3 Tips For Reading The Bible In 2019

I received a copy of this book from Crossway to review. All opinions are my own. 

The Bible is an epic story that tells us how God made the world and why we are here. He tells us that his son Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead and for this reason we can live with him in heaven forever. God is always good, all the time and his written Word is truthful and worthy of our complete confidence.

Here are 3 tips that I hope will encourage you to start a Bible reading plan on of your own. I am also sharing this to keep myself accountable in 2019! And remember, it is never too late to start reading :).

Don’t Stress, Just Read

Don’t stress so much about what plan you are reading just make sure you are reading. It can be easy to get hung up on finding the perfect reading plan but really at the end of the day what is most important isn’t what plan you used to read your Bible but that you actually read it. It might be easier to start in the Gospel’s or maybe you want to start in Genesis. Once you have determined where you are starting commit to finishing. This goal is worthy to pursue and the truth that will be spoken into your life and that you will be able to speak into the lives of others by reading the Bible is life giving and life changing.

For reference the following is how I have read the Bible different ways over the last 3 years.

Use The Same Bible All Year

This upcoming year I plan to do something I have never done before. I am going to start with a clean copy of the Bible that I can take with me while on the go, that has wide margins for note taking, and one that isn’t super expensive. I plan to take notes on what I am learning or circle passages I want to investigate more at a later time. In 2019 I am going to be using the ESV Story of Redemption Bible. I appreciate the reader friendly typesetting and wider margin space in this Bible and I am excited to see what the inside of this Bible looks like at the end of the year.

Give Yourself Some Grace

If you miss a day, it is ok. Pick up where you left off and jump back into your reading. Things are going to happen from week to week where you might not be able to read your Bible. It is ok to miss a few days here and there just don’t let it derail you. It might be helpful to have an accountability partner who can check in with you and listen to what you are learning as well as encourage you to continue reading.

Along with this, it is ok if you don’t understand everything you are reading. Try your best to hang with those passages. If something really doesn’t make sense schedule a visit with your pastor, I am sure they would love to help you dissect a passage of scripture that you need help understanding. Don’t skip the genealogies because over time the more read the Bible you might just start to recognize a few of the names in those long lists.

I have learned so much from reading the entire Bible. 2018 was my third consecutive year reading the Bible cover to cover. Here are my brief overviews of the major takeaways I have learned each year if you are interested: 2016, 2017, and 2018.

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What I Learned from Reading the Bible

This year marks my third year reading through the Bible and I picked Reading God’s Story: A Daily Chronological Bible which uses a six day a week reading plan to read through the entire Bible in 365 days.

Two years ago I started in the Matthew and read to Revelation and then made my way to Genesis through Malachi. I didn’t follow a reading plan but read at my own pace. And last year I read from Genesis to Revelation and used The Bible Project Reading Plan.

Without further delay here is a brief synopsis of what I have learned from reading the Bible in 2018!

Read The Bible To Know God

I have discovered that reading the Bible is different each year. To date, this year has been the hardest for me to get into the Bible. I still kept up with my reading plan, and was even able to read ahead, but boy, this year has been tough. There were several times this year when I just wanted to cry because of how challenging it was for me to dig into the Bible.

And I think I felt that way because in the last two years I can remember the eagerness and excitement I felt when it came to spending time connecting with God’s Word. And I wanted to have that excitement back. I wanted it to be the same as it had been in the past. And then I had to check myself because while those feelings are great they aren’t the goal. My goal in reading the Bible is to know God.

So I pressed on in my reading, even though I didn’t feel like doing it, even though I could think of many other things I wanted to be doing with my time. I pressed on because I know the sweetness of reading God’s Word. Reading the Bible speaks God’s truth into my life so I can speak encouragement and Biblical truths back into the lives of others. Life change only happens from the one who gives life and if I am not making reading my Bible a priority I can become easily distracted by what the world is trying to tell me I should be focusing on.

Read The Bible When You Are Suffering To Produce Hope

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

This verse in Romans really struck me this year. I have had it memorized for some time and it was helpful to remember that I have the Holy Spirit advocating for me and interceding on my behalf. God’s glory is always evident even in the midst of challenging circumstances and leads to hope.

God takes us through hard times to refine our faith and give us an everlasting hope. A future that allows us to be in his presence forever and that puts sin to death once and for all. Reading the Bible has reminded of this truth and to cling to it.

The Tiny Stories That Reveal God’s Glory

This year I became enthralled with the tiny stories in scripture that screamed at me from the pages and made me pause in wonder. The two that really jumped out at me this year were in the Old Testament. These are brief mentions of what must have been truly amazing and terrifying events that revealed the fullness of God’s power and glory.

Korah’s Rebellion & The Ground Opens It’s Mouth

You have to read Numbers 16 to get the full impact of this story. It is pretty jaw dropping.

God had given the Levites the special job of caring for the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was the portable earthly dwelling place of God. Some of the Levites resented their job and that they were not given priestly status. They did not like their calling and desired to have more responsibilities and rights. This becomes a common theme among the Israelites. They wanted to do their own thing in their own way instead of submitting to God and being obedient to the leadership of Moses.

Enter Korah. He is able to get 250 leaders to rise up against Aaron and Moses. Moses tries to talk some sense into him but Korah is prideful and is not content with the task God has given him. He wants more power and recognition within the community and it his ultimate downfall and he takes other leaders in the community down with him. Literally.

And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the incense. (Numbers 16:32-35)

If you continue reading on in Numbers the sons of Korah didn’t die so we can determine that they didn’t stand with their father as he rebelled. His decedents became temple singers and wrote numerous Psalms.

The Angel Of The Lord Who Defeated 185,000 Assyrians

Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. (2 Kings 19:35)

I want to know what this looked like. Holy Moly! How crazy!

If you are unfamiliar with this section on scripture it takes place when Hezekiah is King. He was one of the very few Kings of Judah who had a close relationship with God, one who did “what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 31:20). Hezekiah destroyed pagan altars, idols, and temples. He also reinstated the Levitical priesthood and Passover as a national holiday. This might not seem like a big deal but when you read about how awful the majority of the Kings were and what they did you can’t help but root for Hezekiah.

The Assyrians invaded Judah and marched against Jerusalem, so Hezekiah sought out the prophet Isaiah, and the Lord through Isaiah reassures Hezekiah that the army will not invade Jerusalem. God keeps his promise by sending ONE angel to destroy the Assyrians. Seriously so amazing!

The Hyssop Branch & Passover Lamb

I am fascinated learning about the connections between the Old and New Testament and the symbolism that is used to foreshadow Christ. This year one I really enjoyed learning about the Hyssop Branch and the Passover Lamb.

When Jesus hung on the cross he was offered a drink of wine on a sponge that was tied to a hyssop branch. In Exodus Moses tells the Israelites on the night of the first Passover:

Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. (Exodus 12:21-22)

Jesus came to free us from death and hyssop was used to ensure that the children on Israel wouldn’t die even when they were being delivered from slavery. Hyssop was also used in rites of purification in Leviticus 14 and Numbers 19 and was associated with God cleansing his people.

Jesus is the Passover lamb and he sets us free from slavery, and his sacrifice on the cross purified us from sin and death.

Overall I am thankful for the ability to freely read the Bible and to own several copies of this book that many others in the world don’t have access to read. This year reading the Bible chronologically was a great way for me to see how the timeline of all the books fit together.

If you are interested in reading the Bible chronogically the kindle version of Reading God’s Story: A Daily Chronological Bible is available now for $2.99.

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Thinking More About the Third Commandment

The third commandment reads:

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Several years ago our pastor preached a sermon about using the phrases “Oh my God!” or “OMG” while speaking. And while I personally had made it a point not to say  “Oh my God!” saying “OMG” or even “Oh my gosh!” was not something that I censored coming out my mouth. I figured if I wasn’t actually saying God’s name in this manner I was doing ok. When someone is yelling in frustration “Jesus Christ!” I knew that they weren’t honoring the Lord but didn’t really think about the bigger message of the third commandment until this sermon.

The third commandment has been discussed numerous times over the last few months in our home. And then I recently read the book Christian Ethics by Dr. Wayne Grudem and felt even more convicted by this verse.

I received a copy of this book from Crossway to review. All opinions are my own. Source: Crossway

WHAT IS CHRISTIAN ETHICS?

It is vitally important for Christians to apply Bible passages wisely and study ethics. The main reason to study ethics from this perspective is that we can know God’s will for us. Jesus taught his followers to keep his commandments (Matt. 28:19-20, John 14:15, John 15:10) and in order to understand how these commandments apply to us today we have to know what they are, including their Old Testament background and further explanation in the New Testament.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work….”. God gave us the Bible in order for us to know what he views as morally right and wrong . When studying the Bible from an ethical viewpoint it is necessary to understand and study all relevant scripture related to the topic. It is also important to remember that because the Bible is God’s word it is the highest authority over all other authorities for ethics.

THE MEANING OF THE THIRD COMMANDMENT

Names are super important in the Bible. So important that God would sometimes designate the name of a person. This might have been a name change to account for their new role or to more accurately describe them. We see this happen in Genesis 17 when Abram becomes Abraham and also Sarai becomes Sarah. Taking all this in to account I have begun to see that the “name” of God not only refers to his actual name (like the Lord) but also to everything that is said about God in terms of his character and reputation. The third commandment goes far beyond foolishly using God’s name and has much greater implications then I ever realized.

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1

On the basis that names are important to God, and that a name can also refer to the entire reputation of a person, then the third commandment also prohibits any false and unworthy speech about God. Christian you should be challenged by this. I know I have been. We need to consider how we speak about God and how we worship God. God’s name should be spoken with reverence and his character accurately honored by what we say.

“but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” James 3:8-10

Earlier this year I heard a new worship song on the radio that I really liked. The music, the beat, and the overall feeling the song gave was great….but then I started focusing on the lyrics and now have a difficult time listening to this song. I know there are much bigger issues to be concerned about, yet at the same time I am thankful to have become aware of just how flippant, or dare I use the word reckless 😉 , I have been even with how I was worshipping God with song. I want to make sure that the lyrics I am singing match with the theology I believe and also speak about God’s nature and character Biblically. In no way do I see how it is honoring to God or his character to describe him as something that is not Biblically accurate.

Being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) means that my life and yours proclaims something about the Creator. God made us to be like him and represent him on the earth. When we as God’s creation sin we violate the third commandment. As an image bearer of God we reflect him with our words, thoughts, and actions, our sin portrays him in an evil and sinful way.

“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Ephesians 5:4

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

In his book Chrisitan Ethics, Wayne Grudem says “In practical terms, this understanding of the commandment means that if I act in a fair or just way, I proclaim that God, my creator and Lord is fair and just. If I act with kindness and mercy, I proclaim that God is kind and merciful. But if I tell lies, I proclaim that my God is a liar and cannot be trusted. If I am cruel and vindictive, I proclaim that God is also cruel and vindictive. This perspective helps us understand why God takes sin so seriously and why it must be punished. All sin dishonors God.”

I highly recommend, Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical and Moral Reasoning, this extremely well written and thought provoking book from Wayne Grudem.  At the end of each chapter there are questions for reflection, a memory verse, additional reading references, and a hymn, because Christian ethics should result in praise because God’s law flows from his character and his character is just that good.

“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97

“My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.” Psalm 119:171

If you are looking to apply a biblical worldview to difficult ethical issues, including wealth and poverty, marriage and divorce, birth control, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, business practices, environmental stewardship, telling the truth, knowing God’s will, and understanding Old Testament laws like the third commandment be sure to check out Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical and Moral Reasoning. 

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