Back in May, as part of our ‘Vital Signs’ series, we looked at what it is to ‘Live Nourished’: to have healthy hearts that are regularly fed by time experiencing God speak to us through the Bible. A number of people were impacted by the video clip we showed of American Pastor, Bill Hybels. Hybels told the story of Tom, a young man initially sceptical that he could make time to spend with God in prayer and reading his Bible. Yet Tom discovered, over the decades, that by ‘finding his chair’ and making time ‘for a meeting with God’ he experienced a changed life and the joy of friendship with God.
When I was doing some research for the sermon, asking different people in the church how they go about reading the Bible, Pete Rodrigues showed typical authenticity when he remarked: ‘I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years, and for pretty much the whole time I’ve really struggled with the discipline of regular Bible reading.’ Pete’s not alone: for many Christians, reading the Bible is much like going to the gym: we know it is good for us – life giving even – yet we find it hard to do regularly and effectively!
Yet there is so much joy, protection and purpose to be found as we take time to allow the eternal God of the Universe, our wonderful loving Father, to communicate to us through his Word. Jon Bloom encapsulates the nourishing nature of Scripture and of God wonderfully:
“Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). Our souls are designed to be nourished by God’s “precious and very great promises” (2 Peter 1:4). But these promises are not mere human words; they are living and active (Hebrews 4:12), proceeding directly from the living Word, Jesus Christ (John 1:1). He is the Word of God (Revelation 19:13) and “all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20) … This is why Jesus called himself the bread of life (John 6:35). The past grace of his death and resurrection guarantee a never-ending stream of hope-giving future grace for us extending into eternity. To eat these promises is to eat this living bread and live forever (John 6:51).’
As with most things that are vital to our health, it’s well worth making a plan to ensure it happens. Pete went on to say: ’Since adopting a plan, I feel like I’ve grown tremendously in my knowledge of the Bible and my love for God. I could not recommend this Bible reading plan highly enough.’ Ultimately, we’ll make a plan to give time to what we value.
And along with deciding on a time that works well and a plan that helps us stay focused and supported, the third thing that came through was the importance of making wise use of technology. Here are some of the ways that different people in the King’s Church community have used time, technology and plans to help them ‘find their chair’. I hope you find these quotes as inspiring and equipping as I did.
I’m currently on my 3rd year of Nicky Gumbel’s Bible in one year (app). I try and read with my breakfast. If I’m out and about it’s an easy way to fill a few minutes as I always have my phone with me and I can read more. I also like the fact that you’re reading chunks of scripture and not just a random verse that some Bible reading notes give. I don’t think it matters what strategy you use but I think that it helps to be intentional.
I love themes – Wisdom, Marriage, Leadership, Holy Spirit, etc. It allows me to focus and get depth in one area. So I read a lot of bible plans on different topics. I prefer reading the Bible early in the morning (before everyone wakes up or when I am on my way to work). I primarily use my phone or tablet to read the Bible because I can track progress easily and also get access to plans, etc.
Reading through the Bible in a year plan has never really worked for me, so I decided to read systematically through the Bible a chapter or two a day first thing in the morning. This transformed my reading and I found it easier to follow the overall themes and thread of scripture and maintain the discipline.
When I’m in a good flow of a morning time (before I touch my phone or emails or get distracted) I find it unbelievably helpful, I feel life fits in place when I do this. So for me the top tips that help me are: always in the morning (I’m totally not a morning person either); always before anything else.
Like most people I have times when reading the Bible regularly is easy and then others … with little regular reading … At the moment I am using the YouVersion Bible reading app. I like the variety it offers, straight reading plans, notes from Christian writers or speakers and a catch up button which clears the days you can’t read. I like being able to access it on my phone as well as iPad so a quiet moment in the day can be used.
I find that I have to change things up every now and then … I use YouVersion app which is fantastic, as you can check off each day as well as shift days forward if you miss one or two! … Now this is for when I’m either super busy or really tired! I will look at the ‘Verse of the Day’ and try to pray on or meditate briefly on it. Again YouVersion is great with this. In terms of time of day, I do a variety of things depending on the season. My favourites are morning when I wake up or evening after putting the boys to bed. When I’m going through busy spells it might be on the train on the way to work, and I’m tired spells I might go some days without reading! I am always acutely aware that I miss out on the benefits, and try not to let it be too prolonged.
Speaking personally, I have found ‘S.O.A.P’ to be a really helpful structure with which to journal. Simply put, it involves writing down the part of Scripture I sense the Holy Spirit highlighting, then my Observations about it, followed by the Application to my day/life and the Prayer that I want to pray as a result. I’ve found it life giving!
Of course, the danger with a series like ‘Vital Signs’ is that we focus on symptom change and not heart change. We then feel proud if we’re ‘doing well’ and guilty if we’re not. Heather Hannington put it perfectly and provides a great way to conclude:
Probably the biggest thing I have learnt is that what God wants is relationship and conversation through us reading the scriptures, not just that we make it a ‘good Christian habit’ or a legalistic ritual. Getting hold of that means that I am released from guilt and don’t need to beat myself up if I miss days for whatever reason. I’m freed to enjoy Him and what He wants to say to me. This also means that I am more motivated because I see the purpose and results and my relationship with Him grows closer and stronger and I want more.
So, where’s your chair?