How often do you read the Bible? Do you read it at all? If your honest answer to those questions are "not much" or "no", you are not alone. Most people, even professing Christians, struggle to regularly engage in scripture reading. As I preached this past Sunday, only about 20% of the US population has read the Bible one time through or more, and less than 50% have read more than a few scripture passages, if anything at all. The reasons are varied; We don't have enough time in our busy schedules, we have no knowledge of how to read the Bible, no resources to guide us through it, no one to help us understand it, no interest in learning more about it, or we simply don't think it's a very important part of our faith.
Whatever reasons we have for not engaging in it, the Bible is the
critical foundation for understanding what it means to be Christian and to follow after God. In short, if you come to church, profess a faith in God, and put your hope in God, then diving into this book is as important a way to express your commitment as anything we do as Christians. But, it's confusing, its long, and it's clumsy to understand due to the many translations and complex language. For many who do try to engage in the text, personal study sometimes doesn't reveal much to us on our own without the right guidance, resources or direction.
My challenge for this year is to join together with the church and
begin to read the Bible in a new and fresh way. Each month, we are going to spend time together on just one book of the Bible. For January, we focused on the Gospel of Mark. I have provided a short weekly guide to help you better understand the book as you read it. I will continue to have these guides available for each month of our readings. My goal isn't to get through the entire Bible in a set timeline. My goal is to help everyone develop a better understanding for the Bible, as well as develop the tools and resources available to grow in your knowledge of God and your relationship with God through Scripture.
The best ways to succeed at this challenge are varied. But I encourage you to find a good study Bible in a modern translation that you can follow (I use the Common English Bible and our pews have the New Revised Standard Bible in them, both of which are good translations). Use a journal or notebook as you read, or at least a highlighter to track your notes and key passages. Take your time, go for quality reading over quantity. Form a group of other members who you can read with or share thoughts with after you read. And don't be afraid to ask questions of me or others in the church who are also engaging with this challenge. Reading the Bible takes time, and understanding the Bible takes a lifetime. I promise you that the more you dive into this book of books, the closer it will bring you to our Creator, and the more it will change your life for the better. I hope you'll join us on this journey.
For January, read through the Gospel of Mark. You can pick up a copy of the Reading guide in the church office or click this link. In February, we will focus on the Epistle of Ephesians. The study guide for it will be available soon.