When the Word No Longer Speaks To You – Part Two

We are looking at breathing new life into your Bible reading and Bible study times. Last time we saw:

1> Move to a different section of the Bible

2> Switching translations

I mentioned this one in an earlier series of blogs. This is a sure fire way to bring new life to your daily time in God’s Word. Often the words of the version we are reading – even their placement on the page – becomes so familiar to us that we simply don’t see what we are reading – really see it. It has become too familiar and routine. And, although we are reading it, it has stopped speaking to us.

Switching versions gives you the same truths expressed with different words – spoken of in a different way. The message has not changed just the words and phrases used to express and communicate the message have changed. 

I recently put my old Bible back on the shelf. It is an ESV and has been overseas at least a dozen times. It has gone everywhere I go every day for a number of years. It was written in, underlined, and seriously falling apart. I then picked up The Message Version which I had read years ago. When I finished that I switched to a New Living Translation which I am currently reading. From there I plan to go to a CEV (Contemporary English Version).

Here are some decent translations you can consider moving up to…

The New Living Translation – great for easy reading and clarity

The Amplified Bible – excellent for drawing from the original language all the shades of meaning

The Message – reads very easily, reflects great insights, jolts you by its up-to-date language

The Good News Bible – basic English and easy to understand

The New Century Version

The Passion Version

The Voice Version

And, on the list could go. The idea is to begin reading in a fresh version.

3> Read chronologically

This is not something I have done often but it is an interesting way to read the Bible and remove white noise or that blank page feeling.

There are a number of “chronological bibles” available today. This is where the various stories in the Bible are put in chronological order and are taken out of the traditional setting of individual books. So, You may read a piece of Scripture from 1 Kings followed by a piece from 1 Chronicles. Then a piece from a minor prophet within the reading of a major prophet (Ezra within the text of Isaiah). Then the “story” is read in order of the time that it happened regardless of which book the verses originate from.

There are a few editions of the Bible in this format:

The Chronological Study Bible (New King James Version)

The Chronological Life Application Bible (New Living Translation)

And the one I cut my teeth on:  The Chronological Bible (King James Version)

More next time…

When the Word No Longer Speaks To You – Part One

There is a social movement today called “white noise.” There are web sites regarding it; apps you can download and program to your own tastes. I don’t make use of any of these things. However, it seems that it is quiet background music or nature sounds that help you to relax, sleep better, and generally live your daily life in a better frame of mind and spirit. It is simply ‘nice noise’ / ‘white noise’ playing in the background but it is not disturbing you nor does it draw your attention away from whatever you are doing. It is simply there and it is not trying to “speak to you” in any way and it does not contain a message that you need to hear.

Well, sometimes when we are attempting to read and understand the Bible it does not speak to us. If we were being honest we would admit that Bible-reading has become a chore rather than a delight. During these times, the words seem dry as dust. Your mind wanders. The pages are blank. White noise.

This is true for preachers as well. You go to the Scriptures to find food for God’s people, only to discover that the well seems to have run dry.

What do you do when you open your Bible and all you hear is white noise? God’s voice seems silent.

In this series I want to address this very common problem. I have personally known, over my 42 years of walking with the Lord, long seasons when I would open my Bible and hear only white noise. God apparently was not speaking to me. At least, not through His Word and not in a way that I was hearing Him. 

However, over the years, through prayer, discussions with a number of my mentors, long walks with my accountability partner, reading books, experimentation, and trial and error I have discovered a number of things that have helped me greatly when my Bible was no longer speaking to be and all I heard was white noise. Hopefully these ideas will help you if you are currently in a dry place. My prayer is that they might revolutionize your reading of Scripture.

Bible reading and studying God’s Word has a lot to do with the condition of your heart. The Bible is a divine book – inspired by God – and it is not just another piece of good literature. It is spiritual. It is life (John 6:63) and can go deep into our hearts and souls (Hebrews 4:12). In fact, we are born again through this powerful Word (1 Peter 1:23).

So, we need to approach God’s Word with a right heart. If our heart / spirit is not right with God, we will undoubtedly misunderstand the text and miss the riches that the Scriptures contain. I don’t want to address this issue. In this series I am assuming your heart is right before God, there is no unconfessed sin, and you are acting in love towards God, yourself, and all others. This series has to do with the strategies that we use when approaching God’s Word daily. Bible reading and Bible studying strategies.

I leave the condition of your heart up to you and the Holy Spirit.

Change #1: Move to a different section of the Bible

The Old Testament if divided up into three parts: The Law (which contains the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch) ; the Prophets (which includes Kings, Chronicles, the Historical books, and the Prophetic writings); and the Writings (which include Proverbs, Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes).

The New Testament is divided up into the Gospels and Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation.

One of the first things we should do when there is white noise – the first line of offence for a mute Bible – is to stop what you are presently reading and switch to a different section of Scripture.

So, if your Bible turned to dust in the Law, move over to the Epistles (letters) and begin reading there.

If the Scriptures turned silent in the Prophets, move over to Acts.

Is the Gospels went out of tune, then start with Proverbs. 

I remember when I first learned this truth. I was a “read the Bible from front to back” person. After all, that how I read every book I own. I specifically remember the day when the Spirit of God spoke and quietly said, “The Bible is not a book – it is a library of 66 books.” So, as I thought about that I felt the freedom to move around in “The Book.” I soon realized that the order of the books found in the Bible was not chronological anyways. So, I was not going to get “the story” all mixed up by not reading from the first page through to the last page in order. 

Now, I read more New Testament than Old. I read through the whole Bible twice a year. I choose one New Testament book each year and do an in-depth study of the text. I read Proverbs every day – getting through that amazing book of wisdom once every month. I read chapter 1 on day one of the month and so on. I have discovered a rhythm that really helps eliminate the white noise and the dry seasons. Not entirely but it is much, much better.

More next time…

Bible Reading Revisited – Part Three

We are looking at thoughts about revitalizing our time, as believers, in God’s Word and some of the common errors we make as we read and study the Word of God, the Bible. In the past two blogs we have seen some of our errors…

1> Reading the Bible without prayer

2> Getting confused or bogged down by the things you don’t understand

3> Reading too fast, as if you are reading a novel or other fictional writing

4> Reading the Bible in a state of unrepentance

5> Applying Old Testament laws and rituals and promises that were spoken to Israel and that have been done away with, or fulfilled in the New Covenant

6> Reading the Bible out of context

7> Reading the Bible without taking it personally

This is a problem all believers encounter when our rational approach to life is also the way we approach the Bible. This is a mistake that even Bible teachers and preachers make. We go to the Bible to look for information, to look for a promise God has made to His people (you), a principle that you can apply to your life, a “now” word from God to meet a crisis that you are facing. This is a ‘looking for information’ or rational approach where really the Bible is a living Word” and thus can be transformational – changing our lives from the inside out. 

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

For preachers and teachers we go looking for sermon material, or material for a message that applies to other people. So, we need to slow down and take what we are reading personally, applying it first to our own lives.

A note to teachers and preachers: The secret to ministry, the secret to effective ministry, is to take that which has applied to you in your own life, that which you have experienced, and that which has become food to you, to give to other people. So, reading it personally first is very important.

8> Not switching versions of the Bible once-in-a-while

One of the things I have found very helpful is switching versions every once-in-a-while. I normally read the ESV version of the Bible (English Standard Version).However, after a year or more of reading and studying God’s Word in this version (my favourite version) I switched to the NLT (New Living Translation). Because the wording is different and the way each verse is expressed differs from version to version I find that the Word comes across fresh and new once again because of the different way verses I know so well have been expressed. 

There are a good number of decent versions of the Bible available today in English at a decent price. So, just about everyone should be able to switch versions of the Bible every 12 to 18 months to “jolt” their senses as they read the same truths expressed in a slightly – and sometimes majorly – different way. There are many versions that are free online and can be used on desktops and laptops as well as cell phones. So, cost should not be a factor. 

So, wrapping up this small series on “Bible Reading Revisited…”

One of the key ways that we receive spiritual nourishment is by reading the Scriptures. However, there are times that all of us experience when reading the Bible becomes a chore, rather than a delight. And, during such times, the words seem as dry as dust. Our minds wander. We open the Scriptures, and the words do not speak to us. What do you do when the Word is simply silent?

More on that in the next series of blogs starting next time…

Bible Reading Revisited – Part Two

We are looking at some hints regarding reading the Bible that will allow your time in the Scriptures to be a little more profitable and life-giving. Last time we saw a number of issues…

1> Reading the Bible without prayer

2> Getting confused or bogged down by the things you don’t understand

3> Reading too fast, as if you are reading a novel or other fictional writing

4> Reading the Bible in a state of unrepentant

Again, the Bible is a spiritual book. Consequently, our spiritual state will affect how we read it what we get out of it, and what we see in it. Therefore, if there is something in your life that God has put His finger on, that you have not dealt with, then you want to deal with it before the Lord, because it will profoundly affect what you get out of your time reading and studying the Bible.

When it comes to Bible reading, Bible study, and Bible understanding, it is not just a matter of the methods you use, but you yourself have to be in a right state in order to understand it properly. 

5> Applying Old Testament laws and rituals and promises that were spoken to Israel and that have been done away with, or fulfilled in the New Covenant.

And this is a very large topic, but so much that is in the Old Testament has application for that time, and it was either fulfilled, or done away with in the New Covenant. This applies to many of the dietary laws, it applies to many of the sacrificial rituals, it applies to the clothing rules – the clothing laws – and on and on. And it is a mistake to go back to the shadows that pointed to Jesus, and reinstitute those as law when we have Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is the main point of the Book of Hebrews.

There is an amazing book currently available on this subject. I don’t often recommend books on my blogs but this one is one of the most freeing books I have ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is by Andy Stanley and it is called “Irresistible.” It is available in paperback and ebook. Worth the price and a book you will refer back to – even reread – often. 

6> Reading the Bible out of context.

This is a big problem. A huge problem. It is very important that you take some time to read the context and the historical setting of every book of the Bible before you actually begin to read the individual book. Then you will understand why the book or letter was written, to whom it was written, when it was written, and the issues that needed to be dealt with that brought the letter (book) about in the first place. 

For example, if we just go over the the New Testament, the letters we have called 1st and 2nd Timothy were written to one of Paul’s coworkers,  a young man who was being mentored by Paul in issues of the Christian life and ministry. In these two letters (books of the Bible) Paul deals with a specific set of circumstances and issues that Timothy was dealing with in his work with various local churches. 

Colossians, on the other hand, is an example of a letter written to a church, a local body of believers, that was experiencing a specific crisis. 

Consequently, how you apply the things said in Timothy, and how you apply the things said in Colossians are going to be two very different things. One was written to a coworker, another was written to a church. That is just one example among many. 

So, understanding the context, understanding who the writer is writing to, what the circumstances were, understanding what provoked the letter – if it is a New Testament letter – or what provoked the book – in the case of the Old Testament – are all very, very important to understanding the content.

More tomorrow…

Bible Reading Revisited – Part One

As I speak with believers it is evident that many of them are not doing well spiritually. From young to old I hear about their spiritual lives being “stuck.” In other words, there is no life in their spiritual life. And, almost every time they comment that their Bible reading is adding nothing to their walk with God and, at best, is seriously boring. 

As I spoke with them at length and thought about their comments I realized that there are a number of mistakes we make when reading the Bible. Often these mistakes are “life-threatening” and the result of people not being taught when first saved about how to read the Word of God and use it in their lives. Much could be said but let’s start with a few points…

1> Reading the Bible without prayer

The Bible is a spiritual book given to us (inspired) by God Himself. So, it is a mistake to read it like any other book. The Holy Spirit inspired the writers to record the words that now make up our Bible and so the illumination of the Holy Spirit is needed to accurately understand it, and to accurately apply it. Consequently, prayer before and/or after Bible reading is very important. And it is something that we should be reminded about.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

2 Peter 1:21 “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

2> Getting confused or bogged down by the things you don’t understand

While you are reading the Bible, it is very common to come across passages or verses that you just don’t understand. It is a mistake to focus on those things because you lose the flow of the Scripture that you are reading and it bogs you down in the fine details of the passage.It is better to just move on and continue to read past the verse or verses that you don’t currently fully understand and come back to them later.

When you have the time, you can then study the passage or verse that you are wondering about, consult a commentary or two (there are good ones on-line that are reasonably priced or free) and see what others have to say about the passage. A lot of the mysteries in Scripture are resolved when we understand the historical and cultural contexts and there are many resources that will help you to do just that. Or, we discover what the original languages are saying.

So, don’t get tripped up, don’t stop, don’t get stuck. Just move on, continue to read the passage, continue to read the parts that you do understand, and then go back later to those texts that you do not understand.

3> Reading too fast, as if you are reading a novel or other fictional writing.

Again, the Bible is unlike any other book. You can not read it like you would read a novel. The best way to read and apprehend the Scriptures is to read very slowly. And, I would encourage you to read a passage more than one – at the same sitting. And, even read it from a different version or translation during the same devotional time. 

But reading slowly is important to grasp the Scriptures. Remember, you are reading for both mental understanding as well as embracing the truths in your spirit. 

More next time…