I get asked a lot of questions about the Bible. Which Bible is right for me? Which Bible is right for my 15-year-old son who doesn’t like sports, people or sunlight? In fact, he only likes dark rooms with large flat screen tv's with an attached Xbox…. You get the picture. Well, my responses vary quite a bit.
The Bible industry is a crazy industry for sure. There’s the metal Bible, Duct Tape Bible, pink camo Bible, pocket Bible and really big Bibles, I mean like really big Bibles! Just google it. It can be confusing as to which one might work for you.
In our previous blog in this mini-series, we discussed briefly the comparison between paper Bible and digital Bible. To me, it doesn’t really matter. I enjoy the digital Bible more than a paper Bible. My wife prefers her leatherbound Bible. The mode doesn’t really matter.
Another question I often hear is, “Should I just start reading anywhere or follow a Bible reading plan?”
The Youversion Bible App is a great platform to use especially when just getting started. I enjoy reading through the various plans on the app. After a while, a person should be able to read the Bible on their own but you might also enjoy reading with a guided plan. In fact, if you only read with a guided plan, don’t feel bad or “less than” because of it. Another great option is That Christian Vlogger’s course.
If someone is going to simply start reading the Bible, I recommend starting with the book of Mark. It’s a fast-paced book and covers the life of Jesus by describing His teachings and miracles. The second book I recommend reading is Acts. I always encourage an individual to read the Bible in a community like a small group, however. I think that’s one of the most beneficial ways of reading the Bible.
The third most common question I receive is “How much of the Bible should I read each day?”
The person who asks this question is usually a driven type A personality. He/she is probably used to getting a gold star in elementary school. Just kidding. Kind of. I know it’s a daunting question. I remember thinking I had to read chapter after chapter each day in order to belong, like really belong, to the "in group". My response is usually a combination of sarcasm and genuine concern. Here’s why. I’m not sure how much of the Bible the original disciples would have read each day. I don’t think that God measures our level of discipleship by the quantity of Bible we devour each day.
I do believe that God measures our love for Him in regards to our daily obedience of what He writes to us in the Bible. If we follow Jesus’ command to “Love God with all of our heart, soul strength and mind”, we’ll be doing great. If we also follow His command to “love our neighbor as ourselves”, we’ll be doing even better!. Wonder how the world would be if Jesus’ followers were to only read the amount of the Bible we could actually live out?
Another fact that influences my response to “How much should I read my Bible every day” is related to the fact that the chapters and verses haven’t been part of the Bible for very long. They were first introduced in the Geneva Bible which was published in 1560.
I typically suggest reading enough of the Bible so that you learn something new about God and who He says you are and how it applies to your life. I always suggest journaling along with reading scripture. The method of journaling I suggest is called S.O.A.P.
S.O.A.P. stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.
We’ll cover S.O.A.P. in the next article of this series.
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Have you ever thought “I’ll find my future job, spouse, house or child’s name by reading the Bible”? The Bible might be helpful for some of these things, but for me, it’s never been my ‘go to’ book for those types of things (even though my oldest son’s name is Shad). I think there’s another reason God wrote the Bible.
When I first began the habit of reading my Bible each day, I started out strong but eventually fizzled out. I probably read Genesis a kajillion times. I was hoping to learn from my ancestors’ past in order to discover my future. The problem with Genesis was it was kind of boring to read. Parts of Genesis was also confusing and kind of strange. There are other parts of the Bible that can also be boring, confusing or strange to read. I came to realize that the Bible wasn’t written in America; therefore, it wasn’t written in modern-day language. It was written originally for a group of people that were part of the Eastern Culture in a time that’s considered ancient.
It was written in a place that’s different than ‘Merica to a group of people that had a mindset very different from mine. I realized though that there were new things I could discover by peeling back the layers of culture and ancient truths I found in the Bible. I never did learn who I was going to marry based on these truths, but I learned a lot though :)
I started reading the Bible for one reason, but quickly discovered what I think God’s intended purpose of writing the Bible was. I think the Bible was written so we could discover more about who God is and who God created us to become. Sometimes we read the Bible for the wrong reason. We might read the Bible trying to figure out who to marry, what job to take or hoping that God will point out a verse that will help us win the lottery. When we approach the Bible like that, we might struggle to find answers. I know I did. Changing my motivation for reading the Bible helped me understand who God is and who God created me to be.
Now the question became “HOW I should read the Bible?”. There are literally hundreds of translations in the English language of the Bible. Some are better than others. They each have their own history and benefits. I personally started reading the New International Version (NIV). The reason was simple. All of the pastors I knew read the NIV translation. When I attended college for pastoral studies, we read the NIV, so I stuck with it. There was one small problem for me, I couldn’t understand the NIV wording all the time.
I would secretly read the New Living Translation (NLT). The translation was accurate and the major difference was that I could understand it better. I now read a mixture of translations so I can hear the words of God in a fresh way over and over again. Here’s the list of Bible Translations that I personally read: NIV, NLT, The Message, English Standard Version (ESV) and recently one of my favorites is the New International Readers Version (NIRV).
I’ve heard people passionately argue why and how one particular version of the Bible is the only REAL translation,or they will put down other translations. Don’t buy into their craziness. Just because someone is passionate about something, doesn’t mean they are right. Just because someone can passionately argue their point, doesn’t mean their right either!
I used to feel really bad for jumping ship on reading the NIV, but I got over it. I’ve been a pastor for over 16 years now. I used to look for the biggest, most pastoral looking Bible I could find. I used to think that the size of my Bible actually meant something. (I’ll wait because I’m sure you’re thinking “Does size really matter?”. Now, you’re thinking of something completely different… like I said I’ll wait).
OK. Now that you’re back with me, let’s keep going. I got over that issue quickly because I hated carrying around a heavy book all the time! I started to read my Bible on my phone in secret because people around me would talk down about how reading your Bible on your phone can’t have the same effect. Really? You can’t learn and discover truths about God, how much He loves you and the kind of person He created you to be? I’m pretty sure the words are the same in the Bible as they are on my smartphone?
Every morning I wake up, put my earbuds in and listen to my Bible. The reason I listen to my Bible now is that I retain so much more truths about God and how much Jesus loves me. I use the SOAP method to help apply the truths I discover in the Bible. More on that to come in this mini-series.
The bottom line, when it comes to reading your Bible, make sure you are reading so you can become the person God created you to be as you discover Him and His love for you. Don’t read a particular version of the Bible just because someone else tells you to. Read a trusted version that you can understand. If you’re like me and listening to your Bible is more beneficial than reading your Bible, don’t feel bad about it. It’s ok. It’s also ok to utilize technology and read your Bible on your smartphone. At one point printed words on paper was considered new technology.
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I grew up attending church, my mom made sure of that. I attended all the Sunday School classes I had, not out of a desire to, but because my mom made sure it was a priority and I didn’t really argue about that. I just did it. That doesn’t mean that I actually bought in or followed Jesus. I attended, had the knowledge and was exposed to Jesus, the Bible, and churchy things.
I remember people in my church always telling me I should read my Bible. I had no clue why I didn’t really see any need to do so. My main objectives at that point in my life included defeating Contra, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out (without getting knocked down at all) biking all around my hometown. Reading an ancient book that didn’t read like any other kind of book I’ve ever seen wasn’t on my priority list. It wasn’t even close.
So I ignored them! I challenged these people I know I frustrated these individuals some of them were patient, most of them were downright mad. Like really mad. As a kid, I set a record for making the most Sunday School teachers quit. The record I’m still pretty proud of!
When I actually made the decision to follow Jesus when I was 16 years old I remembered ‘you should read your Bible’ but really had no clue as to why. So I started asking leaders I knew why should I read my Bible. One of the leaders I asked was finally honest and told me because that’s what our pastor tells us to do.
After a couple of weeks of this, I started reading my Bible… well, because I gave into peer pressure and because the people I asked seemed happier, more centered in their lives, they were friendlier for sure. I also realized that what I had been doing with my own life for those 16 years wasn’t really panning out the way I wanted them to. I was a bitter young man full of angst for the world. So I started reading. Like most people, I started at page 1… Genesis chapter 1.
I started reading the first chapter of the Bible that God made the earth, everything in it. I came to Genesis 1:26 and stopped. Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
The Bible says that God made me in His image… I had no clue why I was made, I had no clue who I was. If I could discover more about God by reading the book that He supposedly wrote through humans (Sunday School teachers told me that much) over the course of centuries and was broken down into 2 major parts, the Old and New Testaments. If the Bible says that God made me in His image, the more I discovered of God could tell me more about myself and my relationship with God.
As I kept reading my Bible I discovered what the Bible says about God and myself. God loves me, (Psalm 86:15, Psalm 136:1,26 John 3:16, 1 John 4:19 among so many others). I knew and understood conditional love. After I kept reading the Bible the first times and realizing what it says about God loving me, I finally discovered why I should read the Bible. I wanted to know how much God loved me, I wanted to discover more about what God thought of me. Being made in His image drove me to discover more about God. I also started to discover more about who I am.
This is the beginning of a mini-series on this blog, Reading the Bible. Our goal is to help people discover the benefit, helpful tips as far as translations, how often, how much should I read, how to remember it.
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RE.THINK Church wants to help people know Jesus, experience Community and discover Purpose in 2018. We haven’t abandoned our vision of leading people into a maturing relationship with Jesus by creating a fun, casual and innovative church that unchurched people would actually want to attend. We are simply focusing on Jesus, Community, and Purpose for most of 2018.
We believe that when people know Jesus, they can’t help but love Him in return. So, we want to expose Jesus for who the Bible says He really is. We understand there are a lot of misconceptions about who Jesus is. We want to help clear the air on those misconceptions. In fact, one of our message series coming up pretty soon is “JESUS is_____.” The series is based on a book by Judah Smith called “Jesus Is _____”. We really hope people will have an understanding of who Jesus is and what He is not (not boring, not republican, most likely not white and not a killjoy). We’ll loop back into that subject throughout 2018... and beyond.
We never want people to think life must be lived alone or by their own efforts. We all should experience community. There should be a tribe we belong to and that belongs to us. I personally believe that experiencing community is one of the most important aspects of a maturing relationship with Jesus. When we are vulnerable and real with people, they can help us in ways that go beyond our understanding. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to read and even memorize parts of the Bible than, to be honest about what we’re struggling with to other people. Most of the time we paint a smile on our face even if we are struggling because we want others to believe we are having a great day. Sometimes we don’t really want to let people into our lives. It’s uncomfortable to allow others to help us when we need it, it’s not natural for us to allow others into our lives and see the struggle at times. I think it comes easily to help others, but not to allow others to help us. We are encouraged to do so though (Galatians 6:1-3) read it as the person who needs help sometimes.
Reading the Bible is crucial. Prayer is also crucial in our relationship with Jesus. Community brings it to a whole different level.
Anyone reading this who are cringing at that last paragraph, think about the early followers of Jesus who didn’t have their pocket Bibles or any Bibles at all. What did they have? They had Community. We look at our spiritual ancestors and wonder how they made it through persecution, hardships, trials, famines and no ability to participate in the marketplace, etc. It wasn’t their Bible knowledge that got them through those circumstances. It was their Community. I’m not saying we shouldn’t honor and respect the fact that we hold a copy of God’s Word in our hands. We absolutely should. People died for that to be a possibility. We should honor their sacrifice and lives. I believe that the best way to read the Bible and grasp its meaning and application for our lives is in Community.
We all have Purpose. We all have a reason for being on this planet. At RE.THINK Church, we want to help parents understand their Purpose as they lead their families. We want the college-age student, who is simply wanting to graduate, to understand how using her degree might get her the job of a lifetime where she is able to shape and influence the world. We want the middle school student to realize that his life and influence can transform his school. We want to help him realize that he is in a mission field and can be used by Jesus to transform it.
I believe that Purpose speaks more of who we become rather than what we do. Starting a maturing relationship with Jesus isn’t hard. Getting married isn’t difficult. Starting a new workout routine isn’t that difficult either. It’s staying committed that’s difficult. It’s understanding that grit not to quit is crucial to finish. Finishing develops disciplines in us to help us mature and become who Jesus created us to be, and do the thing Jesus created us to do.
WHy a blog?
RE.THINK Church values being a church that is casual. Casual Church goes far beyond the way we dress, it's more about we expect people to take this journey at their own pace. We are here to journey with everyone. So we've created a blog so people can check us out before they show up for a service.