Loving Jesus by Being in the Word Pt 2
Last week at Mystery Mid week we began a semester look at our Mission as a church, starting with part one of a four part “series” on Loving Jesus.
In part one I gave a list of scriptures intended to point us to a greater understanding and appreciation for the importance of scripture in the lives of Christ Followers. I hope you found it helpful and even transformational.
With this post I’d like to give some practical tips for reading the bible. In my walk with Jesus reading the bible has not always been easy or seemed beneficial. What I have come to learn is it wasn’t the bible as much as it was me and my approach to it. Like most, i began thinking it was more about me and what God wanted me to do. Over time and by Gods grace I have come to see it’s most certainly foremost about Him and all he has done to save us in Christ.
Secondly I thought there was only one way to read scripture. I was mostly just told “read it” but never given the tools to do so. (This was the best part of bible college; learning to study scripture.) However, what has greatly impacted me the most was wise men teaching me there is more than one way and it’s good to find my way along the way. Make sense? What I am not saying is to do as many have done to pick what I like and leave what I dont. What I am saying is we need all of the bible along with multiple means of studying scripture. And we also need to find a rhythm and way that resonates with how God has wired us. You will be more motivated to read, more engaged in reading and get more from it in the long run.
The following is not a comprehensive how to, but rather some ideas from my own experience that have benefited and contributed to greater enjoyment of the bible.
1. See it as relationship not simply reading
If the bible is just words you wont be very motivated to pursue being in it. Understand that the bible is God speaking to you. When we have that “I should read the bible” feeling its because the God who revealed scripture is inviting you into relationship through it. That God wants you to know him is crazy. Go to the bible to be with God. He wants to be with you.
2. Have a plan and submit to it
I have found that like with most things, if I dont have a plan it dont get it done. (At least not as well as or when I would have liked) Find a plan that’s right for you. Some might want to read the entire bible in a year, maybe just the old or new testament. Maybe you want to do a topical study for a season. The point is not which one, but that you have one. Our church is reading the story of the bible in a year. Not every verse, but the entire story.
It’s good to have a plan to start is even more essential to have a plan once it’s going. There will be days you dont want to read. It’s ok. That said there will be LOTS of days you dont want to read. Having a plan helps. Submitting to the plan is crucial. There will be days that you need to let the plan bring you back to the bible. Some days we lead ourselves well, other times we need to be lead. Submitting to the plan helps tremendously.
3. Have a Partner
Two are better than one the bible says. It’s true. Having someone to hold us accountable and also share the journey with is just a god practice. This could be a friend, a spouse, a family member, co-worker or community group member, the point is dont do it alone.
4. Find your Place
This was a big deal for me. You are already struggling to get motivated, having a place to go that keeps you focused and contributes to the experience is hugely beneficial. We all have places we like to go with friends so it makes sense that when I am seeing time in scripture as time with God it’s just better when we have our place. Good news, God can go anywhere. Join him there. He actually likes you to like being with him and that means he loves hanging where you enjoying being. Maybe its the park. Maybe a room in the house, a comfortable chair, heck even a prayer closet, point is where do you feel safe, comfortable and expressive? Where can you find peace? What contributes to your senses and enjoyment go there. It might take some trail and error but it will come.
Side Note: My space is outdoors. In the winter that’s hard so I try to have a space for when the weather is not as inviting. Also dont pick a place too distracting. It’s like taking my wife to a sports bar is a bad idea (too many TVs and my ADD) be with God where you can focus on God.
5. Find your Pace
This is connected with the Have a Plan part. Not everyone is wired to read the same about at the same pace. I have burned out quickly trying to be like other people with bigger brains or a greater attention span than I have. When picking plan find one that doesnt overwhelm but still challenges you. Another option is to find a plan you like but establish a pace you can handle. It’s ok to read through the bible in two years too. You will stick with a plan when you are experiencing some success sticking with it. You might even find yourself in time ramping it up a bit. Just like when you start working out. That’s ok too.Push yourself and pace yourself.
6. Find your Time
Just like finding your place it’s good to find your time. All my life I’ve been told good Christians get up before the sun and read like 27 chapters of the bible. I m sure someone does, but I struggle with reading the bible early in the morning. I’m not awake, I dont retain and I dont usually enjoy. That said we can’t just read the bible whenever we want. We have work, life and responsibilities. We can however get creative and give ourselves some grace. Is morning better for you? Over lunch, at a break, in the evening or at bedtime? When is your capacity to stay focused at its best? When does your schedule allow?
I will say that personally the sooner I can do it the more impact it has on my day and life. Also I’ll admit that the later I wait the greater the possibility it wont happen at all. Life just happens.
7. Set Realistic Goals
Like finding your pace, establish attainable goals. If you struggle to read it all, trying to get through the entire bible in a month is a recipe for failure and despair. Give yourself goals that challenge and excite and encourage when you achieve.
8. Listen more than Look
This was huge for me. Like approaching the bile as a relationship is helpful to our motivation, learning to listen to the Word is tremendously transforming. Do you just read the bible, or does the bible read you? Some keys to listening to scripture are: Go slower, Read the same passage multiple times and Pray before, during and after your reading. Having your realistic goals and establishing a personal pace contribute as well. Be less concerned about getting it done, than about being undone and redone by God.
9. Be willing to Stop & Stay
Ever been reading the bible and something jumps out at you? Might just be that the Spirit has given you a particular truth he intends for you to chew on . What often happens though is the accomplishment of getting through our days reading distracts us from Gods intended purpose. It’s ok to stop. Heck, it’s ok to stop and stay in a chapter, even on a verse for several days. If you sense God inviting you into deeper understanding, conviction or encouragement seek it out.
That said I have also seen people go down some pretty pointless rabbit trails. This is were having a partner and being in a community can help greatly. Share where God has you camping out and allow them to speak into it as well. What Jesus’ is telling you could very well help them, and if you happen to be hovering in revelation freaking out about black copters and secret codes that can lovingly slay those dragons too.
10. Share it with Others
I can’t tell you how often a word from the bible spoken to me in the morning has benefit another during the day. Listen to the world and be ready with good news. Sharing what you are learning is helpful as well in remembering.
11. Speak it to your Self
During my day I need Gods word to encourage and override my own. Often the person I encounter in need of truth and gospel grace is me. Learn to let what your hearing from God stay with and influence you all day. This too helps in our retention.
12. Pray Scripture
We will talk more about this in the coming weeks, but using scripture to guide my prayer has benefited me not only in pray but in my bible reading. As I have already said pray into your time in the word, during your time and after your time. Sometimes a verse makes me think of certain people and specific needs, sometimes a story makes me think of situations or connects allegorically to something I know about, am going through or am teaching on. When I am attentive to the Spirits leading I find myself praying a lot as a read. Similar to stopping and staying on a text, its ok to stop and pray over a text as well.
13. Give Yourself Grace
God invites us into relationship. He challenges us to know, apply and share the word, to bind it on our hearts and teach it as we walk along, being people of the Word, He does not however set a bunch of goals or condemning us for not reaching them. More than anything when God mentions his people neglecting the word I find it attached to him being saddened by our wondering for jealous for our return. Condemnation is the enemies weapon not Christs.
When we fail, remember the cross. When we succeed remember the cross. Start where you left off and enjoy where you are. God knows and will get you were he has you going.