Congratulations! You’ve read all 100 Bible passages. You’ve successfully completed The Essential 100 Challenge! You’ve gotten the “Big Picture” of the Bible. And, best of all, you’ve begun the life long adventure of meeting God every day in Bible reading and prayer.
But don’t stop now! There’s still more to do. First, be sure to go to Essential100Challenge.com and fill out the “After” Survey. That will help us make The Challenge even better for those who take it in the future. Then, be sure you’ve set your goals and made your plan for continuing your daily appointment with God. Now that you’ve begun that discipline and experienced its many rewards, you won’t want to stop. At the Scripture Union website, scriptureunion.org, you can sign up to receive SU’s daily Bible reading guides, Discovery or Encounter with God, and take advantage of other opportunities to receive resources to help you keep right on meeting God every day and to grow in your relationship with him.
That’s our goal in Scripture Union. We’re here to help you. Contact us at any time at 1-800-621-LAMP (5267) or firstname.lastname@example.org. And keep going and growing as you meet God daily in his Word!
We’ve talked about the obstacles and problems you’ll face in keeping your daily appointment with God in his Word. And we’ve offered advice on how to overcome them. Here’s one more piece of advice that’s equally important: keep connected!
Support groups are everywhere today. That’s because having the support of others who share your goals is key to developing and maintaining a good habit. And that applies to the habit of daily Bible reading, too. So it’s important, after you’ve completed The Challenge, to keep connected to a small group in your church or a Bible reading “partner” (perhaps your spouse or a good friend).
You’ll want to check in regularly with your small group or Bible reading partner, perhaps weekly or monthly. Be accountable to them for keeping “on track” toward reaching your goals. If you’ve had a hard time keeping to your plan, ask for their prayers and suggestions. Let them support and encourage you—and do the same for them. Regular Bible reading is a discipline, and any discipline is not easy to maintain. That’s why it’s important to keep connected to others who share our goals –and to support each other along the way.
There’s an old joke about a tourist in New York City who asked a cab driver how to get to Carnegie Hall. The cab driver replied, “Practice! Practice! Practice!” And in fact, the key to successfully establishing and maintaining a daily Bible reading time is the same as for playing the violin or becoming a winning athlete: it’s practice! You keep at it, day in and day out; on the days it’s easy and the days it’s harder. You do it over and over until it becomes “automatic”, until it “comes naturally”, until it’s a “habit. That’s key to your success. That’s an important way to develop the habit of a daily appointment with God.
Of course, artists and athletes battle the same obstacles we do. The discipline of a daily appointment with God can sometimes become just a dry and lifeless routine. That’s when it’s time to get creative and use another Bible translation, a different reading plan or even a different time and place! A little creativity can make a big difference—and can help you keep going. So keep on practicing--until you can’t imagine a single day without your appointment with God!
In just a few weeks, you’ll have successfully completed The Essential 100 Challenge. You’ll have discovered the many rewards of meeting God every day in the Bible and prayer. So then what?
When you’ve completed The Challenge, you’ll have met one goal. But if you’re to continue your new Bible reading discipline, you’ll need new goals to work toward. Do you want to read through the Bible in a year? Or two or five years? Do you want daily readings that take you through the major parts of the Bible over a specific period of time? Whatever you decide, set your goal and make a plan to achieve it.
Of course, deciding each day which part of the Bible to read can be a real chore! That’s why Scripture Union offers two adult Bible guides: Discovery and Encounter with God. (For information about them, see our website: ScriptureUnon.org. There are other good Bible reading plans available, too. So begin now to set your goals for continuing after The Challenge. Most important, remember that the goal of continuing a regular Bible reading discipline is just a means to an even greater goal: transforming your Bible reading time into a daily appointment with God!
In any important endeavor, it’s important to plan—and to plan to succeed. Once you’ve set your goals for continuing your daily Bible reading after The Challenge, it’s time to make your plan to achieve those goals. Choose the Bible reading “plan” you’ll use to guide your readings daily. Decide when and where you’ll have your daily appointment with God. Choose the Bible translation you’ll use. It may help to write down your plan like this: “I plan to read ___________ over_____________ (period of time). I’ll use ____________ to guide me. This plan is intended to help me reach my goal of ____________________________________.” If you want to use Discovery to guide you in your Bible reading (it covers major portions of the entire Bible in a 5 year period), you can sign up at the Scripture Union website ScriptureUnion.org to receive it either as a printed copy or daily email.
Planning to succeed means planning for the inevitable distractions ands interruptions to your Bible reading time, also. And what about out of town business trips and other travel? How will you keep “on track”? Make your plan and revise it when necessary. That’s all part of planning for success!
We’ve come now to the 5th and final step in Scripture Union’s Bible Reading Method: Pray. But didn’t we just do that at the beginning? Why are we doing it again?
It’s not always easy to apply God’s Word to our lives. It may require courage, some sacrifice or moving out of our “comfort zone”. If so, ask God for his help. He’s eager to give it. And whatever you’ve discovered in God’s Word that day, whether something about God himself, his love for you, his son Jesus or what he wants you to do, make that the basis of your prayer time. Thank God for meeting you and sharing his Word with you. End your time in God’s Word as you began it, in prayer.
As you can see, the Scripture Union Bible Reading Method is really quite simple, but it’s effective, also. As you practice it daily, it will become a welcome and familiar tool. In the worldwide Scripture Union network, we have a phrase that sums up our approach to Bible reading: Pray it in; live it out. That’s the way to make God’s word come alive as you meet him every day!
The fourth step in Scripture Union’s 5 Step Bible Reading Method is also perhaps the most personally challenging: “Apply”. You’ll apply to your life what you’ve learned from God’s Word.
Reading the Bible and gaining Bible knowledge is good, of course, but God gave us his Word not primarily to increase our knowledge and information but so that we could know him and live in the right relationship to him and to others. In other words, what we know has to “show” by making a difference in how we live. That’s what this fourth step—“Apply”—is all about. That’s why this step is so important.
If we are willing, the Holy Spirit can use God’s Word to help us grow in godliness. So after you’ve read and reflected on the passage (and answered the Reflection question “What does this passage require of my in thought, word and action?) ask yourself this: How does God’s word apply to my life today; at home, at work, school or church? Remember: your goal is to use what you’ve learned by prayer, reading and reflection to become more the person God wants you to be—more like Jesus!
We’ve discussed the first two steps in the Scripture Union Bible Reading Method (Pray and Read) so now it’s time to get to #3: Reflect. As you can imagine, reflecting or meditating on the passage is a key part of the process!
As you reflect on what you’ve just read, ask yourself these questions: What does this passage say? What is its main point? What does it tell me about God or about me? What does it require of me now, in thought, word or action? These questions will help you “dig deeper” into the meaning of the passage as you study and reflect on it. You might also find it helpful to write your answers in a journal or notebook.
Sometimes, you may want to see what other Christians who have studied that passage think about it. If so, you can use a Bible Commentary. And you can also read the comments in Scripture Union’s Bible Reading Guides, Discovery and Encounter with God. They’ll allow you to share the thoughts of Christians from all around the world. But whatever you do, don’t neglect to reflect! That’s one important way God will speak to you from his Word.
Last week, we began looking at the Scripture Union Bible Reading Method, five simple steps to enable you to get the most out of your time in God’s Word. The first step we discussed was to pray as you begin and ask God to help you understand what you’ll be reading. The second step—no surprise!---is to read the passage for the day, thoughtfully and carefully.
Remember to have a Bible translation that is clear and easy for you to read and understand. That may be the New International Version (NIV), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the New American Bible (NAB) or another one recommended by your pastor or church. Read the passage slowly. You may even want to read it more than once, especially if it is quite unfamiliar or difficult to understand. Sometimes, it’ll be helpful to read the passages that precede or follow it so you can study the passage in its context.
And don’t hurry. Take the time to read the Bible passage as thoroughly as you can. As you do that, you can trust God to answer your prayer for understanding.
Millions of people start each day reading a passage from the Bible and praying. They may speak in different languages and live in widely separated countries, but, in addition to a common desire to meet God in his Word, they all have one thing in common: they read the Bible using the Scripture Union Bible Reading Method.
It’s a simple, five step method that has been used by people around the world for well over 100 years. It’s a time-tested, practical and effective way to get the most out of your daily Bible reading time. This week, and for each of the four weeks that follow, we’ll look at one of the five steps. The first is quite simply to pray.
Prayer is the starting point. Remember that you’re beginning a dialog, a conversation with God. Before you read the day’s passage, ask God to help you understand it. It is, after all, his Word to us. He’s given us the Bible to communicate vital, eternal truth. So ask God to speak to you as you read his Word and to show you what he wants you to learn that day. That’s how to begin: pray.
If you’ve been reading as we suggested the first week—five passages each week for 20 weeks—you’re already half-way through “The Challenge”. You’ve completed the first 50 passages, covering the Old Testament, and are ready to begin the “home stretch”, reading the 50 New Testament Passages. By now, you’ve also begun to gain deeper insight into God’s Word, and most importantly, you’ve begun to experience the rich rewards of a daily appointment with God. You’ve accomplished quite a lot already! Congratulations!
But there’s more in store! The next 50 passages will take you through the greatest story of all—the story of Jesus’ history changing ministry and the spread of the new church in those early years after his resurrection. You won’t want to miss a day!
And you’ll continue to get a weekly email with practical advice and encouragement to help you complete “The Challenge” and develop the life-long discipline of regular Bible reading and prayer. But before you finish, be sure to go to The Essential 100 Challenge website Essential100Challenge.com and complete the “After” survey. And most important, don’t stop now! Keep going right to the end! You’ll find it was well worth the effort.
Perhaps you know someone in your family or church who has maintained the habit of daily Bible reading consistently for many years. They never seem to get tired of it. They look forward to it day after day, year after year. How do they do it? What’s their secret?
Certainly, anything we do repeatedly can become dull and routine. Reading a Bible passage and reflecting on it each day can lose some of its excitement over time. But the secret of success in maintaining your daily Bible reading time isn’t just the excitement of gaining more Bible knowledge. It’s not even the satisfaction of developing a valuable spiritual discipline. Rather, it’s having a quiet passion for meeting God every day. And that’s why we’re so eager to help folks like you develop that same passion.
God’s word is a very special gift. Meeting God every day in his Word and prayer is a very special privilege. If you feel your commitment to that daily meeting ebbing, don’t give up. Don’t let that defeat you. Just pray for the passion—the passion to keep on meeting with the living God every day for the rest of your life.
It’s a noisy world out there! Try as you might to stay focused on meeting with God each day, you’ll still face plenty of unwelcome distractions: unexpected phone calls, children who need your attention, and emergencies of various sorts. And there are always those fears, frustrations, temptations and worries lurking in the back (and sometimes in the front!) of your mind.
Unfortunately, these distractions are just part of life. You can’t always avoid them. So when they come, use them for good! Instead of letting them distract and discourage you, incorporate them into your time with God. If your young children want your attention, invite them up on your lap to read the Bible with you. If the phone rings, pray for the caller after you hang up.
The routines and responsibilities of the day, the pressures and worries we carry, the frustrations we face, all can sometimes cause our minds to wander, too. When that happens, don’t be discouraged. It’s not a failure; it’s an opportunity to give those thoughts to the Lord in prayer. Tell him about your problems and let him help. Don’t get frustrated by distractions. Just give them to God!
Why do you read the Bible? To gain greater knowledge about God? For practical help with the pressures of life? To grow spiritually? Those are probably just some of the reasons people read the Bible and they’re all good. But, as good as they are, there’s one that’s even better.
Think about a special letter from a friend or loved one. What made it so special? Probably not the number of pages or the style of writing; perhaps not even the events it described. What made it special was the person who wrote it! And that’s a good way to think about Bible reading, too.
Of course, it’s valuable to gain Bible knowledge and learn biblical truth. But the most exciting thing about reading the Bible is that it enables us to gain a deeper relationship with the Person behind it. You might call it “relational Bible reading”. Remember: your goal is not just to study a book but to develop a lifetime relationship with God. To make your Bible reading really come alive, approach it as if you were reading a letter from God —the one who loves you more than you can ever imagine!
We’ve all experienced it. Good things can become routine over time, even your daily meeting with God in his Word. If that happens, just remember that those feelings are normal. No one sees spiritual fireworks every time they open the Bible! But if your daily time with God is losing some of its spark, try something new. Add some variety!
Sometimes, it helps to read the day’s Bible passage in a different translation than usual. You might try the New Living Translation (NLT), the Contemporary English Version (CEV) or a paraphrase like The Message (MSG). And you may find it helpful to keep a journal of your reflections and insights as you read the Bible. You probably won’t write in your journal every day, only when something really stands out. And try reading about the day’s passage in a Bible commentary once in awhile. That may give you some new insights into what God is saying to you.
Don’t be afraid to be creative and try new things occasionally as you go through The Challenge. A little variety may be just the “spice” you need to help keep your time with God fresh and exciting.
Good friends and marriage partners both know it. Listening is essential to a close, healthy relationship. The same is true in developing a deep relationship with God. Prayer is a two way communication. It isn’t just reciting our list of requests to God. It also means listening to God. If that’s a new idea for you, here’s how to get started.
Begin by taking time to quiet yourself in God’s presence. As best you can, put aside all those concerns, worries and frustrations that can be so distracting. You might imagine that your cares and problems are packages that you are handing over to God. Then, recall how you’ve seen God at work in and around you recently (some call those instances “God sightings”). When you feel your spirit is still and peaceful, slowly read the day’s passage from the Bible.
After you’ve read, silently listen by reflecting on the verse or a phrase that jumps out at you. What is God saying to you from his Word? How does it apply to the situations you face now? When you want to get to know someone, you listen to them. Practice the art of listening to God.
By now you’ve probably discovered why we call this The Essential 100 Challenge! You really want to have a regular appointment with God in the Bible and prayer. But there are so many distractions, so many things competing for your time. Maybe you’ve fallen behind schedule and are feeling guilty about “not keeping up” or “failing God”. Guilt is threatening to scuttle your plans and commitments to finish “the Challenge”.
Don’t give in to guilt! Don’t assume that God is watching and waiting to “zap” you if you fall behind schedule or fail to read the Bible for a few days. Perhaps you can use some weekend days to catch up! Failure isn’t final! Make a plan to get back on track!
Remember what we said last week: God loves you and wants to meet with you. Don’t let guilt over what you haven’t done in the past rob you of the joy of meeting God in the present. Use whatever time you do have to focus on enjoying God and his Word today. If you do that, you’ll find yourself feeling less guilty and more excited about meeting God in his Word each day!
You’ve probably already discovered that reading through these 100 passages won’t always be easy. It will take some discipline. There’ll be days when you’ll be tempted to see it as just one more “chore”. So it may be helpful to keep this in mind as you begin your readings each day: your goal is not just to “read the Bible”, it’s to meet with the living God in his Word.
That’s right. Reading the Bible is of very great value. After all, it is God’s Word and over the centuries, Christians have discovered that there are many, great rewards to be gained from reading it. But if your only goal is to complete a reading plan, you’ll miss out on the greatest reward of all: meeting regularly with your creator, the eternal God who loves you and wants to meet with you.
So think of your daily Bible reading time (the one we discussed choosing in last week’s email) as not just a discipline but as a daily appointment with God. If you do, your Bible reading and prayer will take on a whole new meaning—and will become something to really look forward to!
As you read through the passages of The Essential 100 Challenge, we hope you’ll discover the many benefits of regular Bible reading and prayer. Last week we promised some tips and principles to help you. So here’s the first one: “Begin with The Basics”.
Your basic “tool” is the Bible, of course. So find a translation you’re comfortable with. Many folks who take The Challenge use the New International Version (NIV) but, depending on your church tradition, you might also enjoy the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) or the New American Bible (NAB). The key is to choose a translation that’s easy to read and understand.
Then, be sure you’ve chosen a convenient time (it doesn’t have to be long, perhaps just 15 minutes) and place (a quiet one with minimal distractions so you can concentrate). Some people choose to read the Bible in the morning over coffee, others during lunch break at work or at night before bed. It’s important to give careful thought to the time and place that works best for you. But with these “basics” in place, you’ll be on your way to success!
Welcome! You’re about to begin an exciting adventure—taking The Essential 100 Challenge. These 100 passages, listed on The Planner in your kit, were carefully chosen to give you the “big picture” of the most important book in the world: the Bible. But before you begin, be sure to fill out your Personal Action Plan and set your goals for completing The Challenge. You can read through the 100 passages at any pace you choose, but we suggest you read five each week for 20 weeks.
Because life is so busy and full of distractions, it’s not always easy “keep on track”. So each week for these 20 weeks, you’ll receive an email with tips and advice on how to complete “The Challenge” successfully. But most important, we’ll share proven methods and principles for getting the most out of your time with God is his Word. You may also want to ask a friend to take “The Challenge” with you or take it as part of a small group. Being accountable to others is a great way to keep going successfully. You can do it; thousands already have. And there are some real rewards awaiting you!
©2017 Scripture Union.