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How Do I Pick A Bible For My Child?

Are you wondering how to pick a Bible for your child? With so many options, where do you begin, and how do you decide which one’s the best?

Here are three guidelines to help you pick the right Bible for your child

  1. Assess your child’s reading level. Bibles have different reading levels. For example, a King James Version has a grade 12 reading level, and the New International Reader’s Version has a grade 3 reading level. If your child is in grade 3, the obvious selection is the NIrV.
  2. Determine your child’s learning style. Children gather information differently and don’t fit neatly into the visual, aural, reading/writing, or kinesthetic learning categories. If your child’s more of a visual learner, consider a comic-style Bible or colouring Bible. If your child’s more of an auditory learner, select an age-appropriate audio Bible on Bible Gateway.
  3. Choose an age-appropriate Bible. Abridged Bibles are more suitable for younger children learning to read and a great way to get them started. The International Children’s Bible, New International Readers Version, Easy to Read Version, or God’s Word are suitable choices for children who read. The New Living Translation or New International Version are excellent choices for tweens and teens.

 

Recommended Bibles

Younger children (2-5) – The most challenging selection is children’s story Bibles for younger children. Because they’re storybooks and not actual Bibles, look for these three features:

  1. God-centered. The theme of the Bible is Jesus. A good story Bible consistently identifies that the Story’s core is who God is and what He does. If a story Bible is mainly focused on humans as heroes, good behaviour, or moral lessons, it’s man-centred and inadequate.
  2. Suitably illustrated. Pictures and graphics should illuminate key biblical themes, be age-appropriate, and help children engage imaginatively with the Story.
  3. Well written. Language and literary devices should fit with the age level of the children. A well-written story Bible should give you a strong sense that you’re reading the scriptures at a child’s level. It should repeat key phrases, identify the primary theme, and creatively use rhyme, rhythm, onomatopoeia, or suitable humour.

Some good options for younger children include the Little Bible Storybooks, Children’s Rhyming Books, Read Aloud Bible Stories, and The Big Picture Story Bible.

Older children (6-9 ) – Children learning to read need a Bible that’s not as daunting to read as an adult’s Bible. It should help them understand the central theme and sub-themes of the Bible and how the Bible, while it’s a collection of stories, is one Story. Our top picks include The Action Bible, NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers, Big Bible Challenge, Jesus Storybook Bible, Laugh and Grow Bible for Kids, and the International Children’s Bible. Check out The Bible App for Kids – You Version as an online option.

Tweens (10-12) – A pre-teen needs a Bible that’s easy to read. The most popular Bible for this age group is the NIV Adventure Bible. For a thought for thought translation of the Bible that’s very readable, we recommend the New Living Translation. Consideration should also be given to Scripture Union’s award-winning Big Bible Challenge. An excellent online option for tweens is the Engage App by Scripture Union New Zealand.

Teens (13-19) – One of the best Bibles for youth is the Teen Life Application Study Bible. The English Standard Version (grade 10 reading level) is suitable for youth who are growing in their faith and prioritizing Bible reading and reflection. For a Bible that facilitates artistic expression and journaling, we recommend the NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible.

Bible Reading Guides

All children, regardless of their age, need help interpreting and applying the Bible. In addition to picking the right Bible for your child, you should choose the right reading guide. Scripture Union specializes in guides for all ages – Hotshots (7-8), Snapshots (9-11), Airlock (15-18), Daily Bread and Encounter With God (adults).

Related Articles

How To Help Children Get Into The Word

Ten Ways To Help Children Engage With The Bible

© Scripture Union Canada 2022

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Fractured Bible Engagement

In a fallen world, our interaction with God’s Word mainly takes the form of fractured Bible engagement. No one can completely embrace and engage with the full spectrum of God’s Word. The carnal human inclination, deliberately and instinctively, is to subvert God’s Story to shrivelled segmented versions that fit our theological and socio-political beliefs. As such, our interpretations of God’s Story end up, in greater or lesser degrees, distorting His message and undermining His mission.

Denominationalism exasperates the problem. Churches select and teach the Bible stories and verses that advance their agenda. Both inside and outside the Bible, churches locate themselves in exclusive storylines. They choose the narratives that dovetail with their theological biases and socio-political agendas and then connect the pieces to create dogma that defines and directs their preferred outcomes.

Fractured Bible engagement leads to fractured relationships. There are 2 billion Christians in the world, yet we’re not united. There are a staggering 45,000 denominations, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Sadly, and despite Jesus’ prayer for unity (John 17:20-23), we must own the fact that the history of Christianity is one of separation, not convergence.

Sin is another part of the problem. Pride, coupled with a desire for power and control, tragically corrupts Bible engagement and splinters us into disparate groups. Discord or division is only a step away when we read the Bible looking for texts to support our views and advance our ambitions. No wonder Jesus says, “Be careful … and be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” Matthew 16:6 (NIV). When we select and prioritize some storylines while ignoring others, we distort the truth, limit our view of God, and handicap faith formation.

Fractured Bible engagement also leads to philosophical differences concerning the contextualization of God’s Story. These differences stimulate a variety of ministry strategies, tactics, and methodologies. While these differences enrich the practice of our faith, they also cause collisions that leave the Christian landscape littered with wrecks.

God can make the broken whole. Recognizing these realities behooves us to do everything possible to counter fractured Bible engagement. To personally embrace more holistic connections with God’s Word, we should ask the Lord for wisdom, nurture humility, strive to be Spirit-led, extend grace to one another, listen to hear, and press into Jesus. To expand community engagement with the Bible, we must cultivate dialogue, ask more profound critical questions, and in as much as God enables us, remove the barriers that prevent us from fully exploring the whole counsel of God.

© Scripture Union Canada 2022

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Sodom Had No Bible

British evangelist and author Leonard Ravenhill made a significant impression on me when I was a young Christian. Ravenhill was one-in-a-thousand. He was an old-fashioned prophet, prayer-warrior, and intrepid preacher of the truth. It was impossible to hear him speak or read his writings and remain indifferent.

One of Ravenhill’s abilities was to create insightful spiritual maxims. He said many things about the Bible. Here are some of his observations from his book Sodom Had No Bible:

Sodom had no Bible. We have millions. Sodom perished … The only reason we are not smoking in the fire-wrath of a holy God is mercy, m-e-r-c-y, prolonged mercy!

In many parts of the earth, the Word of the Lord is being blamed, burned or banned … we have no apologies to make for the Bible. It is God’s final word to man. It is an infallible revelation from an infallible God to fallible man.

The Christian’s pilgrimage is uphill all the way, and the staff upon which he leans is the Word of the Lord.

A Christian’s muscles and sinews will strain under the loads which the Spirit will give. To ensure spiritual stamina, each believing burden–bearer must eat the strong meat of the Word.

Satan, the enemy of souls, snipes pilgrims from behind some innocent-looking bush. A return volley must be given with the same weapon that the conquering Christ used – “It is written.”

There is an inner reading of the Word of the Lord. In order to have this, the Holy Spirit, the Author of the Word, comes to indwell the believer and interpret the Word.

To live the life that God honours, we must first read the Word; then, we must obey it. This means that we must practice the Word, that knowledge must be transferred into action. “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only,” said our great Teacher.

Let us read the Bible to be wise, let us practice the Bible to be holy, and let us obey the Bible to be blessed!

Have we nothing to communicate? Is our living so inconsistent with our telling? Are we pitiably unsure of the truth of the Bible concerning the lost? Are we so stony-hearted that neither God’s promises nor God’s threats disturb us? What octopus has us in its grip? Where will our spiritual polio, our slovenly attention to divine truth land as – and others?

The purveyor of the ‘easy road’ philosophy does not know his Bible; neither does he cause Satan much trouble.

Where the rich Word of the living God is ministered in the anointing of the divine Spirit, the hungry sheep look up and are satisfyingly fed.

Years ago, amid the pomp and circumstances of the coronation of the Queen Elizabeth of England, there was a pause in the ceremony. Then her Majesty was presented with a copy of the Bible and these words: This is the greatest treasure that earth affords. How true!

Dare we as Christians attempt to walk the lonely heights of spirituality in the coming year without the chart of the Word of God and the guide of the Holy Spirit? Is the sea of life that is before us less dangerous than the choppy ocean before the Atlantic liner?

Ravenhill, Leonard. Sodom Had No Bible, Bethany Fellowship, 1979.

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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What Does the Bible Say About Reading the Bible?

Christians have many good reasons for reading the Bible, and many books and articles extol the merits of Bible reading. But what does the Bible say about reading the Bible? Here are ten observations:

Bible reading should be communal. The majority of texts that mention Bible reading speak about reading the Scriptures together. The first mention of Bible reading (Exodus 24:7) and the second last mention (1 Thessalonians 5:27) focus on communal Bible reading.

Bible reading should be public. “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scriptures” 1 Timothy 4:13. The emphasis in the Scriptures is on getting it out in the open. Reading the Bible should never be a solely private affair. In as much as it’s possible, we should be reading the Bible to “all people.”

Bible reading should be personal. There are two direct references in the Bible to personal Bible reading. The first concerns Ezra, a priest and scribe, who read the Bible every day of his life (Nehemiah 8:18). The second concerns the Ethiopian eunuch reading the Scriptures in his chariot on his way home (Acts 8:28).

Bible reading happens in different places. Wherever God’s people gather, we should read the Bible. This includes, but is not limited to, open-air settings (Joshua 8:34-35, 2 Kings 23:2), synagogues (Luke 4:16-17), and local churches (Colossians 4:16).

Bible reading is a mandate for kings. Rulers should read God’s Word every day to learn to fear God, live in reverent obedience, and not become proud or arrogant (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).

Bible reading should be in big chunks. There are examples in the Old Testament of Bible reading that took a long time, sometimes hours on end (e.g. Nehemiah 8:3), and involved reading whole books (2 Chronicles 34:30). As we usually do with letters, the epistles in the New Testament were read in one sitting.

Bible reading should include interpretation. When the Bible is read publicly, we should clearly articulate it in a way that aids understanding and facilitates attentiveness (Nehemiah 8:8).

Bible reading is what God’s people do. Jesus often asked, “Haven’t you read?” (e.g. Mark 12:10, 26). Bible reading isn’t an optional extra in our everyday affairs. Jesus anticipated, expected, and considered it normal for God’s people.

Bible reading leads people to Christ. Bible reading was the catalyst for the Ethiopian eunuch to place his faith in Jesus and be baptized (Acts 8:26-38).

Bible reading brings blessing. God gives His favour and protection to people who read the Bible. The final mention in the Bible concerning Bible reading (Revelation 1:3) is about God blessing those who read His Word, listen to it, and obey it.

The scriptures cited above account for the majority of verses and texts that specifically reference Bible reading. Why doesn’t the Bible say a whole lot more about this vital spiritual discipline? Maybe because God expects us to do it (e.g. Deuteronomy 6:1-9), which should be reason enough!

Related Articles

Ten Things You Can Do To Improve Your Bible Engagement

Top Ten Bible Engagement Practices

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Improving Bible Engagement in Christian Schools

One of the distinguishing factors in Christian schools is the prominence given to the Bible. It’s read, sung, taught, referenced, and consulted. Bible verses are displayed on notice boards, assemblies or opening exercises feature Bible passages or stories, values are taught from a biblical worldview, staged performances display God’s Word through drama or music, and discipline and restoration are informed by Scriptural principles.

While the Bible is part and parcel of Christian schools, there’s always room for improving connections with it. So what can teachers do to raise the level of Bible engagement? Here are five pertinent strategies and considerations:

Mix it up – Utilize different Bible engagement practices. American poet and writer Mark van Doren said, “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” Explain and demonstrate how students can interpret, study, contemplate, memorize, journal, sing, draw, pray, and apply the Scriptures. Consider using elements of the Godly Play approach (Jerome W. Berryman). Be a “sense-sational” Bible engagement teacher. Use methodologies and resources that help children touch, taste, see, hear and even smell God’s Word. When a student graduates from a Christian school, he/she should know how to engage with the Bible in multiple ways.

Less is more – Some teachers talk too much. A child’s attention span is two to three minutes per year of their age. A typical 7 year old can focus on a given task for 14-20 minutes. Tailor what you’re teaching to meet individual needs, i.e use Differentiated Instruction (DI) or Universal Design for Learning (UDL) strategies. Keep devotional times short and sweet. Include experiential games, object lessons, visual elements, opportunities for discussion, and times for reflection. Quit while you’re ahead. Maybe finish telling a Bible story on a cliff-hanger, plot twist, or tie-back (connecting the ending to an unusual element earlier in the story). Aim to leave your students wanting to spend more time in the Word.

It’s not a textbook –The Bible is a book of texts, but it’s not a textbook. The Bible wasn’t published to meet the needs of educators, and it was never God’s intention that it would be equated with a standard work on a given subject. The Bible is unlike any other book. It’s holy, alive, and active (Hebrews 4:12). It’s not a book of principles, a concept, set of values, ethics to be learned, historical memoirs, spiritual sayings, guide book, collection of doctrines, behaviour manual, or storehouse of propositions. It’s God’s Word, and it has authority over us to speak to us. On the pain of death, you should never ever treat the Bible as a textbook!

Use child-friendly versions – You probably have a personal bias toward one translation, but expose your students to a variety of suitable translations and encourage them to find the one that’s the right “fit” for them. Bible translations have different reading and comprehension levels. The International Children’s Bible, New International Readers Version, and Easy To Read Version are appropriate for younger children. The Living Bible, God’s Word, Contemporary English Version, New Living Translation, and Good News Translation are appropriate for older children. You can use the New International Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Common English Version, or New King James Version with tweens.

Focus on Jesus – Finally, yet most importantly, your goal should always be to connect your students with a person (Jesus), not a book (Bible). Bible engagement is Jesus engagement. He is the central theme and compelling reason for Bible engagement. Lead your students to the Lord. Bible facts have no value outside of a relationship with the One of whom the Bible speaks (Proverbs 1:7). If your students aren’t moving beyond the biblical text into dynamic encounters with Jesus, you’re only prolonging their “sickly days” (Hamlet).

Irish-born scholar C.S. Lewis wisely said, “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” Bible engagement needs to be well watered. More than teaching the Bible, aim to equip students with the skills to interact with the Bible themselves. Be patient and kind. Even on good days, it can be hard going to get students to work up an appetite for Bible engagement. Don’t be dismayed or discouraged. Exhaustively and persuasively share your passion and love for the Scriptures, pray earnestly, and trust the Lord to nurture a desire in your students to live according to His Word and hide it in their hearts (Psalm 119:9-11).

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Improving Bible Engagement in the Church

Getting a congregation connected with God’s Word is essential for spiritual health and growth. That’s why improving Bible engagement in the church is a top priority for most pastors. So how can pastors do it well? Here are some tried and tested ways to ramp up Bible engagement in the church:

Take small steps – Most people in most churches don’t read the Bible regularly, and they feel like failures. Don’t guilt-trip them. Acknowledge the challenges. Start slow. “Tiptoe if you must, but take a step,” Naeem Callaway, CEO of Get Out the Box. Set attainable goals. It’s unlikely that someone will go from zero to hero in a few weeks. Be community-minded. Do it together and encourage each other to keep moving forward.

Recommend a range of versions – To endorse only one version of the Bible in a world full of options is narrow-minded and counterproductive. Don’t promote your favourite version as the best choice for everyone. Due to different reading and comprehension levels, people require different versions. The best version is the one a person is most likely to read. Help individuals understand, navigate, and choose options best suited to them.

Use Bibles together – When you’re gathered in a small group or church service, invite people to turn to a given text or passage in a printed or on an electronic device. Aim to get everyone interacting personally and directly with the Bible. When preaching or teaching, make sure you do it in a way that gets people looking at and reading their own Bibles. Ask questions that prompt people to search the text for answers. Small actions can birth big outcomes. Encouraging people to use their Bibles publicly (a small action) may spur them to use their Bibles privately (a big outcome).

Be practical – There’s no right way or better way to engage with the Bible, only different ways. Each of us has preferences that suit our personalities, learning styles, and temperaments. Author of the E100 Bible Engagement Challenge Whitney T. Kuniholm says people get more out of their daily Bible reading if they understand their devotional personalities. These devotional personalities include early birds (classic morning devotionalists), mid-day breakers (read during the lunch break), commuter seekers (connect during bus or train rides), night watchers (enjoy the Scriptures when everyone is asleep), and free spirits (whenever it happens).

Make it shareable – Connect congregations around Bible passages, scripture texts, or biblical themes. Create memes of key verses used in sermons and post them on social media. Update your website every week with the Scripture passage that your small groups are studying. Print a weekly memory verse and tuck it into the service bulletin. Live stream your services using church streaming software and solutions. Think multi-generationally. Involve and include all age groups. Check out ProChurch Media, Open Network, or Church Media Drop for free graphics you can use right away.

Tell compelling stories – If the pastor promotes it, it goes a long way to people doing it. Advocate and motivate people to integrate Bible engagement into their daily lives. An effective way to do this is through personal testimonies extolling the benefits of daily Bible engagement. Pew Research states that 37% of Christians don’t believe Bible reading is essential, and 21% don’t consider the Bible an important part of their Christian identity! Challenge these assumptions. Share persuasive stories to encourage and inspire Bible engagement. Catalyze an annual Bible engagement campaign.

Go digital or go home – People carry phones they can use to connect with God’s Word anywhere at any time. Teach them how to access and use Bible apps like YouVersion, Bible.is, Glo Bible, Logos Bible, or Bible Gateway. Use a digital version on Sundays in your services. Encourage people to share scripture memes on Facebook and Instagram. Free shareable Bible memes are available from DailyBibleMeme, Bible.com, and other sites.

Link it to Jesus – To be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus, we have to listen to Him. To listen to Him, we have to read/hear His Word. If we don’t read/hear His Word, we can’t be a follower of Jesus! Teach this truth clearly, frequently and earnestly. We can’t grow in our relationship with Christ if we’re not receiving, reflecting, and responding to His Word. Bible engagement isn’t a spiritual option; it’s a spiritual necessity. This is Christianity 101. Loving Jesus is tied to loving His Word.

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Top Ten Bible Engagement Practices

Bible engagement can be a hit-or-miss affair for many people. That’s unfortunate and unnecessary. There are tried and tested things we can do to develop and maintain regular engagement with God’s Word.

Gleaned from decades of learning and teaching, here are my top ten Bible engagement practices to equip you to jump in and stay connected with God’s Word:

Connect with the author. The Bible is more than words. Bible engagement is Jesus engagement. Concentrate less on what the Bible is saying and more on who the Bible is talking about (Jesus). Prayerfully aim to meet Jesus in and through your encounters with the Word. According to theologian and author Scot McKnight, the aim of Bible engagement isn’t to know the Bible; it’s to know the God of the Bible. Seek Him, and you’ll find Him (cf. Jeremiah 29:13). While He’s often hidden, He reveals Himself when you search diligently. You’ll know you’ve found Him when your heart feels like it’s on fire (cf. Luke 24:32).

Discover your Bible engagement disposition. Different personalities connect with the Bible in different ways. There’s no one way or right way to receive, reflect, and respond to God’s Word. Some like to study it; others like to soak in it. Figure out how you’re wired. What’s your devotional temperament? You may prefer to sing, journal, question, draw, contemplate, or pray the Bible.

See it as a lifelong journey. The Bible isn’t a book you read from beginning to end, and then you’re done. It’s a companion on a voyage where you spend time together until you reach the final destination. Your time together doesn’t happen willy-nilly. Create a plan. There must be direction and planning so that Bible engagement happens in a structured manner.

Keep it at your fingertips. There are moments available every day to engage with God’s Word. Instead of checking your emails or scrolling through Facebook, open the Bible app on your phone or tablet. When you’re driving to work or soaking in the tub, listen to a Psalm or short passage of Scripture on YouVersion.

Do it with others. When Bible engagement is a community experience, it creates an inflow of inspiration and positive reinforcement. We’re better together. Individual engagement with God’s Word requires substantial personal discipline. But when you’re accountable to someone, it strengthens engagement. Sharing and discussing your encounters with the Word also deepens your understanding and enhances your memorization.

Read it on its own terms. Don’t try to manipulate or control it. The Bible has authority over your life, not the other way around. Be humble. Let the Bible read you. Bible engagement is a living experience. Place yourself under the Word and invite it to interpret you.

Put yourself into the story. Exercise sanctified imagination to enter into it. Bible engagement requires participation. Move beyond simply reading or listening. Envision yourself as one of the characters or see yourself in the original situation. Once you’ve entered it, immerse yourself in it. Set the scene, play the part, and be carried along by the drama of the narrative.

Share it. God’s Word needs to be on your lips as much as it’s in your heart. Please don’t keep it to yourself. Meet with a friend via Zoom. When you verbalize and teach it, you absorb it. Tell your family how God’s Word speaks to you. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” Mark 16:15.

Try something new. English poet William Cowper said, “Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.” Revive old habits with fresh routines. If you’ve been doing a verse-by-verse reading, try whole book reading. If you’ve been using one version, switch to another. If you usually read the Bible, listen to a Bible audiobook instead.

Live it out. Bible engagement is as much about your hands and feet as it is about your head and heart. It comes alive when you put it into practice. Be a Nike Christian; Just do it! Bible engagement is more than gleaning information; it should result in transformation. Obey it. Become more like Jesus, not just in how you think and what you value but also in what you say and do.

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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What Can the Bible Do For You?

Remarkably, because it’s living and active (cf. Hebrews 4:12), the Bible can do what no other book can do; it can renovate, renew, and refurbish your life! This is what the Bible can do for you:

Awaken your faith. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” Romans 10:17.

Transform your life. “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life” Deuteronomy 32:47.

Show you the way to salvation. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” 2 Timothy 3:14-15.

Save your soul. “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” James 1:21.

Equip you to do what’s right and good. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Preserve you from sinning. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119:11.

Keep you on track. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” Psalm 119:150.

Give you wisdom and understanding. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding” Psalm 111:10.

Grow your faith. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” Romans 10:17.

Increase your intelligence. “Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies.  I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes” Psalm 119:98-99.

Be your counsellor. “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors” Psalm 119:24.

Offer guidance. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” Psalm 119:130.

Instruct you in righteousness. “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word” Psalm 119:9.

Bring you success. “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” Joshua 1:8.

Help you persevere. “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction” Psalm 19:92.

Give you joy. “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart” Psalm 19:8.

Provide peace and security. “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” Psalm 119:165.

Make you productive. “But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers” Psalm 1:2-3.

Fill you with hope. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” Romans 15:4.

Refresh and strengthen you. “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul” Psalm 19:7.

Nourish you. “The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life” John 6:63. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” Deuteronomy 8:3.

Prolong your life. “By them (God’s words) you will live long …” Deuteronomy 32:47b.

Bless all you do. “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do” James 1:25.

The Bible will also rebuke you when you step out of line (cf. Psalm 119:21), take honour away from you when you don’t follow the Scriptures wholeheartedly (cf. Psalm 119:80), cut through your selfishness to humble you (cf. Jeremiah 23:29), and judge the thoughts and attitudes of your heart (cf. Hebrews 4:12).

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Where is the Bible Needed Most?

In the introduction to the State of the Bible USA 2021 report, John Plake, Director of Ministry Intelligence at the American Bible Society, suggests that we might be asking, “Where is the Bible needed most?” He says, “It’s a good question.” So what’s the answer?

Drawing on the history of the American Bible Society and the church in America, Plake suggests the Bible is needed most “where it’s not available … where people are hurting … and where wisdom is in short supply.” He also submits that the data from the State of the Bible research indicates that the Bible is needed to help Americans face their “challenges with hope and resilience.”

Plake’s suggestions may be good PR, but they’re bad theology. While it’s true to say the Bible is needed where people don’t have access to the Bible, by people in pain and needing comfort, by people who lack knowledge, and by people seeking courage, these reasons are not the main reason people need it.

This is not a sidebar issue. What we believe the Bible is, directly relates to where it’s needed most.

Here’s my concern: Plake wittingly or unwittingly downgrades the Bible to something less than God intended it to be. The Bible is more than a therapy manual (moralistic therapeutic deism) and more than a sourcebook to glean understanding (Gnosticism). Providing succour for suffering, sorrow, or sickness is not the primary focus of the Bible. Countering ignorance or increasing what Plake calls the “short supply” of wisdom is also not the primary focus of the Bible. Nor is contact with the Bible (accessibility) the chief reason why the Bible is needed. Access to the Bible (Plake considers access a “human right”) is not a freedom that belongs to every person in the world, and it’s not a biblical injunction.

So what is the main reason people need the Bible, and where is the Bible needed most? Jesus is the reason, and where people don’t have Jesus is where the Bible is needed most.

Bible engagement is about Jesus engagement. People need to receive, read, reflect, and respond to the Bible to connect with Jesus. This is the principle belief and primary doctrine of Scripture engagement. The theme of the Bible, from the beginning to the end, is Jesus. He is the theme of the Bible because He’s what people need most.

In other words, wherever people don’t know Jesus as King and aren’t citizens in His kingdom is where the Bible is needed most. The main reason why people need the Bible is that they’re separated from God. Being healed, or finding answers to life’s questions, is secondary to being saved and sanctified. We must be unequivocal on this point: The Bible is needed most by people who don’t know Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life” John 14:6.

Practically this means atheists, agnostics, animists, nones (people who say they have no religious affiliation), fence-sitters (people who view Christian faith favourably but haven’t committed themselves to Jesus), secular, and religious people need the Bible most. That’s not to say that Christ-followers don’t need the Bible as much as those who don’t follow Christ. It’s simply a recognition that those who are furthest away from Christ are usually the ones who are furthest away from His Word, and therefore the ones who need the Bible the most.

[Note: I highly value the work and ministry of the ABS and the Bible societies worldwide and have many friends who serve in these agencies. This to say that this article is not a criticism of the ABS per se. It is, however, a brief review and critical analysis of the introduction to the State of the Bible USA 2021 report. As such, it’s consistent with our biblical responsibility not to believe everything we hear and to carefully weigh and examine what people tell us (1 John 4:1). Hopefully, I’ve done this tolerably.]

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Defined

What do we mean by the term Bible engagement?

Bible engagement is the process that connects us with the Bible so that we have meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ in order for our lives to be progressively transformed in Him.

To elaborate: Bible engagement happens through the course of our lives as we find our part in God’s Story. For Bible engagement to happen we must first come together with and develop a vital relationship with Christ. The relationship begins and proceeds by grace and through faith as Christ saves us from sin and sanctifies us by the Spirit. Bible engagement is evidenced through ongoing obedience to God’s Word that’s seen in life-changes that take place individually and in community.

According to James 1:17-25, there are four actions involved in Bible engagement:

  1. Receive God’s Word – “humbly accept” James 1:21.
  2. Reflect on God’s Word – “looks intently” James 1:25.
  3. Remember God’s Word – “not forgetting” James 1:25.
  4. Respond to God’s Word – “doing it” James 1:22-23, 25.

 

To effectively receive, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word there are several things we need to know:

  1. Bible engagement flows out of an intimate reciprocating relationship with Jesus. The motivation for reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to the Word is only as strong as our love for Christ. The more we love Jesus, the greater our drive to engage with His Word will be.
  2. Bible engagement is a process. There are no shortcuts. It involves what the scholar and author Eugene Peterson, calls “a long obedience in the same direction” – a course of action that’s repeated over and over again through the ups and downs of life.
  3. Bible engagement involves desire. When our desire to receive, reflect, remember and respond to the Word is greater than staying where we are, we’ll be on the way toward regular and consistent engagement with the Word.
  4. Bible engagement requires discipline. Daily choices about how we prioritize our time must be made in order to grow stronger in our engagement with God’s Word. Praying or hoping for a better connection with the Bible is futile if we spend our time glued to the TV or consumed by social media.
  5. Bible engagement is fuelled by the Holy Spirit. “The same Holy Spirit who inspired Bible authors to write, inspires Bible readers to understand and accept it, as God’s Word,” says David Jackman, president of the Proclamation Trust. Self-efforts to improve our engagement with the Bible will end in failure. We’ll only mature in receiving, reflection, remembering and responding to the Word when we seek the daily filling of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Real Bible engagement is initiated and enabled when we recognize our impotence – then invite the Holy Spirit to equip us as we listen, learn and live out God’s Word.
  6. Bible engagement is a challenge. The enemy of God, Satan, does not want us to engage with the Bible. The spiritual forces of darkness work actively to distract, divert, daunt, deceive or defeat us when we seek to receive, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word.
  7. Bible engagement results in action. In the Parable of the Sower, the climax of the story comes when people “hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop” Mark 4:20. When hearing the Bible results in people becoming living epistles, i.e., being life words, then Bible engagement has occurred. Producing a crop is the ultimate goal. It’s not enough to hear the Word and accept it; the inward must become outward – the concealed must be revealed.

 

All told, Bible engagement is foundational and imperative for God’s people. So “get them (the Scriptures) inside of you and then get them inside your children” Deuteronomy 6:7 (MSG).

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5

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