A tree planted by the water
If you, like 61 percent of Americans, wish you read your Bible more then this post is for you. In a 2014 study done by the American Bible Society and Barna Group, 88 percent of respondents said they owned a Bible, but the majority (63 percent) said they read their Bible less than once per week. If you struggle to read your Bible as often as you wish then you are not alone - although I would guess that you feel alone. You probably feel guilty for not reading your Bible as often as you feel you should. As a result, you are probably too scared to ask someone for help. And because you will likely not ask, I wanted to give you some help anyway.
Psalm One gives a picture of a man who delights in God's Word, meditating on it day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water. A tree that is planted by a stream has a deep an constant water supply, because it does not rely solely on the rain. It gets its nutrients and sustenance from the stream itself. Therefore, it yields fruit and does not wither. When we are giving ourselves a constant dose of God's Word, we are like the tree planted by the stream. We have a constant source of strength and vitality that is not dependent upon the changing weather of the world around us. We have strength to face whatever the day brings, because we have a deep wellspring of life.
Sadly, this often isn't the case. And hear me on this, I also wish I read the Bible more. I wish that I soaked up its sustaining waters more often. I desire deeper stores of God's truth from which to draw upon throughout my days and weeks. You are not alone. I wish the same for you. And hopefully this will help.
Don't make excuses, make a plan
It is easy to come up with a hundred reasons why we don't read our Bibles as often as we wished. We are busy, so we cannot find the time. We have children, jobs, school, laundry and a dozen other things that fight for our time. Time is a limited resource, so it is reasonable to feel busy and overwhelmed. BUT, and this is a big but... We do make time for the things that matter to us. We find time for many things in our day, but why not when it comes to reading our Bibles and spending time with God?
I think there is another reason that we don't read our Bibles. It is one we often won't admit to ourselves, but it is very real. We are intimidated by reading our Bible. We don't know what to do, and we are not confident we will understand what we read. As a result, deep down, we don't believe that taking the time to read our Bible will have a significant impact on our day.
I believe that with the right plan and the right tools, you can have a more meaningful time reading your Bible.
The right plan
If you want to make something happen in your busy life, you put it on the calendar. I suggest you do the same with your Bible reading. Yes, I mean that you should actually schedule a meeting on your calendar. Don't get too ambitious and schedule times for the whole month, just schedule one time for now. Either today or tomorrow. Choose a time that you are going to read your Bible and schedule it. This doesn't have to be in the morning, although that works well for many people. You know your own life better than me. You chose the time and then put it on the calendar.
When you set a meeting with someone else, you generally chose a location too, right? Well, I want you to do the same with your Bible reading time. Maybe it is at your kitchen table. Maybe it is at Starbucks. Maybe it is on the back porch or maybe it is at the office over your lunch break. Choose a place.
And finally, choose what you will read. I would suggest that you choose a book of the Bible and just read the first chapter. The next time you read your Bible you can read chapter two, and so on. I would recommend starting with the Gospel or Mark or the book of Philippians. They are not overly complicated, and would give you a glorious picture of Jesus.
I am telling you to make this plan in order to reduce the number of barriers between you and your Bible reading. If you are planning to read your Bible but have no clue what you will read, it can be intimidating to actually start. Making some decisions now about when, where and what to read will make it more likely you are going to follow through.
A word of caution. The ultimate goal is to read our Bibles so that we can grow in intimacy with God and live in accordance with His desires. If you don't read at the exact time you planned, or at the location you decided on, or even the chapter you had chosen, but you do spend time reading the Bible and growing closer to God, then it was a success. Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't happen as you planned - or if it doesn't even happen at all. Just reset yourself, make a new plan and be diligent to make it happen the next time.
A tool to read the Bible
It is time. You have set your plan and followed through. You are at your designated location at your planned time. Now what? I am going to share a very simple, but very effective tool to help you have a meaningful time reading your Bible. This entire process will take about 20-35 minutes and here are the basic steps:
- (5-10 minutes) Read one chapter. You may even be able to read it twice within 5-10 minutes
- (10-15 minutes) Choose a small section from the chapter you just read and use the Inductive Bible Study Method I am about to teach you to study it more in depth.
- (5-10 minutes) As you finish, take 5-10 minutes to journal and/or pray about what you have read and learned.
The Inductive Bible Study Method I am going to teach you comes form a tool I received from a ministry called Navigators. Their .pdf is not available anymore at the link I have, but you can download it at the bottom of this post. Here are the four steps (you may have even heard of them before):
If you have, you may even scoff at me suggesting you use such a simple method to study the Bible. Let me ask you this though, when is the last time you read the Bible in a meaningful way? If it has been longer than you would like, then just give this a try and see if it doesn't help. And I am not promoting a method that I don't actually believe in or use. Just this morning, I used this exact method and it was very helpful for me. I am a seminary graduate who has had countless hours of study and instruction on Bible interpretation and hermeneutics, and this method is still helpful for me. Try it. Use it. And if you don't like it, then find something else. But at least give it a shot. You might be surprised how much this simple tool helps you.
Here are the steps:
Observation (What does it say?): Look closely at the verse(s) you are studying. Answer some or all of these questions. Who are the people involved? What happened? Where does this take place? When did it take place? How are things accomplished? Are there any key words in the passage? What images (pictures) are in the passage?
Interpretation (What does it mean?): Write out questions about what you don't understand in the passage. What do you think this passage meant to the original audience that received it? Are there any words you need to better understand?
Application: (What does it mean to me?) The following questions may help you apply the passage to your life. The SPECK method. (1) Is there SIN for me to avoid? (2) Is there a PROMISE for me to claim? (3) Is there an EXAMPLE for me to follow? Or not follow? (4) Is there a COMMAND for me to obey? (5) Is there any other KNOWLEDGE I should pursue?
Illustration (How do I pass it on?) Draw a picture or diagram to illustrate what you have discovered from this passage.
An example of the method in use
In an effort to provide the most helpful, I will provide an example of how I used this method this morning to study Galatians 2:11-14 a little more in depth.
- People involved: Cephas, Men from James/Circumcision Party, Gentiles, Jews at Antioch, Barnabas, Paul
- What happened?: Cephas ate with Gentiles, Men from James came and Cephas withdrew, others withdrew also, Paul confronted Cephas about his behavior
- Where did it take place?: Antioch (v.11)
- Key words: Gentile(s), Jew(s)
- Images: Walking in step with the Gospel
- What did it mean to original audience? Gentiles don't have to become Jews in order to follow Jesus and live in a way that is consistent with the Gospel. In fact, forcing Gentiles to become Jews is not in step with the gospel. Another meaning is that our actions communicate what we believe about the gospel (ie. Cephas)
- Write out questions about what you don't understand in the passage. (I didn't have any major questions after reading this passage, but here are some examples of questions you might ask): Why was it inconsistent with the Gospel for Cephas to act like he did? What did Cephas fear about the circumcision party? Who is Cephas? What is circumcision?
- Sin to avoid: Living inconsistent with the gospel out of fear or approval
- Promise to claim: I don't have to conform to social or cultural norms to follow Jesus
- Example not to follow: The example of Cephas
- Command to Obey: I didn't really see any "commands"
- Knowledge to pursue: If forcing others to conform to cultural norms is not consistent with the Gospel, what things do I believe that are cultural norms vs. Biblical commands?
I drew this diagram of what I saw discovered in the passage
I would love to hear from you
I would love to hear from you. If this was helpful for you and you are able to follow through with reading your Bible in the next couple days, please let us know how it went.
Share what passage you read and what you learned in the comments below.