HAve you Been Reading?

Success at anything depends on many things, but preparation is one of the biggest. People normally don’t just get lucky and become successful at something without some blood, sweat and tears. One way to prepare is to study up on the subject as much as you can while still being able to absorb what you’re learning. It is possible to try and cram too much info into your brain in too short of a time, so you may have to pace yourself just a little for your studying to actually help you out.

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Obviously, I’m talking about studying the Word of God here, but it can apply to just about anything. I know people who say they are Christian who don’t take the time to read their Bible. I will admit to having been one of them for the vast majority of my life, so I can relate to the excuses for why it’s easier to just skip over that part. I mean, if you ask God to forgive you He will, right?

In order to know God, we have to read the instruction manual for life that He has given us. He warns us of the dangers in this world that will impact us negatively in the next. He shows us examples of broken people that He calls to do great things. He shows us how He heals us, regardless of who we are, and invites each and every one of us to be with Him. There are examples of pain and mourning, hope and healing, longing for something greater and salvation. He even provided the example of how we are to live our lives with Jesus.

If we are to grow closer with God, we have to know what it is that He calls us to become and it’s right there in black and white, plain as day throughout scripture. We can listen to a 30 minute sermon once a week, but that only covers a few verses and if you’ve ever seen a Bible, you’ll know that there’s A LOT of verses in there. It’s pretty crazy just how much is really packed in there. And as you read more and more, you’ll begin to pickup things that you may have missed previously.

This year, my wife and I have been doing a Bible in a year reading plan. Each night, we have been taking some time to read through several chapters. This particular plan goes straight through, from Genesis to Revelations. I’m writing this in July and so far we have made it to Psalms. I won’t lie, there have been times it was BORING and extremely repetitive, especially in the first several books. The genealogy is the stuff that I have the most trouble with. But it does have a purpose. It helps to trace the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam. It shows the relationships between some of the important characters, and on occasion, shows us how even in Jesus’ family line, everyone has a history.

This was important to the early Israelites. It was how they were able to connect he stories that they were told together. Being able to relate one story to another helps reinforce what the stories teach in cultures with an oral history (and in those with written histories for that matter).

Studying the Bible can be challenging. There are some really great stories that sound almost like they should be in a Lord of the Rings style fantasy novel. And then there’s that genealogy. Many of the characters, especially as you move through the Old Testament a little bit, are pretty relatable. But there’s just SO much in there. So many prophesies that are cross referenced else where, so many stories that are alluded to. And let’s not forget, it’s a big book.

This is really something that has to be personal. I can tell you what I do, but it may not work as well for you. It’s a decent place to start, but it’s just a way to start. If there are things that work better for you and that will help you stay more engaged and actually reading the Bible, then please do that. The most important thing is that you get into the Bible and read!

There are a ton of apps out there for devotions and Bible reading, but I use the Bible app by Youversion. It seems to fit me the best. There are a bazillion devotions in there and they are categorized to help you find something that fits you. New to faith, married, parents, dealing with anxiety, Biblical leadership, you name it, and there are devotions for it. This is a very easy way to start reading. There are usually just a few short verses and a break down of what you’re reading and how to tie it into your life. The app has a full Bible included in it if you don’t have one and you can even pick what translation you’d like to read it in. You can add some friends on there and do some plans together or just do them on your own. There is also a verse of the day if you’re not sure where to begin with reading. Sometimes that 1 verse each day is a good starting point for the next thing…

Next, it’s time to actually crack open the Bible and read it. Google can be your friend here. If there’s anything in particular that you’d like to study, a quick search will usually bring up verses or chapters to check out. I also like to take some notes and journal through what I’m reading. I like the S.O.A.P. method, which stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. I will write a passage that stands out to me. Then I will write down what it is speaking to me and how I can apply it to myself and my life. And finally, pray about what I have read. This is just for you, so you can be super detailed and write page after page or just jot down a couple of sentences, whatever works for you.

There are also some really great faith living books out there that will walk you through certain aspects of life and what the Scripture says about it in more detail than just the average devotion. There are many devotions on the Bible app that come from books, so if you really like the devotion you can find the full book on Amazon or your local book store. If you walk into a book store, you’ll see hundreds of books in the Religion section, and more specifically the Faith Living section. These are really great supplements to your Bible reading and can help explain in more detail some of the things that you are reading about. You can also find tons of books out there that break down each book of the Bible and go into the history and some some of the deeper meanings behind what you are reading called concordances. They usually go into great detail including some of the history of what you’re reading, political tensions of the time period and will have you understanding much more of what is going on than you may be able to figure out for yourself.

Finally, put it on your calendar. Make sure to set aside time each and every day to get in your Bible. It’s so easy to tell yourself how busy you are or how hectic your day is, but even if you only spend 10 minutes reading, your faith will be able to grow so much more than you had thought it could. It needs to be a habit that you do each day, just like praying. It’s how we communicate with God and how He communicates to us. It’s vital that we don’t make excuses and instead make time. It will probably be one of the easiest parts of your day.

I heard recently about how amateurs in a sport or activity compare themselves to pros. If you go to the gym once per week, you can’t expect to get the results of a professional bodybuilder. If you only fish once or twice a month, you won’t have the skills or success of a professional fisherman. If you only practice your faith on Sundays, can you really grow your faith to the point that you are truly changed by it and thus changing the world with it one person at a time?

Remember the Armor of God from Ephesians 6? The only offensive weapon listed is the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God in verse 17. That’s the weapon that Jesus used to defeat Satan during His temptations in the wilderness after being baptized by John the Baptist.

The enemy uses trickery to makes us think that reading scripture isn’t actually important, but it’s one of the most important things that we can do as followers of Christ! Satan knows that if we aren’t armed with the Word of God we stand no chance against his attacks against us and keeps us from being with God. If we don’t fight against the enemy, we aren’t soldiers on God’s side of the battle raging in the spiritual realm and as Jesus says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!” (Matt. 7:21-23).

It may seem daunting to read the Bible. It’s tough to know where to start and where to find the things you’re looking for. Some translations are difficult to understand, I’m talking to you King James Version. But there are study Bibles that help break things down, there are different translations that may help you to better understand what is being said, and plenty of resources to help you delve deeper in your understanding. Just like prayer, you just have to do it. It may seem a bit forced at first, but it will quickly become much more natural and something that is an important part of your day.

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