Ann and Mark have found that starting the day by spending some time together in the morning, reading a user-friendly version of the Bible with study notes leads to our spiritual growth and awareness. It is a time of learning, listening to God speaking to us through the Bible texts and the notes written by study note authors, discussion and prayer.
Pastor Ryan Anderson wrote about Devotions in his blog on September 17, 2012: http://transforminggrace.org/blog/
‘What practices lead to transformation? It is a good question. There is no single answer, but we need a place to begin.
‘The place that I would recommend most to begin with is the daily practice of devotions. This may seem boring or old fashioned, but there is really no practice that I know of that is more important than this for people who want to deepen their faith.
‘Devotions are times set apart for prayer, dwelling in God’s Word, resting in God’s presence and being called into God’s mission in the world. The benefit of devotions is how they call us to set aside time in our daily routine to be open to God’s guidance and to be fed by God’s love.
‘So how does one have devotions? There are many patterns. The most important first step is to set aside a dedicated time each day for devotions’.
Which Version of the Bible?
There are so many versions of the Bible that it is sometimes hard to know where to begin. Some find the King James, the ‘Authorised’ version from 1611 (KJV) useful and comforting in its familiar but now ancient language. It has been modernized several times and the easier-to-read New King James Version (NKJV) dates from 1982.
Our church (Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church, Calgary http://adventlutheran.ca/ ) uses the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) from 1989. Another popular version is the New International Version (NIV) from 1978; this version was intended to be useful to English speaking communities around the world whereas the NKJV and NRSV were intended for North American readers but is now (2013) beginning to seem long in the tooth.
More recent versions in the language current at the time when it was translated are sometimes easier to read but may not have the accuracy of careful scholarly translations from the original languages. One of these, published in 1993, is ‘The Message – The Bible in Contemporary Language’ translated by Eugene H. Peterson and published by NavPress Publishing Group. Some commentators call this a paraphrase, and certainly some of the imagery is definitely more current than biblical! We like to think of it as ‘user-friendly’.
Friends of ours have been workers with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and for about 20 years have been translating the New Testament into Nahuatl, an Aztec language spoken in SW Mexico. First they had to learn the language, then create an alphabet and a written version of what had previously only been a spoken language. Now their work is nearing completion; but recently they found the version of Nahuatl spoken in a nearby town is a bit different to that spoken where they have been working, so there were misunderstandings of meaning in certain parts of the translation. So it is in English too – North American English is different to Canadian English which again is different to British English, requiring different wording in some parts of the text. Choose a Bible that speaks to you!
Reading the Bible is important but often the text needs interpretation and the reader needs guidance to fully understand what is being said, and a skilled interpreter may be needed to bring words written more than 2000 years ago into the present day. There are many sets of notes available, on the internet and in free or cheap subscriptions. Some follow the readings set for the church day, the ‘daily lectionary’. Others systematically work their way through the Bible, reading from the same chapter of a book for several days at a time. Others aim to read the whole Bible in a set time period, such as a single year.
It is important to work out what you want and need.
We like to read the Bible in a modern English translation; at present we read from The Message but from time to time check back to the NIV or NRSV to see what was previously written if the modern imagery causes us to do a double take. We like to use the systematic study notes produced by Scripture Union, which publishes several sets suitable for children, young people and adults – including large print editions of some, suitable for ageing eyes!
We read paper versions of the Bible and notes, but not exclusively. Scripture Union publishes a free daily email edition of its notes for adults, useful when travelling. There is a Pocket Bible edition of most of the Bibles which you can download from Laridian onto your desktop or laptop computer, tablet or smartphone. Once you have bought a copy you can download it onto all your devices at no extra cost and if you change from one system to another, you can download the new version without additional cost. Imagine the convenience of a daily guide to reading the Bible and copies of one or more editions on your smartphone!
The best time to do your study is when you find it most convenient and helpful. Some prefer first thing in the morning, finding a time of reflection helpful before the day gets busy and confusing. Others prefer last thing at night as a way of calming oneself before sleep. Others find a time whenever it presents itself during the day. The main thing is to make a point of finding time and just doing it.