wherever you are, whenever you can
open up the Bible HEARING GOD SPEAK
Tim Chester on the value of regular time with God
Nate Morgan Locke on Bible reading for teens
Abi Byrd on reading the Bible with your family
Wherever you are, whenever you can, open up the Bible
ost Christians know that reading God's word is a great idea. It is the way God speaks to us. The way He changes us and makes us grow. The way He guides us and counsels us. The way He cares for us and comforts us. Yet so many of us just don't get round to finding the time to actually do it. Our lives are busy. It's hard to find a quiet moment. There are so many other distractions and things that need to be done. So how do we make the time to open up the Bible? Well here's our suggestion—get creative about where and when you do your Bible reading. Many people find that first thing in the morning is a great time to do it, and it sets the day going on the right track. But if that doesn't work for you, find another time—on your commute, in the park, on your lunch break, while the baby is napping, when the kids go to bed, when you go to bed!
There is no "right time"—just a time that works for you.
Get into the habit of having a Bible handy wherever you go, and develop the habit of opening it up whenever you get the chance. And ask God to give you the discipline to get serious about reading His word. This magazine is full of tips and ideas to encourage you to get started. Plus you'll find resources for every age and stage of life that are designed to help you understand and apply the Bible to your life. There's also a brand new website— openupthebible.com—which features interviews and articles as well as some great free resources. Why not check it out for inspiration? Our prayer is that wherever you are, and whenever you can, you'll make time to open up the Bible and grow stronger in your understanding and your faith, and more like our Lord Jesus Christ.
Tim Thornborough Editorial Director The Good Book Company
Brand new website get online for videos, articles, resources & FREE downloads
wherever you are, whenever you can First thing in the morning…
“I read my Bible early in the morning, because we have 4 kids and once they’re up, any opportunity of a meaningful time of quiet is over!”
At lunch time… “Taking some time out in the middle of a busy day really helps me keep the right perspective at work.”
Andy, customer services manager
Bobby, pastor and father of four
Round the breakfast table…
“We try to read the Bible togethe r after breakfast, just before Dad goes off to work and the kids go to school”.
The Hutton family
On the way to work…
“I get the bus to work so reading my Bible on the way in is a great way to spend the journey, especially now that I can access it on my phone.” Carl, office worker
During the day… “I read the Bible with my kids at different times of the day. Sometimes I read to them and sometimes they read it back to me.” Marina, mother of two
Last thing at night…
“I normally read my Bible just before I go to bed, so depending on when I get my homewo rk done, it’s normally about 10 or 11.”
Watch the full video interviews at www.openupthebible.com
hearing God speak by
et me tell you about an amazing experience I had just this morning. Actually “amazing” doesn’t really do it justice. It was out of this world. This morning God spoke to me. I know that sounds weird, but I’m sure that’s what happened. The God who made the universe actually spoke to me. I could hear what He was saying just as clearly as you can understand what you’re reading now.
The words He spoke felt like words of life to me. It was like they resounded deep in my heart. • There were words of instruction that helped me know Him more and understand his ways. • There were words of challenge that called me to follow Him better and love Him more. • There were words of comfort that spoke to my needs and gave me hope. It was like medicine to my soul. It was like a rousing speech before battle. It was like a love song sung to my heart. But there’s more. Just as God spoke to me, so I spoke to Him. I spoke to Him as someone might speak to their friend. It was like a conversation. He talked to me and I talked to Him. I was able to express my deep appreciation for the words He’d spoken to me. I told Him how I planned
to respond. I told Him about my needs and my hopes. I asked for his help, not just for me, but for people I know. I lamented the sorry mess we’ve made of his beautiful world and asked Him to have mercy on specific situations that are weighing heavily on my heart. I spoke to the God of the universe and He heard me. He listened to what I was saying. And He promised to respond. I don’t know whether He’ll do what I ask. He might have other plans, better plans. But I’m confident He heard me and that He’ll respond in whatever way He thinks best. What’s more, what happened to me this morning was not a freaky, one-off open up the Bible | 5
experience. This happens to me most mornings. What I did this morning was read my Bible and pray. I just read my Bible and prayed. But there is nothing “just” about just reading your Bible. It really is all that I’ve described. It really is the most amazing, out-of-this-world experience. Every time you read your Bible God really is speaking to you—medicine to the soul, a rousing speech before battle, a love song sung to your heart. The Holy Spirit spoke through the human authors of the Bible. He ensured that what they wrote truly was the word of God. Their words were God-breathed. So the Bible is the reliable, accurate, sufficient word from God. God has spoken. But the Holy Spirit is also at work whenever the Bible is read or heard.
He takes the words that were recorded long ago and makes them live afresh. The letter of Hebrews, quoting from the Old Testament, says, “as the Holy Spirit says” (3v7). God has not only spoken in the Bible (past tense). He also speaks through the Bible (present tense).
God speaks to you every time you read the Bible. Personally. Intimately. I read my Bible regularly because I have to. Not “have to” in the sense that someone might criticise me if I don’t or that God will get miffed with me. But “have to” in the same way I have to eat food every day. This is how I live. Without God’s word in my life, I too readily get preoccupied with myself, my fears, my insecurities, my reputation. Without God’s word I’m so much more vulnerable to temptation. I need God’s word to realign my heart day by day towards Jesus. I need that medicine for the soul, that battle speech, that love song. And I need it every day.
Tim Chester is involved in The Crowded House, a church planting initiative in Sheffield. He is married to Helen and has two daughters.
6 | open up the Bible
Wherever you are, Whenever you can,
Open up the Bible 3 months of faithful, engaging Bible-reading notes for adults
Available for iPhone, iPad & Android
Inspiring teenagers by
Nate Morgan Locke
young boy was walking around the playground pulling a piece of string. His teacher approached him and asked: “Why are you pulling that piece of string?” The boy replied: “Because it’s a lot easier than pushing it”. When it comes to encouraging young people to read God’s word, it’s a lot easier to lead from the front than to push from the back. When adults engage in regular, personal Bible study, teenagers can much more easily develop a life-long habit themselves. Having said that, even in churches and families with good adult role-models, teens can often be confused about personal Bible study. Ask them to list their favourite activities, and personal Bible reading is rarely one of them. But ask what will help in their Christian life, and studying God’s word will almost certainly come top. So how do we help teenagers see that what is good for them is also enjoyable?
positive messages teens need to hear
The Bible is about Jesus
If we approach the Bible thinking it’s about us, most of it seems completely irrelevant. The exasperated teen asks: “How do these levitical laws or endless genealogies help me do my maths homework?!” As a result, the Bible either lies unread, or passages must be twisted to be made relevant to us — making Bible study very hard work indeed!
The message of the Bible is ultimately the good news about Jesus! Paul tells Timothy that the holy Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3 v 15). When teenagers read God’s word from this perspective, it makes a lot more sense. Paul then adds that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. Bonus!
God loves you, whether or not you read the Bible
Bible times don’t need to be quiet times
It’s easy to give the impression that reading the Bible earns God’s favour. You’d think this would increase teen Bible reading, but actually the opposite is true. Young people end up thinking: “Because I haven’t been reading God’s word, He’s not very happy with me. So I’ll avoid God and I feel like a fraud in Christian company.” To get back in God’s good books (pardon the pun!) then takes a major act of recommitment. Just notice how personal Bible reading spikes after a Christian residential trip, then declines as the “recommitment experience” wears off. We shouldn’t read the Bible so that God thinks we’re great, but so that we remember that He is! We’re saved by faith, not by Bible reading. Picking up the Bible after a long break doesn’t require any act of recommitment on a teenager’s part at all.
You can act out Acts, declare Deuteronomy, and sing the Psalms. You can read out loud, draw what you read, or write songs as a response. Good Bible open up the Bible | 9
study notes will help teenagers engage with God’s word in creative ways. Using multimedia resources may help too. Personal Bible reading is usually seen as something quiet making it suitable only for quiet types. Teens often see Bible study as something other people do, or something for when they’re older, because literal “quiet times” simply aren’t where they’re at. Creative Bible reading changes all that.
Two key ingredients: routine and variety
Young people often have the best intentions when it comes to reading God’s word — but never quite get round to it. It really helps them to identify a pattern they can stick to. Encourage them to work out exactly when they’re going to read God’s word each day (avoid the “when I get into bed at night” idea—sleep will win!). And be realistic—better that a teenager reads their Bible four times a week for the rest of their life, than aims for seven, manages four, becomes demoralised and gives up. All teenagers are different! Some will want to use Bible study notes each day (see below for some great resources for this) for the rest of their lives. Others will find it easier to use other approaches, such as the Swedish Bible-reading technique. Many will want to do a few months one way, then a few another, and so on. That keeps Bible reading fresh, which is great! Buying people Bible-study notes is a great way to encourage them to study 10 | open up the Bible
Swedish Biblereading technique Read a passage and then scribble down four things:
The main thing about God that’s struck you from the passage.
Any questions you have about what you’ve read… and your best guess at what the answers are
The main application (a change in attitude or action) for you Someone you’re going to tell about what you’ve read about God.
their Bible! Hopefully, if some of the common misconceptions about Bible reading have been addressed, the notes won't be received as a heavy moral duty or be seen as a chore!
Nate Morgan Locke is the youth evangelist at Christianity Explored and also works at the All Souls Clubhouse, reaching out to young people in central London
Whatever youâ€™re into, whatever youâ€™re thinking,
Open up the Bible
Family matters by
very loving parent spends their life running just to keep up (or catch up!). There’s so much to do. Providing opportunities for our children (and then driving to and from them); working to put food on the table; organizing, booking, packing for holidays; the list goes on… and on. And in all this busy-ness, the business of bringing our children up to know the God who made them is often what gets squeezed out. But the Bible makes it clear that introducing children to God is a must-do for parents. “Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen, or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children, and to their children after them” Deuteronomy 4v9 God gives us the responsibility of showing and telling our children what is true about Him: that He’s real, that He’s amazing and that He deserves to be the most important Person in our lives.
It’s worth asking ourselves:
• Have I filled my children’s lives so full with good things that we never have time together to talk about the best thing — Jesus Christ? • Do we ever talk about God in an informal way, as we walk along, or watch TV, or travel in the car? • Is faith in Christ something that is an everyday part of family life, or is it in reality reserved for Sunday mornings?
• Am I living my life for Christ and is that obvious to my children? • What do I most want for the children God has given me — a great career, a loving spouse and family, an exciting life… or faith in Jesus? We may not like our honest answers! So it’s wonderful to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who saves, and not us. We will never be perfect Christian parents — we will always need to ask God to lovingly use our efforts and work wonders in our children’s hearts. It’s never too late to make a change… to reorder the priorities of your heart, and of your family’s life… to “be careful” to put God at the centre of everything.
How might we do this? Some tips: Read the Bible as a family Look at your typical weekly schedule and see where the most obvious opportunities are to spend time looking at God’s word as a family. If there is no time, have you made life too full? Does something need dropping so God is the priority? open up the Bible | 13
While reading God’s word should never become routine, it’s wise to try using a routine to help you. Every family is different—work out what’s best for you, and then stick to it.
Beginning with God is for pre-schoolers aged 2½ to 4. Simple, colourful, and thoroughly biblical — and kids love the stickers! Table Talk is for families with children aged 4 to 11. Clear, Christ-centered, with great activities. Even having done that, sitting down to look at the Bible with your children can be quite a daunting prospect! Grab some helpful resources, which get families into the Bible in a relevant, informal, fun and age-appropriate way.
Let God’s word shape your words Young children spend a lot of time asking “Why?” And sometimes, often in the most unpredictable of situations, parents of teenagers find themselves in deep discussions with their children. Make sure God has a part in those conversations! Pray to Him as you talk, asking Him for wisdom. Whenever you
can, encourage your children to think about what God says. By doing this, you’re modeling to them how to deal with the issues they face in life; and you’re giving them great answers!
Mix it up Make your Bible times fun—teach the books of the Bible in a way that is engaging, sing hymns and worship songs together, talk about real-life issues you are all facing and see how the Bible speaks to that. Have a family prayer journal where you can record prayer requests and see how the Lord answers them over time.
Talk as a family about your family Bible times. Children grow up more quickly than we would like to think! Keep talking about your family Bible times, and whether they are still working successfully or not. Be humble enough to admit when you need to make changes to keep them engaging and enjoyable.
Pray without ceasing! We need God’s help — and so do our children! However busy your day is, always make time to pray for your family.
Abi Byrd is in charge of children’s ministry at Guilford Baptist Church, Sterling, VA
For help choosing a good children’s Bible, visit the Good Book Company website... www.thegoodbook.co.uk/choosing-a-childrens-bible 14 | open up the Bible
Whenever you can, whatever is going on,
Open up the Bible
Faithful, fun Bible-reading resources for children and families
Beginning with God with Beginners Bible
whatever your age, Whatever your stage,
Open up the Bible faithful, engaging Bible-reading rESOURCES for families
Beginning with God with Beginners Bible
EXPLORE APP Available for iPhone, iPad & Android