This coming Sunday begins what the Church has called Holy Week or Passion Week. The time from Palm Sunday to Easter (Resurrection) Sunday has provided Christians with a week to give special attention to the person and work of Christ. It interrupts our normal rhythms and intentionally puts Jesus before us so we can reflect on the events leading up to and including his sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection. Below is a reading plan for the week, as well as activities and resources to help you leverage this significant week in the Church Calendar.
What did you read in the Bible yesterday or today? What did your pastor preach on last Sunday? I know, those are hard questions. It’s not that you weren’t paying attention but we all struggle to remember things we hear and even learn. We listen to sermons and read the Bible and often move on without doing something to help it “stick.”
My point in this post is straightforward. To improve how you reflect on (meditation) and respond to (application) the Bible, try writing out your own short summary of what you just read. Or on Sundays, do this with the sermon and text your pastor preached on.
“Lent invites us into practices where the Gospel is felt in our bodies—in hunger, in longings that go unsatisfied, in wants deferred. And these aren’t just “intellectual” realizations. My growling belly has stories to tell me about who I am and who I’m made for.” James K.A. Smith
Next Wednesday, the season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. This time in the Church Calendar carries us to Easter and the Passion Week. Our church has provided a Daily Reading and Weekly Fasting Guide. The daily reading plan focuses on Easter, and then during Passion Week it shifts to the events of Christ’s life from the Gospels.
There are some interesting parallels between Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in John 4 about water and his dialogue about bread with Jews following him in John 6. Reading the two together echoes John’s key themes for us. Here are some of the parallels in the accounts.
“If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.” John Owen
As believers, all of us desire to be in the Bible more often than we are and with greater depth and intimacy than we do. But we don’t all struggle with the same challenges with our Bible reading.
For one person, their biggest obstacle might be not knowing how to read, interpret, or understand the Bible. They’ve never been equipped to do so, which results in regular frustrations of putting the Bible back down without having a clue what they read. For others, it might be distractions from a phone blowing up with emails and text messages. Each of us have unique circumstances, varying levels of maturity, and our stages of life might differ. This is important because if we want to go deeper in God’s Word, we have to diagnose what’s personally keeping us back. We need to ask, “What are my biggest obstacles to more consistent and more meaningful times reading God’s Word?”
If you’re looking to grow in studying the Bible, here are some recommended resources. There are countless books, sermons, podcasts, articles, and blogs available on the topic, so this is just to get you started.
A common approach to studying the Bible is the Inductive Method. The goal is to draw out and rightly interpret a passage, not read into it or force our own meaning into it. While people use various words or acronyms to explain steps in the Inductive Method, the most simple is Observation-Interpretation-Application. In this post, I’ll provide suggested questions for learning how to make observations in a passage of the Bible. The observation stage asks, “What do I see?”
A key part of understanding what we read is to read the Bible reflectively. The questions below are not exhaustive, but they provide a framework of Look, Understand, Apply, and Pray to guide your reading. Find ways that help you study and apply God’s Word. Take notes; write down thoughts and prayers; ask questions; chew on or meditate on what you see; and ask a friend or use a good Study Bible or commentary if something doesn’t make sense.
We all need encouragement to read the Bible regularly. Maybe one thing that’s kept you from consistent Bible reading is not knowing what to read or where to turn. The nice thing about a reading plan is it provides a starting point. It takes out the question, “What should I red today?”
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” Martyn Lloyd Jones
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Isaiah 26:3-4)
Growing in Christ includes putting off sinful behaviors and putting on Christ-like ones, but it begins with battling at the levels of the heart (desires) and mind (thinking). The two are inseparable (Matt. 15:18-19). The heart leads our head down certain ways of thinking, and our wrong thinking reinforces wrong desires.