From time to time we will talk about the research that shows public opinion and trends around religious ideas. Through the work of organizations like the Barna Group, Lifeway Research and the Pew Research Center, we have a strong idea of the state of religion in America. One of the most discussed topics today is how people feel and respond to the Bible. Do people actually read the Bible?
One of the most challenging paradoxes of these studies is the tension between the respect people have for the Bible and whether they actually read it and know what it says. About five years ago a study was conducted by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis confirmed those fears. Their study found that Americans have a high view of Scripture, even though they may not ever open the book at home.
The conclusion of many is that as a nation and as a Church, we are becoming a people plagued with Biblical illiteracy. Would you consider trying to change a part of that trend this fall? Over the next three months, would you join with me and read the Bible every day?
Many of you already read the Bible regularly. You may follow a “Through the Bible in a Year” plan or you read along with the sermons preached at your church. Continue on those plans – there is no pressure to add something else and do “double-duty.” But if you don’t read the Bible every day, commit to making that a part of your daily routine and let’s see if reading the Bible makes a difference.
At the end of the column each week, we will print a Scripture passage to read each week day and another one for the weekend. It won’t be a lengthy amount – sometimes just one verse for the day. We will follow themes through the study rather than chronologically through the Bible, so that you won’t be stuck reading names you can’t pronounce or finding out how long Methuselah lived. (By the way, according to the Bible, he lived to be 969 years.)
Find a version of the Bible that you enjoy and is easy for you to understand. For many Bible readers the version they use may contribute to their misunderstandings. According to the IUPUI study, the King James Version of the Bible is still the overwhelming choice for Bible readers. Fifty-five percent of Bible readers prefer the version. The New International Version was the second choice with 19 percent readership.
The version that I favor varies and often depends on my purpose in reading and studying. Since I am looking in these readings for understanding, the preferences will be The Message (MSG) or the Contemporary English Version (CEV). Another readable favorite would be the English Standard Version (ESV).
Here are three incredible reasons to read your Bible daily. You may be able to add another dozen to this list.
Read the Bible: It will nourish your soul.
The first psalm tells us that the man who delights in God’s word is like a tree planted by a river. The tree is nourished and is able to produce fruit and leaves. The prophet Isaiah writes:
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live (Isaiah 55:1-3 ESV).
How long can you go without food before you begin to feel the effects? A day? An hour? Can you imagine how your spiritual soul is crying out for a meal?
Read the Bible: It will provide comfort.
The chances are great that sometime during the next three months, we will experience some time of suffering or turmoil. If we are not enduring it ourselves, we will be churning over natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, injustices around the world, or mass displays of violence and anger. It is the world in which we live.
The best way to prepare our hearts and minds for trouble is to fill our minds with the word of God. Some of the verses provide strength and encouragement, but some simply offer us a perspective. The psalmist writes, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (Psalm 119:50 ESV).
Read the Bible: It will transform you.
When I was in college, I lived with the same roommate for several years. Over time, we began to share several mannerisms and traits. We liked the same music. We began to talk with the same language. We began to share the same thoughts and beliefs. (John, there is still no way that I will put ketchup on my scrambled eggs at breakfast!)
In a similar way, the more time you spend with the Bible the more you will begin to be like the One that the entire Bible is written about. The Bible is not a textbook to teach us facts, it is a scrapbook to remind us about a Savior. We meet Jesus when we spend time with His Word.
So, are you ready for the assignment? Here are your verses for the coming week, starting on Monday.
Monday: Psalm 119:1
Tuesday: Psalm 119:9
Wednesday: Psalm 119:15-16
Thursday: Psalm 119:81
Friday: Psalm 119:97
Weekend: Psalm 119:173-175
Does your life feel parched and thirsty? This fall, let’s head to the Water for a drink.
— Tom May is a freelance writer who has held paid and volunteer ministry positions at several churches in the tri-state area. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.