Bible

2 Resources That Have Changed My Devotions

Is it hard for you to “get anything” out of your devotions? Is it frustrating to understand the Bible? Is it difficult for you to apply the Bible for your life today? Why is it often difficult to set aside time for our devotions? For many of us, the lack of familiarity with what the Bible says and realization of how the Bible applies to us is often what hinders us from growing in our devotional lives.

There have been various seasons of life where I have come across a resource that has greatly aided me in studying the Bible during my morning devotions. I remember my mother purchasing for me a copy of Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the whole Bible that I began to eat up during my college years. I remember coming across the commentary series called “God’s Word for You” (whose writers are Tim Keller, Tim Chester, Steven Lawson, Al Mohler, and others). I also have recently come across my new favorite commentary series from Banner of Truth called “Let’s Study” (whose writers are Sinclair Ferguson, Derek Thomas, Derek Prime, Mark Johnston, Iain Hamilton, Dennis Johnson, and others) which seems to be a perfect portion of reading for morning devotions. All of these resources have greatly helped me grow not merely in a knowledge of the Scriptures but in a devotional heart for the truth of Scripture while seeing it applied to real life.

If you’re anything like me, you often go through different phases of using different resources to aid your devotional studies. For much of my years since being a Christian, I have done more study of Scripture focusing on shorter sections at a time. I have not done so well of a job about reading bigger portions alongside that. Recently, the iPhone app “Read Scripture” from The Bible Project has helped me do just that. It has been the best big portion Bible reading structure for me. Other people have found better use out of other structures but for several reasons the “Read Scripture” app has worked well for me. It is easy to access and helpful to go at one’s own pace. The short video overviews of each book and some of the biblical themes in Scripture also help me to “see” the truth of Scripture better.

But, there is often a lingering thought that I have after reading massive portions of the text. How am I supposed to sink this reading into my heart more effectively? The last thing that we should want from a Bible reading plan is to get in the habit of merely completing the reading and checking off the section. Our Bible reading must go from head to heart. This leads me to the second resource that I recently discovered at the RTS Jackson bookstore that has become one of those studies that has changed my devotions.

Reformation Heritage Books has produced one of the best and most unique resources out there called the “Family Worship Bible Guide”. If I am honest, the title makes the resource sound more limiting than what it really is. This resource is an aid to applying the Bible to our lives. In very short reflections, with only 1 to 3 reflections per chapter in the Bible, the writers show what the point of the chapter is and how it affects our lives today. It is way more than merely a family worship guide, although certainly a phenomenal resource for family worship, but it is also a great resource for your own personal Bible study.

The Family Worship Bible Guide seeks to show how the teaching of Scripture changes your life. What it is trying to do is to show how the Bible reaches out and grabs the realities of life today. It has been a great way for the big chunks of Bible reading to sink into my heart more on a daily basis. For example, here is what you would read if your devotional reading this morning was on John 1:

1. When John called Jesus “the Word,” he implied that Christ not only brings us a message from God but is Himself the Message. Jesus is God in the flesh, the infinite glory and grace of the Father dwelling among men in the tabernacle of a human body. Therefore, to believe in Christ is much more than trusting Him to teach us or help us; saving faith is receiving Him as our God, our very life. What difference does it make to the Christian faith that Christ is God?

2. John the Baptist shows us that a preacher’s calling is to point away from himself to Christ and to lift the Savior high before men’s eyes. A minister can do this only by having a low view of himself and a high view of Christ. A Christ-centered ministry is particularly a cross-centered ministry, focusing regularly (though not exclusively) on Christ’s death as the Lamb of God. How can you pray for your ministers that they would be more like John in this manner?

3. To find Christ is the most wonderful discovery of all. It is too good to be kept to oneself. How can you become more like these early disciples who eagerly told their family and friends about Jesus?

Ed. Joel R. Beeke, Family Worship Bible Guide (Reformation Heritage Books: Grand Rapids, MI 2016), p. 718

That is one of the longer portions of what you would read for one chapter. Most are one to two insights for each chapter. It is a small book and easy to carry around with you anywhere you go (it is like a small Bible). It is also very reasonably priced considering what you would get from it (only $14-17 depending on where you look). In my opinion, it has been one of the best resources I have ever bought and certainly one that will aid in my devotions, sermon prep, counseling, blogging, and Sunday school. I would highly encourage you to consider using this resource for personal and/or family devotions.

Tips for Reading the Bible

Every Spring semester, our youth ministry puts on a reading challenge in which the entire group is divided up into teams where they compete against each other by seeing who can read the most. The winners come away with some sort of prize (and obviously immortal glory!). In years past, we have mixed it up with reading all kinds of books but this year we are focusing merely on reading the Bible. One of the categories of Christian experience that middle schoolers and high schoolers need to grow in is in their reading of the Bible (especially in a biblically illiterate age). One of the encouragements that I wanted to give our students were some tips for how to read the Bible. I thought that this might be helpful for even ages beyond the youth ministry. So, here are 23 tips for reading the Bible:

  1. Get you a hard copy Bible that you will make “your” Bible.

  2. Think about getting a “Journaling Bible” from Crossway in order to write down your reflections on the side.

  3. Download the “Read Scripture” app and follow its Bible reading plan. It’s free!

  4. Remember where each book of the Bible is in the entire story when you are reading it. (Ex: It is helpful to know that Daniel was written during Israel’s period in exile. Or, it is helpful to know that Esther is towards the very end of the Old Testament time period even though it’s not placed at the end of the Old Testament books.)

  5. Choose a book that your passionate about reading and start there.

  6. Read the introductory notes of the book before starting (if your Bible has those).

  7. Read all of the Bible in order to understand the books better.

  8. Ask these questions:

    1. What does this say about God?

    2. What does this say about us?

    3. What does this say about our need for Jesus?

    4. What does this about how we are to live?

  9. Read John Perritt’s booklet “Bible 101” to understand better how the Bible works.

  10. Don’t just think about what the Bible is saying but think about why God wants you to know this.

  11. Talk about what you read with someone else.

  12. Use helpful resources to go alongside your reading, such as:

    1. “God’s Word for You” series

    2. “Let’s Study” series

    3. Matthew Henry’s Commentary (easy to read!)

  13. Set aside time in the morning, afternoon, or evening that you protect and prioritize.

  14. Turn your phone over and the TV/computer off.

  15. Pray before you read and ask God to open your eyes to see what’s really there and to hear what He is saying.

  16. Pray afterward and ask God to sink this truth into your heart.

  17. If it is in the morning, grab your coffee to help you wake up.

  18. Set aside 15-20 minutes of undistracted focus.

  19. The more you read, the more it’ll make sense and the more you’ll want to read more.

  20. Use a Study Bible and read the notes at the bottom to help you understand what the text is saying. Try these Study Bibles:

    1. ESV Study Bible

    2. Reformation Study Bible

    3. Biblical Theology Study Bible

    4. Gospel Transformation Study Bible

  21. Read other good Christian books in order to understand the Bible better.

  22. Practice what you read.

  23. Don’t rush through your reading. Think about it.