JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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Increasing Bible Engagement

In the Hebrew Scriptures the broad meaning for “wax” or “waxed” is “increase”. Although the Hebrew word for “wax” is translated into English as “increase” it specifically means either an “increase in increase”, or seemingly paradoxically, but nevertheless logically, an “increase in decrease”. Like where “David grew (waxed) stronger and stronger” while “Saul grew (waxed) weaker and weaker.” 2 Samuel 3:1.

Sometimes we’re doing well with our Bible engagement, and sometimes not so well (Romans 7:15). How are you doing? I’m more up than down at the moment. The more I read the Word, the more it’s reading me. But it might not be like that in a few months time. That’s because there’s an ongoing war inside me. While the Spirit inclines me to wax stronger, my flesh inclines me to wax weaker.

Which begs a question: How can we grow stronger and stronger in reading, reflecting and responding to the Word? Here are three ways to increase Bible Engagement:

Use a Bible reading guide.

I find Bible reading plans tend to be the death of me. When I hit Leviticus I’m starting to yawn and when I get to Numbers my days are numbered! Bible reading plans also feel mechanical. I want to read the Word to meet with Jesus – never to check a box simply for the sake of reading through the Bible in a year. While I don’t like reading plans, I do find reading guides helpful. Reading guides, like the Scripture Union Guides, steer the reader through the whole Bible in 4-5 years. It’s a slower reading focused on reflection and it helps me contemplate the Word in manageable portions. Most importantly, a reading guide includes suggestions on how I should apply the Word – and that’s essential.

Spice it up.

William Cowper in his poem The Task says, “Variety is the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.” When Bible reading seems to lose its flavour it may be helpful to spice it up. There are many ways to spice it up. Sometimes I’ll read from a different version, listen to an audio adaptation, or watch a Bible video. Children can spice it up with a free Bible game like Guardians of Ancora. Writing the Word, singing the Word, memorizing the Word, dramatizing the Word, journaling the Word, drawing the Word, or praying the Word also helps me spice it up. There are loads of online options that help us spice it up too. There’s the YouVersion app, Bible Gateway, Study Bible apps, or journaling apps for sharing readings with others like the Replicate app.

Do it together.

“Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Bible engagement is easier when we do it together. Sometimes reading the Bible with a friend or family member is the only motivation that gets us into God’s Word when we’re tired, frazzled or plagued by the tyranny of the urgent. That’s because when someone else encourages us to read and reflect on God’s Word it tends to lighten the load, strengthen the discipline of Bible reading, and spur us on. Bible apps make this easy. They let you see what your friends have highlighted, enable you to read their margin comments, facilitate sharing of passages with social graphics, or make it possible to read Bible guides together. But for me, there’s nothing to beat face to face Bible engagement. Most nights I read the Bible together with my family at the dinner table. Our discussions flowing from the Bible reading are usually stimulating and grounding. And because we do Bible engagement together, it’s the glue that binds us to one another and to Jesus.

That’s it in a nutshell. Bible engagement usually increases when we use a Bible reading guide, spice it up, or do it together. So here’s to waxing stronger and stronger!

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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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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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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Pastor Alert!

Studies by the Barna Group, Gallup Poll, and others, reveal that regular Bible reading in North America is in sharp decline. There are approximately 25% fewer people than a generation ago who would be characterized as even occasional Bible readers, and about 700 people in the USA quit Bible reading every day!

The drop in Bible reading contrasts sharply with the finding that 87% of church attendees want practical help in understanding the Bible. Unfortunately only 20% of churches offer the help required.

Pastor, are you giving God’s people what they need to understand the Bible? Scripture Union can help equip your congregation with the means to read the Bible with understanding. Here are some proven resources you can recommend to your church:

  • Encounter With God, Daily Bread and Closer to God are excellent Bible reading guides for adults. These guides take the reader through the entire Bible in about four years. Many Christians testify to how they grow in understanding and meet with God daily through the use of these resources. Billy Graham, among many great examples of faith who use Scripture Union reading guides, says, “I am totally, completely and forever a Scripture Union man.”
  • Essential 100 Challenge is based on carefully selected short Bible passages – 50 from the Old Testament and 50 from the New Testament – that helps Bible readers grasp the essence of the text. The E100 Challenge is the systematic Bible reading challenge your congregation will love to complete. Consider doing it together as a congregation
  • theStory™ – a free daily online adult Bible reading guide that emphasizes the biblical narrative, utilizes a chronological reading plan, engages the mind and ignites the soul. One of the great features of theStory™, apart from the fact that it’s free, is software that tracks with each individuals progress – allowing a person to read and reflect on the Bible at their own pace. Available at: theStory.scriptureunion.ca

It doesn’t take a great deal of effort to give your congregation the help they require. Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  • Feature the above information in newsletters, bulletins, PowerPoint announcements, your facebook and church website
  • Preach on the importance of connecting with God’s Word. Emphasize how Bible reading and reflection is the primary catalyst in spiritual health and growth. Apply the teaching by inviting the congregation to join you in doing the E100 Challenge or asking them to turn on their phones and sign up for theStory™. [Note: Scripture Union will send you logos and promotional jpg’s, slides, banners – everything you need to promote the E100 Challenge or theStory™. Simply e-mail us at: info@scriptureunion.ca]
  • Invite a member of staff from Scripture Union to set up a promotional display of Bible engagement resources with free samples of Encounter With God. Phone (905) 427-4947 to book one of the SU staff to present the latest research on the Bible and culture or share an inspirational and invitational message on Bible engagement

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Family Faith Formation

Family matters! Here are several practical suggestions to help get the family into the Word:

  • Use versions of the Bible suitable for the grade level of each member of the family. You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but some parents give their children the KJV, NRSV, RSV or NASB (versions using grade 11 language). A child should understand what he or she is reading. Consider giving children the NIrV, NCV, TEV or NLT (versions using grade 3-6 language), give teens the CEB or NKJV (versions using grade 8 language) and give young adults the ESV or NIV (versions using grade 10 language).
  • Utilize video, internet and other technology to augment and accentuate the stories of the Bible. About two thirds of 8-18 year olds own cell phones, iPods or MP3 players and about one third own laptops. In a multimedia society it’s essential for families to be able to interact with the Bible electronically. Use social media and other means to share, tweet, text or comment on a verse.
  • Have Scripture easily accessible around the home. Display favourite verses with cool prints. Hang up Scripture posters or write/paint a special text for a child or teen on the walls in their rooms.
  • Enjoy family devotionals after dinner every day. Get everyone involved. Be enthusiastic, authentic and creative. Act out scenes in the Bible with props and costumes, pull out instruments and worship, download YouTube videos, benefit from hearty theological debates, read Bible narratives dramatically with each characters ‘lines’ in the story read by different members of the family, etc.
  • Help children and teens pick out devotionals they like at a local Christian bookstore or online. For great age appropriate Bible reading guides check out  http://scriptureunion.ca/bible-guides
  • Pray and read the Bible with young children before they go to bed. There are excellent biblical books for young children available at http://scriptureunion.ca/books-for-children
  • Be seen to be reading and reflecting on the Bible. More is caught than taught! When we see other members of the family digging into the Word it encourages us to do likewise.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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When the Going Gets Tough

TOUGH goingSomeone recently said to me, “I’m embarrassed to say this, but I have to admit that my Bible reading’s dry – I’m getting nothing out of it. I’ve been reading the Bible for fifty years and for the past two years it’s been a grinding routine.” “I know”, I replied. “Sometimes it can be a tough slog. I’ve had times when it feels like there’s nothing fresh.” We chatted for some time . . .

So how do we turn it around when we’re struggling to meet with God through His Word? What do we do when our expectations of hearing God speaking through the Scriptures are at an all time low? Here are some suggestions:

  • Mix it up. Sometimes we get in a rut. We read the same version of the Bible over and over again. Why not try a different version or a paraphrase? There are more than 800 English versions to choose from!
  • Connect with others. Personal Bible reading and reflection must be balanced with communal reading and reflection. Why? Because two are better than one. When one falls down the other can help pick him/her up (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
  • Open up. The Bible is good news for our lives. Are we reading it as such? Let’s be careful not to tame the Word or reduce it to the scale of our own ideas. Before reading the Scriptures we should ask God to unlock our minds to His transforming power (cf. Romans 12:2).
  • Use a reading guide. Be alert to the insights that come through others. Yes I know the Holy Spirit is the Teacher and instructs us directly from the Word, but He also works through human teachers to unpack the meaning of a text, challenge our prejudices and expose our blind spots.
  • Linger longer. We’re more likely to encounter God when we slow down. Most of us live with the tyranny of the urgent, but not God! To meet on His turf we must “be still” (cf. Psalm 46:10), which in context means “Enough! Stop trying to have control over things!”
  • Focus. There’s a tendency to read the Bible almost exclusively to find out what to do. We should rather read it to find out who we are and who we ought to be. Interact with the Bible like you would with a mirror. Look into it and ask, “Who am I? Who do You want me to be?”
  • Live it. God’s Word has a claim on our lives – a purpose. We should be living epistles. The litmus test of Bible reading is whether or not we’ve acted on what we’ve discovered. Bible reading must translate into a response. Imitate Jesus (cf. Philippians 2:1-11). Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (cf. Micah 6:8).

© Scripture Union Canada 2013