JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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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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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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Why Pastors Should Make Bible Engagement Their Priority

The single most beneficial thing pastors can do for their congregations is help them read and reflect on the Scriptures. Bible engagement is critical for spiritual health and growth. The primary catalyst for developing mature Christians is Bible reading coupled with reflection. In fact Scripture reflection has twice the power of any other spiritual discipline to advance people in their love for God and others.

Bible reading and reflection on the biblical text are two distinct spiritual disciplines. Pastor, if you’re preaching about the importance of Bible reading and provisioning members of your congregation with a Bible reading plan, you’re not doing enough. Don’t assume that Bible reading will result in reflection on Scripture. Reflection must be taught, modeled and facilitated. The best way to facilitate reflection on Scripture is to equip your congregation with resources designed for this purpose.

So what are the resources that help people actively reflect on God’s Word? Not devotional books. Books with illustrations or stories tied to a text are not designed to help people chew on and suck the sustenance out of the Scriptures. Some of the best resources for Scripture reflection are Scripture Union’s Bible reading guides. Scripture Union’s Bible reading guides are published quarterly, take the reader through the Old and New Testaments in 4-5 years, and are available for all ages. Uniquely, the reading guides are built on the Scripture Union Bible Reading Method™ – a methodology designed to help readers actively engage with the Scripture text, get caught up in it, receive it, and reenact it.

Bible reading, together with reflection on the Scriptures, results in strong Christians and healthy churches. According to the Reveal survey there are 25 significant catalysts that help people grow in Christian faith. Of these catalysts, reading and reflecting on Scripture outstrips the other catalysts by a 75 percentile. Pastor, if you could choose only one thing to help your congregation grow spiritually, reflection on Scripture should be your number one choice.

© Scripture Union Canada, 2012