I’ll never forget the day a young college-aged girl told me recently that she didn’t enjoy reading her Bible and asked if there was an alternative book.
At first, I didn’t know what to say. Then I realize she was very serious.
“Well…no!”, I thought, but didn’t say.
The Bible is THE BOOK!
There is no substitute. There are plenty of great Christian books, but none compare to this one.
That wasn’t a new concern. I’ve heard similar concerns many times. The Bible intimidates many people; even those who are avid readers of other books.
I did suggest this girl could listen to the Bible on a CD or mp3. YouVersion will even read the Bible to you. But then I told her I’d give her some more suggestions.
That’s what prompted this post. The reality is I think we need to figure out how to enjoy reading God’s Word. Part of maturing as a believer is to fall in love with the Bible.
Here are 7 suggestions which may help:
Pray – The Bible is not like any other book. You need God’s Spirit to help you understand and process it. You should always pray before and as you read it. Ask God to help you understand what you’re reading — even to help you enjoy it. Good news here! This appears, in my experience, to be one of God’s favorite prayers to answer.
Version – Pick a version easy for you to understand. I would suggest you read a more literal translation primarily, but the paraphrase versions are good for casual reading. I suggest HCSB, NIV or NLT for a more literal but very readable version, ESV or NKJV if you want a most literal translation, or for a paraphrase version, that’s extremely readable, try The Message Version. I read some of each of these for my studies and casual reading. (I wrote a post on how to select a version HERE.)
Sharing – It brings Scripture to life when we can share it with others. Find a small group. That’s what church is great for at providing. Or find a group of guys or girls at a coffee shop or a couple of people from work. Studying the Scripture with a community helps energize you as you learn. When you talk about what you’re reading, it helps you value it more. (Read Philemon 6 for an example of this.)
Journaling – Writing about your time in God’s Word will help you process your thoughts and keep a record of them. It’s exciting to go back over time and remember what you read before. It fuels your enthusiasm to study even more.
Timing – I love the idea of reading the Bible through in a year. I’ve done this many times. I think it’s more important, however, that you benefit from what you’re reading. I sometimes meditate on a few verses or a story for a day — or a week. I also recommend people start with an easier book to understand and move to more difficult passages from there. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John are good places to start. And, find the right setting. A comfortable chair, an open field — morning, noon or night — what works best for you. And, for as long as you can. Don’t put a time limit on it that adds more burden to the experience.
Clarify – It’a best to have a study Bible for this part, but there are plenty of free online tools also. Look up words you don’t understand. Learn to use Bible dictionaries and commentaries. Use the Table of Contents. No shame. Look up passages, which aren’t clear, cross-referencing verses with other similar verses using footnotes. For some people, having a Bible study to work through along with reading the Bible is helpful. And, when you aren’t certain, ask someone you trust who understands the Bible.
Relationship – The best way to fall in love with God’s Word is to get to better know it’s Author. It’s cliche now, but read it as a love letter written to you. If someone writes you a love letter, you’ll read it continually until you figure out what it means, and maybe even memorize parts of it along the way. If you can’t figure out something, you’ll consult the author.
The greater your love grows with God the easier Bible reading becomes — and the more enjoyable. You may even someday say it’s “fun”!
What would you add to my list?
Over 25 years ago I took a month to read through the book of Jeremiah. Two verses stood out to me then that have continued to produce spiritual growth in my life.
The two verses are:
I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.
I realized that God had promised the people they could have a heart to know Him. Therefore, the God who never changes has also promised me I can have a heart to know Him, not just know about Him, but really get to know Him personally. I began praying that God would give me that kind of heart.
A few days later, I read this verse:
I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them.
God also promised His people that not only could they know Him intimately, but also He would help them carry out that heart in the things they did. They wouldn’t simply believe a truth; they would actually begin to live truth. Again, I realized God would do the same for me. I began praying that God would give me “singleness of heart and action.”
Praying the truths of these two verses became a pattern for my life over the next year. Looking back, I can see how God did just as He promised. I continue to make mistakes and I consistently need to go back to these principles, but God truly has given me a heart that desires to know him and more and more I am beginning to see myself live out the truth I believe.
What verses have worked that way in your heart? Do you need to pray God would work these verses for truth in your life?
Do you want to guarantee your success in the new year?
If you could figure out a way, that’d be worth it, right?
Here’s a Biblical example of how to have the best year ever.
The Lord said to Abram:
Go out from your land,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who treat you with contempt,
and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Genesis 12:1-3 (Emphasis mine)
The secret, for lack of a better word, for any success Abraham would ever had would be found in moving from his will to God’s will — allowing God to shake his direction and the outcome of his life.
When the “you” comes after the “I” rather than before, we’ll always guarantee our success.
Here’s a guaranteed strategy for the new year to be a success:
- Drop your agenda — and join His agenda.
- Get off your path — and get on His path.
- Release your ambitions — and embrace His ambitions.
- Set aside your will — and live His will.
Are you ready for a great new year? Let God lead the way.
Ever wonder the secret to being thankful?
I believe the secret to being thankful is in learning to be more content.
We give thanks out of a heart overflowing with gratefulness. A full heart naturally produces gratitude.
How do we do that?
The Apostle Paul told us he had learned the secret.
I think Paul gave us some clues earlier in his letter to the Philippians.
Here’s Paul’s remedy:
(He says he’s going to tell us one thing — then he gives us three — typical Paul.)
Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Here is Paul’s remedy to being more content – more thankful
Forgetting what is behind.
Has it been a tough year? Have you made some mistakes? That day is gone. Did you know that? It’s over. Done. Gone. The question now is what are you going to do about it? Are you going to live in the past? Hold on to guilt? Refuse the grace of God in your life? Refuse to forgive? Hold a grudge? If you’re lonely, you sulk or get up and get out among people — find some friends and let them invest in you? You may need to grieve or mourn or ask forgiveness, but you can let the past control you or move forward. Not both. Which will you choose?
Remembering what is ahead.
The best days are ahead if you’re a child of God. He’s writing a story with a happy ending, where all things work for an ultimate good. Right now we have more questions than answers. Some day He will provide for His children a Sabbath rest. And have you ever seen a sunset which took your breath away or marveled at the beauty of a mountain reaching into a clouded sky? Well, just wait. “No eye has seen” what God has prepared. If Christ is in you – you have a present Helper and a future reward. It’s all working for His glory.
Pursue worthy goals.
Pursue Christ. Honor Him with your life. Have the mind of Christ. Love one another. Pray for your enemies. Do good — expecting nothing in return. It will fill your heart with more joy, more contentment — more thanksgiving as you invest your life in others.
And, later in Philippians Paul shares that the “peace of God” will guard your hearts. You will be filled with contentment.
And, you’ll find yourself being a more thankful person.
One disappointment I have had in ministry is watching people come to church, get excited for a time, then disappear. You spend energy and heart on people, grow to love them and get excited about them, and suddenly they are nowhere to be found.
The biggest disappointment is not people who transfer to another church. I’m okay with that if it helps them better grow in their relationship with Christ. I’m talking about people who quit going to church altogether. They are in one day — out the next.
What happens to them? Why do they leave?
I’ve found there are often similar reasons that are repeated continuously. Perhaps you have seen this too.
Here are 7 reasons people disappear from church:
Burn out – These people came out of the gate too strong in the church. They showed up, got excited, and signed up for everything. They got so busy doing church they failed to enjoy being the church.
Injury – People inside the church can be cruel. I hate when that happens, but it’s true. These people experienced some of those people and they couldn’t move past it.
Distractions – These people got distracted by seemingly good things. They were playing travel ball, loving the fast life, traveling every weekend. Over time, their lifestyle of attending becomes the habit of not attending.
Life change – These people had a lifestyle change, such as divorce or re-marriage — or they move to a new community — and never re-connect with a church.
Mistakes – These people messed up! They made a mistake that may be public — or at least they feel that it will be known — and the place that should dispense grace appears either refuses it or they feel that it would. Many times when a person feels that way it is more perception than reality, but the way a person feels about themselves may determine whether they remain committed to church.
Power struggle – These people had an agenda. They were pursuing an issue — or a position — and when it their demands weren’t met and they couldn’t overpower the system, they left.
Lack of connection – These people never connected with others on a deeper level. As a result, they never felt really a “part” of the church.
Pastors, have you experienced these walking with people in ministry? How do you address these issues?
Obviously, we need to do all we can to help people become disciples. Knowing why they leave may be helpful. We can’t address some of these issues — maybe most — much of this is out of our control. But, the more we understand the more we can help people as they experience these.
I think there is also a word here to the one who has disappeared or is on the verge. Beware. If you feel the need for the church in your life — or if you understand the Biblical mandate to be a part of a Body of believers — then guard your heart for these. And, help us know how to be a better church. In fact, come help us be a better church. Here’s one pastor (And, I know so many others) who is listening.
What other reasons would you add to my list?