JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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Ten Things You Can Do To Improve Your Engagement With The Bible

To know God and be godly, we must know God’s Word intimately.

Here are ten things you can do to improve your engagement with the Bible:

Use reading plans. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Benjamin Franklin. Check out Bible Gateway for a great selection of reading plans. If you want to read through the New Testament in a year, try the free 5/52 Reading Plan from SGM Canada.

Use reading guides. Informed commentary that helps you explore the wonders of the Word and apply it to life are invaluable. If you want to grow in godliness and intimacy with God, try the Scripture Union printed or online Bible reading guides for all ages.

Join a Bible study group. We need the help of others to better see and hear from God’s Word. Bible study with a group of like-minded believers will strengthen and enhance your Bible engagement.

Listen to expository Bible preaching. There are pastors, teachers and authors who you can learn from. Sites like Sermon Index provide a great selection of audio sermons by gifted speakers.

Take notes/journal. Writing down what you’re learning about God and yourself helps formulate your thinking, clarify the fuzzy, and aid your memory.

Slow it down. The Scriptures are best digested if we “eat them” slowly. Take your time. Masticate on each word. Listen for what God is saying. Enjoy the moment. Open your heart. Pause to pray.

Help others. A deeper level of Bible engagement comes when we help others engage with the Bible. Teach the Scriptures to your children, family, or friends and you’ll find that it “forces” you to go deeper in your own study of the Scriptures.

Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day and a transformed life doesn’t happen overnight. Changes in your attitude, outlook and behaviour happens indiscernibly over years of reading and re-reading the Bible.

Be realistic. Don’t expect to master the Bible in a month, a year, or a decade. There are depths to the Scriptures you will never plum, mysteries you will never understand, and contents that will leave you puzzled (cf. 2 Peter 3:16).

Be heavenly focused. Read the Bible until you can no longer read it, then when you close your eyes for the last time, know that you’ll open them to see the Word of God in the flesh!

Have your say. Add your suggestions by making a comment.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Connect the Next Generation With Christ

The crying need of the day is to connect the next generation with Christ.

There are young people in Canada who have never heard the Gospel, never read a portion of Scripture, and never known the love of God.

According to a study by the sociologist, James Penner, “Fifteen per cent of young Canadians classify themselves as atheists”. Statistics Canada (2005) found that 33% of Canadians aged 15 to 24 have never been to church, compared with 25% in 1985. A recent assessment on the state of the Anglican Church in Canada indicated that it “may be only a generation away from extinction.” And the Hemorrhaging Faith Report states, “Only one in three Canadian young adults who attended church weekly as a child still do so today.”

Can these trends be reversed? I believe they can! The Lord does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV).

When we think about connecting a disconnected generation with Christ, some may assume that it’s just not possible. Humanly speaking we know it’s an enormous challenge. But God isn’t limited! And, by extension, neither is His church.

So how do we connect the next generation with Christ? From a Bible engagement perspective it begins with mastering the message. All evangelism should be rooted, informed and driven by the Word of God. The message is all important. Methods are secondary.

To master the message the messengers should know how to explain the Story. This requires regular Bible reading and reflection. The aim of every Christian should be to know God’s Word from top to bottom and from beginning to end.

But mastering the message is not enough. The message should master the messenger. “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” 1 John 3:18 (NIV). We must be living epistles! Our passion for the Word should be demonstrated by our compassion for the world. Children need to see how we live and give. To connect the next generation with Christ, our walk must line-up with our talk.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Outliers

Today, for the first time, November 24, the National Bible Association, in partnership with YouVersion, American Bible Society,  Bible Gateway and Scripture Union, has suggested we celebrate the International Day of the Bible. Organizers are encouraging people to find ways to honour, show appreciation for God’s Word, and to use #BibleCelebration when posting online comments, videos, photos and creative expressions. [Click here for Twitter and Facebook]

So here’s the jumpintotheword Bible Engagement Blog contribution:

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success*, argues that success is due to much more than intelligence and ambition. According to Gladwell there is one very important factor that enables people to be extremely successful – the amount of time they spend pursuing/practicing a specific activity or pursuit.

In a study of college music majors, Gladwell discovered that students who had practised for 4-6 thousand hours on their instruments usually become music teachers, those who had practised for 6-8 thousand hours usually became music performers, and those who had practised for 10,000 hours had the potential to be world-class musicians. The 10,000 hour plateau also applies to writers, painters, football players, astronomers, gymnasts, researchers, sculptors, actors – to everyone in the arts, academics or athletics.

If Bible engagement was our college major, then to become Bible teachers we would need to read/reflect/practice it for 4 hours every day for 365 days of the year for 3-4 years. To go to the next level (maybe a teacher of teachers) we would need to read/reflect/practice the Bible for 6 hours every day for 365 days of the year for 3-4 years. To be world class we would need to read/reflect/practice the Bible for 8 hours every day of the year for 3.5 years.

Most of us aren’t able to commit 4-8 hours a day over 3-4 years to Bible reading/reflection/practice. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible for us to attain a level of engagement with the Bible that would, by Gladwell’s measure, be considered world class status.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Ten-thousand hours is attainable when it’s accrued over a longer period. If one goes to church every week for 2 hours, attends a weekly Bible study group for 2 hours, and reads the Bible for 1 hour every day; it takes about 17 and a half years to attain world class status.

Of course it requires much more than time spent reading/reflecting/practicing the Bible to become mature in the Word. We should probably add that to attain world class Bible engagement status we need the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and minds (cf. Psalm 119:36Romans 12:2), the recognition that we can’t do it in the flesh (cf. Galatians 5:17), a willingness to hear the word of God and obey it (cf. James 1:25), and the desire to see our lives becoming more and more about Jesus (cf. Colossians 3:1-3).

* An outlier is a statistical term referring to an extreme observation, i.e. an observation point that is distant from other observations or belonging to something different to the rest of a sample set.

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Discipline

The daily practice of Bible reading and reflection is essential for our spiritual health and growth. Yet most people don’t read the Bible regularly (e.g. only 4% of Canadians read the Bible on a daily basis).

One of the reasons why so few people read and reflect on God’s Word may be because we lack discipline. To say we lack discipline is to suggest we’re deficient in the assertion of our willpower over our more base desires. Rather than doing what we know is best, we prefer to take the easy street, chase the fast buck, seek the quick fix, or enjoy the things that give us instant gratification. At the root of the problem – we’re basically lazy. We simply don’t want to do the hard work required to align our motivations with reasoned aims.

My mother used to say, “Sometimes the things we don’t like are good for us”. Last year my doctor wanted me to take medication for high cholesterol. It would have been easy to pop a pill. But I refused, knowing that if I went on a strict diet, exercised more and lost weight, I could bring my cholesterol level down. So I’m on a low sodium, low cholesterol, low trans fat diet (probably for the rest of my life). I dislike the diet because I don’t get to eat some of the foods I really enjoy. But the diet is good for me – according to the latest blood test my cholesterol levels are now satisfactory.

The dictionary defines a disciplined person as someone who’s established a goal and is willing to achieve that goal at the expense of his or her individuality. I love cheese. Just the mention of brie, aged cheddar, gruyere or pepper jack, gets me salivating. But cheese is high in cholesterol and if I want to be healthy (the goal) I must hold back when the cheese board is on the table.

Yes I know, all you fellow cheese lovers are saying, “Take the cholesterol medication Lawson!” And maybe I should . . . But then again, maybe I shouldn’t. Why? Because deep down I believe it’s more important to do what is good for me, even when I don’t feel like doing it. Right actions lead to right outcomes. Even though I need to exercise strictness and denial in pursuit of lower cholesterol levels, the bigger goal is what really counts – being physically healthy.

If the bigger goal, spiritually speaking, is growth in faith, then discipline may be what today’s believers need the most but want the least. Let’s be honest. Discipline has probably fallen out of fashion because it runs counter to the whole “it’s a relationship, not a religion” mantra that’s so appealing to those who want their spirituality to be “organic”, “authentic”, and “flowing from the heart”. That’s not to say these things aren’t worthwhile; it’s just that they’re sometimes used to mask our spiritual laziness.

Spiritual outcomes require work and discipline. Effort needs to be expended in order for us to mature and flourish. A healthy faith doesn’t just happen. The number one thing we should do to grow spiritually is meet with God every day. There are no shortcuts. Discipline is essential. Spiritual health and growth require a long obedience in the same direction. We must show up daily to read, reflect and act on God’s Word.

“That’s easier said than done!”, you say. You’re right. Experience dictates that the discipline of Bible reading and reflection, when undertaken as a solo affair, usually fails. As many of us know from personal experience, even the most disciplined of us don’t get it right all the time. Relying, as we so often do, on our own strength and willpower, we still come up short.

So if we can never muster enough discipline in and of ourselves to faithfully and consistently read and reflect on God’s Word, are we doomed to failure? No. We can be successful. But only if we’re prepared to ask for help. Here’s the bottom line: The discipline of Bible reading and reflection thrives when it’s a mutual affair. Specifically, when it’s a partnership with God.

A partnership with God . . . Don’t try to go it alone. The discipline of Bible reading and reflection blossoms when you incline your heart to God (cf. Proverbs 2:2), ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 5:18), look to Him to renew your mind (cf. Romans 12:2), and seek, not your own ends, but the kingdom of God and his righteousness (cf. Matthew 6:33).

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Back to the Bible

Renewal and revival are desperately needed. The church is struggling and the world is carefree. Faith is luke-warm, beliefs are shallow and attendance at worship services is in decline. Moral relativism prevails, polytheism and idolatry is commonplace, and hedonism is thriving.

One of the reasons why the church is struggling is because Bible engagement has diminished. According to the Canadian Bible Engagement Study there’s a direct correlation between weekly church attendance and regular Bible engagement. When church attendance declines, so does Bible engagement. When Bible engagement declines, so does church attendance.

Spiritual health and growth will be restored when we get back to the Bible. As Bible engagement goes, so goes the nation. When our Bibles start falling apart, society will stop falling apart! If we want renewal and revival we must read the Word for all it’s worth and live it out for all to see.

Do we want to see sinners repent, love increase, justice triumph and righteousness prevail? If we do, then our hearts, minds, bodies and souls must be soaked in God’s Word. Bible engagement is not an option, it’s a necessity. When we feed on the Word, faith flourishes. When faith flourishes, God’s kingdom grows.

There are no shortcuts with Bible engagement. It requires inclination, time and perseverance. Here are ten practical tips for developing and deepening your personal engagement with the Word:

Choose an appropriate version. As a rule of thumb use a Bible that’s easy to read. Keep several versions on hand for comparison and contrast. You can use an online Bible like Bible Gateway to read different versions in parallel.

Pray. Bible reading and reflection requires illumination from the Holy Spirit. Ask God to be your teacher. Trust Him to open your heart and mind – to give you insight and understanding (cf. Proverbs 2:1-5).

Use a Bible reading guide. Bible reading and reflection is enhanced through the use of a reading guide. Scripture Union specializes in guides for all ages, helping people deepen their understanding and grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Consult commentaries and concordances. To help us read the Bible for all it’s worth we need to understand the original meaning of words, do word searches, appreciate the cultural setting of the text, and learn from gifted theologians.

Stick to a plan. Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Having a strategy in place, or a target to aim for, helps focus connections with the Bible. A simple reading plan like the Scripture Gift Mission free 5/52 Reading Plan will help you track your progress.

Mine the text. The Bible is a quarry full of precious gems. To find the gems you ‘dig’, ‘crush’ and ‘screen’ the text. Don’t leave a word unturned – examine it from every angle. Read and re-read until you find the treasure.

Open your ears. We can listen without hearing and hear without understanding (cf. Matthew 13:13). Sin closes our ears and dulls our spirit. Denial, pride, wrong attitudes, greed, selfish ambition, holding onto our own agenda and un-forgiveness all get in the way of hearing God speak through His Word.

Focus on Jesus. The entire Bible centers on Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. Read the Old Testament expecting the coming of Christ. Read the New Testament in the light of Christ having come and coming again.

Meditate on truth. “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 (NIV).

Do it! “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22 (NIV)

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Discipleship and Bible Engagement

What we say and what we do, don’t always seem to line up. While 66% of churchgoers say they want to “honour Jesus in all I do” only 11% read the Bible daily – this according to the October 2011 LifeWay Research, Transformational Discipleship Study, of more than 4,000 American and Canadian churchgoers (Evangelical and mainline English, French and Spanish Protestants).

Bible engagement should be intrinsic to being a disciple. “There would be no sense in saying you trusted Jesus if you would not take his advice” C.S. Lewis. In order to learn from Christ and do what He commands, one has to read the Bible. “Faith is good only when it engages truth . . .” A. W. Tozer. Yet 34% of churchgoers rarely or never read the Bible outside of church and just 27% say they read it a few times a week or once a month.

How do we make disciples if people aren’t reading and reflecting on the Scriptures? Alarmingly, most churchgoers don’t feel bad about not connecting with the Bible. A whopping 62% say they don’t feel “unfulfilled” if they “go several days without reading the Bible”.

New Testament disciples were people who increasingly, and with growing intentionality, reflected the character and ministry of Christ. The first century disciples aligned their hearts and lives with Christ, over time looked more and more like Him, and most importantly, reproduced disciples who in turn learnt to be like Christ and do what He did.

In the Western church we seem to be content with calling a person a disciple if they pitch up to church, occasionally volunteer, put something in the offering plate, and do some good things . . . a far cry from the lives and ministries of the first century disciples.

LifeWay’s research reveals that only 3% of churchgoers do Bible study on a daily basis and 53% rarely or never study the Bible. This is hugely disconcerting. If Christians aren’t learning about the life of Christ, how can they become like Christ?

Something’s lost that needs to be found. Do we want to see disciples forged in the character of Christ, exercising the power/authority of Christ, and exuding the grace of Christ? If we do, then our first priority must be to equip and encourage churchgoers to regularly read and reflect on the Scriptures.

Recommended Bible reading resources:

  • Scripture Union: theStory™ – http://thestory.scriptureunion.ca/; E100 Challenge – http://www.e100challenge.ca/; Reading Guides for all ages – http://scriptureunion.ca/bible-guides
  • Bible Gateway: http://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/

© Scripture Union Canada 2013