On the last Sunday of 2018, I accepted Pastor Byron’s challenge to hand copy a short scripture passage each day during my quiet times. He suggested Philippians, which is my favorite of Paul’s letters. I started this exercise on New Year’s Eve. It is changing my thinking and touching my heart.
I usually copy one paragraph at a time into a notebook, leaving a margin to record my thoughts. Rewriting the verses word-for-word slows my thoughts so that my heart can hear Paul’s meaning. I begin to feel Paul’s concern for the believers at Philippi and their struggle to live new lives for the gospel, amidst their hostile culture. I imagine Paul in a Roman prison cell, sharing his own life in Christ with people he loves in Macedonia. When I come to Philippians 2:1-11, I have to pause. Paul arrests my attention with phrases like, “in humility count others better than yourselves” and, “have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus.” The Holy Spirit’s light penetrates my self-centered patterns of thoughts and action. That’s when I realize that I don’t have to remain this way. The Spirit tells me that Jesus offers me a completely new perspective, His own servant humility and righteous attitudes which He can infuse in my life every hour of every day.
Copying Philippians makes the scripture specific for me. I ask myself why Paul chose this particular word or used that phrase to express an idea. I get to re-explore the meaning of sentences I’ve read many times but never truly understood. I dig into words heavy with significance, such as: gospel, rejoice, suffering, humility, peace, and contentment.
Copying Philippians makes me feel closer to Paul as a person. It helps me hear Paul’s voice and ask what he must have been thinking and feeling. I consider the human struggle for Saul to be transformed into Paul, a man broken of self-interest, now filled by grace and truth, love and wisdom. I ask how God might transform me to be a better servant, a better husband, a better father, a better brother and neighbor.
Copying Philippians makes me aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence. As I copy the words, I feel the Spirit enliven them in me. I’m affected by the love and strength which the Spirit offers me throughout Paul’s letter. The Spirit encourages me that I, too, am part of the gospel, personally called to daily follow Paul’s example, even as he imitated Christ.
So . . . I’ll continue rewriting scriptures in my own hand. Even now I sense the Spirit drawing me to the Gospel of Mark. I’m kind of excited about the Spirit working the Word deeper into my thoughts, engaging my will, emotions, and imagination. I anticipate Christ’s words dwelling more richly in me. As I copy verses daily, and the Spirit writes them on my heart, I expect to know more of Christ’s presence abiding with me, living in me. That gives me so much comfort, and renews my hope to know His power conforming me to Himself.