Hey friends! It’s week one of my church’s New Testament Bible reading plan and can I let you in on a little secret? I’m a little bit nervous.
Twenty-seven books in thirty days. It’s a little daunting. I can do it; I believe that. But the questions that keep popping up are: How will I do it? Will I read with intention? Will I read with expectation? The questions give me pause because, if I’m honest, I’m not quite sure yet.
If you are reading the New Thirty College Park reading plan (or another intensive reading plan) for the first time, let me just say, “I am proud of you!” There is great joy and life that await you in the stories that will unfold on those ancient pages. What about those of us who have read the gospels many, many times over the years? Or those who have memorized chunks of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Go Eat PopCorn, anyone?)? How should we enter into this reading plan?
Whether you’re embarking on a reading plan for the first time or have read the New Testament many times, the excitement of day one is bound to wear off at some point. When it does: what do we do? How should we begin a reading plan in a way that allows us to truly grow from it? I would like to challenge you with three thoughts to help you and I get more out of reading the Bible. These can be helpful for the College Park reading plan and can be applied to any form of Bible reading! Why? Because reading with humility, using your imagination, and using your resources are important no matter what portion of God’s Word you are reading.
1. Read with Humility
First, choose humility. Let’s remind our hearts that we are a fallen and broken people. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” In contrast to our sin-sick state, we hold these pages written by a holy God. Pages inspired by a God of justice, compassion, love, and wrath. Pages that have survived thousands of years and countless historical events and tragedies. God has preserved his Word throughout history because it’s his story.
So, if you are coming to this year’s reading of the New Testament with a wealth of biblical knowledge, I ask you to join me. Join me in putting on an imaginary pair of glasses before you begin. These glasses have a lens of humility and awe. Allow your heart and mind to be renewed by the wonder of The Story. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you new eyes to see familiar texts in new ways.
2. Use Your Imagination
Second, don’t be afraid of your imagination. Now, hear me out: I’m not saying you should add to the Word of God. That is a terrifying and grievous act. It’s not what I am suggesting. But maybe you are like me and you often find yourself reading the Bible like a manual. Let’s be honest—manuals are a bore. Straight up. We just purchased a new dishwasher, and I have not once been tempted to pick up that manual for some bedtime reading!
In contrast, the pages we are diving into are alive! “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). Be confident in that truth. Have confidence in the Spirit that dwells in you! Trust that he can bring fresh, vivid, and imaginative things to mind as you read. Our Creator is the fountain of all imagination! He is a God of color and wonder and intricate design. He made diverse cultures and peoples and stunning scenery for delight! He gives a sensational variety of foods and textures to be enjoyed. Add another lens to your reading glasses—the lens of imagination!
3. Use Your Resources
Finally, use the resources around you! I know many find it helpful to put themselves in the story they are reading by asking questions such as “What would that have felt like?” Or “What would I have done?” Furthering this idea, there are many resources that can help us enter into the biblical story by helping us better understand the historical setting. I have greatly benefited from different TV series such as The Bible or The Chosen. Although no human recreation of the biblical story will ever be perfect, they have proven to open my limited mindset in all sorts of ways. There are also many great fictional books that aim to place you in the culture surrounding Jesus’s time on earth or the setting of the early church.
Using these resources for the purpose of expanding your understanding of a people group or time in history can be very enlightening. I encourage you to use the work of authors and filmmakers to fan the flame of your faith and to point you to the greatest book ever written. So, grab those reading glasses and add this final lens!
Get More Out of Your Bible Reading
My glasses are ready, and I hope yours are too! I pray that as you and I open our Bibles this year, we would do so with humble expectation and intention. May the God of the Bible show each of us a gripping and blindingly beautiful glimpse of himself. May the eyes of our hearts be opened for his glory and our good.