6 Ways to Keep Bible Reading Fresh by Russ Ewell, Bay Area Christian Church

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16 Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit, and keep on singing-sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness. 17 Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father.
Colossians 3:16-17 Voice

When Christians are not experiencing the personal joy and inspiration of Bible reading, then something will be missing in them as well as the community of believers with whom they fellowship. There will be a lack of energy, interest, faith, hope, and love. Personally, I have sat in more than a few church services where the quiet disinterest was so “loud” that I couldn’t hear the sermon.

Too few Christians understand the collective power of God’s people gathering for church, and how it is significantly dependent upon how much those believers cherish, love, and read the scriptures. I have watched and participated as song leaders strain, the person doing the welcome becomes shrill, the band plays louder, movie clips get longer, food is served more regularly, attractive gifts are offered, and services are shortened again and again to humanistically pump life into the dying body of Christ to no avail. What is too often denied is the reality that too few people in the fellowship are reading their Bible on their own, and even fewer applying it.

Colossians 3:16-17 provides a spiritual and emotional description of what it should be like to be a part of God’s family, but all of it depends on the first sentence, “Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives.” If we are to become who God wants us to be individually as well as collectively, we must humble ourselves, accepting the truth that it is His word and not our effort, ideas or innovations which provide the power that keeps our fellowship full of spiritual energy.

For these reasons, I want to suggest “6 Ways to Keep Bible Reading Fresh”, which is a brief set of tips on how to make the Bible new every time you read it. These are a compilation of lessons learned from others as well as personal discoveries through experimentation. They are time-tested and effective. I hope you will put them into practice and share them with others, so the crackling sound of a vibrant people of God can be heard in every city around the Bay and world.

What it Means to Read the Bible with Fresh Eyes

[13] Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God-which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 NLT

One cold day during my first year as a Christian, heavy snowfall and very low temperatures made the thought of attending church service very unattractive to me. Perhaps you too have experienced your emotions leading you to the conclusion that missing one church service would be “no big deal”. This is where I found myself in my second month as a Christian.

Somewhere in the spiritual fog of compiling my excuses, my phone rang. On the other end was the familiar voice of an older Christian, a fellow college student. I presented my excuses, and he did something that changed my life. He asked me to open my Bible.

He then asked if I would read a passage. I found the passage and read it. “What do you think these scriptures mean?”, he said. I hesitated, then shared, “I should not abandon the fellowship and my spiritual friendships, and realize that I don’t just go to church for myself. There may be someone there who needs my help.” Then he asked me, “What do you think God wants you to do?”

Needless to say, I ended up attending church that day. But that is the superficial lesson. The most important thing to happen to me that day was that I learned to read the scriptures, decide if I wanted to obey them, and then find my motivation in pleasing God, not myself. In short, one Christian helped me read the Bible with “fresh eyes”, allowing me to overcome my intention to go backward rather than forward in my faith. In time, I matured to the point where I could read the Bible with fresh eyes on my own, equipping me to live life by faith instead of a phone call from another Christian convincing me to do what was right.

There are six different ways I have learned to read the Bible, which keep my eyes fresh and my obedience inspired. I hope they help you too, and that you share them with friends so each one of us can experience the dynamism of the Christian experience as God intended.

Fresh Reading

[12] For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. [13] Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
Hebrews 4:12-13 NLT

Fresh Bible reading requires that we discard yesterday’s assumptions and allow God to speak to us as though for the very first time. For instance, when you read Hebrews 4:12, “It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires,” for the first time, you might apply it to yourself and examine the depth of your emotions and desires to make certain they please God. The next time you read this you would ignore your previous insights and look for something new, like focusing on the word “expose”. Then you would ask yourself how you feel about being exposed. This could lead you to the understanding that the reason you don’t always like reading the scriptures is that they expose things you don’t want to see or think about. In essence, every time we read a passage of scripture we should seek to see it with this kind of freshness.

Clear Reading

[19] Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place-until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. [20] Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, [21] or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.
2 Peter 1:19-21 NLT

One of the easiest mistakes to make when reading the Bible is to have a preconceived outcome in mind. This is when we only read what agrees with our intellectual and emotional preference.

For instance, let’s say I want to quit my job, move to Paris, and live out of a backpack for a year, so I begin studying every scripture about “moving.” My conclusion could easily end up as follows: since God called Abraham, Jacob, as well as Ruth and Naomi to move and only good things happened when Nehemiah moved, clearly moving to Paris is good for me. The problem is that I haven’t come to the scriptures to hear God, but rather to have God validate my preconceived desire and outcome.

Clear reading of scripture means making certain we are reading books of the Bible for no other reason than to hear what God says. Two simple ways to do this is by reading all the books in the Bible you haven’t read or all those you avoid reading.

Deep Reading

[22-23] Put the word into action. If you think hearing is what matters most, you are going to find you have been deceived. [24] If some fail to do what God requires, it’s as if they forget the word as soon as they hear it. One minute they look in the mirror, and the next they forget who they are and what they look like. [25] However, it is possible to open your eyes and take in the beautiful, perfect truth found in God’s law of liberty and live by it. If you pursue that path and actually do what God has commanded, then you will avoid the many distractions that lead to an amnesia of all true things and you will be blessed.
James 1:22-25 Voice

Deep reading is the most important and difficult type of reading to do. What makes it important is the ability it gives us to free ourselves from sin, dysfunction, and negative views we have of ourselves. However, what makes it difficult is that we don’t always want to see sin, dysfunction, or the negative views we have of ourselves.

What should encourage us is that once we have identified these life-limiting factors, we can set our mind to rely on God and, through prayerful obedience, overcome them. Remember, it isn’t the issues we see and work to overcome that prevent our dreams from coming true, but rather those we fail to see and hence never overcome.

Literary Reading

[8] They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
Nehemiah 8:8 NIV

When I was in the process of becoming a Christian, there were two influences on how I read scripture. The first was the church, while the second was an English literature class being taught by a phenomenal visiting professor from the University of Michigan that semester. While the church taught me to respect the inspired truth from God in scripture, it was the English literature professor who taught me to visualize, search for meaning, and examine the lives of people found in scripture until I inhabited their mind and felt their heartbeat.

A literary reading of scripture can be learned. We must get into the details, visualize the individuals, accompany them in their search for meaning, relate to them, hurt with them, and become so emotionally connected to them that we feel we are them. This is how we read our favorite novels and why literature can change our lives. We should do no less when reading the Holy Scriptures.

Unfortunately, the religious mindset of many Christians eliminates the literary style in their reading so that bible study becomes clinical. We can change this by spending at least a week each month reading the Bible from a literary point of view. This has nothing to do with doubting the truth of scripture but instead everything to do with finding the deep inspiration and meaning God has embedded in every word.

Inspired Reading

16 All of Scripture is God-breathed; in its inspired voice, we hear useful teaching, rebuke, correction, instruction, and training for a life that is right 17 so that God’s people may be up to the task ahead and have all they need to accomplish every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 Voice

The purpose of inspired reading is to find the motivation to change or act. It begins with the deep conviction that scripture is God’s word, his voice, the truth, and the complete revelation of his will to mankind. Once we are clear that God is speaking, we should pray and then read with confidence that He will use his word to both guide and inspire us.

Following are six simple steps to successfully experience “Inspired Reading”:

  1. Prayer – always begin with a prayer to ask God to open your eyes to see
  2. Plan – identify the change you want to make or action you want to take
  3. Problem – identify the obstacles to your change or action
  4. Pick – select a word/theme to study, search that word in your software, and go to work
  5. Purpose – identify five scriptures to obey that will inspire change or action
  6. Peers – communicate what you are doing with a friend for encouragement and inspiration

Instructive Reading

14 I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
Romans 15:14 NIV

Instructive Reading is for those who are trying to learn how to do something or preparing to teach something. For instance, we do instructive studies when we want to learn or teach how to lead, build our marriage, raise our kids, build spiritual relationships, excel at our job, manage our finances, understand our emotions, or a host of other things.

This type of reading begins by identifying a book of the Bible or set of people you can study who address the topic you desire to understand. For instance, if you want to learn how to be married, you might study the marriages and families in the book of Genesis. If you want to better understand your emotions, you could study II Corinthians, which is one of the most emotional books in the New Testament.

The key to finding the right book or set of people to study is asking advice from those more familiar with scripture. As well, you can find a Christian book on the topic and then search for the books of the Bible or people most consistently mentioned within.

Finally, “Instructive Reading” becomes most alive when you share what you have learned with others. Once you have studied and made some progress, don’t forget to share with others what you have received from God.

Now that you have learned about the “6 Ways To Keep Bible Reading Fresh” there is just one thing to remember. Rotating these styles on a weekly basis is the key to reading with fresh eyes and inspiration every day.

Russ Ewell

Deep Spirituality Editor in Chief,
serves as Director of BACC Next,
where he is tasked with thinking about the future.

 

 

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