Rector’s Update: Read the Bible
On Sunday, I encouraged you, again, to read a bit of the Bible everyday and to share what you liked with someone else. You can hear the whole sermon, here.
Towards the end of the message, I acknowledged that you might be in a season where Scripture reading feels a little stale and dull. It happens to all of us.
So change it up! Try something new! The Scriptures don’t change, but sometimes looking at them in a new wrapper can help!
Here are some ideas:
1. Use Restoration’s Daily Prayer Guide. We are drawing near to the end of this liturgical year and we are producing a new one for you that will release at the end of November. The electronic version will be available on our website and we will print paper copies for you to pick up on a Sunday during Advent! This is the plan that I use every day.
2. Try a new translation. I meet each month with other senior pastors in Arlington County and several of them have reported that they enjoy the Contemporary English Version. It translates by phrase and you might find it more readable than our normal English Standard Version (which is excellent). I have been doing my daily reading this fall in The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson. I especially love reading really familiar passages (like the Gospels) in his choice of words. One other option is The New Living Translation from Tyndale which also offers fresh language for God’s truth.
3. Try a Bible App that provides reading plans. The gold standard is YouVersion from Bible.com. You can also find a variety of reading plans at ESV.org, including one that follows the Daily Office lectionary from The Book of Common Prayer. Just click on the calendar icon in the upper right corner, then ‘Classic Plans’ and scroll down to ‘Daily Office Lectionary’. Pray As You Go is also a popular app that combines music, prepared prayers and Bible reading in a daily package that follows the liturgical calendar. All of these can be accessed on any digital device.
4. Try a new Bible. I was kind of joking when I said, ‘follow your consumerism to read the Bible every day…’ But I know that having something new sometimes gets us to pay more attention to it. There are so many ‘kinds’ of Bibles. So pick a translation that you want to explore and try a Bible format that might give you a fresh look: a Bible with space to journal, a good Study Bible with excellent notes and commentary, or one that’s just designed for reading. Get a new one! And read it.
This fall I have been reading The Heritage of Anglican Theology by J.I. Packer. It is a wonderful walk through the last 500 years of Anglican Theology since the Reformation. In the chapter on the Great Awakening, which started in 1735, Dr. Packer describes the conversion of George Whitefield. Whitefield was friends with schoolmates like Charles Wesley. He wanted what they had. He wanted to grow closer to God. He wanted a new heart and a new nature. So he read books. He fasted. He prayed. Dr. Packer says, ‘Weeks went by, and Whitefield did not seem to be getting anywhere…’
‘Then came a day of spiritual enlightenment– not because somebody put him right on how to focus on Christ when you ask God to give you a new heart and make you new, but because he had been reading Scripture. The Holy Spirit—who gave Scripture and interprets Scripture to the faithful, as Anglican theology affirms—opened Whitefield’s eyes to what it all means and brought him, without his realizing what was happening at the time, into assurance that he was a new creature in Christ, that he had a new heart, that his prayers had been heard, that his faith was real. He was in fellowship with God, who had adopted him; he had become God’s child, and God was his heavenly Father. It had happened.” (J.I. Packer, p. 220-221)
We prayed for our congregation at staff meeting yesterday—that you would seek out the Scriptures every day, that you would hear the Lord speaking to you, that you would grow in fellowship with your heavenly Father.
May the Lord bless your reading of His word.