Reading and living in God’s word is like experiencing the African Bush – this is what God revealed to me one year when we were lucky enough to be visiting our favourite nature reserve Sondela. As I sat on the veranda of our chalet looking out at the still, brown and seemingly lifeless view, I was suddenly aware that reading the Bible is very like exploring the bush. From the outside it can appear still and even boring at times; even not very tempting at all. However, venture into it and it comes alive, revealing all kinds of hidden wonders and colours. A game drive can seem the same for hours and just involve admiring the colours, smell of the bush and attractive surroundings with nothing much else to see. Then suddenly you are in the middle of a herd of elephants and the thrill of the wild is real!
The Holy Spirit showed me how reading His word is much like this:
- Scripture is nice to stare at but we have to venture in and really explore it in order to find its wonder.
- Sometimes reading it is like a long, patient game drive where it seems attractive, comforting but fairly calm and unexciting.
- Then when you least expect it scripture will come alive and offer you something challenging, exciting, relevant and even a little bit wild.
As Hebrew 4:12 confirms “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (NLT).
We dare not ignore the Bible if we want to understand our Lord and walk with Him.
So how do we make God’s word a priority in our lives?
How do we make sure we read the Bible so that it becomes an “environment” to explore and even live within? As a parent, wife and working mother I have not always found it easy to keep exploration of God’s word as a key part of my every day. As a mother I was very aware that my children seeing me make scripture a place where I literally “existed” was far more effective than asking or nagging them to read their bibles.
Family have to see each other exploring, living, sharing and encountering scripture in everyday life in order for it to become part of their world too.
By striving to do this, I can see how God has used His word to sustain me, lift me up, turn me around and even rescue. I am so grateful that I did not stop exploring and that my children have become explorers too!
So here are just a few of my bible explorer tips that have helped me along the way- I hope they will help you too.
Do it your way
Explore the bible in your own way not someone else’s way. Choose the time of day that suits you best. If journaling is your thing then journal and if it is not then don’t! If you only have five minutes then use the five minutes and don’t feel guilty. Find the way that works for you and change it as seasons in your life change. Let your children see that reading it is the important part not rules and regulations about how it has to be done. Adapt and make it work for you.
Devotionals are great
Use reading plans or devotionals. Commentaries are so helpful and help guide your thinking, but always make sure these are centred around the truth of scripture and not secular ideas. If you haven’t discovered the YouVersion online bible app for your phone, tablet or laptop with its hundreds of devotionals and bibles then don’t wait a minute longer! Google it and download it and a world of bible reading is at your finger tips. You can even set it up so it sends you reminders and scriptures as notifications.
Explore other versions of the Bible
Have your favourite version of the bible by all means, but make sure you compare what other versions say too. Often another version of a scripture speaks right into your heart. Again using an app like YouVersion or BibleGateway.com (and I am sure there are many more!) means that you can just tap and have compared versions on the same screen. How lucky are we!
Make it visual
Make scripture visible and in your face. Write it out, type it out, screenshot it and wall paper it to your device – surround yourself with scriptures that are inspiring and comforting. When my husband went through a hurtful retrenchment and was without a job for half a year I found reading long passages of scripture hard to concentrate on and the anxiety often clouded out truth. So when I found one scripture comforting, I typed it out and stuck it next to my bed where I saw it every night and morning. I can’t tell you how it got me through that time and how often God brought up that same scripture in sermons, readings and even school assemblies during that time. Visual scripture is another great way to share the inspiration and relevance with your children too.
Make it audible
Listening to worship music that uses lines from scripture is another great way to let it sink deeper into your soul. There are so many songs that use passages of scripture and playing these just fills your home and heart with God’s word. During 2020 Kari Jobe’s song “THE BLESSING” based on Numbers 6:24-26 was so meaningful to many in this way.
Bible Study opens up scripture
Take part in bible studies. So often sharing God’s word with others opens it up to be wrestled with and internalised deeply. So I would really encourage you to make the most of any opportunity that shows up to study the word with others. Even if it’s a short course and not a permanent cell-group. It creates a space to immerse yourself in the word and ask questions about hard passages. If you can’t find one, create a group yourself and use an online study or one from a Christian bookshop to read together. During lockdown 2020 we got together a diverse group of friends and did a Max Lucado online study for just six weeks via Zoom. It was such a blessing to all involved in that challenging time and focussed us on God’s word.
Take home scriptures from sermons
When listening to sermons highlight scriptures, screenshot them or write them out. The following week reread that one scripture that stood out for you in the sermon and pray around it. So often the Holy Spirit opens it up and makes it even more relevant to your life.
Take the scripture truth test
Test all ideas, fake news, truths with scripture. Even test the way someone is quoting or using scripture to support an idea – is it out of context? We are living in a modern, media driven world with so many ideologies spouting out ideas that are thrust in our faces as truth. I have found that when an idea is bothering me, taking it to scripture and testing it against what God says, or reading what Jesus did in the gospels, so often helps me make sense of it and makes the scriptures relevant. It inspires me that words written so many years ago have the power to guide us through some very modern and challenging ideas through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Don’t beat around the bush
Just dive in – don’t just sit and admire the view – live in God’s word. Be patient with the seasons of life, don’t be legalistic about how you do it and don’t ever give up on exploring. I pray that like me you will find that “God’s word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path” (Psalms 119:105).
To help you get stuck in I have designed a scripture a month 2021 calendar. There is a desk calendar version and a screensaver/wallpaper version. Each month has a scripture and some devotional ideas around that verse to get you thinking about it. Please print it out or save it onto your device as a wallpaper so that you can make God’s word visual and part of your environment each month. It is my prayer that God will use this to bless you as you explore His word with me.