The church that I visited on Easter Day is running a challenge this month called: 31 Days in May. They describe this as a simple but potentially life-changing idea and an initiative for the whole church to engage with the Word of God together.
Everyday throughout the month of May they will read one chapter from the book of Proverbs. Chapter 1 on the 1st, chapter 2 on the 2nd, chapter 3 on the 3rd and so on throughout the month. Church members are then being encouraged to pray over it and into it as they go through the book: for themselves, for their friends and contacts, for the church and for our world.
Although this might sound quite a simple idea it struck me as being a very good initiative and one that could be very beneficial both for individuals and for the church collectively. Therefore I have decided that I will take up the 31 Days in May challenge myself this month.
If you have not got any specific bible readings planned for May why not join in 31 Days in May and immerse yourself in the book of Proverbs this month.
In Psalm 19v7 there is a wonderful statement by David:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”
I’m not sure about you but so often my soul needs reviving. At the end of a stressful day at work or an exhausting and busy week I certainly need to be revived. Yet to be honest I don’t always turn to God’s word for revival. There are occasions when instead of doing this I turn to earthly things e.g. leisure activities, food, sport, TV, social media etc. Whilst none of those are necessary wrong in themselves, they will not bring revival to the soul.
This is because those things are not God’s word. They may be enjoyable past times and activities, but they do not revive us. Instead of turning to them we should turn to God’s word. We regularly need to read the scriptures, study them and meditate on them. It’s important that we set aside time each day to do this.
If we neglect these disciplines, then we miss opportunities to experience a revived soul. Some people also find it helpful to have a bible verse in their mind for them to ponder as they prepare to go to sleep each night. It’s a good way to finish the day.
If you ever read anything about the persecuted Church, you will see their love for the bible. In many of these countries a person can get into severe trouble for owning a bible. When they receive a bible, they are so grateful and full of excitement. Conversely, many of us in the west have numerous different translations of the bible at home, not to mention the ones on our phones! Yet we often rarely read them.
Let us not neglect the scriptures but instead know the reality of this wonderful phrase in Psalm 19v7:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”
Have you ever read through the whole Bible in a year? There are many different reading plans available to assist with this. If you visit your local Christian bookshop or type “bible readings plans” into your favourite search engine, you will see a variety of options that can be used. One of my favourite ways is reading through the Bible chronologically.
The advantage of reading the Bible chronologically is that it enhances our understanding of the historical context of the individual books of the Bible. We can see in the Old Testament how books like Ezra, Hosea, Amos and Micah fit into the history of God’s dealings with his people. Likewise, in the New Testament we can look at each of Paul’s letters and see at which stage of his missionary travels they were written.
I personally have used the “Cover to Cover Through the Bible As It Happened” reading plan which is produced by CWR. This is an edition of the Bible that is split into 365 different readings with various helpful notes that assist the reader.
The prospect of reading through the bible in a year though does appear a daunting task. Many might think that it is impossible or have tried in the past but given up after a couple of months. It might surprise you however to know that it only takes between 15 to 20 minutes per day to do this. If we consider the amount of time we spend on social media, watching You Tube videos or on Netflix’s then surely, we can spare that small amount of time reading the scriptures in 2019?
Although everyone is different I prefer to do my Bible readings in the morning. If you are a “morning person” why not set your alarm 15 minutes earlier and do the reading before you start the day. Others though prefer to read during the day or in the evenings. The most important thing is to find a time that works best for you and to set that time aside each day. If for any reason you miss a day don’t get discouraged or give up but keep going.
Why not make 2019 the year you read through the Bible chronologically?
I know that Christians have mixed views on Bible reading notes. Some find them a valuable tool to aid them in their daily readings whilst others think it’s better to read the Bible without the aid of notes.
Over the years I have used a number of different Bible reading notes and found some to be very helpful. There are also others that I have found not so useful (no names mentioned!).
Since the start of 2017 I have been using “New Daylight” which is published by BRF (The Bible Reading Fellowship). New Daylight notes provide four months of daily Bible readings. Each day starts with a reading which is followed by a comment on the passage and finishes with a prayer or thought to ponder.
Although that format is the same as all the various other Bible reading notes I have used, New Daylight uses contributors who come from a range of different church backgrounds. Therefore unlike other reading notes I have used, I have encountered writings from other Christians whose church traditions are different to mine.
There are a number of differing themes in each addition of New Daylight. Some of these themes are for one week but most of them generally cover two weeks.
Amongst the themes covered in the current edition are:
Studies on Psalms 81-93
Acts 1-6: adventures of a Spirit-inspired community
Fate and free will in Mark’s Gospel
In truth and love: 2 John and 3 John
Unsung heroes of the Old Testament
Zechariah: rebuilding, God’s way
So as can be seen that is a nice variety of passages and themes. I was particularly impressed that 2 John and 3 John were featured in this edition. I suspect most Christians have not heard a sermon preached from either of those two short letters let along studied them in their daily readings!
I once heard a sermon in which the preacher said there were two ways we read scripture which he described as looking down over scripture and being under scripture.
The first one is the idea that we stand over scripture and ask what do I think this passage means? Whilst that sounds fine in reality it is not quite what it seems. When we read scripture like this we often approach with our own theological leanings and biases which then determines our interpretation of the passage. So depending on what our theological position is on a particular subject it then affects the way we interpret the passage before us.
Sitting under scripture is different though. In this approach we put aside our theological leanings and biases and ask God to open our hearts to truly understand what He is saying, even if it contradicts our theology! The obvious advantage to this method of reading scripture is that we have more chance of hearing God this way. Why you may ask? The reason is because we have not already decided the meaning of the passage by our own biases and prejudices and therefore we are more open to hearing God.
I sometimes read theological debates on line. One of the problems with theological debates can be we look for our “proof” verse to support our viewpoint and then we wade into the argument saying that we are right and everyone who has an alternative view is wrong. Sadly the arguments don’t just stop at saying someone is wrong but can generate into accusing fellow believers of not being real or genuine Christians!
This to me illustrates the problems that can occur when we come to scripture and bring our theological biases and decide in advance what a passage means. Naturally our interpretation is 100% right and anyone who disagrees is obviously wrong. Very wrong!
I have to be honest and say that I myself have done this and it can stop one from fully engaging with scripture. I guess though it is a safe way to read the Bible because if we come to it in a spirit of humbleness and openness there is always the risk that God might show us that we are wrong in a particular area. We then might have to change our viewpoint and completely rethink our theology in that area or maybe in many areas!
Permit me to ask you a question? Do you ever sit down and read whole books of the Bible straight through?
There are of course many different ways in which we can read the Bible e.g. a chapter at a time or a section of the scriptures each day. Some people like to focus on one particular verse and meditate on that. Whilst others might like to study a theme e.g. love and focus on verses in which that is mentioned.
Over the last few months I have increasingly become convinced of the importance of reading through whole books of the Bible and when possible doing this at one sitting.
You might be someone who, as mentioned above, prefers to study a chapter at a time. My suggestion to you would be to read the whole book through a few times before you start your study to get an overall high level view of the book. For example if you decide to undertake an in depth study of 1 Peter read it through every day for a week before you commence your study.
If we take the New Testament letters, they were written to either churches or individuals and often address specific problems that were being faced. By reading straight through the letter at one sitting we can get a feel of the whole letter. It is very unlikely that the original recipients of the letters would not have listened to the letter being read straight through.
When we read a book straight through it is harder to take verses out of context and apply a meaning to them that was not the original intention of the author. We see the context in which these verses were written and how they form part of the narrative of the book.
If someone writes me a letter (or email) I would not read half of it today and the other half tomorrow. So why would I not apply this to my Bible reading?
I know not everyone finds it easy to sit down and read. I am not an avid reader myself but if I find an enjoyable novel then it’s no problem for me to read 50 pages at one sitting. If I can do this with a novel why should I not do this with my Bible reading?
For anyone who has never read straight through a book in the Bible at one setting there are plenty that can be read in about 20 minutes, e.g. Galatians or Ephesians.
Why not make it your ambition to try and read straight through individual books of the Bible and see how it enhances your reading of scripture.