Don’t let your gift of God’s Word go underutilized this year.

Reading the Bible is a gift that is underutilized. In our day print and digital media are ubiquitous. We take for granted our ability to read, as well as our freedom to own and download a copy of God’s Word.

Why don’t you utilize the gift you have been given and the relationship with God you are privileged to possess. The Bible Project is an excellent resource. One I have used many times in the past and one I am using right now to read through the Bible. I encourage you to download their app, sign up for their weekly email, or subscribe to their plan via YouVersion.

Don’t let your gift of God’s Word go underutilized this year.

Bible Reading Tips

I understand that reading the Bible can be a difficult and intimidating endeavor, so let me give you some tips to help you get started.

(1) Get a Translation You Can Read

I know some of you grew up reading the King James Version and the Early Modern English doesn’t bother you, but I also know that for others, myself included, reading the KJV is difficult. Instead of doubling down and pressing through, I encourage you to get a translation you can read.

Personally, I read the ESV. It’s literal enough to confidently study from and it flows well enough that you can sit down and read it for extended periods of time.

(2) Read Literarily, But Also Read Literally

By “literarily” I mean that we are to read each selection based on its literary genre. Not every book or section of the Bible is written in the same genre, which is what makes the Bible such an interesting yet difficult at the same time. The genre’s in the Bible include:

  • Narrative
  • Poetry
  • History
  • Prophecy
  • Epistles or Letters
  • Gospels
  • and Apocalyptic Literature

In order to grasp the meaning of the Bible, we have to read each book or section according to its literary genre.

Along with reading the Bible literarily, we also have to read it “literally.” Meaning we are to take the Bible at face value. While it is popular in some circles to look behind the text for a hidden Bible code, one doesn’t exist, which means we shouldn’t come to the Bible expecting to find one. Nor should we attempt to spiritualize every passage. Instead, we should read the Bible at face value.

So read literarily, but also read it literally.

(3) Read Large Chunks at a time

It’s tempting to read a verse or two and set the Bible aside. Honestly, at times, that might be all we need or can handle. But we shouldn’t make reading a verse or two our main Bible reading practice.

Think about a novel. You don’t typically read a sentence or two and put the book down. No, you read a chapter or two at a time, if not more. The reason you can do that is so you can follow the story. If you are constantly starting and stopping every sentence or two and days go by between each reading, it going to be hard to understand what’s happening in the novel.

That’s the same with the Bible. It’s a book. It’s a story. If we want to understand its characters, it’s plot, it’s narrative; if we want to make connections within the story, we have to commit to reading it more like a novel than our Twitter feed. We have to read large chunks at a time.

(4) Ask Questions of Observation

Who? What? When? Where? and How? are good questions to ask. They not only help in understanding the characters, time, and place, but they also help keep the context straight so that we know what’s going on around the text we are reading as well.

(5) Read the Bible in Community

Every Friday a group of us from the church get together at IHOP for our weekly Men’s Breakfast. The point of that breakfast is to help one another understand God’s Word. Attending the study week in and week out for the last 4 years+ has been immensely helpful. Not only have my questions been answered, but I’ve been able to bounce ideas off the others to see if what I’m thinking is right. As well as it’s given me the opportunity to talk through Scripture, which helps me process what I’ve been reading.

There’s value in reading the Bible in a community, which is one reason I am encouraging everyone to use the Read Scripture plan this year. I’m hoping it’s going to give us the opportunity to have conversations about God’s Word with one another that we might not otherwise have.

(6) Use the Cross References

While not a part of the original text, they’re useful. They’re there to help us understand the passage better and make connections to other parts of the Bible that we might not have otherwise. So use the cross references.

(7) Ask Application Questions

Questions like:

  • What does this text teach me about God, myself, and the world?
  • How does this text point to Jesus or show me my need for a Savior?

These are simple questions you can ask that will help you get more out of your daily Bible readings.

So those are some quick tips that will hopefully help you as you are reading the Bible this year.

Question for Reflection

  1. What tip(s) would you add?

Resource

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Let’s Read the Bible Together

Why should we read the Bible? We read the Bible because we are followers of Jesus and Jesus was obsessed with the Bible.

Jesus’ Obsession with the Bible

The Bible for Jesus is what we refer to as the Old Testament — Genesis through Malachi. Believe it or not, Jesus most likely had the entire thing memorized. I know that sounds unreal, but you have to remember that folks in Jesus’ day didn’t have the distractions of Facebook, Twitter, and TV. Life was simpler and their attention spans greater.

As well as they were primarily an oral society. It was rare for someone to own a book. If you wanted to keep reflecting on and referring back to something, you had to memorize it. I know that sounds hard to us, but this is what they did back then.

So all that to say — Jesus probably had large portions, if not the entire Bible, memorized.

Along with memorizing the Bible, you see Jesus consistently teaching and quoting from the Old Testament. As well as when you examine Jesus’ life, you see that He lived according to the Bible’s plan. It shaped His entire life and informed His worldview.

I think it is safe to say, then, that Jesus was obsessed with the Bible.

We Should Be Obsessed with the Bible

As followers of Jesus, we should be obsessed with the Bible too. In other words, we should have the same relationship with the Bible as Jesus does.

In order for us to have the same relationship with the Bible as Jesus, we have to start by reading it. This last Sunday I challenged the church I pastor to read the Bible together. Today, I want to challenge you, my readers, to read the Bible with me and each other.

The Plan

The Bible Project has put out some really high-quality material over the last year. Their Read Scripture video series, app, and reading plan is one of the best I have seen. I used it at the end of last year to read through most of the New Testament (Acts-Revelation). It was a joy to use, which is why it’s my exclusive Scripture reading plan for this year.

The links to download the Read Scripture app, as well as other information about the Read Scripture program, can be found here. Both Apple and Android devices are supported.

If you don’t do apps, you can download a paper copy of the reading plan here.

Along with the app and reading plan, they also have videos that provide an overview of every book of the Bible. You can access those videos through their website thebibleproject.com or their Youtube channel. There you will find videos for the Old Testament and New Testament, as well as theme videos that match the readings.

Of course, if you download the app, all these videos are baked in, so you don’t have to worry about accessing another website.

So that’s the plan.

My Hope

My hope is that you will join my other readers and myself in reading through the Bible in 2017. Oh, I’ll be sure to post updates throughout the year to keep you motivated.

Reflections on Psalm 40


 Psalm 40:9-10 (ESV)

I have told the glad news of deliverance
       in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
       as you know, O LORD.
I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
       I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
       from the great congregation.

Reflection

This week, I read Psalm 40 as I was following my Bible reading plan (Let me stop here to encourage you, if you are not already doing so, to read through the Bible. Here is a link to several plans that will help facilitate that discipline). As I read and meditated on this psalm, these two verses stuck out to me. Here David writes that he has spread the news of God’s deliverance, faithfulness, and steadfast love to the great congregation. He has not hidden it in his heart, keeping what the Lord has done for him to himself. Rather, he has spread that message for all who are in the great congregation to hear.

Application

We too, need to spread the message of God’s deliverance, faithfulness, and steadfast love, as we see it evidenced in our lives to our church family. Telling others how God is working in our lives serves to motivate and encourage fellow congregates to continue to fight the good fight. Not only does it encourage others, but our speaking of God’s work in our life brings glory to God.

Challenge

So, may we seek to tell others in our church how God is working in our lives. Not keeping it a secret, but using it as an opportunity to encourage and motivate our fellow church members, as well as a way to glorify our Father in heaven.

Leadership Through Daily Scripture Reading

Have you ever wondered why reading through the Bible every year is important? Have you ever wondered why leaders in churches consistently talk about reading your Bible everyday? Have you ever thought about how your Bible comes to bear on the leadership of your family, small group, or even church?

Leadership Through Personal Scripture Reading

Bible reading plans are a dime a dozen, with each one offering you a different way to read through the Bible. However, before we throw our latest plan off to the side, I want us to think through the importance of our daily Bible reading for our leadership. I am not just talking about leadership at a vocational pastor level, but at all levels because we are all called to be leaders/shepherds, whether that be in our homes, our small groups, or over a local congregation.

Personal Confession

I often find myself reading Scripture in order to gain knowledge. I want to know who the kings were at the time of Isaiah’s prophesy, how many times Jesus told His disciples He was going to die without them understanding what He was telling them, or what churches Paul started on his 1st missionary journey. In doing so, I often fail to see how the text comes to bear on my life in particular.

Reading Scripture for Personal Growth, not Just Knowledge

In saying that, I am not saying we should not understand the facts and broad movements of Scripture. Those things are necessary and very important if we are to understand what God is communicating to us, but we must not stop there. We must dig deeper into each text we are reading in order to understand how the text comes to bear on our lives. In other words, our reading of the text is not complete if we just have the facts, we need to understand what the particular text is teaching us about God (His character or what He has done for us) and about mankind.

Once we understand what the text is saying about God and about mankind, we need to probe our own lives to see if we are dealing with the same sins mentioned in the text. As we make that a daily practice, we will begin to understand what Scriptures speak to different issues we are dealing with, as well as we will begin to root sin out of our lives. When we understand what Scriptures speak to particular issues/sins in our lives, we can then determine what others around us are struggling with. But not only will we know what they are struggling with, we will know what Scriptures will help them in their struggles because we have personally sought to apply them to our own lives during our daily Scripture reading.

Importance of a Daily Reading Plan

Notice, I said, “as we make that a daily practice.” Here is where the daily Scripture reading plans come in. They serve several functions:

(1) To keep us on track
(2) To provide us with accountability
(3) To expose us to a wide range of Scripture, which then causes us to probe our lives in different ways.

So, before you throw your daily reading plan aside, think about its function and what it is helping you to achieve.

Conclusion: Tying It To Leadership

If we want to lead/shepherd others, and we all are called to lead/shepherd others, then we must first understand how the Scripture comes to bear on our own lives. As we understand how the Scripture comes to bear on our lives through the daily reading of it, we are then better positioned to understand how Scripture comes to bear on others lives, as well as we are able to provide them with places to go in God’s Word when discussing with them the particular issues/sins they are dealing with.

So if we want to be a good leader/shepherd, we must first shepherd ourselves with God’s Word by reading it daily and reading it widely, as well as by asking ourselves more about the text than simple who did what and where did they do it. We must ask ourselves: What is God telling us about Himself and about mankind? After which we have to be willing to probe our own lives to see if we view God the way the text presents Him or if we are dealing with the sins the text presents.

I hope that you now see the importance the daily reading of Scripture plays in our lives. It is not for the sheer facts or to check another box off of a list as we go through the day. It is so we can, first, personally grow to be more like Christ through understanding and subsequently rooting sins in our own lives out, and, second, so we can help others deal with sins in their lives in a biblical manner.

Some Additional Things to Keep in Mind

As we read the text, we should also seek to understand how we can use it to counsel others through difficult seasons in their lives. In other words, we should not solely ask, what attitude toward God does this address or what sin is illumined in my life, we have to also ask how could/would I use this Scripture to counsel others who are hurting.

Most importantly, we have to understand that when we discover a particular sin we are dealing with through our daily reading of Scripture, we do not root that sin out solely in our own power. It is by preaching the gospel to ourselves that we deal with sin in our lives, as well as by taking certain measures to remove the temptation for that particular sin. This means that we have not truly dealt with a sin if we do not deal with it at the root level.

May I recommend several resources to help you with this. First, I recently wrote about preaching the gospel to ourselves. You can read it by clicking here. I would also recommend two other posts I wrote: Understanding Your Idols and The Functional Centrality of the Gospel. Second, I would recommend you pick up: Counterfeit God’s by Timothy Keller, as well as How People Change by Lane and Tripp.

If you are interested in different reading plan, my friend Dustin Bruce highlighted some in a recent post on his blog Gospel Spirituality. You can check it out by clicking here.