What Running A Half-Marathon Taught Me About Bible-Reading

Two weeks ago I ran a half-marathon. I use the term “run” very loosely. My pace waffled somewhere between slow jog and barely moving. Maybe it would be better to say I “completed” a half-marathon…then I don’t have to feel so guilty about taking a bathroom break just before the second mile.

Nevertheless, I did something that one year ago seemed impossible. At this time last year I literally (and I do mean literally) could not run/slow jog/barely move, more than a mile. So now on the other side of the half-marathon I’ve done a lot of reflecting on what it was that enabled me to be able to complete such a task.

Now switch gears with me for a second.

For many of us, consistent Bible-reading seems like an impossible task. Let’s face it, the Bible can be hard to read. It’s an ancient book written to people in ancient times, and, much like running, the activity, at times, can be boring.

So how can we motivate ourselves and those in our families to actually read it?

Here’s where three of my half-marathon reflections may be able to help us.

1. Get a plan

One big reason I was able to complete the half-marathon was because I had a running plan. The plan told me when to run and how far to run each day. It also started off super easy and gradually increased in difficulty as the weeks went on.

The same principles can apply to reading the Bible. You need a plan– one that tells you when to read and how much to read on each day. And you need a plan that starts at your currently ability. I love the “read through the Bible in a year” plans, but, let’s face it, for most people that requires a lot of reading each day. So why not start with a “read through the Bible in three years” plan, or five years. What’s the rush? It’s not about who can read the whole Bible first, it’s about  finding a daily routine that works for you where you are now.

2. Get a community

There is no way I would have stuck with my half-marathon plan if I didn’t have so many encouraging runners in my life. So many people who regularly asked me how my running was going. People who were “further along” that were available and very willing to give advice when I had questions.  And people willing to help and pray for me when training got tough.

When it comes to reading our Bible, we need a community that will encourage us, hold us accountable, answer questions, help us, and pray for us. Parents, be the community for your kids. Students, be the community for your friends. Christians, be the community for other Christians. Just like any other discipline, Bible-reading will happen when we feel we belong to a community.

3. Give yourself grace

During the half-marathon, I had a moment as I was running across the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit into Canada. I looked to my left and watched the sunrise coming up over the city and it was just beginning to reflect on the water below me. In that moment it hit me, “I am not running this for time. I don’t need to rush through this.”  At that moment, everything changed. Instead of trying to get a “good time” or concern myself with how I was doing compared to others around me, I just focused on enjoying the race.

We often need to do the same thing when it comes to reading the Bible. We need to slow down and give ourselves the grace just to enjoy the Word of God as the Word of God. It doesn’t matter if we don’t read as fast or know as much as others. It’s okay if we miss a day or two (or, God-forbid, a week) of our reading plan. It’s not about “winning.” God still loves us. The Bible is God’s gift of grace to us.  We don’t read the Bible just for facts or even just for life application. We read the Bible to know God more to enjoy God more.

I pray these principles will help you as you read God’s Word more. And I pray, whether you’re reading at what feels like a slow jog or even just barely moving, you would feel the joy of completing a plan, being encouraged by your community, and resting in the grace God has for you each day.

16 Gospel Verses Worth Memorizing

 

  1. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
  1. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
  1. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have Bible_and_Key_Divinationeternal life” (John 3:16).
  1. “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).
  1. “Through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38–39).
  1. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” ( Romans 4:25).
  1. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” ( Romans 5:8).
  1. “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures … he was buried.… The third day he rose again from the dead, according to the Scriptures … and he appeared” (1 Cor. 15:3–6).
  1. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting men’s trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19).
  1. “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
  1. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my Gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8).
  1. “[He] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14).
  1. “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” ( Hebrews 9:28).
  1. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
  1. “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
  1. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

 

 


This list comes from the book Grounded in the Gospel…

 

Partnership with God

 

I sometimes envy others who are connected to people in “high places”.  Doors of opportunity just seem to magically open for them. They seem to be able to accomplish more, to do more significant things, and overall operate on a higher plane of existence.

Of course, it’s not true. But sometimes I’m tempted to believe the lie. The lie that if I was better connected life would be better.

Can you relate?

Do you have a list (maybe just in your head) of people you wished you knew? Or better yet, do you have a list of people you wished knew you?

Yeah, me neither 🙂

Here’s the good news!

We don’t have to envy others in “high places” anymore.

The God of the universe not only knows us but created us to be in a relationship with Him. But not just any kind of relationship. God created us to be in partnership with Him.

What does that mean?

Watch this short video and find out:

 

For more great videos like this go to www.jointhebibleproject.com

4 Reasons To Read The Bible As A Family

 

Forget for a second that your teenagers pretend they don’t want to be around you. Forget that the first time you try to do this it is going to feel awkward. Forget that you feel like you don’t know the right way to do it.

Just pick a time of the day and go for it. Use a Bible reading plan. Read together for 15 mins.  Talk about what you read. Then close in prayer.Wm._Riley_Blankinship,_miner,_with_his_children._Koppers_Coal_Division,_Kopperston_Mine,_Kopperston,_Wyoming_County..._-_NARA_-_540984

Don’t worry if at first it doesn’t seem fruitful. What’s important is the routine of reading the Bible together as a family.

Because reading the Bible as a family does four things for your family:

First, it shows that you as the parent value the Bible.

This might seem like a small thing. It’s not. Teen’s attitude toward the Bible will often reflect their parent’s attitude toward the Bible. If teens don’t see their parents holding the Bible in high esteem, then neither will they. One of the greatest ways parents can contribute to the faith of their students is to share with them why they (the parents) reads the Bible, and how it has changed their lives.

Second, it centers your family around God’s Word.

Every time your family reads the Bible together, you are in a very simple way saying to your family that “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” It’s a simple reminder to the family that your family is not like other families. Your family has different values, different traditions, different expectations. Your family is a family that seeks to follow Jesus. When you read the Bible together as a family you are reshaping your family’s identity. You’re grounding your family in something bigger than sports, music, video games, clothes, appearances, and other stuff. You’re giving your kids a sense of security that is hard to find anywhere else.

Third, when families read the Bible together it opens up the lines of dialogue.

Having trouble talking to your teens? Read the Bible together. Then ask them what came to their mind as they read (or heard) the words? What questions did they have? What did it make them think about God? What about their their life? About their friend’s lives?  Don’t worry about having all the right responses. Instead just focus on hearing what is on your teen’s heart. Think of it as a three-way conversation between you (the parents), your teens, and God. Trust that God’s Word is alive and active. And overtime God will use His Word to open up your teen to sharing what is on his or her heart.

Fourth, it might just save their marriage (and yours).

This might seem random, but it’s not.  There is a long held belief that the divorce rate in America is 50%. Now it turns out that it’s not quite that high at all. But do you know what the divorce rate is for couples who regularly read their Bibles together or pray together– less than 1%. That means if you help your children feel like reading the Bible as a family is normal, they might just do that with their spouse one day. And it might just be the one consistent practice that gives them the foundation to weather all the storms of life that come in a marriage. Not to mention reading the Bible as family will likely strengthen your marriage, which will in turn give you children  a healthier picture of marriage. It’s win-win.

 

Yeah, it might be awkward. Yes, it will take some practice. But know that it is worth it.

Because families that read the Bible together are simply, better families.

 

 

How To Overcome Boring Bible Reading

Why is reading the Bible sometimes boring? For most of us reading the Bible begins to get boring when we reach a kind of plateau. We know most of the stories in the Bible, we have a basic understanding of its theology, and we have a few key verses memorized.

But what if God intended us to do more–more than just read the Bible? What if Bible reading was really just the beginning of the meal and not the main course?

For me the Bible moved from old hat to a chest of treasure when I moved from merely reading the Bible to studying the Bible. As I have learned to study the Bible, there has been no end to the depth of riches I can plunder.

But how does someone study the Bible? Isn’t it complicated? It can be. But recently I have come across two  great resources that can help.

The first is a book (which we’re currently using in our summer Sunday School class) entitled, Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God’s WordThis is a very user friendly book that provides a wealth of information. I’ve seriously been impressed with it, and would recommend it to any one wanting to get more out the Bible.

The second resources is coming out in the Fall. It’s a video teaching series by John Piper called Look at the Book. Here’s what he had to say about it on his website:

 This fall we plan to launch Look at the Book, a new online method of teaching the Bible. Look at the Book is an ongoing series of 5–8 minute video interactions with the Bible in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher. You will hear my voice and watch my pen work its way into the meaning of the text. I’ll point and circle and underline in the passage, all the while talking through how I’m seeing what I’m seeing.

Our main aim will be to create habits of mind and ways of seeing the Bible that help you find the riches of Scripture for yourselves. We really believe that serious Christians can see more wonders in God’s word than they ever thought they could. Look at the Book is our effort to bring that belief to life for you.

I honestly expect this to be a great resource. If you’re interested in studying the Bible I would encourage you to keep an eye out for it. Here’s a trailer that might get you a little more excited:

And here’s a sample of a Look at the Book session.

Whether you’ve read the Bible a few times or regularly for many years (or you’re just curious about what the Bible is about), I would encourage you to take advantage of these resources. I would encourage you to move from a person who just reads the Bible to a person who studies the Bible.

If you are willing to prayerfully pursue this with a teachable heart, and a desire to know God, I assure you the Bible will never be boring again.

I Will Never Read The Bible The Same Way Again

Every so often a Christian thinker/leader comes along and radically changes my views on something. In college it was C.S. Lewis and John Piper. In seminary it was (among others) Stanley Hauerwas. In the last few years it has been Tim Keller.

Today I’m traveling to the EPC General Assembly. Tonight at the General Assembly Tim Keller is preaching.  I am looking forward to it.

I have listen to many of his sermons and lectures. And I have read a few of his books. By far his greatest impact on me has been his ability to interrupt Scripture in a Christ-Centered way.

One of the first times I remember having my mind blown, was listening to a lecture he gave about the story of  David and Goliath.

Here’s what he said:

For example, look at the story of David and Goliath. What is the meaning of that narrative for us? Without reference to Christ, the story may be (usually is!) preached as: “The bigger they come, the harder they’ll fall, if you just go into your battles with faith in the Lord. You may not be real big and powerful in yourself, but with God on your side, you can overcome giants…

A better approach … “how is David foreshadowing the work of his greater Son”?… The story is telling us that the Israelites can not go up against Goliath. They can’t do it. They need a substitute. When David goes in on their behalf, he is not a full-grown man, but a vulnerable and weak figure, a mere boy. He goes virtually as a sacrificial lamb. But God uses his apparent weakness as the means to destroy the giant, and David becomes Israel’s champion-redeemer, so that his victory will be imputed to them. They get all the fruit of having fought the battle themselves.

And here comes the clincher:

…There is, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do, or basically about what he has done? If I read David and Goliath as basically giving me an example, then the story is really about me. I must summons up the faith and courage to fight the giants in my life. But if I read David and Goliath as basically showing me salvation through Jesus, then the story is really about him.

Until I see that Jesus fought the real giants (sin, law, death) for me, I will never have the courage to be able to fight ordinary giants in life (suffering, disappointment, failure, criticism, hardship).

 

After hearing this I remember thinking, “I will never read the Bible the same way again.”

I am looking forward to hearing Keller preach tonight. Not because I want hear about what more I need to do. But because I expect to be reminded of what Christ has already done for me.

May all of us today stop striving to get the victory in our own lives, but instead  live out of Christ’s victory on our behalf!

 

 

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Transcript taken from http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/moralismkeller.html

When You Don’t Know What To Pray

Years ago, Meredith and I decided we wanted to start praying together before going to bed. It seemed like a good idea, but often it turned out to be frustrating.  I found myself not knowing what to pray. It was kind of embarrassing. I had no problem praying in front of dozens, even hundreds of people, yet I was struggling to pray the simplest of prayers with my wife.

My problem was that by the end of the night my mind was usually fried and feeling rather uninspired. And so when it was my turn to pray I usually found it hard to focus and pray for anything meaningful.

Things changed when we decided to start reading Scripture before we prayed. This for me was a Godsend. Because now I didn’t have to think about what to pray, I could just pray back what was in the text of Scripture. I felt like it was God’s way of saying, “I’ve already taken care of the words, just pray them back to me.”

Praying through Scripture is something I come to thoroughly enjoy–especially when it’s the Psalms. The Psalms are God’s little prayer book– a hundred and fifty God-breathed prayers. They are the prayers Jesus prayed. And when I pray the Psalms I feel like I identify more with the life and heart of Jesus.

If praying through Scripture is unfamiliar to you, I would encourage you to give it a try. Below is a couple examples of what it can look. The prayers are based on Psalm 16.

Psalm 16 

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord apart from you I have no good thing.” 3 I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” 4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips. 5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. 7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

  A Prayer of Praise

Oh Lord you are our refuge. Apart from you Lord, we have no good thing. You, oh Lord, are our portion and our cup, you are our security and inheritance. We praise you Lord Jesus, for you give us wisdom and truth throughout the day. We desire to keep our eyes always on you. With you at our side we will not be shaken. Our hearts are glad, and our tongues rejoice in you. For in you we find rest, and we know that you will not abandon us. You, Jesus, make known the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy, and eternal pleasures at your right hand! Amen.

A Prayer of Confession

Lord God, we confess that we have run after other gods. We have sought our significance, our success, and our security in things other than you. We have looked to created things to fulfill us, instead of you–our Creator. We have not looked to you for refuge. We have not run to you for good things. We have not sought the joy of you presence. For all these things we repent and ask for forgiveness. Amen.

As you can see praying through Scripture is just a matter of reflecting back what is already in the text.

The more I pray through the Scriptures, (especially the Psalms) the easier and more enjoyable it is to pray without the Scriptures. It is like learning the language of God. Which makes it easier to talk to God. And thus,  keeps me from wondering what to pray.

 

What are you favorite Scriptures to pray through?

 

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For a great resource on praying through the Psalms, check out:

 

Reason In The Christian Life

“If I became a Christian, I feel like I’d have to give up my mind.” That’s how one friend put it as he explained to me his struggle to become a follower of Jesus. For him Christianity appeared to be a religion built on faith, where people were expected to just believe certain things without knowing why.

If you’ve walked with Jesus in a healthy church community for any length of time, you likely know that there is more to following Jesus than mere belief. But maybe you’ve struggled to know what is the place of logic and reason in the Christian faith? Or maybe you’ve never even thought about the place of reason, because for you , it is has been easy to just believe what you believe. But is that it o.k?

What does the Bible say about the role reason should play in the Christian life? 

We Are Invited To Reason

Isaiah 1:18 states, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…”.  The Israelites were encouraged by God to use their reason. In the context, God wanted them to use their reason to see their need for repentance. God was calling them to think about their sin, and then to think about what would be the consequences of their sin.  The expectation was, that when the Israelites reasoned about such things, they would repent, and turn to God–the one offering to save them.

In the New Testament God also put a great value on reason. In Romans 1:18-20, we see that the ungodly are without excuse, because “for what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” God’s point is, since he has given people the intellectual faculties to perceive his existence from the created order, they ought to know that he not only exists, but that he should be worshiped.  The Bible is clear, God-given reason is a means by which we can come to believe in God and see our need for God.

We Are Called To Use Reason When Asked About Our Faith

1 Peter 3:15 states, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” The Bible calls believers to give reasons for their hope (that is their hope in Christ). In other words when we as Christian are asked questions like, “why do you believe Jesus is alive, ruling, and worth following?” We should be able to say something more than, “I just believe”. Instead we should be able to give logical reasons for our beliefs. And we should be able to provide those reasons with gentleness and respect.   As J.P. Moreland writes, “If we are going to be wise, spiritual people prepared to meet the crises of our age, we must be a studying, learning community that values the life of the mind.” Having good reasons keeps us from having to be defensive or offended when people question our beliefs. When we have well thought out reasons, we can see every question as an opportunity to help others understand why we believe what we believe.

We Grow In Our Faith Through Reason

2 Peter 1:5 “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge…” Growing in our faith involves more than just growing as moral people. The Bible calls us to add to our faith, virtue and knowledge. This echos Jesus’ s words to “love God… with all your mind.” (Mark 12:30) God has given us minds,  so that we can worship him with our minds. Therefore a maturing Christian is one who grows in his or her ability to reason and understand the things of God. John Piper explains it this way, “God is not honored by groundless love. In fact, there is no such thing. If we do not know anything about God, there is nothing in our mind to awaken love. If love does not come from knowing God, there is no point in calling it love for God.”  Growing in our knowledge of God will help us grow in our love of God.

It is a real tragedy that some people still see Christianity as a religion that d0esn’t value the mind. The life of the mind and the exercise of reason is a vital part of the Christian life, and the Bible celebrates that. To be a Christian is to pursue reason, to use reason, and grow in our ability to reason.  We do this all as an act of worship to the God who created and reflects reason, and who will, one day,  completely restore all reason.

May we be a people who celebrate reason, and lead others to do the same!

 

What are you favorite ways to love God with your mind? 

 

 

 

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Quotes from:
JP Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul

John Piper’s Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God

Friday Fun

If you’ve never watched The Colbert Report, here are a couple of things to know about the host, comedian Stephen Colbert. On the show, Colbert portrays a caricatured version of conservative political pundits, and often pokes fun at his guests. The guests know this when they go his show. But in real life Colbert is a practicing Roman Catholic who even teaches Sunday School. The interview below with bible critic Bart Ehrman, is intended to be funny (and it is). But I especially like it because most of Stephan’s arguments are actually valid. Enjoy!

http://media.mtvnservices.com/embed/mgid:arc:video:colbertnation.com:1a2a488e-ed01-11e0-aca6-0026b9414f30

Going Deeper With The Bible

At some point reading your Bible becomes boring. You know all the stories. You’re familiar with the popular verses. And you have a pretty good sense of what the whole thing is about.

You begin to wonder, “now what?” “Am I doomed to a life of begrudgingly re-reading the same things year after year? Or is there something more?”

Thankfully there is more– a lot more!

If you’ve only been reading the Bible,  you may have given yourself a breadth of biblical  knowledge. But what you lack is depth. Likely your boredom with Bible reading is the Holy Spirit’s way of telling you that your soul is ready for something more. That you need something deeper.

One of my favorite ways to go deeper,  is a method of Bible reading called Lectio divina (pronounced lex-ee-oh di-vee-nuh).  It means “divine reading”. For over 1, 500 years Christians have practiced it in order to hear from God, and draw closer to Christ.

Here’s how it works:780px-Lectio_Divina_.svg

Dr. Richard Peace, professor of Spiritual Formation,  describes it as a four-part movement “beginning with the the text and ending in prayer.” [1]   The four movements are as follows:

Reading/Listening: Read aloud a short passage Scripture. As you read, listen for the word or phrase that speaks to you. What is the Spirit drawing your attention to?

Meditating: Repeat aloud the word or phrase to which you are drawn. Make connection between it and your life. What is God saying to you by means of this word or phrase?

Praying: Now take these thoughts and offer them back to God in prayer, giving thanks, asking for guidance, asking for forgiveness, and resting in God’s love. What is God leading you to pray?

Contemplating: Move from the activity of prayer to the stillness of contemplation. Simply rest in God’s presence. Stay open to God. Listen to God. Remain in peace and silence before God. How is God revealing himself to you?

 Lectio divina is more than a  simple “quiet time”. It takes intentionally getting to a quiet place with no distractions. It also takes practice. Learning to listen to God, is like learning how to use a new muscle. There’s nothing “magical” about it. But it won’t happen until you’re able to sit still, and be silent before God.

If you want to learn more about the practice of Lectio divina, I would start with a copy of Richard Peace’s Contemplative Bible Reading: Experiencing God Through Scripture. It is a short Bible Study handbook that provides more detail about the four movements. It also includes examples of how the process works with different passages of Scripture. The study can be used for an individual or groups. So if your currently in a small group and you think your group might also be interested in going deeper with the Bible, then this might be a great study to do together.

Whether you use Lectio divina by yourself or with a group, I pray it will be something that will draw you deeper into the Word of God, and closer to God through Jesus Christ.