“Reading your Bible is like taking a daily retreat with the Lord. It is more important for you to hear from Jesus than for Jesus to hear from you.
Canada is facing an unprecedented famine that most Canadians are unaware of. It’s not a famine of food. It’s a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. And it’s being experienced in unexpected places—the homes and hearts of Christians.
Results of the Canadian Bible Engagement Study (CBES), commissioned by the Canadian Bible Forum and The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, were released in May of this year. The study, titled Confidence, Conversation and Community: Bible Engagement in Canada, 2013, discovered that Canadians in general and Christians in particular are not engaged with the Bible. Only 14 per cent of Canadian Christians actually read the Bible at least once per week. Over 75 per cent of Canadian Christians seldom or never read the Bible. The study also reveals that:
confidence in the Bible is at an all-time low
- many Canadian Christians no longer believe that the Bible is the Word of God
- some Christians question the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible
- there is a strong link between church attendance—which has been declining since 1996 in Canada—and Bible engagement.
History shows that where hope is not needed, God’s Word is not heeded. With the current economic and social factors being highly favourable in Canada, compared to the rest of the world, our perceived need for hope is relatively low. History is repeating itself.
But our souls need hope. And the Bible is a great hope dispenser. A declining familiarity with the Bible means that the national level of hope is silently ebbing away. Without hope there is little wherewithal to face a minor setback, let alone a major catastrophe.
Over 2,500 years ago, the nation of Israel faced circumstances similar to ours. Israel was experiencing unprecedented peace, prosperity and privilege. The Spirit of God stirred Amos, a farmer/prophet, to warn the nation: “ ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD’ ” (Amos 8:11). The Canadian church needs to hear Amos’s voice today.
We need to be reminded how unique the Bible is. It was the first book in history to be mass published and distributed. It has been belittled, banned and burned, yet it continues to flourish. The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other book and is accessible in print and/or digital applications to most, if not all, Canadians.
We also need to be reminded that the Bible is characterized by consistency, not contradictions. The Bible contains 66 different books that address the most important issues in life. Despite being written over a span of 1,600 years by 40 different individuals from three continents and in three languages, the Bible has a unity that defies logic.
Pick ten people from one city who were born around the same time, speak the same language, and make the same amount of money. Ask them all to write something on one common controversial subject. Chances are they’d have trouble agreeing with each other. (Check out the editorials from ten major newspapers today to see what I mean.)
The Bible’s writers come from all walks of life—fishermen, politicians, generals, kings, shepherds, and historians, to name a few. They wrote on hundreds of controversial subjects. They wrote in prisons and palaces, on beaches and hillsides, during peacetime and during war. Yet they wrote with agreement and harmony. Their words sound like they came from the same source. The Bible speaks with a unified voice.
Not only is the Bible consistent, it keeps my life consistent. On the inside cover of my Bible I have written these words: “The Bible is God’s Word. It is reliable, relevant, inerrant and infallible. It will keep me from sin. It makes me wise unto salvation and lights my path through the darkest storm.”
From my young adult years onward, I have routinely started my day by reading the Bible, reflecting on what I read, and recording my thoughts. Early in my ministry as a pastor, I went through a serious encounter with distress. For almost two months, I woke in the middle of the night unable to breathe. If you've ever had the wind knocked out of you, that's how it felt. My doctor said it was not physiological. He asked me what was going on in my life. “Your body is under distress and is shutting down to protect you.”
One morning, after one of these episodes, I had an awakening. It dawned on me that I had not been giving God first place in my life by giving Him first place in my day. The pressures of a growing ministry had tempted me to skip my practice of daily Bible reading. That morning I re-instituted my practice. The first choice of the day would be to spend time with God by reading my Bible. The symptoms stopped that very night.
My responsibilities and expectations have increased tenfold over the decades, but the symptoms of distress have never returned.
Reading your Bible is like taking a daily retreat with the Lord. It is more important for you to hear from Jesus than for Jesus to hear from you. Jesus already knows all about you, but you need to know a lot more about Him. That’s why the Bible is an essential daily source of spiritual health.
The Bible Engagement Study determined that Christians who practise meaningful Bible engagement have the following three things in common:
- They are involved in a worshipping community; they go to church regularly and participate in their church community.
- They’re having conversations about the Bible. They discuss and explore the Bible with their friends, often in small groups.
- They have a growing confidence in the Bible as the way to know God and hear from Him.
Will you contribute to a Bible revival in Canada? Will you help to ease the famine conditions and raise the level of hope in our nation? How? Draw a circle. Step inside. Kneel down. Ask God to start a revival inside that circle. Don’t get out until you feel the Spirit of God at work in you. Then step out and step up.
Rev. Robert W. Jones is the senior pastor of North Pointe Community Church in Edmonton, AB. He blogs at http://blog.northpointechurch.ca.
TOOLS & TIPS TO BOOST YOUR BIBLE READING
1. Bible Reading Plans
- Community Bible Experience (reading through the Bible with your family or small group), resources available for purchase at http://www.biblica.com/en-us/cbe.
- Read through the Book of Proverbs in one month by reading one chapter per day.
- Read the Gospel of John in one week by reading three chapters per day.
2. Bible reading applications for smartphones:
- YouVersion, http://www.youversion.com.
- OwnIt365 has several different plans to choose from (http://www.ownit365.com/pick-a-plan/front-page-content/pick-a-plan).
- Mariners Church Chrono-Condensed (read through the Bible in chronological order), https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/62-mariners-church-chrono-condensed.
- New Thru 30 (read the New Testament in 30 days), https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/9-new-thru-30.
3. Websites for reading and studying the Bible:
Further info on the Canadian Bible Engagement Survey can be found at www.bibleengagementstudy.ca.
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This article appears in the September/October 2014 issue of testimony.
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