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Do you remember what you read in your Bible today? Or yesterday? ... Or the last time you picked it up? It’s not that easy is it! Blogger and associate Pastor Chris Goswami shares five alternative ways to read and understand your Bible better.
An elderly gentleman was asked how many sermons in church he could recall in his many years as a faithful attender. His reply was “… none”, he couldn’t remember any. But, after a moment’s thought, he added that, for almost every day of his married life – some 50 years – his wife had cooked him a meal. He couldn’t remember those either, but he knew they had fed him, they had nourished him, they had even delighted him.
I don’t know if that story is true but here’s a question for you: Do you remember what you read in your Bible today? Or yesterday? ... Or the last time you picked it up? It’s not that easy is it!
But 'scanning' the word of God in this way won’t do
But, like the well-fed senior-citizen, there is something about just spending time daily in God’s presence, that nourishes us over and above whatever we might do or learn. The very fact that you spend time with His word, will encourage your faith and provide a framework for life’s events.
In this blog we’re not going on a guilt trip. We are just stepping back and considering 5 simple ideas, one or two of which might just add some freshness to your quiet time. So here are 5 ways to not 'read' the Bible
1. Don’t just scan the reading
Try memorising a verse or two. You may already be thinking, “These days I can’t memorise anything”, but wait a moment. Too often we skim scripture and assume we have 'read' it; after all skimming is the skill we must learn to handle the vast quantities of information on the internet. But 'scanning' the word of God in this way won’t do; memorising is an effective and counter-cultural way which we should avoid doing with the word. Occasionally memorising just a verse or two is a wonderful way to 'internalise' truths; truths that God will remind you of at the time you most need them.
To help you, Navigators produce scriptures on small cards you can carry around which I’ve used for some years and there are apps like Remember Me (which I haven’t tried but let me know if it works for you!)
2. Don’t read the Bible at all
Listen to the word as people did before King James made Bibles commonplace, and widespread literacy made them accessible.
This might seem an odd thing to do if you have not sat and listened to a recording of the Bible - or you may just find you are a person who prefers to listen. Try the recordings made by the exceptional Christian performer David Suchet. Here’s a sample from Genesis.
3. Don’t use Bible notes
If you are a regular user of notes that accompany a bible reading, that’s great. God can and often does speak through the words of others. But occasionally try putting aside your notes for a week or two and let scripture speak for itself.
Or, if you have never used notes before, try them – particularly if you struggle to read your Bible at all – these can really help. For example the excellent (and free) Voice of Hope from Premier Christianity. Either way, shake it up – do a new thing!
4. Don’t simply read fragments
Once in a while try reading a whole book in one go - which is the way most books were intended to be read, not a few verses a day.
And before we all say “I don’t have time” (me neither), think about it. You wouldn’t read a novel or even a newspaper for just a few minutes a day would you? In an age where we might binge-watch a whole TV series in a few days…we have time. And it’s less time than you think! Desiring God has produced a table of how long it takes on average to read each book. Almost 30 books in the Bible can be read in less than 20 minutes – try it, expect to gain a whole new perspective!
5. Don’t rely on your electronic Bible
…Occasionally try a real one! Digital technology is enabling more people across the world to access the Bible more effectively than ever before. And like me you may well have several Bible translations on your phone or tablet (it’s useful to always have the Bible in our inside pocket or handbag). But there’s a risk that having a Bible always to hand leads us to believe we are somehow more spiritually mature - having it to hand isn’t the same as having it nailed to your heart.
Moreover, we lose something if we rely entirely on e-Bibles. The Bible is more than the words on a screen. It is a library of 66 ancient documents that belong together in a unified whole. A physically bound Bible calls attention to this fact. Its physical nature emphasises the placing of each chapter within a book, and each book within the whole. Dissecting the Bible into bits and bytes to fit on a screen makes it portable, but ultimately loses something of the whole.
Add value to your Bible reading in 2017
Don’t take on too much or we set ourselves up to fail. Maybe try just one of the suggestions in this blog and see how you go. And lastly, if this all sounds rather complicated, take the advice of the old man who enjoyed his wife’s cooking… just keep eating! May God bless your reading of His word written to you throughout the coming year.
Chris Goswami is Associate Pastor at a Baptist church in Manchester and blogs regularly at www.7minutes.net where a version of this article first appeared.