The best compliment that I can give someone is to tell them, “you made me think.” I learned this early in my technical marketing career when I explained to an editor the intricacies of a new automated, higher-capacity production facility. While I had extolled the virtues of more output and better quality with less labor in my written press release, he asked me how many production employees had lost their jobs. Since I had never considered that possibility, I was startled at the question. Fortunately, no one had lost their job, but it made me think about the significance and consequences of my words.
In Psalms, we see the psalmist use the term “selah,” which means “stop and listen” or “stop and reflect.” Reflection is a practical way to pause, dwell upon, and absorb information that God is imparting to us. A good model is to ponder the questions of “What?,” “Now What?” and “So What?” as was suggested in a book by educator Terry Borton in the ‘70s.
The Significance of the Written Word
The written medium is so important and beneficial, as it lends itself better than audible for pausing and reflecting over what we are learning. It is an important method of studying and understanding, reminiscent of a cow chewing its cud.
Rather than mindless consumption, it is important to carefully ponder what we read. Specifically regarding God’s Word, we must meditate on the Scriptures we read, bringing every powerful word into our hearts, making it real. In fact, this consumption of holy wisdom and knowledge is to be so significant that it permeates every aspect of our lives.
Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8
Intake Comprehension: Reading v. Skimming
According to an article in The Guardian, a series of recent studies reflect that skimming is the new normal way of reading due to overwhelming “digital culture,” with most people merely “word-spotting and browsing through” most of the material they read. We’ve done ourselves a disservice by skimming and mindlessly dissecting. According to a Nielsen Norman Group study, when we skim, we get through 100 words in 4.4 seconds, and when we actually read, we average about 18 words every 4.4 seconds.
In other words, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings, to perceive beauty, and to create thoughts of the reader’s own. — The Guardian
This is exactly why we must not skim or pluck from the Bible. Since the Word of God is intended to direct our lives in every facet, covering us in permeable wisdom, protection, sound mind, gratitude and love, we must take it in its entirety—not just in snippets—allowing ourselves to understand the theology deeply.
How long will we simply lean on the “milk” of Scripture, opening our Bibles and reading a random verse—or taking what we want to read out of the Holy Word of God—using an app to skim the text at our own convenience? When will we hunger for the “meat,” seeking to deeply understand the history, context and powerful words within on a life-transforming level? This is what will ultimately form us into sound apologists who impact the lives of others. The full intake of the Gospel transforms hearts.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11
Learning From Eastern Europe
If consuming content digitally exacerbates the skimming versus reading statistic, we must certainly acknowledge the vast need for our reading intake of God’s Word to be in the form of physical books—not only for ourselves, but also to get as many printed Bibles into the hands of as many people as possible around the globe.
My heart is drawn to Eastern Europe—a Bible-impoverished zone, filled with people hungry for hope. I have witnessed the striking power of the physical Word of God in transforming countless lives there.
This is why I emphasize the importance of “selah” when it comes to our intake of the Bible. Every single word, every single contextual nuance, is important to take in, slowly and in deep reflection, examining our hearts and letting the powerful Gospel transform us from the inside out.
Yes, I have witnessed this very Word change lives in radical ways—beyond that of what most of us know or even understand here in the West. No, the people of Eastern Europe do not take the Word of God for granted with a mere encouragement here and there in their own moments of convenience. Rather, they treasure the Holy Word of God, upholding this precious text in all its righteousness, transformative power, life and freedom.
We should do the same—to the point that we cannot stand idly by without sharing this sacred Word with others.
Bob Burckle is the President and CEO of EEM, which has been delivering God’s Word to the people of Eastern Europe since 1961, now reaching 32 countries in 25 languages. Their 2023 Fall “Hope” fundraising campaign aims to provide 800,000 Bibles and other biblical materials in multiple languages throughout the region. Learn how you can help at: eem.org/hope.