The most common New Year’s Resolutions are: get fit; spend less & save more; get organised; get a new job; waste less time on Facebook & TV; live life to the full. You don’t want to know how long they last on average…
As a church, we want to make 2017 a year not just of resolution, but of revolution, as we commit to reading the Bible for ourselves. Why do I say that will bring a revolution? Research into thousands of churches shows that two key factors are present in all healthy churches, one of which is that every member reads the Bible and prays on a regular/daily basis. (FYI, the other is healthy, well-attended small groups). Therefore each of us can contribute to the health of our church family as we attend to our own spiritual health. It really is a case of ‘one small step for me, one giant leap for us all.’
Why this year?
2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. What could be a more appropriate way to celebrate than a renewed passion for personal bible reading? The Bible fuelled the Reformation, and one of the key desires of the Reformers was that ordinary believers should be able to read God’s word. Tyndale (see image on left), translator of the first English New Testament based on the Greek manuscripts, wrote of his aims to a church official who viciously opposed his work:
‘If God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause that a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scriptures than thou.’
And the German monk Martin Luther who kick-started things in 1517 famously declared:
‘Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scripture!’
What one thing can I do?
Don’t set yourself up to fail. It is hard to go from five minutes once every two weeks to an hour every morning in the original Hebrew… So why not try to just take one serious step forward? If you read the Bible and pray twice a week for 10 mins, why not try to do it 4 times a week? Or increase it to 20 mins? If you manage to do a little bit most days, why not set aside one day a week when you spend much longer and perhaps even work through a book of the Bible with a commentary?
But I get the Bible on Sunday and at small group midweek…
The Bible is living bread, not ice-cream: it is daily sustenance, not a nice treat every once in a while! Moses taught in Deuteronomy 8:3 that in the wilderness God provided the food of manna each day to the Israelites ‘to teach that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ In other words, we need to feed on God’s word every day, just as we need to eat physical food each day.
Furthermore, Psalm 1 warns us that there are competing voices out there that are seeking to shape how we live, and that it is by listening to and rooting ourselves in God’s word that we will know the blessed life. Every day as we talk with colleagues and friends, read the news and watch tv, we are being taught and influenced by the world’s voices. It is wise to listen to God each day too (see also Rom 12:2).
I’ve tried this before and I always fail by the end of January
That’s no reason not to try again. Thomas Edison failed in his first 1,000 attempts to invent a working light bulb. If the project is worth succeeding at, then we should not let past failure to stop us from dusting ourselves down and trying again. Relationships take work! It is worth taking practical steps too that might make success more likely, such as seeking an achievable goal, and enlisting the help of one or two close Christian friends so that you can encourage and spur one another on in this.
If I’m honest, I just don’t enjoy it very much
There a couple of things to say in response. First, sometimes we should do things that we don’t enjoy because they are good for us (eating vegetables, exercising on a cold day, etc). Our Christian culture stresses authenticity and heart in matters of faith, and they are good things. But the Bible teaches that God also values our dogged discipline and perseverance (Col 1:11, Heb 12:1-2).
Second, quiet times can be a bit like golf. No, really. It’s not that it takes 4 hours and you have to dress like you chose your clothes in the dark… The point is that golf is not much fun at first. You have to spend hour after hour doing boring, repetitive drills to learn the basics. We work at sport or music because we know there is deep joy and delight to be had down the road. But so often won’t put in a little effort in deepening our relationship with the living God of the universe, in whom is limitless pleasure and eternal joy! (Psalm 16:11). Put in the hard work, and the Scriptures will increasingly become ‘more precious than gold’ and ‘sweeter than honey’ (Psalm 19:10).
What if mornings don’t work for me
That’s ok. There is no verse that says it has to be done in the morning. However, there is some wisdom in starting the day by grounding yourself in God’s truth, so it is worth trying to do that if it is possible.
Here are some of the great resources available. Why not talk to your small group leaders and others at church to find out what they use?
Explore; ESV Study Bible; Olive Tree;
The most popular among our church is Explore which has the Bible text, notes, questions and suggested prayers in one app. My wife and I use the Explore App. We love it – it’s the bible and questions on your phone in a very easy to look at way no matter how busy the tube.
Bible in a Year
30 students at CCM started doing this in September… The best known is the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan (4 chapters a day). Don Carson wrote a commentary on the passages in the M’Cheyne reading plan: For the Love of God (2 vols available). You can access this free online.
For those who want to dig a little deeper, why not try one of these:
i. Dale Ralph Davies Focus on the Bible commentaries on Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and on Psalms 1-12 (the Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life) and 13-24 (Slogging along in the paths of Righteousness).
ii. Job: The Wisdom of the Cross by Christopher Ash (Crossway)
iii. Any of the NT Commentaries in the Bible Speaks Today series.
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