Update, July 2018

It has been so long since I posted anything here that I thought the easiest way to get going again would be to do a general update on where I’m at currently. 

Reading

I’ve been reading a lot this year, and the content of my reading has transitioned over recent months to being dominated by Christian topics. I view this as a good thing as it reflects an underlying transition in my thinking back to being more God focused than I have been for a while. My reading does tend to follow the direction my heart is inclining, hence the eclectic selection in my lists of books I have read.

Bible

Earlier this year I bought a New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, which is the King James Version of the Bible with modern spelling (eg, ‘show’ rather than ‘shew’) and crucially, in paragraph format rather than having each verse begin on a new line. The paragraph format makes a huge difference to the readability of this version and I’ve been enjoying reading the version of the Bible which has made such a massive impact on the English language.

However, I’ve also gone in the other direction on Bible translations and returned to reading the NIV for my main daily reading. This has been like reuniting with an old friend as it is the translation I used for the first five years of my Christian life. I read the Bible a lot during this period so revisiting this translation is helping motivate me to read it a lot more now too. 

Social Media

I caved in and did open a new Facebook account at the start of June. I have only added 30 people as friends, all of whom I know well in real life but some I don’t see very often currently so this is a way to keep in touch. I’ve noticed though that most of these folks don’t actually post much to Facebook anyway so the ‘staying connected’ aspect is not all that useful.

Family

Our kids are generally doing OK. One is about to change schools in the hope of getting more support for some particular learning needs. The decision to make this change has been a long time in coming and we have tried a lot of other options before making such a big change. In the end our priority is to ensure each of our kids gets an education that builds them up and gives them a good foundation for life. Each child is different so we are seeking the best combination of teachers, facilities and systems to fit each one.

One of our parents had major heart surgery in June. This was a very anxious time because even the surgeons were not confident of a positive outcome. However, so far, so good. The first week of recovery was tense, but there has been a steady improvement since.

Evernote expired

My paid subscription to Evernote expired last month and I chose not to renew it. The plan I was using allowed me to save over a gigabyte of notes each month so my habit was to use the web clipper tool to save any article I thought I might want to read from the web. Because of this my collection of notes was growing much faster than I could read those articles. Being a person who likes to completely finish things, I felt an internal pressure to read all the stuff I had saved. Since stopping that subscription I’ve changed my approach and now try to decide if something is worth reading before I even consider saving it. I try to read things immediately if they seem worthwhile, or park it in a browser tab. If I haven’t read it by the end of the day I close the tab on the assumption that if it is actually important I will stumble across it again or can do a search and find something similar. If I was not motivated to read it during the day, it probably is not relevant enough to me to bother saving.

Low tech evenings

Without setting out to, I’ve become mostly technology free in my evenings over the last few months. This has largely been a progression from committing myself to reading less off the internet and more books. Then my Kindle died so I got in the habit of reading hardcopy books, and my phone battery is also dying so it goes flat quick enough to dissuade me from wasting time on games or reading the news. I am also reading the Bible a lot more these days and I use a nice leather bound Bible so enjoy the experience of reading from that. (I did replace my old Kindle with a new one and do use it, I just enjoy real, paper books more).

The pleasant result of this coalescence of factors is that my evenings are less stressful than they were when using technology a lot – there are no crashes or slow internet issues, my eyes get less tired, and it seems much easier to think about important things rather than trivia when the world is further than a click or tap away. I am currently finding it more effort to login on the laptop than to grab my book from the shelf beside the couch. In my view this is a good thing.

We have three school aged children so life is no less busy for me than it was when I spent my evenings glued to screens, but it feels better now. My thoughts are able to follow a track to its conclusion rather then being interrupted or sidelined by some alert or glittery distraction. I’m able to concentrate better on books that require hard thinking to read them well, and I have quite a stack of this sort of books.

I haven’t attained nirvana or transcendental bliss, I still can waste an evening reading crap on the internet. But now I notice the loss of that evening acutely and feel worse for the internet time rather than fooling myself that I’m ‘staying informed’. Most of what is published on the internet is garbage now, so it is hard to know what are reliable sources and what are not, and even the better ones are still often profit driven and rely on advertising so generate content to gain clicks not to publish quality journalism. Surfing the web is not an easy way to ‘stay informed’, books are easier.

Bible reading times

How long does it take to read each book of the Bible? I found the graphic which prompted this post on the blog of Jeff Medders. There are also some fancier versions with the same numbers, an Old Testament one, and a New Testament version. As I was digging around the web researching this post I discovered that the source of the reading times appears to be the Desiring God article Three Tips for Better Bible Reading.

I also found another list with slightly different numbers here (if you click that link it will download the document).

What I have done is to combine the numbers to give a range of time to read each book, which I think is more realistic because we don’t all read at the same speed. Also, I suspect the Desiring God numbers may be a bit optimistic. For some books such as 1 & 2 Samuel, Desiring God only have one number for reading both books so I had to do a bit of an estimate to get the range. In these cases the time for reading both books as claimed by Desiring God is also listed.

I also found a list of the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Grade Level (lower is easier to read) for each book in the ESV (Crossway). The grade level is effectively equivalent to the expected reading level after that many years of school. This is more about how easy or difficult it is to parse each sentence rather than whether the passage is easy to understand. Also note that the algorithm chokes on poetry because it is weighted to assume short sentences are easier to read (hence the book of Job is rated as easy to read!)

  • Genesis: 3 hrs 30 min – 4 hrs 35 min.
    (50 chapters, 32,046 words) Reading level 6.3
  • Exodus: 3 hours – 3 hrs 37 min.
    (40 chapters, 25,957 words) Reading level 7.3
  • Leviticus: 2 hours – 2 hrs 35 min.
    (27 chapters, 18,852 words) Reading level 8.7
  • Numbers: 3 hours – 3 hrs 35 min.
    (36 chapters, 25,048 words) Reading level 8.5
  • Deuteronomy: 2 hrs 30 min – 3 hrs 8 min.
    (34 chapters, 23,008 words) Reading level 8.7
  • Joshua: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 8 min.
    (24 chapters, 15,671 words) Reading level 9.4
  • Judges: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 5 min.
    (21 chapters, 15,385 words) Reading level 7.4
  • Ruth: 15 – 20 minutes.
    (4 chapters, 2,039 words) Reading level 6.3
  • 1 Samuel: 2 hrs 15 min – 2 hrs 45 min.
    (31 chapters, 20,837 words) Reading level 6.4
  • 2 Samuel: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 18 min.
    (24 chapters, 17,170 words) Reading level 6.7
  • 1 & 2 Samuel: 4 hours
  • 1 Kings: 2 hrs 8 min – 2 hrs 47 min.
    (22 chapters, 20,361 words) Reading level 7.8
  • 2 Kings: 2 hrs 8 min – 2 hrs 40 min.
    (25 chapters, 18,784 words) Reading level 7.8
  • 1 & 2 Kings: 4.25 hours
  • 1 Chronicles: 2 hrs 15 min – 2 hrs 56 min
    (29 chapters, 16,664 words) Reading level 8.7
  • 2 Chronicles: 2 hrs 15 min – 3 hrs 2 min
    (36 chapters, 21,349 words) Reading level 9.3
  • 1 & 2 Chronicles: 4.5 hours
  • Ezra: 40 – 58 minutes
    (10 chapters, 5,605 words) Reading level 9.8
  • Nehemiah: 1 hour – 1 hr 20 min
    (13 chapters, 8,507 words) Reading level 8.9
  • Esther: 30 – 40 minutes
    (10 chapters, 4,932 words) Reading level 9.8
  • Job: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 49 min
    (42 chapters, 12,674 words) Reading level 4.2
  • Psalms: 5 hours – 7 hrs 38 min
    (150 chapters, 30,147 words) Reading level 3.9
  • Proverbs: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 45 min
    (31 chapters, 9,921 words) Reading level 5.3
  • Ecclesiastes: 30 – 48 minutes
    (12 chapters, 4,537 words) Reading level 6.0
  • Song of Songs: 20 – 32 minutes
    (8 chapters, 2,020 words) Reading level 4.9
  • Isaiah: 3 hrs 45 min – 5 hrs 47 min
    (66 chapters, 25,608 words) Reading level 5.5
  • Jeremiah: 4 hours – 5 hrs 36 min
    (52 chapters, 33,002 words) Reading level 7.5
  • Lamentations: 20 – 36 minutes
    (5 chapters, 2,324 words) Reading level 4.0
  • Ezekiel: 3 hrs 45 min – 4 hrs 25 min
    (48 chapters, 29,918 words) Reading level 7.1
  • Daniel: 1 hr 15 min – 1 hr 20 min
    (12 chapters, 9,001 words) Reading level 8.5
  • Hosea: 30 – 51 minutes
    (14 chapters, 3,615 words) Reading level 4.9
  • Joel: 12 – 22 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,447 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Amos: 25 – 43 minutes
    (9 chapters, 3,027 words) Reading level 5.3
  • Obadiah: 4 – 7 minutes
    (1 chapter, 440 words) Reading level 6.1
  • Jonah: 8 – 11 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1082 words) Reading level 6.2
  • Micah: 20 – 33 minutes
    (7 chapters, 2,118 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Nahum: 8 – 14 minutes
    (3 chapters, 855 words) Reading level 3.8
  • Habakkuk: 9 – 16 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,011 words) Reading level 4.3
  • Zephaniah: 10 –17 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,141 words) Reading level 5.2
  • Haggai: 7 – 9 minutes
    (2 chapters, 926 words) Reading level 5.9
  • Zechariah: 40 – 47 minutes
    (14 chapters, 4,855 words) Reading level 6.9
  • Malachi: 11 – 15 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,320 words) Reading level 6.3
  • Matthew: 2 hrs 30 min – 2 hrs 55 min
    (28 chapters, 18,346 words) Reading level 6.6
  • Mark: 1 hr 30 min – 1 hr 55 min
    (16 chapters, 11,304 words) Reading level 6.1
  • Luke: 2 hrs 30 min – 3 hrs 10 min
    (24 chapters, 19,482 words) Reading level 6.5
  • John: 2 hours – 2 hrs 20 min
    (21 chapters, 15,635 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Acts: 2 hrs 15 min – 2 hrs 55 min
    (28 chapters, 18,450 words) Reading level 8.3
  • Romans: 1 hour – 1 hr 18 min
    (16 chapters, 7,111 words) Reading level 7.1
  • 1 Corinthians: 1 hour – 1 hr 10 min
    (16 chapters, 6,830 words) Reading level 6.3
  • 2 Corinthians: 38 – 40 minutes
    (13 chapters, 4,477 words) Reading level 7.6
  • Galatians: 20 – 25 minutes
    (6 chapters, 2.230 words) Reading level 7.8
  • Ephesians: 20 – 25 minutes
    (6 chapters, 2,422 words) Reading level 11.7
  • Philippians: 14 – 18 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,629 words) Reading level 9.0
  • Colossians: 13 – 18 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,582 words) Reading level 9.0
  • 1 Thessalonians: 12 – 15 minutes
    (5 chapters, 1,481 words) Reading level 8.5
  • 2 Thessalonians: 7 – 10 minutes
    (3 chapters, 823 words) Reading level 8.8
  • 1 Timothy: 16 – 20 minutes
    (6 chapters, 1,591 words) Reading level 9.7
  • 2 Timothy: 11 – 15 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,238 words) Reading level 9.1
  • Titus: 7 – 10 minutes
    (3 chapters, 659 words) Reading level 9.7
  • Philemon: 3 – 5 minutes
    (1 chapter, 335 words) Reading level 8.8
  • Hebrews: 45 – 60 minutes
    (13 chapters, 4,95 words) Reading level 9.5
  • James: 16 – 20 minutes
    (5 chapters, 1,742 words) Reading level 6.4
  • 1 Peter: 16 – 22 minutes
    (5 chapters, 1,684 words) Reading level 8.8
  • 2 Peter: 10 – 12 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,099 words) Reading level 10.2
  • 1 John: 16 – 20 minutes
    (5 chapters, 2,141 words) Reading level 6.1
  • 2 John: 2 – 3 minutes
    (1 chapter, 245 words) Reading level 7.2
  • 3 John: 2 – 3 minutes
    (1 chapter, 219 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Jude: 4 – 6 minutes
    (1 chapter, 461 words) Reading level 8.5
  • Revelation: 1 hr 15 min – 1 hr 40 min
    (22 chapters, 9,851 words) Reading level 8.4

12 June 2018 update:

Over the last couple of months I’ve been reading the King James Version of the Bible and realised that another factor that will have an impact on how long it takes to read the Bible is the translation you use. This probably is a reasonably consistent factor across all books of the Bible though so I guess that for some translations like the KJV you could just assume it will always take a bit longer to read than for others such as the NIV.

Finding faith in the bible

I always get a thrill of joy when I read John 1:9-13, particularly verses 12 & 13.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, the gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [John 1:9–13, ESV]

To be given the right to become a child of God, born anew by the choice and approval of God!

Perhaps the thrill I find in this passage is the result of having been on both sides of the belief fence described here. Growing up I was agnostic, verging on atheistic in my attitudes towards Christianity in particular. Yet, when I did encounter Christian faith up close I found I envied my friends who could believe in God and Jesus. Even in my unbelief I saw the comfort that could come from having wholehearted faith in God, but I simply did not have even a hint of such faith.

It was about three years later that I crossed from being someone who didn’t know Jesus to believing in him and being given the right to become a child of God. And the faith which got me to that place was also a gift from God, coming through reading the gospel of John before I believed.

As I read John’s gospel I had an increasing sense that what I was reading was true. Jesus as portrayed in this gospel was alive and real, interacting with ordinary folks like me, quite different to how I had imagined God to be. The more I read the more convinced I became that what I was reading could be true. And if it was true, then I was in big trouble!

God let me stew on that for half a week before I was invited to church by a friend and somehow found myself praying to Jesus, asking him to forgive my sin and redeem my soul.

What stands out to me now almost thirty years later is that God birthed faith in me through my reading the Bible despite me barely understanding what I was reading.  Now I seek to rekindle the fire of my faith, remembering the way God started me on this path confirms that I should I seek Him again in His Word.

Prepare now for your next spiritual drought

After many cycles of spiritual growth and dryness in my own life, I have learned the value of ‘banking’ spiritual graces.

Have you ever tried to read the Bible only to realise that after ten minutes you have not taken in a word? Or spent time with your eyes closed attempting to pray but really chasing anxious thoughts as if herding cats?

It is normal to go through seasons of spiritual dryness. Times when prayer and Bible reading become exercises in raw discipline or diminish to nothing. None of us want to remain in such a barren place, but how long we have to endure is God’s call, not ours.

I think it is good to always attempt to nurture your relationship with God, even when it feels as if you are just ‘going through the motions’. I also think it is valuable to accept the barren season for what it is and not heap guilt upon yourself when the going gets tough.

After many cycles of spiritual growth and dryness in my own life, I have learned the value of ‘banking’ spiritual graces. I now try to fill up with the disciplines of Bible reading, memorization, and prayer during my times of plenty. This gives me a reserve to draw upon when it is difficult to read the Bible and God seems distant.

In seasons of growth, make the most of it. Farmers use the growth seasons of spring and summer to make hay to feed their stock through the dark winter months. Be wise and use easy times (or even just ‘normal’ periods) to grow spiritually. Hard times will come again and once they arrive it is too late to start building spiritual condition.

When the fight is difficult, it is enough to stand (Ephesians 6:13).

If you are able to read the Bible today, do so. If you can pray even a little, take the opportunity to come into God’s presence. Go to church, or homegroup, even if it is tiresome or inconvenient. The day will come when you will wish you had done all this much more.


Scripture references:

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (ESV)

Baby steps

Last year my Bible reading went out the window. This was an effect of depression, not the cause, but it did not help. It took huge effort to read even a single chapter, an effort I often could not summon in the midst of depression.

In these early stages of my journey to living a better life, I am setting small goals that I hope will be easily attainable while providing big payoffs over time.

One of these goals is to read 5 chapters of the Bible each day. This is enough to get me through the entire Bible in one year even if I skip the odd day. Also, I’ve done it before so know it is achievable with a little focus.

Last year my Bible reading went out the window. This was an effect of depression, not the cause, but it did not help. It took huge effort to read even a single chapter, an effort I often could not summon in the midst of depression. Now I am able to read more easily it is time to correct the imbalance.

Why read the Bible?

Firstly, because this is how I grow in my understanding of God and how I should live as one of His people.

Secondly, as I read and ponder the Scriptures, the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles take root in my heart. They then have a chance to affect and change my thoughts and attitudes. This is the sort of change that really makes a difference, more so than merely following the latest self-help fad.

Thirdly, reading the Bible washes away my own faulty thinking. By filling my mind with words, thoughts, poetry and stories that are from God I crowd out the mistaken ideas and beliefs I have about myself, others and life that otherwise cause me to make bad choices.

How?

I’ve found two useful ways of reading to enable these three benefits to occur. One is to read slowly, thinking over what each sentence means, what it was written to achieve and how that applies to me. The other way is to read more quickly, covering a lot of ground but persisting until the ‘washing’ effect I mentioned has occurred and my thoughts are aligning themselves with what I’ve been reading.

Both approaches take time, but to read 5 chapters at a sedate pace only takes around 15 minutes which can easily fit into most daily schedules. The real battle is often the willpower to block out competing distractions and simply start.

To keep track of my progress I have a printed list of the books of the Bible and the chapters in each book. I simply cross off each chapter once I’ve read it. This allows me to read in whatever order I like while keeping track of progress. There are smart phone apps but I’ve found they don’t give the flexibility of pen on paper.

Here are some suitable checklists:

(I am only recommending the checklists from these websites, I cannot vouch for the other content of the sites)

For a good discussion of the benefits of reading the Bible see:


Image: Shutterstock

Feedback for faith

It is reasonably well established that the spiritual growth of Christians is closely linked to how regularly we read the Bible, ponder it’s meaning for us and engage with God in prayer.

Most of us can verify this in our own lives, the times when we have grown spiritually have often been those periods when we have spent more time in the Bible and praying. There can be a strong feedback loop in this; the more I am engaging with God the more I want to pray and read the Bible. Unfortunately, the converse is also true; the less I read the Bible the less I engage with God and the less inclined I am to continue to read the Bible.

I would not want to be dogmatic on which happens first in this feedback loop, it seems to me that if either factor slips the situation in general either spirals downwards or grows in worship. What matters most is to know that they are indeed linked. Being aware of this link enables each of us to influence our spiritual growth.

Yet it can be frustratingly difficult to maintain a regular habit of engaging with the Bible and engaging with God. I have been a Christian since I was 18 years old and for some reason it seems to be getting harder to maintain these habits as I get older rather than becoming easier which is what my expectation was (most habits get easier the longer you do them – driving is a good example). Several obvious reasons for this come to mind; I have 3 children who are still fairly young, I own a mortgage with a house attached so time is needed to maintain this liability, and I work on a 24-hour rotating roster so do not have a set bedtime or wake up time.

However, there are also increasing concerns that the digital age is bringing new pressures upon our devotional habits. In October 2013 David Murray posted a couple of articles looking at technology-related factors which make it more difficult to spend time with God:

  • Loss of boundaries between work and private life
  • Loss of concentration due to multitasking habits
  • Habitual scanning of text when reading
  • Loss of meditation/deep thinking
  • Loss of memory (as in Bible memorization, not Alzheimer’s disease!)
  • Loss of problem solving
  • Loss of social connection
  • Loss of sleep (definitely a problem for me!)
  • Loss of quiet
  • Loss of friendships
  • Loss of family time
  • Loss of privacy
  • Too much time wasting
  • Loss of purity
  • Loss of patience
  • Loss of wisdom
  • Loss of humility

For more detail on these problems, check out the original post. Multitasking, social media and Google cop the blame in David Murray’s post. I’m not in full agreement with his list as many of these things can be lumped together under the problem of having almost constant access to unlimited information and amusements. But it is good to consider how technology is interfering with my spiritual life. The followup post was a little more practical: 20 Tips For Personal Devotions in the Digital Age. Again, I don’t agree with everything on his list but it is a good start.

For myself, this difficulty in maintaining good devotional habits is a result of several intertwined factors: being much too easily distracted by the computer/internet, lack of sleep, reserving some quiet space in the day, and forgetting that being in fellowship with God is the greatest thing I can have.

At least there are some steps I can take to improve things:

  • Get more sleep
  • Step away from the computer sooner
  • Spend some time with God – even a little bit of real fellowship is a start

Fidgety prayers

fidgety-prayers

There was a time when I used to get up early each morning to spend time seeking God at the beginning of my day. That habit gradually faded as wife, children, work and the internet filled up my life.

These days it is generally easier for me to get time alone late in the evenings rather than in the mornings. Yet making constructive use of this time to seek God takes discipline to turn off the computer or TV, to put down my book and pick up the Bible. Just as it takes resolve and discipline to get out of bed early on a cold morning. My problem is not primarily one of having no time but lies in how I am choosing to use what time I’ve got.

I recall my bachelor days when I would get up and enjoy a cup of tea while reading the Bible and praying before getting ready for work. So in order to reactivate some dormant memory cells, last night I made a cup of tea and sat down to read and pray. My mind wandered, I fidgeted and walked around the room. But I was seeking God.

​Something which has encouraged me in my messy, inadequate pursuit of God is a quote I recently read from Henri Nouwen:

“WHY should I spend an hour in prayer when I do nothing during that time but think about people I am angry with, people who are angry with me, books I should read and books I should write, and thousands of other silly things that happen to grab my mind for a moment?

The answer is: because God is greater than my mind and my heart, and what is really happening in the house of prayer is not measurable in terms of human success and failure.

What I must do first of all is be faithful. If I believe that the first commandment is to love God with my whole heart, mind, and soul, then I should at least be able to spend one hour a day with nobody else but God. The question as to whether it is helpful, useful, practical, or fruitful is completely irrelevant, since the only reason to love is love itself. Everything else is secondary.

The remarkable thing, however, is that sitting in the presence of God for one hour each morning — day after day, week after week, month after month — in total confusion and with myriad distractions radically changes my life. God, who loves me so much that He sent His only son not to condemn me but to save me, does not leave me waiting in the dark too long.

I might think that each hour is useless, but after thirty or sixty or ninety such useless hours, I gradually realize that I was not as alone as I thought; a very small gentle voice has been speaking to me far beyond my noisy place.

So: Be confident and trust in the Lord.”

From The Road to Daybreak, by Henri Nouwen.​ (I read this here)

The state of my heart


My ‘project’ to live consistently according to my beliefs is a bit like someone setting out to make some healthy changes to their lifestyle (in fact it is a lot like that!). Most health programmes carry a disclaimer stating that anyone over forty years old should only begin a fitness regime on the advice of their doctor, a big concern being that someone may start exercising and collapse with a heart attack.

I am over forty, and know that I am out of shape spiritually. Therefore it would be wise to do a bit of a heart checkup as I seek to exercise some spiritual discipline in my life. ​

Just as a cardiologist will do multiple tests to assess the state of a person’s heart muscle, understanding the state of my heart before God must take into account many factors: Am I hungering and thirsting for God? ​Is my life governed by God’s Word? Am I becoming more loving? Do I delight in the Bride of Christ? Is my heart broken over sin? How quickly do I forgive?

​That is not an exhaustive list (in fact it is stolen from the book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald S. Whitney), I am assuming that I will come across many other indicators of the state of my heart as I go on. There are also the ‘rough and ready’ indicators which we are all familiar with, and these serve to reveal the baseline of my current spiritual state, just as heart rate and blood pressure give a quick estimate of cardiac health.

WARNING: this will be disappointing!

Prayer: I currently pray very little. Days may pass completely without purposeful praying. When I do pray it tends to be while doing other things such as washing the dishes or walking to work so my thoughts wander far and wide in the process. When I timed how long I actually prayed over several days it was less than 5 minutes each day!

Bible reading: This used to be a strong point but has dwindled in the last couple of years. Some days I manage to read my target 5 chapters a day, often I read only one or two chapters and it is not uncommon for me to not open my Bible at all for several days.

Giving: Woeful (erratic and not much).

Serving: I preach about once every 6 weeks and serving as a member of the leadership board for our little church.

Evangelism:​ Nonexistent, fear keeps my lips sealed.​

As you can see, this is a picture of someone who is fat, flabby and complacent. Moving out of this state will be a challenge and is going to take time. My gut feeling is that prayer is where I need to begin, with the first battle being to make space for quietness before God. On that note I’d like to point you toward a post from a friend about exactly that:​ Learning in silence.


Image: iStock

Choose your sword wisely


I have used three different Bible translations for my ‘daily’ reading (well, ‘reading most days’!) over the years. However, in retrospect I’m not sure that it is such a wise idea to change translations – I started off reading the NIV, then after about five years changed to the NKJV because it was more literal and reading that version gave some passages much more force than the NIV which appeared to have ‘softened’ the impact. About four years ago I changed again and now read the ESV. This change was partly because this translation comes highly recommended and also because I like the flow of the language – contemporary English with good grammatical structure, not ‘dumbed down’, and a literal translation rather than a paraphrase.

Each of these translations has been used by God to nurture my faith in Jesus. I’m glad to be reading the ESV, but the problem with having changed translations is that I still ‘think in NIV’. When I know there is a passage in the Bible about something I almost invariably remember the NIV version of the text rather than the ESV or NKJV, which makes searching for it online tricky because generally I search for the ESV text because that’s what I currently use.

The great irony of having accurate online search tools for the Bible is that I often can’t find what I’m after there – I have to pull out my old NIV exhaustive concordance from the bookshelf and flip pages until I find the passage I remembered, then look it up in my ESV. Maybe it is a sign of old age that I can find Bible information quicker in a paper book than electronically!

The point of all this? Don’t switch translations without having a VERY good reason to do so, it is good to be able to ‘think Bible’ in the same translation as you read every day (or most days). In the end the important thing is to be reading the Bible rather than analyzing it academically.

Another good reason to stick with one bible is the tendency to remember not only the words but also the position of those words on the page. It sounds silly, but this is does make it much easier to find the verse that convicted you last week. One obvious disadvantage of eReaders I suppose!


Image of open Bible: iStockphoto