You’ve decided 2010 will be the year you spend more time in God’s word, but so far you’re off to a shaky start. Before you re-convert your Bible into your home’s largest paperweight, consider the following.There comes a time in most believers’ lives when we want to commit to studying the Bible more consistently. Whether you are brand new to reading the Bible, or simply want to make your time in the word more meaningful, there are a few small changes you can make to realize your goal of meaningful, ongoing bible-study.
1. God expects progress not perfection from you, so behave accordingly. Sometimes people start out reading a chapter or a book of the bible in one sitting everyday. While this can be great, consider starting smaller. Your goal? Until you develop a pace that works well for you, read just a little bit more today than you did yesterday. If you didn’t open your Bible at all yesterday, today open it and read one verse. That’s right, only one. Tomorrow if you like, read two or possibly three.
God’s word is rich and very dense. Pastors often construct entire sermons around one passage. So you aren’t missing out by committing to read one or two verses. Starting smaller can be a manageable way to integrate bible-study into your daily routine.
2. Invite the Holy Spirit into your study. Although the bible was penned by several different people, it has only one author. Since all scripture is God-breathed, who better than the Holy Spirit to guide you into God’s truth. You needn’t pray elaborately. A simple “Holy Spirit help me to understand and apply what I’m about to study,” does just fine.
3. King James may not be the best translation for you. Unless you are very familiar with it, the English of the King James Bible can be very challenging to understand. For a more contemporary translation try the New International Version, The Amplified Version, The New International Reader’s Translation, or The New King James Versions of the Bible. There are many other versions of the bible to choose from, but if you only want to invest in one Bible, I would recommend using one of those mentioned above because they are line for line translations instead of paraphrased bibles. That means that the translators went line by line through the Hebrew or Greek to complete their version instead of summing up the passages.
If you decide to choose a paraphrased bible, consider purchasing a parallel edition, such as “The People’s Parallel Edition” which lists two or more translations side-by-side with paraphrased editions. This way you don’t have to carry around several copies of the bible.
4. Consider using a devotional. If you type in the word “devotional” on any search engine, sites pop up like daisies. As much as people have abused the internet to spread hate and smut, many use it as a tool of inspiration and education. Of course as with anything, please be careful, research the source of your devotional as much as possible. There are many false teachers out there. For the last eight or nine years, I have found the devotionals on Doctor Charles Stanley’s site, www.intouch.org, to be not only biblically sound, but inspiring and challenging as well. If you have a favorite Christian author, see if that person writes a devotional as well.
5. Purchase an inexpensive workbook. As far as a daily study curriculum, I find any of the workbooks the folks at LifeWay make to be very suitable. “Experiencing God” by Blackaby and King is my personal favorite. I call it “stupid-proof” because you just can’t mess it up. The 13-week study is divided into smaller daily sections that take maybe twenty minutes to read through and answer. The scriptures that you need to study are already in the workbook, so if you study away from home, you only need to bring one book!
6. You don’t have to study the bible in the morning. There are folks who will tell you that morning bible study is the next best thing to sliced bread. And for them, I’m sure it’s true. For me personally, morning bible-study has only been a reality for a season or two. I primarily study the bible in the evening or at night. With four children ages 11 down to four, mornings do not work in my house. Between eating breakfast, combing hair, and carpooling to three different schools, in order to get twenty minutes alone in the word, I would have to wake-up at 4:00 AM.
Let me just say, if that works well for you, God bless your efforts. I mean that sincerely. But if waking at 4:00 AM is unrealistic for you, don’t worry. Find whatever time during the day you can steal away for about twenty to thirty minutes. At one season in my life, I could only study on my lunch hour for fifteen minutes, while I gulped down my food. These days I prefer to study after the little people are in bed and before (or sometimes instead of) watching TV.
Still, studying the Bible right before going to sleep has worked well for me, too. Freshly showered, in my jammies with a full belly, and a quiet house puts me in my best state of mind. I am most alert and mentally rested. Moreover, I love having God’s word as the last object of my focus upon which to meditate as I slumber, as opposed the latest episode of “Law And Order.”
7. You don’t have to start at the beginning either. While it is a great strategy to start at Genesis and read through to revelation, the Bible is a great book to start in the middle! Any one of the Gospels presents an eyewitness account to the life and deeds of Jesus Christ. Since they are written as narratives, they are fairly easy to follow. If this is your first time reading the Bible or if you haven’t read it in a long time, start with the Gospel of John.
8. Consistency is king! So what if you blow it! Life interrupts your plans. Crises happen. The unexpected pops up. Don’t get discouraged. Refuse to beat yourself up. Keep experimenting with times, places, materials until you find the right combination that proves effective.
9. Solicit prayer support. You don’t have to make an announcement from the pulpit. But do ask a few people who care to pray for you. Reading the bible is no casual gesture. The minute you determine to go deeper in Christ you pop up on the enemy’s radar. Children who once slept through the night, suddenly, inexplicably start having nightmares. The phone rings with yet another emergency just as you sit down to open your workbook. The break-room at work, which is perpetually empty, suddenly becomes the new headquarters of the very vocal Man-haters club. Don’t sleep. This is war. Your enemy has been very successful at creating diversions. So cover yourself. If your church has a prayer team or a Mother’s board, call them and put your name on the list. If you don’t have anyone who can pray for you, call Faithful Central Bible Church at 310.330.8000 and ask for the prayer line. Those folks will pray for you!
You have made a very important decision. Reading God’s word will only bless you and cause you to grow in your faith and in love for Christ. My prayer is that God will honor your heart’s desire to know him and that he will multiply your efforts.
Be blessed, Family!
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