Making Fresh Meals for Yourself

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Making Fresh Meals for Yourself

It’s that time of year again. You know the one I’m talking about—that time when a perfectly good four-letter word becomes the New Year's dreaded word—D-I-E-T. If you’re like me, you’ll begin the new year with a fresh and invigorating commitment that things will be different. You will put down that hamburger and Coke and pick up a . . . it’s so hard to swallow . . . a salad and glass of water. But with determination, you’ll turn that resolution into reality.

As you commit yourself to accomplishing your physical goals, I hope you’ll not go on a diet from studying your Bible. Spiritually speaking, most of us could stand to put on a few nourishing pounds. I’m not talking about snacking—just reading a few Bible verses every day—though that is certainly a worthwhile ambition. I mean really plunging in and learning to make fresh, biblical meals for yourself.

I’m not suggesting French cuisine here. I’m talking meat and potatoes, bacon and eggs. The best recipe I’ve found for down-home Bible study comes from my mentor, Dr Howard Hendricks. In his easy-to-read volume, Living by the Book, Prof Hendricks lays out three ingredients to a nutritious biblical meal: observation, interpretation, and application. But instead of my telling you about them, what do you say we work through a passage of Scripture and prepare a biblical meal together? Let’s look at Psalm 139, limiting our attention to verses 1–9.

To begin, we observe to determine what the text says. So let’s simply approach the Bible by reading it, in order to observe what is in print. Read it in several versions—the English Standard Version, the New International Version, and the NET Bible are good choices. Then, read it in a paraphrase if you have one or two available; there is something refreshing about reading a passage from a paraphrase.

Okay, let’s stop here and read the Psalm. I’ll wait . . . you read.

What did you see? Write down your observations. Psalm 139 is a song that has four stanzas of six verses each. Observe immediately that it begins as a prayer—“O LORD” (139:1)—and it ends as a prayer—“O God” (139:23). What is David praying for? Look again . . . think. It’s an invitation for God to shine His spotlight, to examine and to do internal work in David’s life.

We’ll make some more observations, but let’s move to the next ingredient in preparing our meal: interpretation. Here we ask, What does it mean? At this point we begin to think through a number of questions: Who wrote this? What was the situation in which he wrote? What was he going through? In Psalm 139:1–9, David begins by emphasising some great doctrines of our faith. Read verses 1–4 again very carefully, and write down what you see, paying close attention to the verbs, the actions words. Now, let’s interpret what you saw. Put on your thinking cap, as my primary school teacher used to say. What doctrine of God is emphasised in these verses? If you wrote something like “God’s perfect and eternal knowledge” or “His omniscience,” then you’re right. Great!

Let’s go on . . . what do verses 5–6 say? Here, God establishes boundaries, laying His hand on us. It sounds a lot like omnipotence, doesn’t it? God is all–powerful: He encircles us, He engages Himself in our lives, He watches over us to protect us and keep us within safe limits.

We have omniscience and omnipotence, but there’s one more “omni” in verses 7–9. To find it we need to understand the metaphor, “the wings of the dawn” (139:9). We have to ponder because there is no answer sheet in the back of the book. So we pray and we think, asking the Lord to help us know what this means. You may need to ask your pastor for clarification, or look up the passage in a commentary. The best I came up with is that the phrase represents the rays of light that come from the sun in the early morning. Let’s go there: if we could travel the speed of light—approximately 186,000 miles per second—and “dwell in the remotest part of the sea,” God would be there! So the doctrine we’re looking for? Omnipresence, of course. God is everywhere.

We’ve dug in and have made three significant observations that have led to the interpretation of three great doctrines. Now, let’s apply them. What does the truth of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence reveal about our heavenly Father? Well, He knows you. He knows what this week and this year holds for you. He knows exactly what you’ve been going through: the fears, the uncertainties, the challenges, and the joys. He’s right there with you, protecting and leading you, comforting and upholding you during all the difficult days . . . and He is cheering you on to victorious days. These are truths you can apply directly to your life.

Omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence—great doctrines that nourish the soul. You can feast a lifetime on these and other truths from the Bible! The ingredients for enjoying a fresh, spiritual meal every day are right there in your Bible. And the recipe is easy to follow: observation, interpretation, and application. I hope that in the new year, you’ll decide to make some fresh meals on your own.

You’ve already had an appetiser. So now, let’s get cooking!

Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, “Making Fresh Meals for Yourself,” Insights (January 2009): 1–2. Copyright © 2009 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

About the Author

Charles R. Swindoll

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. Since 1998, he has served as the senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but...