Bible reading

LOOK FOR THE SWEETNESS IN GOD’S WORD

How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!

                                                        (Psalm 119:103)

The Bible is entirely good.

As Christians, we know it is important to read God’s word. However, we may not be convinced that it is a book filled with sweetness for our souls.

To help us have the proper perspective about reading the Bible, we need to maintain the proper perspective about God and his purpose in giving the Bible to us.

God is entirely good.

Indeed, he is perfect at being good, wise, faithful, and loving. These qualities of God flow through his word which he has given to us.

The intention of God’s word is to reveal what God is like, to show how sinners like us can be reconciled to him, and to guide us into life with him.

Look for the sweetness in God’s Word

To get the most out of reading God’s word, we want to escape reading the Bible as if it’s a form of drudgery.

One of the ways to do this, is to look for the sweetness in God’s word.

 As you read, look for descriptions of God’s glorious character

As you read, look for evidences of God being faithful.

As you read, look for disclosures of God’s intentions for you.

As you read, look for declarations of God’s faithfulness to you.

As you read, look for promises of your future with God.

As you read, look for guidance in becoming more like Jesus, God’s Son.

The Bible is a gritty book, because it tells the truth about sin and its consequences.

The Bible is a challenging book, because God doesn’t accept half-heartedness.

The Bible can be a difficult book, because God’s ways are higher than ours and run opposite of the world.

However, the Bible is also a sweet book, because it contains what our Good Good Father has to say to us.

 

READING THE BIBLE SUPERNATURALLY

 

Last year, I enjoyed reading John Piper’s book “A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness”, which presents the self-authenticating nature of the Bible.

Now my soul is being thrilled by reading Piper’s follow-up book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”.

Piper wants to do more than motivate us to a renewed commitment in reading the Bible, he wants us to recognize the extraordinary potency that should be in our everyday reading of it.

The Bible is a supernatural book, that is understood through a supernatural work of God, and should produce supernatural effects for God in us and through us!

“Reading the Bible Supernaturally” will inspire, encourage, excite and clarify. Consider how wonderful it will be to have your daily walk in God’s Word become more fully what the Holy Spirit intends for it to be.

All that the Spirit says is wondrous, and all that He intends for the believer is wondrous. This should lead us to spend more time with our Bibles open before us. And this should fill our heart with expectation at the turn of each page.

THOUGHTS FOR DRY or DEAD BIBLE READING

Do you struggle to consistently read God’s Word?

You are not alone, but in the end, there are no excuses!

We are commended to abide in God’s Word.

We desperately need to abide in God’s Word.

We rob our life of richness when we fail to abide in God’s Word.

Whatever your reason for not establishing this habit, the answer is to stop minimizing the person of God while you maximize the importance of your own activities.

The failure to pray and read the Bible is not a time or scheduling issue, it is a love and submission to God issue.

The consistent, engaged and responsive reading of God’s Word will revolutionize your heart. Don’t miss God’s wealth of wisdom and goodness, because of a lousy excuse.

Do you struggle to keep your reading fresh?

You are definitely not alone there either.

Every faithful and mature Christian has walked through this struggle – many times.

I find that opening my Bible with the perspective that God is an amazing person who wants to speak to me as I read, is helpful.

John Piper’s latest book, “Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”, is an excellent resource in this area. I hope to post a review on this book next week.

Until then, read this helpful article by Tim Challies, “Simple Ways to Spark a Lukewarm Devotional Life”. He mentions a few books at the end of the article. “Habits of Grace” by David Mathis has my high recommendation.

Another idea is to talk with fellow-believers who show a love for God. Relax over a cup of coffee and discuss ways to freshen your devotional time. Anyone who loves God will be glad to talk with you and pray for you about these matters which are precious to them.

Even if you feel dry in your devotional life, take joy in the fact that you are laboring at it. Take joy in the wonderful reality that you want God to fill your life. Most people are grievously blind and dead to these desires.

God wants to bring a fresh breeze to your time with Him. He rejoices in the time you give. It is never dry and empty to Him!

IT’S NOT A CHORE!

You should be thoughtfully reading God’s Word on a regular basis.

But you already know that.

A good definition of regular is each day. There will be days when circumstances get out of control and you miss your reading time. When that happens, don’t drift into guilt. Simply thank God for his graciousness and pick up again the next day.

I cannot remember ever hearing a Christian tell me they didn’t think Bible reading was important. But I know there are many Christians who have not consistently established a habit of regular Bible reading.

The most common excuse we use is that “We don’t have time”.

But I think the actual most common reason is that we think of it as a burdensome chore.

In an article on the desiringGod website, David Mathis wrote:

“One of the biggest scams Satan has running is the lie that reading the Bible is a chore.”

I hope you will consider reading his entire article, “Treat Yourself to the Voice of God”.

David, not only encourages us in what Bible reading is – he also presents several helpful and perhaps unexpected tips for enjoying regular Bible reading.

If you enjoy David’s article, I highly recommend his outstanding book, “Habits of Grace”.

 

DOES THE BIBLE EVER GET BORING?

Have you ever come across a boring section of the Bible?

It’s okay, we are all friends here – you can admit it

Among the parts of the Bible that I generally don’t enjoy reading

  • The treatment of uncleanness and skin diseases in Leviticus
  • The repetition in Deuteronomy of what was already recorded in Exodus-Numbers
  • The long oracles of judgment against the nations in Jeremiah

Yet, the Bible is a glorious and purposeful book written – for us! The Bible is devoid of empty or worthless books, paragraphs, sentences, phrases or words.

This doesn’t mean all that is contained in the Bible fun to read, but it helps us to know there are very good reasons for all that it does contain.

What helps make the tedious parts less . . well, tedious – is when we understand why those sections are in the Bible. When we can see their purpose, even these pages gain more traction in our minds and our hearts.

Nancy Guthrie, who is one of my wife’s favorite authors and speakers, wrote this article for the Desiring God Blog entitled, “The Best Things About the Boring Parts of the Bible”.

Nancy lists 10 potentially “boring” sections and tells us why they are there and why they should interest us.

And just so you know, her article is not boring at all!

DO YOU STRUGGLE READING THE BIBLE?

You really want to get more out of reading your Bible, but it often seems like just words on a page, instead of God’s voice to you.

Don’t feel bad or think you are the only one. The central responsibility of my job involves studying and teaching the Bible. Yet, I often struggle with feeling I am getting much from my devotional Bible reading.

So what do we do?

Jim Elliff wrote an article “My Preferred Way to Read the Bible”, that I hope (very much) you will read. This is because meaning Bible reading is so (very) important for us.

In the first part of his article, Jim talks about three things that mistakenly replace Bible reading. This is helpful, but it is the second half of the article that I appreciated most: Ten simple suggestions for meaningful Bible reading

I liked this part of the article a lot!

His ideas really are solid, simple and helpful. You can read them all right here.

An interesting side note

A few days after reading this article, I received an email from Pastor Anatoly Chukhalyonak (yeah, I just use his first name), who is a translator on the SEE Global staff in Belarus. Anatoly had also read it and asked if I could get permission to translate the article into Russian, so it could be posted on SEE Global’s Russian language website.

Here is the website link, if you want an exciting peek of me preaching in Russian

Jim Elliff, was quite gracious and excited to grant our request. So some of your Christian brothers and sisters throughout the former Soviet Union will be working on these 10 simple suggestions with you

HOW TO MEDITATE ON GOD’S WORD

Yesterday, I introduced the theme of Meditating on God’s Word and the two objections we have with adopting this as a regular practice. The first objection which I already addressed is that it seems like a time draining practice that won’t accomplish much.

The second objection which we will cover today, is that we are foggy on the specifics of HOW to meditate on God’s Word. Fortunately, for you, I found the following helpful thoughts while reading A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones:

1st  Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you.  You might use Psalm 119:18, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” 

2nd  Read a portion of the Scriptures, don’t read so much that you have no time to meditate.

3rd  Focus on one verse or doctrine, something easy and applicable to your life.  Repeat the verse or doctrine to yourself several times to memorize it.

4th  Analyze it in your mind by its various names, properties, cause and effects, together with illustrations, comparisons, and opposites.  Be careful not to speculate further than what God has spoken.

5th  Preach the truth to your soul to stir up your faith, love, desire, hope, courage, grief, gratitude, and joy in the presence of God.  Examine your life and make detailed application.

6th  Resolve with prayer to grow in grace.

7th  Praise the Lord with thanksgiving.

“To meditate is to pray, read, focus, analyze, preach to yourself, resolve with prayer, and praise God in a manner that revolves around a single truth of Scripture.  By regular times of meditation, you will practice personal devotion to the Lord and experience John 15:5:  “He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit.”

GETTING MORE FROM READING YOUR BIBLE

Young man reading small Bible

One of the the ways God’s Word calls us to use what we find within its covers, is to meditate on it.

“I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes”  Psalm 119:48

But we have a two-fold problem with adopting this practice.

Our first problem is that we don’t VALUE meditating on much of anything (except perhaps the latest smart phone or our fantasy football team). Mediating seems unproductive and we live in the land of accomplishment and getting things done. We feel good when we can act on something, and we measure worth by the length of our check lists.

Compared to action, meditation is just sitting around thinking about something. We don’t think we have time for thinking, and we know we have little patience for it.

Yet, how we think affects how we act and what we value. The simple fact is we are thinking about stuff constantly, but it is rarely planned or structured thinking. Much of our thinking is reactive to what pops in front of our eyes or hops into our mind.

Meditation is to intentionally choose to run our thoughts on a particular path. It is something like a trip to an art museum where we choose to pause at certain paintings and consider what we like or not about the strokes and splashes on that canvas.

To meditate on God’s Word is to pick a statement or concept we just read and pause to settle in and think about what is meant and how it can be applied. Meditation is really a statement of value. It is a declaration that God’s Word is God talking to us, and that what He says is essential for our life.

If you think God is someone worth knowing and if you believe what He says is worth understanding, then meditation is a practice worth our slowing down. Over time it will not only become a beloved item at the top of your to do list, it will immeasurably impact your to do list!

The second problem we have with meditation is not feeling we really know HOW to do it. Tomorrow I will give some practical help for that concern.

A HABIT TO KEEP

One of the practices we should have, and desperately need to have in our lives, is the daily reading of God’s Word.

There are many reasons why we struggle with daily Bible reading. For some it seems like a daunting task. The Bible is a long book and we can feel as if we are not getting anywhere. Or perhaps you start and stop throughout the year and are no longer sure where you left off. It doesn’t help us to feel as though we are making progress when we keep starting over at the beginning.

One help to Bible reading is to follow a Bible reading plan. There are many Bible reading plans and it can be a good thing over the years to take different approaches. The key is to just get started and keep at it. A reading plan may help you take that crucial step.

Nate Treguboff at the Sovereign Grace Blog serves us well by providing links to a wide range of reading plans in this recent article. Surely one of these options would be a great way for you to start the wonderful habit of daily spending time in God’s Word. Some of the plans will help those who have been faithfully reading their Bibles to take a fresh look at their Bible study.

Why not start 2013 with a real plan that will help you stay rooted in the words which will feed, guard, guide, protect and bless you!