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Communing with God

A few weeks ago, I got the privilege of speaking to Quad City Christian School during their weekly chapel time. The week prior, I was racking my brain trying to think of what to speak on. At the end of 2020, I had given a message on the five ways that God speaks to us. I told them that I WISHED someone had taught me that when I was their age. I spent so much of my life trying to “hear” God in some big defining moment, when He was usually speaking to me through everyday circumstances.

I felt like I wanted to talk on ways to read your Bible but was flustered in my mind because I now understand that “reading your Bible” is a message we often receive without much explanation about just HOW to go about that in a way that connects who we are with God’s Word.

In short, reading your Bible is just a way to “commune with God” and when we think of it as “communing” it opens a lot more methods than just sitting down and reading. I thought I should share a few of these methods with the world-wide-webs as well.

Growing up, the church where I first began following Jesus was an amazing place, filled with people who invested in me, took care of me, and cheered me on in my faith. I will forever be grateful for the wonderful foundation they helped lay and smooth. AND, there were a few implicit messages that I picked up along the way that have been difficult to unlearn and not hold onto. One of which was “reading the Bible.” There was such a heavy emphasis on “reading the Bible” through messages, sermons, casual conversations and the like that as a member you just “caught” along the way. Things like:

  • Oh wow. Have you seen Emily’s Bible? You can tell she really reads it. When she opens it, there are tons of highlighter marks and notes in the margin! Whew. She is an amazing woman of faith!

  • Wow. I wish I could be an amazing woman of faith. I don’t know how to take notes in my Bible

  • I heard Mark say that he leaves his Bible in the car throughout the week so that he has it on Sunday morning!

  • everyone standing within this conversation circle gasps! Begins to think lesser of Mark.

  • Oh. You’re reading the NIV? You know that translation isn’t really accurate right?

  • Ummm. No? How is a translation “inaccurate”? What does that mean? Why would the Bible store sell an “inaccurate” translation? Ugh. No wonder I don’t know anything about the Bible.

  • Did you see Anthony’s Bible? It looks like it’s never been opened!

  • Poor Anthony. He needs to get his life together and start taking his walk more seriously.

  • Oh. You are still doing workbook studies for your “quiet time”? Huh. I guess I’ve just never really needed someone else to tell me what God’s Word says.

  • If I really knew God, I’d be able to read the Bible and just understand it. I shouldn’t need workbooks to tell me these things!

Have you ever heard anything like that? Felt any of the responses listed below? While I hope you haven’t, I know that too many of us have. And that’s why I want to speak into this topic….

Communing with God using His Word is more than just making notes in your Bible or reading the “right” translation. Communing with God is a way of spending time WITH God while using the Bible as a springboard and there are TONS of ways to do this.

There isn’t space to cover ALL of these ways in one post, so make sure you come back next week and check out the second half of the list. For now, we will cover the first two:

  • Bible Reading Plans

  • Workbooks/Study Guides

Bible Reading Plans:

There are a million Bible reading plans out there! You can Google, Bible reading plan and get instant results for a variety of plans. Some of these plans will be chronological, some will be cover-to-cover, others will combine different sections of the Bible in each day. Here are a few of my favorites that I’ve used throughout the years.

  • Reading the Bible Chronologically

  • If you read the Bible cover-to-cover, the story will not be chronological. Our Bible was arranged by genre, rather than timeline. Google “chronological Bible reading plan” and follow the one that works for you.

  • Reading the Bible by Genre

  • This one was one of my favorites for a number of years. Each day of the week was a different genre and I would simply read the text for as many minutes as I had that day. I kept paper clips to hold my space.

  • Monday: Proverbs (start your week with wisdom)

  • Tuesday: Pentateuch (Genesis through Esther)

  • Wednesday: Poetry (Job-Song of Solomon, skipping Proverbs)

  • Thursday: Propehcy (Isaiah-Malachi)

  • Friday: Gospels (Matthew-Acts)

  • Saturday: Paul and Pastoral Letters (Romans-Jude)

  • Sunday: Revelation

  • This can be slightly adopted for personal use. Some do not consider Job as “poetry” and add it into the history day. Others will include Revelation in their Saturday chunk so that they have one day “off” a week. Do what works for you!

  • Reading Cover-To-Cover

  • I’ll be honest. I haven’t met anyone personally that has ever done this successfully AND enjoyed it. If you’re one of those people, I cheer you on from the sidelines!

A NOTE REGARDING TRANSLATIONS-translations vary greatly and it can be difficult to discern which one is the best for you. Here is what I tell everyone: whatever translation you enjoy and can follow is the one that is best for you.

In different seasons of my life, different translations have spoken to me and helped me connect with God closely. Rather than judging myself or letting others do the same, I accept that even spiritual life has ebbs and flows. In times where I do not feel particularly “close” to God or “enthused” about God’s Word, I’ll use The Message or the CEB (Common English Bible). When I’ve been in a studious season of my life I’ve used the ESV or NASB. When I first became a believer, I used the NIV (until someone told me it was inaccurate *eyeroll eyeroll* and then I switched the New King James. Right now, I am using the NLT-for both my doctorate work and my personal time.

Utilizing Bible Study Guides or Workbooks:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a Bible study guide or workbook for your time with God. Do not let anyone convince you otherwise. Some of my most foundational knowledge and enlightenment came from using other Bible teachers and pastors study materials. Again, throughout seasons of my life, these things have been very useful to me and my spiritual growth. Not every person who publishes a Bible Study or workbook is worthy of being followed, however, do not be afraid of branching out and using a workbook from an author you have never heard of, who has a different denominational background than yours, or is theologically more “liberal” or even “more conservative” than you may be. We can learn A LOT from various viewpoints. If you are not sure about a particular author, ask a pastor or other lay leader that you respect and I’m sure they can help you.

  • Daily Devotionals

  • These are great if you’re a routine keeper. There are free daily resources like Our Daily Bread that you can receive in paper copies or online. There are devotionals that will get sent to your email every morning. There are also physical books with thematic material that are chock full of great stuff.

  • I was taught as a high-schooler a method I share with you now:

  • Purchase a notebook; using your daily devotional, read the material presented then:

  • Write down the Scripture passage reference for that day

  • Then write what a summary of that passage

  • Then write what you believe God is saying to you through that passage

  • Then write what you’d like to say to God

  • This was a great method for me in certain seasons of my life. I didn’t feel like I had to be an academic professor or theologian in order to connect more deeply with God’s Word.

  • Workbooks

  • There are THOUSANDS of workbooks available to believers, especially in America. Here a just a few way they are categorized

  • Scriptural theme (ex: Prayer, Obedience, Worship)

  • Character or Spiritual Discipline theme (ex: how to pray, how/why to fast, Biblical leadership, etc)

  • Specific Book of the Bible (ex: Genesis, Matthew, Paul’s Letters)

  • Specific Genre of the Bible (ex: Pentateuch, the Gospels)

  • Specific People of the Bible (ex: Moses, Abraham, Paul, David, Jesus)

  • Specific Scripture Passage (ex: Fruit of the Spirit, Armor of God, etc)

  • Theology (ex: study on predestination, study on salvation, etc)

  • Characteristics of God (ex: Names of God, God’s mercy, God’s grace, etc)

  • Study on Seasons of Life (ex: study for those entering empty nest life-stage, study for new moms, study for dads of girls, studies for those in the military, etc)

I’m sure there are even more than that. But rather than being exhaustive, my intent is to simply say, PICK ONE and enjoy it! Too many of us, me included, were taught that if we are not reading God’s Word every day then we are failing, we don’t take our faith seriously, or aren’t disciplined enough and thus, disappointing God regularly.

Lean in. Listen closely. You are NOT disappointing God. ANY TIME we spend with God is used and never wasted. If that’s five minutes, fifteen, or an hour. Some days will be easier than others. Do NOT let the inappropriate guilt trap you into believing lies.

And what to do if neither of these two methods are really your thing??? Come back for Part 2 of this blog post for more methods next week!

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