew 5:3-10

Of the people Jesus described in the Beatitudes as “blessed,” which of those resonate within your heart?

Philippians 2:3-4,14-16

In response to these verses’ admonition to “Do nothing …” and “Do everything … ,” which of your oft-held attitudes or typical behaviors motivate you to seek the Holy Spirit’s transformation?

Matthew 12: 34-37

How joyous are the “good things” in your heart and how urgent is it that you, with the Holy Spirit’s help, confront the “evil things”?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

How can Christians live out a 1 Corinthians 13 level of love toward people?

Psalm 19:7-11

How is it conceivable that God’s commands are “sweeter than honey” and “more previous than gold”?

Session 6: Worry/Hardships

Philippians 4:4-7

What does Scripture counsel us to do when we’re mired in worry/anxiety?

2 Corinthians 4:7-10

How might people see the life of Jesus in our lives when we’re in the midst of daily or periodic pressures and tumult?

2 Corinthians 1:3-5,8-10

Even in our greatest challenges, what do these and other verses from the Bible tell us about God’s redemptive purposes?

Romans 5:1-5

Ponder these verses for the various ways faith transforms our lives. Which of these have you experienced? And which of these remain a yearning in your heart?

Romans 8:28,38-39

What certainties of faith do these and other verses in the Bible express? What certainties of faith do you yearn for in your own life?

Session 7: Stewardship

1 Timothy 6:6-12

What do these and other Scriptures teach us about life’s priorities?

Philippians 3:7-11

What would be most profitable to your soul right now?

Proverbs 30:8-9

In what ways do you honor God by how you use your “daily bread”?

Colossians 3:23-24

What are your strongest motivations in carrying out your responsibilities at home and at work or school?

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

What do you see as God’s intention to impart a lifestyle of “all grace” and “every good work” in your life?

Session 8: Relationships

Colossians 3:12-14

How does God’s call to love affect the totality of life?

1 Peter 3:8-12

What attitudes and actions do these verses set forth as keys to a good life?

Ephesians 4:29-32

What do’s and don’ts are evident in these verses regarding our relationships?

Matthew 7:1-7

If you examine and repent of any judgmentalism you may have of others, what might be the result?

Galatians 6:7-10

What happens in a person’s life when he or she is “one who sows to please the Spirit” rather than “one who sows to please his sinful nature?”

Session 9: Witness

1 Peter 3:15-17

What can a person do to prepare for questions that a non-believer may ask?

Matthew 5:43-48

What challenges have you faced in Jesus’ call to love and pray for your enemies?

Romans 1:16-17

What stirs us to not be ashamed of the Gospel?

2 Corinthians 4:7-10

What do you pray that people will notice whenever you may face hardship for your faith?

Matthew 28:18-20

In what ways can you be involved in making disciples in your home and your neighborhood and, yet, at the ends of the earth?