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From the Pastor's Desk

Engaging God's Word in 2019

Posted by Pastor Stephen Baum on

A 2012 study of U.S. Protestants conducted by Lifeway Research indicated that less than 50% of survey respondents engage in reading the Bible on a weekly basis or more. At the same time, 90% of those respondents said they wanted to honor Jesus in all they do. Call me crazy, but I can't help but wonder how people can really honor Christ in all they do if they don't know what he's said.

Engaging God's Word is a vital discipline for the follower of Jesus. In fact, at First West, we believe that we cannot rightly know God or follow Christ apart from His Word. It has long been my desire to develop the discipline of reading the Bible regularly with the goal of daily

There are lots of reasons people don't read the Bible more than they do. Lifeway Research has cataloged several of them. 

But in my own experience, even when reading the Bible was a priority in my heart and mind, I found I had more success when I had a plan in place. Maybe you're an excellent self-starter and you've always had an easy time keeping yourself in the Bible on a weekly basis. Not me, though--I need a plan and direction and the built in accountability of a Bible reading schedule. 

In 2018 I read through the Bible chronologically in the course of the year, and I really enjoyed it! As well as I know many of the stories and texts, I found myself delightfully surprised at the tight interconnection of so many passages and events in the Bible. God caught my attention as sins that needed confessing were brought out by the passage I was reading a certain day. I was edified in my spirit as I read through the Gospels and Paul's letters and the Psalms. I found things I had forgotten or never seen in the minor prophets and in books like Leviticus. It was a great practice, and one I hope you'll consider taking on in 2019. 

In order to facilitate your systematic engagement of the Bible in 2019, we've provided two plans for you to follow in the year ahead. The first is the 5-Day per week reading plan I just mentioned adapted for 2019. It will take you through the Bible in chronological order with two catch-up and reflection days per week. It's pretty intense, and takes about 15-20 minutes per day to complete, but you'll love it!

The second plan is called the 5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan developed by Navigators ministries. This reading plan will take you through the New Testament in five minutes a day, five days a week, with five practices to develop in helping you dig deeper into God's Word. This is a great plan for new believers and mature believers alike who are looking for a way to develop the discipline of regular personal Bible study.

These are only two ways (among countless others) to plan your Bible reading in 2019. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what plan you follow in the year ahead--so long as you have a plan for engaging God's Word. In addition to your reading, I would suggest the following three tips to help you keep your study deep and to keep yourself on track:

  1. Read with others. Get a group of friends together to read the same passages on the same days and make a plan to meet weekly or monthly to discuss what you're reading in Scripture together. Sometimes we misunderstand Scripture and need the help of others to clarify our thinking and to keep us from reading too much through the lens of our own lives. Plus, reading with others will add another layer of accountability to keep on track.

  2. Journal. I am not a journaler, I'll just admit it. But I do find that the Word of God finds its way deeper into my heart and mind, and works itself out in my life more frequently when I take time to write down my response to and explanation of Scripture. If you enjoy journaling or writing in a diary, consider changing your practice to revolve around what you are reading in Scripture each day. If you don't journal, at least get into the practice of reflecting on three questions as you read: (1) What does this Scripture tell me about God? (2) What does the Scripture tell me about myself/humanity? (3) What is this passage showing me about how God relates to mankind?

  3. Memorize. As you read, start making a list of verses that you would like to remember forever--or at least for a long time. Study Bibles will often have in their book summaries several key verses for each book of the Bible. Choose one verse per Bible book to memorize in the year ahead, or choose one long passage to memorize throughout the year. My personal goal is to memorize the book of Ephesians in 2019--a big challenge for me. But I want to know more than what parts of the Bible are about; I want to know the Bible by heart. Whether a lot or a little, commit to memory some parts of God's Word this year. 

In whatever way you pursue Christ through his word in 2019, I trust and pray it will be fruitful in your own life of following Christ and serve to edify the body of Christ at First West in the years ahead. May God grow His church as we give ourselves to being shaped by him!