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Sunday, March 24, 2013
Recently I was able to take some time away with family to the mountains. In as far back as I can remember there is nothing more refreshing, revitalizing or invigorating than walking in the mountains while listening to the battles of Joshua and the Israelite's as told in the book of Joshua in the Bible!
This past new-year I have, as I have in the past, challenged myself to get through the bible in a year. I usually fail! (Actually I have failed exactly the same number of times that I have attempted). I have tried using smarter goals such as reading through MORE text this year than I did last year, or to read through AS MANY books as I could get through in the year. I have tried plans, challenges and pure will power. I have tried to set specific times of the day aside, and although I usually start strong, somewhere along the way life happens and before I know it BANG a new year again, and another failed goal. This year is going to be different!!
How you ask?? I will tell you!
With many advances in technology, it has become easier to incorporate bible reading into my daily life. This past Christmas my wife and I came into the newest generation of cell phone, and with it came many perks. Not the least of which is a variety of free bible applications. My favorite one is the lifechurch.tv you version bible (https://www.youversion.com). This particular app offers a wide variety of translations, many of which you can read as well as listen to! I have found this option to be beneficial! Already this year I have made it through over 30% of the bible, some of the time reading, some of the time listening, and some of the time doing both.
(A quick Google search reveals that about half of all cell phone users now have smart phones http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Smartphone-Update-2012/Findings.aspx).
I have spent hours of doing the mundane household chores, which everyone has, and concurrently listened to passages of scripture. In fact doing the dishes probably accounts to about 30 percent of what I have completed this year so far. One caveat to listening though is that you must devote your time listening to it as actively as you would pay attention to a difficult text-book. You cannot simply let the words play in the background and hope you absorb as much text as you can. That would be similar to using the bible as a pillow and hoping to have some of the text leak out into your brain through osmosis. I have found multiple times that it is better for me to pause or stop my listening as various distractions come up, and then continue once I can focus on the text. Now this has worked best for me, and I understand that not everyone has the same time, but using your morning commute to work, or spending your last hour before you go to bed at night could be the difference between reading and not reading the text. (For me if I could not listen to the bible, I would not be able to get through as much of it but for others reading is the only way to get through it.)
It is important to ENGAGE with the text, and to try to allow it to penetrate your life as much as possible. That being said, it is important to pick a version of the bible that you are comfortable with. If it is hard listening to or reading the Old King James ( thee’s and thou’s ) then a lighter version such as the ESV which uses a plainer/modern English might be beneficial. Do whatever it takes in order to get the Word into your life!! As to what version to pick, again Google is your friend and will help you to understand the differences between one version and another.
It has been said many times that you can read the same passage of scripture multiple times and derive multiple meanings or applications to the things that are going on in your life each time! This is the best way I know how to listen to the bible. As you are listening , think about the various challenges you currently are facing, and try to allow your perspective on those challenges to be challenged as you listen intently.
Another method which I have found to be helpful for me is to get engaged in discussion with another Christian who is entering a similar endeavour. There is rarely a better opportunity to challenge yourself to not just read or listen to the BIBLE but to engage in the words that are written than by discussing the challenging portions that you come across with a like-minded Christian! This could be your spouse, your boy/girl-friend, your mother/father, brother/sister, or friend!
Recently in the church that I attend, the pastor asked a question of the congregation; how many people have read through the bible in a year? There were a few dozen hands put up in a congregation of hundreds! Could you imagine the fruits that would come out of our churches if reading the bible was the RULE and not the exception?? The same pastor asked a second question… How many people have ATTEMPTED to read the bible in a year, and from what I could tell nearly half the congregation put their hands up. This was a staggering comparison, but it also tells me that people are trying but failing. I think a lot of us (including myself of course) need to ask ourselves some very tough questions! What is it that is keeping you from reading through the bible, or from reading the bible on a regular basis? How can you commit to reading more regularly? What other thing in my life could be put "aside" in order for me to be able to accomplish this goal? What would I and my family gain if I took this from a desire to an action? If I am to be honest with myself, I am extremely guilty of not reading the bible on a regular basis, I am absolutely FULL of excuses as to why I cannot seem to make reading the bible a priority. Usually I blame circumstances, or parental models, or being too tired, or not having enough time, or not having the right motivation… and the list goes on. What I needed instead was instead of reasons why I cannot, I needed reasons as to why I should!!
At the very least, me reading the bible regularly will help me! But this WILL lead to me being a more effective leader in my family, a better friend to those around me, and most of all, will help me to have a stronger relationship with my Lord, my God and my Savior!! For how can I be an effective Christian, if I don't equip myself daily.