Suggestions for personal Bible reading during 2011
Has your Bible reading become a chore? Do you find that you get to the end of the chapter and yet cannot remember a single thing about what you have read? Is it something you do to avoid feeling guilty on the way to work?
People read the Bible for all kinds of reasons. It is good that many find help from the Word of God, but I am secretly pleased that the Victorian ‘promise box’ seems to have grown out of favour. This was a small box of rolled up, small pieces of paper, on each of which was written a precious promise that is found in the Scriptures.
The box came with a pair of tweezers and the person whose turn it was to ‘receive a promise’ would pull out one and read it to the group. There is nothing wrong in dwelling on the promises of God, but there is so much more in the Bible than receiving blessed, if true, thoughts.
Reading the Bible can challenge us to live better lives. It can stir us up to take action against those who are behaving unjustly and it can chastise us when we are going astray from God’s ways. It can also remind us that God has a plan for our lives and, even if our Christian walk is a bumpy one, the Lord is with us and will continue to guide and strengthen us throughout our lives. Above all, it takes us to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is at the very heart of the Scriptures (John 20:32).
Michael Bentley, Bracknell
Useful suggestions from correspondents
First, warm up spiritually
Use a hymn or perhaps one of the Puritan prayers from The valley of vision (Banner of Truth). This will help you to focus on the Lord and the cross. (Allan Huxtable, Milton Keynes)
A pen is one of the best eyes
Nothing has had more impact on my personal Bible study than printing out a copy of the text (from, e.g. www.biblegateway.com) and annotating it. Add questions and make observations. Underline repeated words and ideas, contrasts and comparisons, figures of speech or striking phrases. Summarise the main thrust of the passage in one sentence, then scrutinise your summary: Does it really capture the heart of the passage? Improve the summary. Combine summaries to make an outline of whole books. (Phil Heaps, Westerleigh)
Read your Bible at two levels
Firstly read the whole Bible, each year if you can. Secondly make an in-depth study of a particular passage. Both are necessary, the first to keep the whole counsel of God in view, and the second to enter into the riches of God’s Word. (Arthur Bentley Taylor, St Albans)
‘Search the Scriptures’
This study help book covers the whole Bible in three years. Edited by Alan Stibbs, it provides an introduction to each book of the Bible and helps you find the meaning and application of each passage as it is studied. It does not spoon-feed, but rather challenges us to dig, think, study and pray about the text. It gives questions, not answers, and leaves us to do the work! (Adam Laughton, Southport)
Use a chronological reading scheme
Our church has found this kind of scheme useful – daily reading portions are arranged in order of historical occurrence. It is encouraging to compare notes as we read the same passages at the same time. A free example of this scheme is available at http://tinyurl.com/2bqcx5b (http://www.bibleplan.org/ which can be used to have the relevant readings emailed to you each day). (Ali McLachlan, Cumnock)
Read Dale Ralph Davis’s commentaries on the Bible
They are interesting, easy to read, and full of wholesome application – particularly helpful in Bible books where we sometimes struggle to know how the text applies to the here and now. Davis sometimes covers quite large Bible sections, but he divides up his material, and so a shorter amount could be read each day. When we were first married, we read them aloud as a couple, with much profit. (Phil Heaps, Westerleigh)
Read the Girltalk blog (www.girltalkhome.com/)
I read this blog, written by Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters, and it functions very much like a devotional book. I would also recommend Whiter than snow and A shelter in the storm by Paul David Tripp – both excellent devotional books. (Lowri Iorwerth, Bridgend)
Read Don Whitney’s ‘Spiritual disciplines for the Christian life’
Its chapters on the Bible are very helpful. (Abe Thomas, Halland)
Work your way through the Bible, book by book, along with each relevant volume from the Welwyn Commentary Series (EP Books)
This has given structure to my daily readings, and deepened my knowledge of the biblical text and how to apply it in daily living. (Rachael Fay, Ripon)
Read the whole Bible in 2011
There are numerous useful plans available, including: The NavPress discipleship journal reading plan (http://tinyurl.com/9yhgmf), the BethlehemBaptist Churchreading plan (http://tinyurl.com/326w6qz) and the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan. This last plan was the most popular amongst the people who contributed to this article.
It is available from a number of publishers (including Banner of Truth) or can be printed out from the internet (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/l5bar3 or http://tinyurl.com/y8h2on3).
Gary Brady (Childs Hill, London) describes below how he uses this plan: ‘Over the course of a year, his scheme takes the reader through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. The four readings are supposed to be used over the course of the day, but I find that if I don’t do all four in the morning I rarely get round to completing my daily quota.
‘As we have broadband at home and I have my own little netbook, what I actually do is to use a site that puts up the readings for each day (http://tinyurl.com/6ocx66). With one click I go to www.biblegateway.com where each reading for the day can be found in the version of my choice. Bible gateway has audio Bibles available and sometimes I make use of that facility too.
‘One snag with reading four chapters at once is a lack of devotional focus, but Don Carson has produced two very helpful volumes (For the love of God) that interact with the M’Cheyne readings. These can also be accessed online in various places, including http://fortheloveofgod.rishty.net