JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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What Bible Should I Read?

I’m often asked, “What Bible should I read?” Associated comments and questions include: “There are so many Bibles to choose from. I don’t know which one to pick. Why the different versions? Does it matter which one I read?”

I respond by asking several more questions:

What do you like to read? The intent behind this question is to try and glean a person’s level of proficiency with the English language. If you say you don’t read much, I usually suggest an audio alternative like The Bible Experience or The Listener’s Bible. If you like reading popular literature I may suggest the New Living Translation, Contemporary English or New International Version. If you’re more academic in your reading I might recommend the English Standard or Revised Standard Version. If you tell me your favourite author is Shakespeare, I’ll recommend the King James Version.

Why do you want to read the Bible? Some people want to read the Bible devotionally for their personal enrichment while others are more inclined to studying the Scriptures. Paraphrases like The Message, Easy Read Version, and Today’s English Version (Good News) make for a great devotional read. The Amplified, Life Application, New International, Holman Christian Standard and English Standard Version are popular study Bibles. For the really serious student, pastor or teacher, the Interlinear Bible may be the answer.

What version of the Bible is used in your church? If the preacher mainly preaches from his/her favourite version of the Bible it may be helpful to have that version in hand in order to better track with the exegesis of the text. There’s also the issue of communal Bible reading – when the Scriptures are read publically it can be more difficult to follow along if we’re not reading the same text.

Vocation is an additional dynamic to keep in mind. If a person is a college or university student, I may be inclined to recommend a reference Bible in the New International or New King James Version. For hunters and fishermen The Sportsman’s Bible is a good choice. If you’re an athlete I’d suggest God’s Game Plan. If you’re serving in the armed forces, the Military Camo Bible. There are many other vocationally focused Bibles.

Age and gender are also major factors to be considered. For children aged 6-10 the New International Reader’s Version Adventure Bible is a good option. The Manga Bible is great for older children because it utilizes an engaging cartoon format. The Women’s Devotional Bible may be an option for women and seniors are usually more comfortable with a Giant Print or Legacy Bible.

Finally, if you use an electronic reading device, tablet or smart phone, then you should consider downloading the YouVersion, Glo Bible, or Bible.is App. The Bible Gateway App is another option – it gives you a choice of more than a 100 English and 45 versions in other languages.

If you’re still not sure, you’re not alone. I’ve got nearly a hundred different printed Bibles in my personal library!

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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How Do You Read the Bible?

People read the Bible differently. Some read it flippantly, fancifully, dismissively, selfishly or subjectively. Others read it academically or ardently. How do you read it? Do you mine the text for nuggets, search for solace, seek an encounter with God, look for guidance, or simply go with the flow? Do you read it as a collection of disjointed independent books or as a unified canon? Do you read it in mono, stereo or surround sound? Do you read it mainly through the lens of modernity or postmodernity? Do you read it contextually, critically, historically, or literally? Do you read it from the perspective of a Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal or Charismatic? Do you read it because you want to, have to or think you ought to? Or do you just read it!?

There is a right and a wrong way to read the Bible. So what’s the right way? While there are no quick or easy answers, here are three formative suggestions:

  • Read the Bible as a whole. The two Testaments are not separate books between one cover. View the Bible as the first and second dramatic acts of God’s covenantal relationship with humanity. Recognise that “in the Old Testament, the New is concealed; in the New, the Old is revealed” Augustine of Hippo.
  • Read the Bible Christologically. Christ said, “. . . the Scriptures point to me!” John 5:39. See Christ as the thread holding Scripture together, the central character of the Old and New Testament, the One unlocking meaning and understanding.
  • Let the Bible read you. The Bible is more than a book – it’s alive and active (cf. Hebrews 4:12). Given permission, the Bible will weigh and measure you, and then, finding you wanting, will proceed to fill your heart with faith, hope and love.

© 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


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Reading the Whole Story

How do you read the Bible? A little bit of this, a little bit of that? A verse here a verse there? Some folk slice and dice it – treat it like a piecemeal diet. What about you? Is your Bible reading just the bare necessities – a text with a blessed thought that’s easily digested in two-minutes?

Scripture should be read holistically. The Bible shouldn’t be reduced to a depository of spiritual truisms or selected nuggets we occasionally mine. When we read the Bible we must read texts in their contexts and stories within the framework of the grand Story. Why? Because the meaning of the texts and stories are accurately gleaned only when we read with a clear understanding of the larger context and themes of the books and Bible as a whole.

God speaks to us through His Word. When texts or stories are read in isolation they can be interpreted with meaning they were never meant to convey. God wants us to know truth. When we de-contextualize Scripture or read passages divorced from the overarching narrative we may miss out on what God is really saying. So let’s make sure we don’t short circuit the process of God speaking to us – let’s read the whole Story.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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New Year Resolutions

The beginning of a new year signals a new start. Many of us get freshly motivated to do better than we did the year before. Christians often think about how they can improve their Bible reading. The trouble is they tried that last year, and the year before, and when they hit Numbers their days were numbered! March comes and goes and our good intentions to read through the Bible are nothing more than a distant memory.

So what can we do this year so that our resolution to read the Bible doesn’t fizzle out? Here are three practical suggestions:

1. Get connected. Don’t go it alone. When we read the Bible in isolation we’re more likely to run out of steam. So invite your spouse, one or two friends, or a sibling to join you in 2013. Work together to set goals, figure out how you’ll be accountable, find times to chat about what you’re reading and spur each other along.

2. Be realistic. Sometimes we set ourselves unreachable goals. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s better to read shorter portions of Scripture that you ponder on than read lengthy sections that go in one ear and out the other. So read less and meditate more. And, most importantly, read only what you can absorb and apply.

3. Use resources. Bible reading coupled with reflection is the primary catalyst in the development of our spiritual health and growth. If you’re a newbie to Bible reading consider using the E100 Challenge to get an overview of the major themes of the Bible. If you’re a veteran Bible reader consider using one of Scripture Union’s Bible Reading Guides – Daily Bread, Encounter With God, Closer to God. You can also download the eDaily Devotions for free.

Now onward and upward with this year’s Bible reading resolution!

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Hemorrhaging Faith

According to Rick Hiemstra, Director of Research for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, young Canadian adults who have left the church by 25 years of age are unlikely to return.  Hiemstra’s comment is informed by the recent findings in Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church, a ground-breaking Canadian study of 2,049 young people between the ages of 18 and 34.

Other troubling revelations in the study include:

  • Two in three young adults who attended church weekly as a child don’t do so today
  • Three out of five young adults who stop attending church reject their Christian identity
  • More young adults checked out of church between grades 8 and 9 than between high school and post secondary education/careers

Why are most churched Canadian young adults leaving church? One of the significant findings of the study is the direct correlation between hemorrhaging faith and the spiritual disciplines of Christian parents. When mom and dad are seen by their children to read their Bibles, pray and go to church regularly, then the children will more than likely continue in the faith as adults. But when parents inconsistently or almost never read their Bibles, pray, or attend church, their children usually stop attending church just as soon as they can.

Parents, you are the most important spiritual influence in your children’s lives. Do your children see you regularly reading your Bible, praying and going to church? More is caught than taught. When you aren’t practicing basic spiritual disciplines your children ultimately view your Christian faith as inauthentic or hypocritical.

The study is a wake-up call. The disengagement and attrition of young adults from church and faith must be stopped. Something more than another book, purpose driven programs or parenting workshops is required. Sending our children to Christian schools or improving the youth ministry in local churches won’t make a huge difference. What’s needed is parents being spiritually responsible. We must do what we’re not doing. Regular Bible engagement and prayer coupled with faithful weekly church attendance should be normative for every Christian mom and dad.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Open the Book

After several years investigating the connections Canadians do or do not have with the Bible, we’ve discovered the Bible is the most popular least read book! Tragically, while there are three Bibles in the average Canadian home, they’re usually found on a dust covered shelf. Despite the availability and advanced marketing of the Bible, fewer and fewer Canadians are reading the Bible, knowing what it says, and living according to its principles.                                                                                                                       

Even among churched Christians, many never read the Bible from cover to cover. A Bible literacy poll in an Evangelical Toronto church in March 2010 revealed that eighteen percent of the congregation reported reading the Bible once a day, thirty-eight percent read the Bible once a week, twenty-one percent read the Bible once a month, and twenty-three percent said they seldom or never read the Bible.

The fact that the Bible is being treated lightly, ignored, or dismissed, isn’t due to limited selection or accessibility. Among the more than eight-hundred English versions of the Bible there are hundreds of reader friendly formats and more than one-thousand different Bibles that can be purchased online from Amazon.com. There’s even a waterproof version for those who like reading in the shower!

At Scripture Union Canada we’re deeply concerned about the growing disconnection with the Bible. Yet while we’re concerned, we’re optimistic. The decline in Bible engagement means there are more opportunities than before to bring fresh invitations for people to connect with the Bible. So we’re praying for a Bible reading revival – praying that Canadians will open the Book.

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2011