We are reminded that “The Scriptures are absolutely key in the process by which the Spirit gives—and strengthens—the faith of Christians.”
As we begin the Lenten season it is a time when many Christians evaluate their Spiritual lives and reading habits and we are suggesting that it would also be helpful to begin or change a Bible reading plan.
There are two readings plans made available and can be downloaded and printed off. They have been graciously provided through Ligonier Ministries and Navigators.
The first is a 52 week plan, which will enable you to read through the Bible in a year with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: epistles, the law, history, Psalms, poetry, prophecy, and Gospels. DOWNLOAD 52 Week Reading Plan Different Genre Each day (PDF)
The second is the 5x5x5 New Testament Bible Reading Plan, which will enable you to Read through the New Testament in a year, reading Monday to Friday. Weekends are set aside for reflection and other reading. Especially beneficial if you’re new to a daily discipline of Bible reading. DOWNLOAD Bible Reading Plan Condensed (PDF)
As you prepare to read here is some advice from one of my favourite teachers Prof Howard Hendricks as reported by T Newcombe. Professor Hendricks shares three commonly cited steps that have served many over the years—and will prove helpful as you reengage your Bible in 2021.
“So many people are trying to interpret the Bible, but they don’t study it,” says Hendricks. “They don’t answer the question of ‘What do you see going on in the text?’ All of this wasted time is spent trying to find out what the Bible means without a basic understanding of what it says. If you can’t understand the text, then ultimately you can’t communicate it.”
According to Hendricks, our ability to observe the biblical text can be enhanced without a Bible in hand. “What were your co-workers wearing today? What was the title of the sermon on Sunday? Set up tests for yourself to encourage your mind to start observing everyday life.” Natural observation will spill into Bible study.
Ask questions of the biblical text while reading it, suggests Hendricks. “Who are the people? What are their relationships? What do those terms mean? What is the importance of the place they are in? Read the passage as for the first time. Look for things that are emphasized, repeated, related, alike, unlike and true to life.” Hendricks recommends observing the text in 10 different ways:
- Thoughtfully. Be a detective.
- Repeatedly. Read entire books at a time.
- Patiently. Spend quality time in each book you study.
- Selectively. Decipher the who, what, where, when and how in the text.
- Prayerfully. Don’t copy others; ask God to reveal things to you.
- Imaginatively. Think about how you might write the verse.
- Meditatively. Reflect on the words.
- Purposefully. Understand that the author used structure to send a message.
- Acquisitively. Attempt to retain the text.
- Telescopically. Understand the significance of the text in light of the entire Bible.
Under Hendricks’ rubric, once the steps of observation are completed, interpretation can begin: “Grasp how the context fits with literary genres, history, and culture. Also, what does the context say about the writer’s relationship with God, or even about the natural world?”
“Work to compare words, themes, phrases and styles of the text with other biblical texts,” says Hendricks. Then examine “the cultural setting of the book.” This will tell you if your observations fit the culture. Hendricks warns, “Don’t lose sight of the value of consultation in the process—using other resources to ensure your interpretation is accurate.”
Application is about what the text means to you. Before we can be certain our application is correct, Hendricks says that each person “needs to know the text, relate it to life, meditate on its meaning, and then practice it.” Hendricks has created nine application questions to consider:
- Is there an example for me to follow?
- Is there a sin to avoid?
- Is there a promise to claim?
- Is there a prayer to repeat?
- Is there a command to obey?
- Is there a condition to meet?
- Is there a verse to memorize?
- Is there an error to mark?
- Is there a challenge to face?
Newcomb, T. (2014). Howard Hendricks: Four Bible Study Steps. In R. Van Noord, J. Strong, & J. D. Barry (Eds.), The Bible in the Real World: 31 Inspiring Interviews. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.