Reading the Scriptures Together

Since starting our daily Bible reading group, we’ve had added a lot of new members.  So I wanted to write a post about how we got here, as well as some helpful tips for using the Google Hangouts App, and other sort of “best practices.”

Background: About three years ago now, Derek Stone and Parris Payden were discussing the idea of reading through the Bible in a year, and some of the other plans available.  Their desire was to spend more time in God’s Word, for the renewal of their minds, and to have a better handle on the whole counsel of God.  They did some research, and soon I joined the discussion and heard what they had come up with – a modified version of John MacArthur’s reading plan for the New Testament, and Old Testament. We began reading with the book of Romans, then moved to Luke, and so on. It has been a wonderful, life changing, mind renewing experience, and to be able to do it with other brothers and sisters in the Lord is all the more rewarding.

Here is the plan:

New Testament: read through 4-6 chapters of an NT book each day for 30 days, then move on to the next 4-6 chapters of that book.  So books like Ephesians will be read in their entirety every single day for 30 days, whereas books like John’s Gospel, will take 4 or so months to complete. It takes approximately 3 years to complete the whole New Testament. At the end of the 3 years you will have read the NT 30 times.

Old Testament: Read through roughly 3 chapters per day, and you will finish the entire thing in one year. Placed alongside the NT reading, you will have read through the entire Bible three times, the OT three times on its own, and the NT 30 times.

The Tools: We use the Google Hangouts application, which is available for both iPhone and Android users, but any phone can participate so long as you have a Gmail email address. So the first step you’ll need to execute is to sign up for a Gmail email address/username if you don’t already have that. Then you can visit the Hangouts Site for more information about the App.

NOTE: there are settings you can use within the app that can turn off notifications – I’m sure within your phone’s general notification settings this can be done as well. If you’re a late riser and don’t want to hear all the “buzzing” of your friend’s pronouncements, go check that out!

General Rules of Courtesy: Early on we realized that with so many people traveling, and scheduling varying so drastically, we’d need to set some suggested parameters for when to text out.  We recommend that you text between 7am – 10pm est.  There are obviously different people in different time zones, but the majority of folks are on Eastern Standard.  Also, please realize that because of the number of folks in the group, this isn’t a place for sarcasm or bawdy humor (Eph. 4:29).  Its fine to be light hearted and jovial, but please be cautious with your words, seasoning them with salt (Col. 4:6). We want this to be a group that lifts each other up daily (1 Thess. 5:11)!

Legal Eagles: I want to make a quick note about legalism here.  There are two kinds of legalism that creep in to a group like this: 1. when you notice others haven’t texted in a while, and you judge them for it, and 2. when you haven’t texted in a while (maybe because you haven’t gotten through all 6 chapters for a while) and you start to feel burdened by the commitment.  Stop. Right. Now.  Stop judging, and stop feeling depressed for not getting all the reading done. The purpose of being in a group like this is indeed for accountability, but the best accountability is encouragement. If you can only get through three chapters, just text out Eph. 1-3.  The point is you’re in the Word! Be strategic in your encouragement of others.  If you see someone who hasn’t texted in a while, there’s nothing wrong with calling them and encouraging them – but do so in love. Perhaps a phone call isn’t needed, but rather some prayer for them and their family (they could be busy or on vacation!).  Be quick to lift each other up in prayer, and not in judgment (Matt. 7:2).

Bible Tools for Your Phone: If you have a smart phone, there are a number of great Bible tools available for you to download.  Personally, I listen to the verses 90% of the time (sometimes while reading them), and just read through the text the rest of the time without audio.  Apps like ‘Bible.is’, ‘SpokenWord‘, ‘The Bible (YouVersion)‘,’Fighter Verses’, and others are free and provide audio for you to listen to in the car, or in other places where you aren’t free to sit and read. There are also several versions available via iTunes, although it may be more cumbersome to use iTunes for daily reading.

Get the Most Out of This Experience: Because we are reading so much every day, there is a tendency to feel like you’re not really soaking in the message, or not really getting the most out of it. I would suggest a few things:

1. Pray before you listen/read the Word. This is crucial because it is the Spirit who inspired the Bible, and it is the Spirit who is living inside you, and it is the Spirit who will apply these words to your mind, heart, and life. Also pray that the others in the group would be transformed in mind and heart as well (Rom. 12:2). Finally, pray that God would use His words to transform your mind and heart, change your desires to match His, and show you more clearly the glories of Christ and His gospel written on every page of His Word.

2. Write down questions/thoughts. If you have something that bothers you, or that you want to learn more about, don’t stop reading, rather write it down for further review later on.  This isn’t Bible study, its Bible reading which can lead to Bible study later. Don’t get hung up on every last thing at that moment, but be sure to dive in and find the answers later when you have more time.  This will really enrich the experience!

3. Talk with your spouse or friends about what you’re reading. This is a no-brainer, right? The more we talk about something, the more it seeps into our minds and we learn.

4. Write an Outline on the Weekend. Sometimes it really helps to write an outline of what you’re reading – or at least write some major themes or thoughts (nothing too formal or academic). Usually this is best done on the weekend when you have some more time early in the AM. Doing this can really help your mind get a frame of reference for the big picture of what you’re reading.

5. Read a short background on the book. Most study Bibles provide a one to three paragraph summary of each book prior to the first chapter. Before you dive in too far to the reading, it may be helpful for you to know to whom this letter or Gospel was written, when it was written, who wrote it, and what the occasion of the writing was. Context provides a lot of answers!

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