Thursday, January 01, 2009

2009: Year of the Bible

Make 2009 your Year of the Bible. I am convinced that most Christians in the US do not take the Bible very seriously. We say we believe it; we hear a few teachings about it; we have some Bible verses on calenders, but how deeply do we engage the Bible? When the Chinese peasant, Brother Yun finally got a Bible (after 100 days of prayer and partial fasting), he immediately began to memorize it--and preach it. When Muslim professor of Islamic history, Mark Gabriel first received a Bible, he began memorizing it. (He had previously memorized the entire Koran.) How much do we love and savor the Scriptures?

Ask yourself, please. Here are some suggestions for your Year of the Bible.

1.If you teach in a Christian setting, read portions of Scripture aloud in your classes. Chose what fits the subject or the exigencies of the hour.

2. If you preach, never let the image humiliate the words of the Bible. Let the Bible speak, convict, liberate, and enlighten--not video clips or other special effects. See 1 Peter 4:11; Hebrews 4:12.

3. Memorize and meditate verses or even chapters of the Bible. Over many years, I have put verses on small cards that I carry around with me and read when I have time. The blank side of old business cards work very well. See Psalm 119.

4. Read and reread biblical books, using various translations

5. Employ a good Study Bible, such as The NIV or TNIV Study Bibles, The Apologetics Study Bible, or The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible.

6. Pray through the Bible during prayer times. This keeps your mind from wondering. The Psalms are particularly meaningful here, but all of Scripture can be a focus for prayer and meditation.

7. Bring the Bible into your conversations in a natural and intelligent way. You needed even announce that you are quoting a text; simply say it or paraphrase it.

8. Don't adopt a "favorite verse" approach to the Bible. Read it for what it is, difficulties and all. In fact, consume it and let it change you. Eugene Peterson writes wonderfully about his in Eat This Book.

9. Get into a Bible study that does more than pool collective ignorance: "Well, to me, that verse means..." Get into a study of the Bible.

10. Cut out things that take time away from Bible reading, meditating, memorizing, and so on: TV watching, video game playing, oversleeping, reading junk books and magazines, surfing the scum of the Internet, and so on. See Psalm 90.

11. Listen to an audio Bible while driving. My absolute favorite is Alexander Scourby's reading of The Revised Standard Version. (He also read the King James.) However, I don't believe this was ever put on CD. I have a good copy of the cassette version of, however. He had a mellifluous voice and read perfectly. His reading of Ecclesiastes 12 brought me to tears (while driving).

I recently heard an audio Bible with sound effects in the background that made me cringe; it seemed like a movie soundtrack.

11. Try to become a "walking Bible."

Do you have any other ideas?


Andrew Hay said...

Do not merely study and recite God’s word when the “season” is right; be prepared to present the gospel at all times—with great patience and careful instruction(2 Tim. 4:2).

Emily said...

Actually bring your Bible to church! I realize it sounds elementary, but I know from personal experienced that a considerable percentage of church-goers regularly leave their Bibles behind.

Thank you for posting some excellent suggestions. To become a "walking Bible" is now a new year's resolution for me!

BJS said...

Thank you for this exhortation. It was very needed in my life.
For 2009, we are going to read the bible every night to finish our day right before we fall asleep and read it in the morning to start the day right after we rise. We predict that "book-ending" our days like this will reap good benefits.

Daniel said...

Something I've done is pray a Psalm out loud and intermittently after every verse recite the Lord's prayer. I think this was a good discipline for me but I had to be careful because it became ritualistic. I had to refocus my thoughts on this and only do it when my heart was in the right place.

Lin said...

buy a small bible for your purse/pocket and carry it everywhere. There are always waiting times during the day where it can be read.

If the type is too small get one of those card magnifying stips to slip into it as bookmark

Claude said...

I'll never forget reading the Bible, on my own, for the first time, after Jesus saved me, at the age of 42. It was such an exciting, moving discovery...Often I had to call another Christian to share a verse. Or I would write it on a piece of paper, and stick it on the door of my neighbour who was a believer. I wept with Jesus when Lazarus died. I clapped hands when Jesus brought him back to life. I was really there in the midst of it all. With tears and joy.

Praise be to God, I'm still there, at the age of 79...I carry a Bible everywhere I go.

As I had never spoken of God to my two sons, (then 14 and 15), the first thing I did, everyday, was to say Grace before meals, and then read a chapter of the Gospels at the end of dinner. It wasn't easy...They thought I had become very strange. Actually, they were right. I was a new person. I was reborn.

It's not just important to read the Bible, and learn it. As you say, in no 8, we have to let it change us. We have to live it.

For me, it's impossible to read the Bible and not want to share it. I give beautiful Bibles, with prayers, for every occasion: a marriage, a birth, a death, a birthday, a graduation, a sickness...even a divorce (when it would be so needed).

Please, correct me if I'm wrong.I have so much faith in God's Living Word that I believe a person is blessed for owning a Bible, even if it might take years before it's opened.

Thank you for "2009: Year of the Bible", and your creative suggestions.

Paul D. Adams said...

I go nowhere without my cell phone which includes the entire TNIV, ESV, NASB, NLT translations. I read ALL the time from this device. Also, by an iPOD and put an audio Bible on it (I prefer the TNIV).

Krave said...

Another challenge from James 1:

22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Paul D. Adams said...

Good challenge from James. Thanks for posting. I could not agree more. Jesus indicates that blessing is in the doing, not merely the knowing ("Now that you know these things, you'll be blessed if you do them" Jn 13:17).

See also my recent post Pay Attention!.

Martin Gamble said...

I've often been so absorbed in trying to understand the Bible intellectually that I haven't read it as the Word of God. I've also been more of a hearer than a doer of the Word.
I carry it to work almost every day. I think that some people, when they see me with my Bible, consider me a "Jesus Freak". There's nothing wrong with being a "Jesus Freak"!
This year I want to know the Bible, not just as great literature, which it is, or as the source of true theology, which it certainly is, but as the very Word of God to my soul.
Thanks for this post.

David Strunk said...

There are so many different ways to read the bible, I try to employ them all so that I may grow in affect, intellect, and will. So, I read devotionally, or as you say meditatively, rolling it over again in my mind with small portions. At other times, I try to read huge chunks at a time, looking for the bible's grand themes and meta-narratives (this especially helps one preach and teach the OT). And for the will, memorization of good verses always helps (Ps. 119:11).

Thanks for the suggestions. I'm also convinced that we tell our congregations to read the Bible but too often don't tell them different ways to engage it. This was very helpful.

As an aside: many in our church have committed to reading the Bible in 90 days before easter. So, I will add, we should read the bible in community in large chunks.

Randle said...

Thanks for posting this. Something I definitely need to apply to self.

Re: 11., I agree that a lot of the audio productions out there are overproduced and distracting. I prefer the Bible to be read rather than performed -- leaves the layers intact. Scourby is the best. I didn't know about the RSV version though, will have to do some archaeology on that :)

Naxos' audio version of The Psalms (read by Alex Jennings) sounds good to me from the sample, minus the intro music. Another interesting audio is Peter Coyote's reading of The Book of Job.

Peter Malik said...

One of the ways one can get even more immersed into the Bible is to study "the world of the Bible" - history, culture, and thought of the various times as related to various books of the Bible. This can bring one into a deeper understanding of the original intent for the original audience so as to bring a deeper understanding for God-intended application for us today.

Also, reading books about the Bible, about the Bible characters, Bible books, Bible stories, Bible imagery, Bible's theology, anything Bible-related brings us even deeper into the Biblical mindset.

Just a few thoughts..