“SELAH”

Standing at attention. Pause. Stop and listen. Underlining what has just been spoken. In the psalms, “selah” is a break between different parts of the psalm. While its meaning is unclear, it could come from the Hebrew root “salah” which means “to hang” or “to weigh”. In the context of our hearing of the Word, it means the space we allow for the Word to study us! We use selah to mean 10-15 minutes of standing in God’s presence, embracing his Word, and allowing his Word to scrutinize our living.

Every time we have East Asia student conferences, we intentionally begin our day with selah. We remember the key phrases spoken (either in silence or as a spiritual director holds up these phrases). With these phrases in mind, we linger in God’s presence – creating space for God to impress his Word upon us and for us to weigh our response to him. Sometimes, a soul-searching question is added to this time of selah.

Amazing how silence and solitude begin to do their work! It is moving to see how the Holy Spirit stirs our hearts with the Word just heard and calls forth a response. The students find that this pause calls their attention to what God is doing in their lives – something which easily gets lost in the busyness of their daily lives.

Over the years, this practice has caught on across the region. At the student leaders’ retreat in Singapore (2014), God used this time of selah to break into their hearts. It was a time of being convicted together and listening to what God really wanted to do through their fellowship.

In a campus group in Malaysia, the prayer coordinator starts the weekly prayer meeting with selah. She invites students to weigh what God has been speaking into their lives throughout the week – giving time for individuals to be searched by God and his Word. This has made many students much more intentional in their living.

Many campus fellowships end their time of Scripture Engagement with a few minutes of solitude for God’s word to be embraced.

These are some of the subsequent ripples which can be seen across our movements in East Asia: “The Word and its demand became clearer to me“; “God’s Word convicted me“; “I gave up to God the things I was holding back“; “I felt comforted and released from the burden of guilt and shame I had hung onto“; “I kept the commitment made five years ago in selah and am now changing jobs because that is where God is leading me“.

Come, let the Word study us!

Annette Arulrajah (anet195(at)yahoo.com)
Associate Regional Secretary for East Asia

What is Scripture Engagement?

This seemingly simple question is worth thinking about. Is Scripture engagement the same as reading my Bible?

IFES started to use the term “Scripture Engagement” in the Living Stones Vision 2020. I find this terminology helpful because it invites us to have a broad and relational view of the place of Scripture in our lives.

_Scripture engagement involves studying the Bible. But it is more than that: It is also loving, living, and sharing God’s Word.

_Scripture engagement needs specific times and places in which we interact with God’s Word. But it is more than that: Scripture engagement is not just an activity, it is a lifestyle.

_Scripture engagement helps us grow in our knowledge about God and this world. But it is more than that: It is entering into a transformative encounter with the living God.

At the heart of Scripture engagement lies a relationship. Scripture engagement is interacting with the Living God through his written word. The texts of Scripture are not just objects of study, but a room in which we enter to meet Jesus (See John 5:39-40). And so God’s Word draws us into the presence of God himself – inviting us to know and trust him, receive his grace, enjoy his fellowship, and renew our commitment to him.

Scripture engagement involves listening and responding to God. We know so much, yet struggle to translate it into life – many of us have big heads, but small feet. But a response is essential. God’s Word was not given to make smart students out of us, but lovers and disciples of Jesus who incarnate his Gospel in a lost and broken world.

So Scripture engagement is not finished until it is translated into life – into our words and deeds (See Matthew 7:24-27). This will only happen if we are willing to obey and able to engage Scripture in a way that is relevant to our context. Engaging with Scripture, with God, and with the world around us need to go hand in hand.

Who is the main actor in Scripture engagement? Is it we who pick up the Bible and study it? No. It is God. As we start to investigate Scripture, we soon discover that we are being investigated by the Word. God uses Scripture to connect with us through the work of the Holy Spirit. And so we come with the openness to listen, to be changed, and to be given our place as active participants in God’s story with this world.

The Bible mentions many ways of handling God’s Word: praising, honouring, hearing, meditating, taking to heart, remembering, eating, studying, understanding, accepting, receiving, trusting, doing, obeying, teaching, singing, proclaiming… and more. All of this is Scripture engagement. This video reflects on one of these verbs: eating God’s Word.

What is Scripture engagement? Why not take the time to talk about this question in your student groups and staff teams. It’s worth it!

Sabine Kalthoff

A Strange Conversation

Imagine a conversation in which one person shares their heart and mind without getting a reaction from the other person. That would be very strange. Yet, this is sometimes how we treat God.

If the Bible is God’s Word to us, then what is our answer? If this is what God says, then what do we say back to him? Scripture engagement involves hearing and responding to God’s Word. Sometimes our Bible studies seem to be primarily about collecting information. Each time, we add a bit more to our knowledge pool. That’s good, but it’s not an adequate response to the voice of the living God.

What is the response a certain passage of Scripture calls for?

This question is worth asking in every Bible study. It might be a deed of mercy, seeking reconciliation with someone or some other step of obedience and faith. Yet, not every passage of Scripture calls us to go and do something. The most appropriate response might be to worship and praise God for who he is or to receive his love and grace anew.

How can we help students respond to the Word of God with their lives?

Including a time of response in our Bible studies could be a first step. This goes beyond talking about possible applications of a Bible passage. Depending on the passage, a time of response might consist of worshipping God together, silent reflection, communal prayer, going and doing something as a group, etc. At the end of Bible studies, I’ve often experienced that prayer requests were shared which were all completely unrelated to the passage just studied. A strange conversation. This can be changed by introducing a time of prayer with the question: How can we pray for you in light of this Bible passage? As we pray God’s Word back to him, we are giving it room to shape us. God’s word will unfold its power in our lives as we give an answer – in word and deed. We are called to be not only hearers, but doers of the Word. As James says: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Scripture engagement is not complete until God’s Word is translated into life.

Sabine Kalthoff