There’s been lots in the news lately about things that we shouldn’t watch, look at or listen to. Whether it’s Kevin Spacey getting axed from a film or statues being torn down or no-platforming certain speakers on university campuses, our society seems to have become quite sensitive to the voices that we allow to speak to us.
Hopefully, as Christians, we’ve been thinking this through for a while, but it’s probably not as high on most of our agendas as it was 30 years ago. Then, it seemed that Christians boycotted anything that wasn’t made by Christians, and there has been an understandable reaction against that approach. The danger for most of us is in the other direction. Are we simply becoming unthinking consumers of all that the world throws at us?
King David puts it like this in Psalm 101:
‘I will walk in my house
With blameless heart.
I will set before my eyes
no vile thing…’
David was very careful about what he set before his eyes, and I think we should be too.
However, he goes on to explore another side to the discussion:
My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
That they may dwell with me;
He whose walk is blameless
Will minister to me.
While he was attentive to the things he wanted to avoid, he was at least as attentive to the things he wanted to fill his mind with. He wanted to make sure he was ministered to by the blameless and the faithful. I think that this could be applied to all things, from the entertainment we indulge in, to the people we hang out with, but I think it has its fullest application in the most blameless and faithful minister we could find: the Bible.
As we consider how we engage with the culture we live in, we must recognise that there’s much to learn from our culture and much to cherish. These are people made in God’s image after all. However, we must also understand that there’s much there that could harm us. It’s never as simple as ‘is this good or bad?’ It’s always a mixture, and we each have to make a judgement, governed by our Spirit sharpened consciences, as to whether the good is outweighed by the bad in the TV we watch, the books we read and the images we view.
However, the reality is that we live in a world, with all sorts of vile things dotted around everywhere, and we cannot avoid them. Therefore, while we seek to manage this the best we can, there seems to be an even more pressing urgency to attending to the other side of the equation- making sure that we are being ministered to well, and one of the best ways to do that is to make sure that we are proactively attending to our relationship with God’s word.
It is the anchor to keep us stable, when everyone else is drifting towards the rocks. It is the gold standard, when rubbish is highly valued all around us. It is unadulterated wisdom, in a world characterised by foolishness.
Therefore, at the beginning of 2018, I’d encourage you to think about how you are going to allow the Bible to minister to you this year. Here are three things to think about.
1. Bible Reading Plans
I have always been a fan of having a Bible reading plan. Although sometimes I may do something a bit more niche (eg study the Psalms for a year), usually I fall back on one of two approaches:
- Starting at Genesis and reading 5 chapters a day until I get to Revelation. Simples!
- Doing a Bible reading plan. In the past I’ve used a printed one, which mixes up the order, and gives you a bit of the Old Testament, a bit of the New Testament and a Psalm or Proverb to read each day. As you can imagine, there are loads of different ones of these around and this link could get you started. However, there is a new Bible plan I’d particularly recommend. It is from HTB London and is called, rather predictably ‘Bible In One Year’ It follows the basic scheme of all the others, but is particularly neatly packaged and is specifically honed to our modern technological habits.
2. Not just reading
The particular benefit of this specific ‘Bible In One Year’ plan is that it has a way to read the Bible in a year, without actually reading anything. You can listen to it. Now, I’ve often struggled with audio Bibles as I’ve often found the narration annoying. However, they’ve solved that problem by getting Poirot to narrate the whole lot! I’d probably find David Suchet reading computer code compelling, so hearing him relay God’s word to me each day sounds like an absolute result.
This method of Bible ‘reading’ obviously opens up whole new avenues of time that aren’t available if reading must actually mean opening a book and scanning a page. This means you can read the Bible while driving, walking, travelling on the train, or doing the dishes. In my mind, it pretty much eliminates the ‘how can I find the time to read the Bible?’ complaint that we’ve all surely raised at one time or another.
3. Getting deeper into the Bible
I’m always struck by the psalmist’s approach to God’s word in Psalm 1. According to this psalm, the blessed person, the spiritually stable and established person, the righteous person doesn’t just read (or even listen to) the Bible, but ‘his delight is in the Law of the Lord and on that law he meditates day and night’ (Psalm 1:2).
One way I’ve tried to put this into practice over the last few years, is by memorising large chunks of the Bible. Last year, a number of us at Churchcentral undertook the task of memorising the book of Colossians. Not everyone made it to the end, but however far people got, I think most people found it a really helpful exercise. Let’s face it, having even half a chapter of God’s word in your memory has got to be a good thing!
This year, I’m going to give 1 Peter a go. 5 chapters. 105 verses. I’d be pretty confident to say that, if you give 10 minutes a day to this for the rest of the year, you’ll be able to get at least the majority of Peter’s first letter in your memory. I’ve put together a Facebook group where we can encourage each other in this operation and share memorising techniques. If you’d like to join us, or even if it’s just piqued your curiosity, here’s the link. It’s closed, but simply ask to join, and I’ll let you in.
Now, I know that we’re all different and methods that are very helpful for some people, don’t necessarily work for everyone. However, whoever you are and however your brain’s wired, I want to challenge you- in a world like ours, with so many ideas and opinions floating about, and a whole host of ‘vile things’ threatening to minister to us daily- what’s your plan to ensure that you’re keeping your eyes on the faithful in the land, and letting those whose walk is blameless minister to you?
What’s your plan to dig deep into God’s word in 2018?
If you’d like to explore some of the issues regarding which kind of art or entertainment we should/shouldn’t indulge in, check out this article I wrote for our Sputnik website.