“I don’t have time to read my Bible…”

“I don’t have time to read my Bible…”

Turning the calendar into a new year often sparks a desire to step into new adventures, start healthy habits like exercising and eating well, read more books, get our finances in order, and more, with a renewed resolve for improving our lives.

Yet, it’s no secret that most of our best intentions don’t result in lasting change. Researchers vary on how long New Year’s resolutions will last, but it’s not promising. We all know it – resolutions usually don’t stick. Strava—the fitness app that is popular with cyclists and runners—deemed January 19 as “quitters day” because 19 days into the new year was when most people quit their new exercise commitments.

The desire to do something new in the new year isn’t enough for most people to stick with it.

The same is true of Bible reading. The beginning of a new year often stirs a desire within us to read through the Bible. There is no shortage of Bible reading plans that can guide you from Genesis to Revelation over the next 12 months. But more than a few of us who have wanted to read through the Bible in the new year never made it out of Genesis, or we got lost with the Israelites in the wilderness, or we got bogged down in the regulations in Leviticus.

For lots of would-be Bible readers who set out to read the Bible through in a year, one of the major reasons people give up Is the struggle to find time for daily Bible reading.

Bible reading commitments get squeezed out by all the other stuff that fills our days. Unfortunately, the new year doesn’t come with any extra minutes in the day. To find time to read the Bible in 2024, we are going to have fit it into what is probably already a schedule that is too full.

But how? How can we do it? How can we find time to read through the Bible in 2024? Here are three practical suggestions.

Repurpose Your Time
A rather simple strategy to find time to read the Bible is simply to repurpose time.

My 11-year-old son often asks my wife to read the Bible to him in the evening. We love that he wants to hear the Bible! But after school, homework, sports practices, and dinner, finding time to read the Bible was becoming a challenge. So, my wife found a creative, yet somewhat comical solution. After he gets in the shower, she goes in the bathroom, closes the lid to the toilet, and sits there and reads the Bible to him while he shampoos his hair. He has heard a lot of New Testament this past year from behind a shower curtain!

Maybe bathroom Bible reading isn’t your thing, but where can you repurpose some time to find Bible reading opportunities? There are great audio Bible options to listen to the Bible during your commute or while driving kids to school and activities. Can you read the Bible as you eat your breakfast or lunch? We all spend lots of time waiting—waiting for the doctor, waiting for a hair appointment, waiting for meetings, waiting for flights, waiting in pick-up lines at our kids’ schools, and more. What if we used this waiting time to read the Bible in the new year?

Time is the great equalizer. None of us can create more of it. We all have the same amount each day. But it is our choice as to how we spend our time. Why not be more intentional this year about using some of that time to read the Bible in the new year?

Trim the Time Wasters
Throughout history there have always been temptations to waste time, but modern technologies provide no shortage of ways to simply let time slip by.

Some researchers suggest we spend on average more than two hours on social media sites every day. While at first that may not seem possible, 15 minutes scrolling aimlessly a few times a day can really add up. When you add in any time spent watching TV or time spent playing a game on your phone, this can be a lot of minutes that are simply lost. Most of us could easily sacrifice some time we spend on technology to use time in more productive ways.

Try making an appointment with yourself to read the Bible. Add it to your calendar. Or set an alarm at the same time every day. Treat that appointment or alarm like you would any other important meeting in your day. When we turn off the phone, shut out distractions, quiet the noise of daily life, we can focus on the most important thing in that moment—and that is spending time with our heavenly Father and His Word.

Finding time to read the Bible may not as complicated as we think. If you are looking for time to read the Bible in 2024, it may be a simple as just trimming those time wasters.

Make a Small Sacrifice
As the often-quoted adage goes: The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

The Bible can seem daunting, overwhelming to read—especially if we are trying to read all of it. However, for most readers, it only takes 12-15 minutes per day to read the entire Bible in one year. Think about that…just 15 minutes a day and you could read through the Bible every year!

Making a seemingly small sacrifice may be all that is needed to find time to read through the Bible in 2024. Setting your alarm to wake up 15 minutes earlier or reading for 15 minutes before you go to bed or listening to the Bible on your commute is a small sacrifice. Yet this may be all that’s needed to read the whole Bible this year.

Where can you make a small sacrifice to find 15 minutes each day to read your Bible this year? We all get 1,440 minutes a day, each day. Making sure we spend 15 of them to hear from God seems like a wise choice in this new year.

When I’ve talked to people about why they don’t read the Bible, finding time to do it is an often-cited reason. And I get it. Our schedules are full. Our days are long. And the thought of trying to squeeze one more thing into our 24 hours just feels overwhelming. However, an intentional decision to be purposeful with our time—even just 15 minutes a day—means you could read the entire Bible in 2024.

And that decision might be the most important thing you choose to do in the new year.

by Michael Gunnin

A Discipline of Thanks

A Discipline of Thanks

Enter his gates with thanksgiving. (Psalm 100:4)

The distance of God is an all-too-common malady among believers. It isn’t that God is really distant, but we go through waves of feeling that He is. Sometimes the waves are prolonged—circumstances batter us, discouragement plagues us, and God seems far, far away.

God’s prescription for entering His presence is to give thanks. This verse doesn’t just tell us the right attitude with which we are go enter His gates; it also tells us the means by which we enter them. Thanksgiving coupled with praise will bring us to where He is; or it will bring Him to where we are. Either way, we find that worshipful gratitude is the right place to be. God lives where He is acknowledged.

If God does not seem to be living near you, perhaps there is something lacking in your acknowledgment. You rarely see gratitude in someone who thinks negatively about life. Why? Pessimistic thoughts remove the glory of His presence. Negative thinking is not faith; it is the antithesis of reality from God’s point of view. Reality, as He defines it, is all about who He is and what He does. Negativity isn’t. It assumes the worst.  It feeds—and is fed by—the enemy of God.

Thanksgiving coupled with praise will bring us to where He is; or it will bring Him to where we are. Either way, we find that worshipful gratitude is the right place to be.

Paul told believers to give thanks in every circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5:18). He didn’t tell them to give thanks only when the clear evidence of God’s blessing is visible. He told them to give thanks always—in every situation. How can we do this? On the basis of who God is. If we always see the downside, we are doubting something about God—that He is good, or able, or wise. But if we know that he is good, and that He is sovereign, and that He is wise, we can give thanks that He is working out His plan even in the difficult circumstances of life.

Establish in your mind a discipline of thanks. Enumerate every aspect of your life and thank God for it. In every circumstance, choose to see it from an angle that will cultivate gratitude. God will be honored. And His presence will be real.

A life of thankfulness releases the glory of God. — Bengt Sundberg

READ: Psalm 100

*****

©2023 by Walk Thru the Bible

5 Tips for Reading the Psalms

5 Tips for Reading the Psalms

“The Psalms are inexhaustible, and deserve to be read, said, sung, chanted, whispered, learned by heart, and even shouted from the rooftops. They express all the emotions we are ever likely to feel (including some we hope we may not), and they lay them raw and open, in the presence of God.” -N.T. Wright, Simply Christian

Having the Psalms in our Bible is a privilege. They help us express our innermost, and often most difficult, feelings and emotions to God. However, because of their emotional depth and complexity, reading through the Book of Psalms can be intimidating. Through what lens are we meant to read them?  What do we do with all of their intense pain, grief, anger, and joy? When we read chapter after chapter about despair and heartache, how do we apply them to our lives?

Are you standing on the precipice of the Psalms—the longest book of the Bible—unsure of how to journey through? Take a deep breath. We can help. Here are some simple, practical pieces of advice that will help you navigate the book of Psalms and discover the beautiful truths God has waiting for you.

1. See the big picture.

When we read the Psalms, we can very easily get stuck on one line or verse. After all, many of the Bible’s most famous, quotable verses come from Psalms. But when we don’t read them in the context of the full chapter, we miss out on the greater message the psalmists want to communicate.

For example, let’s look at Psalm 42:1: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” You’ve probably heard this verse more times than you can count. We preach it in sermons, write it into worship songs, and even hang it as artwork in our homes. But if we just read the first verse and skip the rest of Psalm 42, we don’t actually understand what this Psalm is trying to tell us. By verse 9, the psalmist is in a very different place, saying, “I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go about mourning, oppressed by my enemy?’ My bones suffer in mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’”

As you can see, if we read either of these verses out of context of the entire Psalm, we miss the big picture. Many Psalms start from a place of brokenness and end in a place of surrender and hope. I encourage you to read through each chapter in its entirety so that you can experience the full, rich, emotional journey on which they take you.

2. Pay attention to the patterns.

Because the Psalms are poetry, the writers often employ certain patterns. You’ll see parallelisms—two lines beside each other that say similar things, or perhaps completely opposite things. This parallel structure will often help us understand the points the psalmist Is making.

Psalm 37 gives us an example of this type of structure. David writes, “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong.” He essentially says the same things twice, doubling down on his point that we should not waste our energy by giving undue focus to evildoers.

But in Psalm 37:9, he employs a contrasting structure: “For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” By setting these statements beside one another, he strengthens his message of why we can put our trust in God when we live righteously. By looking for patterns like these within the Psalms, we gain a better understanding of what the psalmists want to say—and how God’s people are supposed to live.

3. Immerse yourself in the imagery

One thing you’ll notice as you read through the Psalms is rich, beautiful imagery. As we read, let’s ask ourselves, “What is this image trying to tell me? What does it reveal about the writer’s message? What truth does it reveal about God?”

Let’s go back to Psalm 37, this time looking at verse 2. Speaking of evildoers, David writes, “for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.” What a clear, captivating image! Those who do evil may look prosperous and full of life, like beautiful greenery. However, just like a lush field during a drought, their flourishing won’t last long. Their earthly prosperity will indeed wither away.

God also uses the imagery of the Psalms to teach us about Himself. In Psalm 57:1, God inspires David to write, “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” Reading this verse, we can imagine ourselves as baby birds finding shelter and safety under the wings of a massive, powerful eagle. God is our protector, our shield, our refuge. Through the imagery of this Psalm, we see that we can fully rest in the strength and protection of God.

4. Break the silence

When you read your Bible, you’re probably reading it to yourself silently. Obviously, that’s how we read most things, and normally that’s okay. However, the Psalms were not written just for silent reading—they were also written for worship, even public worship.

Psalm 57 opens with the instruction, “For the director of music. To the tune of ‘Do Not Destroy.’” David’s intention for this Psalm is clearly that it be set to music. We may not know the tune of “Do Not Destroy,” but when we speak or even sing the Psalms, they take on new meaning. We are no longer merely reading what someone else has written; we are now declaring these emotions, these questions, and these praises from our own lips to God’s ears.

5. Linger a little longer

We’ve all had the experience of needing to grab something quick to eat on our way to work or an appointment. We swing through a fast-food restaurant, order something we can eat while driving, and then scarf it down without really thinking about how it tastes. In these moments, food becomes purely utilitarian. The point is not to enjoy the meal.

Then there’s the experience of going to a favorite restaurant. We wait eagerly until the waiter brings out what we ordered, and once the food is on the table, we want to savor every bite. This is not a time for rushing through a meal. We want to experience the flavor, the texture, everything that makes this meal so special to us.

We often read the Bible like it’s fast food. As our lives become increasingly busier, we can maybe carve out a few minutes to quickly read through a chapter, say a quick prayer, and then move on to the next thing. No Scripture benefits from such reading, but the Psalms especially so. As we’ve established, these are passages brimming with emotion, symbolism, and truth about the very nature of God. They deserve our time. And when we do make time to fully explore them, they will be worth every minute.

By: Michael Gunnin, Walk Thru the Bible’s Chief Growth Officer

Names of God

Names of God

Names of God – a Devotional Study

What if Jesus had never told us anything about Himself?

We’d be left to guess who He is and what He is like. The possibilities would be endless. And no matter what theories we came up with about Him, we’d have no guarantee that we were ever close to being right about the true nature of God.

But thankfully, that’s not how God wants things to be. The God of the universe has chosen to tell us who He is, to reveal his heart to us.

In Names of God, a FREE devotional study from Walk Thru the Bible, we explore the titles God has given Himself throughout Scripture—and what they tell us about His character.

Names of God

SIGN UP HERE for your free Names of God eBook

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30 Days Walking with Jesus Reading Plan

30 Days Walking with Jesus Reading Plan

30 Days Walking with Jesus Reading Plan

This Scripture reading plan is a 30-day walk with Jesus, His life, His miracles, and more.

30 Days Walking with Jesus Reading Plan

This Scripture reading plan is a 30-day walk with Jesus, His life, His miracles, and more.

  • By submitting this form, I agree to receive occasional emails from Walk Thru the Bible southern Africa. We promise not to blow up your inbox!
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4 Tips to Maximize Your Bible Reading in 2023

4 Tips to Maximize Your Bible Reading in 2023

With the start of a new year, many of us have a renewed interest and commitment to reading the Bible. Whether we’re a seasoned Bible reader or we’re just getting started, reading the Scriptures can be overwhelming. While the Bible is a big and complex book, the Scriptures are designed to be accessible to all of us! I hope you are ready to jump in, or continue, your Bible reading in the new year.

As you begin your Bible reading for 2023, here are 4 tips to help maximize your reading of God’s Word this year.

Tip #1: Read big
With just a quick glance, it is obvious that the layout of most Bibles is very different from most of the books we read. Take a book from your bookshelf or book stack, open it, and compare it to the Bible. Most likely the Bible is formatted very differently. The majority of Bibles are printed with two columns of text (usually) on each page. There are numbers everywhere—big numbers that are for chapters and small numbers that are verses. Your favorite novel doesn’t have all those markings.

The history of Bible publishing and how we got our modern Bible is fascinating and revealing. The modern Bible is a very different experience than when it was originally written. For example, the writings of the apostle Paul were letters—letters written on parchment, delivered by a messenger. The letters were probably read out loud to a group of people who had gathered to hear them. There were no book titles. No chapters. No verses. No footnotes. No section headings. No study notes. No commentary. No leather covers. It was just a letter.

We’ve added a lot since then, especially in recent years.

Chapters were not added to the Bible until the 13th century by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury. He was writing a commentary and used chapter numbers pragmatically as a way of finding things in his reference work. Verses were added some 300 years later in the 16th century, again as a pragmatic tool. In the history of the Bible, these are relatively modern features.

Since then, we’ve added a lot of other features: section headings, red letters, commentary. Bible publishers have been marketing the Bible in ways that grab our interests with specialty Bibles that have supplemental materials just for the niche reader.

None of that is necessarily bad, but some Bible scholars are beginning to question how our modern Bible has changed the way we read it.

One of the unintended consequences of all the things we’ve added to the Bible is that we read in small, bite-sized bits. We read a verse here and a verse there. Our eyes are trained to stop at section headings that create breaks in the text that the author may have never intended. We tend to read small sections of the Bible that correspond to a devotional guide or a Bible reading plan.

And these comments aren’t intended to be critical.  Walk Thru the Bible publishes Bible reading plans and devotional guides and Bibles to help you read through God’s Word.

However, we tend to read small—a few verses, maybe a section, perhaps a chapter. In reading small, we miss a lot. We miss the grand storyline of a book. We miss the broader contexts of what we are reading. We miss the opportunity to get lost in the beauty of the Bible the way we might as if we are curled up with our favorite novel. The Bible becomes a checklist to get done rather than a story to be mesmerized with.

As you read the Bible this year, I encourage you to try something new: read big!

Bigness refers to the amount of Bible we are reading. Find time to sit down and read large portions of the Bible. Don’t read verses or sections or even chapters. Read entire books at a time. Carve out some time and read a Gospel in one sitting. Or read Paul’s letters as if you had just gotten a letter from a friend that you wouldn’t put down until you are finished. Or read the entire book of Ruth at one time.

It may not be practical for you do that every day. But can you find time once a week to read big? When we read complete books or movements in the Bible, we will hear and experience and love this book in different ways that invite us to truly engage with God’s Word.

Tip #2: Read in community
How good are you at keeping New Year’s resolutions? If you are like the rest of us, then you’re probably not great at them either. The majority of resolutions made in a new year—like eating healthy, saving money, making time to exercise, reading more, starting a new hobby, learning a new skill—aren’t kept or accomplished. For many of us, they only last a few weeks. Sometimes it is just a few days.

A lot of Christians started the new year with a big dream of reading the Bible more—maybe daily or all the way through.

And for all of our good intentions, sticking with it is hard.

One of the best ways to stick with our Bible reading commitment is to read in community.

We find support systems for all sorts of new behaviors instead of going at it alone. Groups and support systems serve as a motivation and, most importantly, as accountability to stick with those new commitments. We know that motivation and accountability are important and will increase the likelihood that we stick with hard things, especially when we don’t do them alone.

Why should Bible reading be any different? Why do we think we have to do this alone?

If we know we need some accountability and community to exercise and eat healthy and lose weight, what if we found accountability and community to read the Bible this year?

Finding a small group of people (your Bible study group, family, friends) and reading on the same Bible reading schedule is a powerful motivation to stick with it—especially if you hold each other accountable by discussing what you are reading together.

Tip #3: Pray the Scriptures
What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever had on your Christmas list? When my oldest son was around 5 years old, he added a bag of dirt as a last-minute addition to his list. He wanted some dirt to build a track for his toy trucks, so we made sure he unwrapped some dirt on Christmas morning. However, we did get some strange looks when he told people what was on his Christmas list!

As a Christ follower, I wonder sometimes how God views the kinds of requests that we make in prayer. Do my prayers sound like a spoiled kid who asks for and expects everything? Or do they sound like random requests like asking for a bag of dirt for Christmas?

In John 15:7, Jesus makes a remarkable promise, “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

Our attention is usually drawn to the last part of that verse: Ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. What a remarkable promise! But Jesus qualifies that with an often overlooked “if”—if you remain in Me and My words remain in you. 

How do we pray asking God what we wish for but doing so knowing that God’s Word has remained in us? The answer to this question is why I think it is important to pray the Scriptures—which is the third tip to maximize your Bible reading in the new year.

Praying the Scriptures is a longstanding discipline of using the Bible as our guide in prayer. As you read the Bible, pause and pray back to God the ideas or even the words you’ve read. It may be a prayer of thanksgiving as the Bible reminds us of God’s goodness in our life. Or it could be a prayer of confession when we’ve read something that convicts us. Or it may be a request that is prompted by what we’ve read. Or it may simply be a prayer of worship and adoration for what the Word has revealed about God.

Praying the Scriptures often requires a slow and deliberate reading of the Bible. However, it is one of the most effective ways to align our prayers with God’s will and God’s Word. If you’ve not been praying your way through the Bible, try experiencing the Scriptures through the lens of prayer in the new year.

Tip #4: Listen instead of read
There is an interesting, and perhaps too easily overlooked, instruction in 1 Timothy 4:13, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching.”

Most of us, especially in the west, have unlimited access to the Bible. From a copy of the Scriptures that we have in our homes or simply opening an app on our phone or even listening through the Word, we have the remarkable privilege of reading the Bible for ourselves.

The transmission of the Bible in the early church was done largely through public reading. In the first century, all throughout the Greco Roman world, there were public reading events as a means of how literature was commonly shared. Two thousand years ago in the early church, in the absence of digital media and when printed copies were hand written, public reading was the most efficient means of distribution.

One way to add variety to our Bible reading and experience the Bible in a different way is to return to how God’s Word was received for most early believers—listening to the Bible.

At Walk Thru the Bible, our prayer is that this year is a year where your passion for the Word of God is ignited in new and fresh ways. The Bible changes everything—and we hope you give it a chance this year to change you.

~ by Michael Gunnin, Walk Thru the Bible’s Chief Growth Officer