What advice would you give someone who says they don’t feel like reading their Bible? What advice would you give yourself? Just do it anyway? Today’s post is hosted on the Cor Deo site . . . click here to go there.
I am slowly offering what I think might be the ten biggest ideas in the Bible. I encourage you to write your own list, the process is a real joy. Yesterday I wrote about God and His self-giving goodness. I need to develop one aspect from that post:
2. Even in its current corrupted state, God’s creation reflects God’s heart and nature.
Those who start with a generic God born of human speculation will tend to emphasize the power of God. Often this truth grows so loud that other truths are drowned out. Yet the God of the Bible doesn’t seem as passionate about His own power as some might suggest. He is all-powerful, of course, but that is defined and driven by the loving relationality of the unity of the three – Father, Son and Spirit.
The giving and overflowing love of the Three-in-One speaks a word, and an abundantly diverse and beautifully united creation into existence. His eternal power is seen in the stunning reflection of His divine nature – with its vibrant, abundant, giving, creative, procreating, beauty.
Yet the beauty of creation is merely a stage for the most powerful beauty of all – the wonder of loving relationship. Creation is the stage for the relationships of creatures made in the image of a relational God. So every field, every mountain, every sunset, every vista, is a delight best experienced alongside another with whom God’s creation might be enjoyed.
We live in a broken, corrupted and perverted creation. Even through the death and the brokenness, we still see overwhelming beauty – from the abiding grandeur of the milky way, to the unique features of an individual leaf. Yet it is not only the lingering beauty that captivates, it is also the smothered whisper of what could be and should be.
The greatest pain is not that felt in a dying body, or that of a marred creation, but the deepest agony of broken relationship. Sadly we may experience the worst of fallenness in our bodies, or see the most grotesque disfigurement of creation, but every human inherently feels the deepest agony of all in the context of broken relationships: with friends, with family, with God.
Creation stirs us, yet creation itself groans. It groans to be the stage of what could be and should be, and by God’s grace and power, one day will be.
The Bible repeatedly returns to the relationship of creation to God – He made it, He owns it, He stamped it with His imprimatur, and He will pour out life to overcome death. Our hope is the new creation, the stage for a greater joy than could ever have been known in Eden.
So we preach a Bible that is earthed, quite literally. Both the past stories, our present experience, and our shared future hope, is well earthed in a world that reflects more about God than we usually even begin to notice. One day we will.
It is coming up to the time of year when people are making resolutions. One of the big ones in churches is to read the Bible through in a year. So perhaps you are thinking of encouraging people to do this by suggesting a reading plan. Here’s where I am going to tread on some special toes.
“I don’t think the Robert Murray M’Cheyne reading plan
is a good idea.”
There, I said it.
His plan, which is still widely promoted by various big names, essentially involves reading four chapters per day. This takes people through the whole Bible plus a bit of repeating (NT & Psalms, I think) in a year. I think it is great to help people get into the Bible, and I know many have been helped by it, but I don’t think this is the best way to go.
Essentially the problem with the plan, and others like it, is that the reading is segregated. So readers start in Genesis, Ezra, Matthew and Acts all on day one. I don’t want to stir up a sanctified riot, but I don’t think this is a good idea. Why not?
1. It treats the Bible chapters as vitamin pills rather than the feast that they are. That is, it creates a sense of “balance” without encouraging readers to really savour the taste of the text as it flows.
2. It hinders the reader from reading the text in context. In a busy life it is hard enough to keep track of one flow of thought, let alone four.
3. It doesn’t encourage the reader to get “in the zone.” I don’t know anyone that would advocate reading four novels at a time, a page from each, each day. How much better to invite people beyond the first few minutes of distracted reading and into the zone where they get gripped by the narrative and don’t want to put it down?
4. It promotes a tick-box approach to Bible reading as a discipline, rather than an overt opportunity to engage with God’s heart as revealed in the epic revelation. So many people view Bible reading as a laborious discipline that they must force themselves to do. But the people I know who delight in the Bible tend to be people who devour it, rather than dipping into it.
Suggestion? Why not encourage and invite people to read the Bible aggressively and relationally, as if God has a personality and is personal. That is, by reading His Word with a passion to know Him, readers/listeners might get to know His personality and grow in their personal relationship with Him.
Perhaps it is worth pondering how to encourage people by enthusiastic invitation, rather than by affirming the “difficulty” and “trudgery” of “getting through the Bible” in a year or three. Here is a link to my friend Ron’s article on Bible reading – as “Bible presenters” lets be sure to be genuine Bible enthusiasts that do more than try to fire up the so-called disciplined wills of our listeners!
It’s that time of year when resolutions are made, and often it is about 3-7 weeks from when they are broken! But reading through the Bible in a year is a very healthy idea for both the preacher and the congregation. Perhaps this Sunday would be the best time to mention it? Here are a handful of resources and ideas:
1. Once Through – Steve Mathewson has done the math and shares helpful ideas in his latest blog entry. Remember that many in your congregation will have tried, but failed to read through the whole Bible. Many more probably have never tried. Any help to make it acheivable can only be a good thing!
2. A Voluntary Once Through – It may be too short notice for tomorrow, but perhaps the idea could be mentioned tomorrow and presented the following Sunday. Since people often quit when trying on their own, add the support of others through a voluntary Bible Read Thru program. If people sign up to the program, they will get an encouragement partner with whom will check in once a week and mutually enourage each other to press on (they can bring their own or be assigned one, and incidentally, if they want to, they could get together and share highlights from their reading too). Perhaps the program leader could send an email or letter to participants once every six weeks to encourage them to press on. Perhaps the whole group could come together once a quarter to share both highlights and struggles of the read through. Then at the end of the year have a celebration meal together – for some it will be a massive achievement! All you need is a program coordinator . . . who knows what it might start in peoples’ lives?! (I’d love to hear of churches that try something like this!)
3. Which Order? – It is popular to mix up the Bible and read a couple of chapters from here and a couple from there. Matthewson helpfully suggests a couple of options. I would also strongly suggest simply going cover to cover (less complicated, more context). Some might like to try the Hebrew order for the Old Testament, an author ordering for the New, or a chronological ordering for the whole.
4. How About More Than Once? – I would be careful about this idea with the whole church since it may intimidate some, but there are some people who need the prod the read through several times in a year. Through in six months (7 chapters per day), every four months (10 chapters), every three months (13 chapters), in two months (20 chapters). Before dismissing these timescales, take a look at this article by Ron Frost.
5. A Bible Marathon Once in a While? – Perhap you could use the turning of the New Year to give a first mention to a Bible Marathon later in the year? A Bible Marathon is a great way to soak in the Bible for a few hours for dedicated volunteers. Perhaps going for Hebrews to Revelation (less than three hours) would be a good way to help people finish the read through next winter, or maybe Judges to 2Kings (roughly ten hours) would be a good push through the historical section in late spring? For guidelines from Garry Friesen, leader of dozens of successful Bible marathons, click here.
So how about it? Suggest reading through the Bible to the church . . . and go for it yourself?