My Self-Help Bible?

by Ruth Schroeter

The self-help industry is flourishing. Isn’t that ironic? The industry is built on the premise that all you need for happiness, success, and contentment is within you, yet it peddles self-improvement programs as the key to becoming a better you. The endless supply and demand for the latest life changing-book betrays the fact they never actually deliver the transformation we long for.

The question is have we taken on a self-help approach to reading the Bible? The Bible is brimming with words of hope and encouragement, wisdom and guidance. So it’s easy to place ourselves at the centre of our reading, importing our desires and dilemmas and listening intently for ‘God’s word to me today, in my particular situation.’ But the words of scripture are not written primarily to encourage, inspire or direct us in this life. These words are written that we might lift our gaze from our own navels and focus instead on the glory of God in the cross of Christ.

The bible is about God and has Christ at the centre.

Yes, it is also about us, our creation and fall, our redemption and restoration. But first and foremost this unfolding narrative reveals the character of God. If we place ourselves at the centre, we read selectively, creating a skewed picture of who God is. We distinguish his love from his wrath, his patience from his judgement and his faithfulness from his jealousy, we embrace what we consider to be the ‘nice’ traits and ignore the less appealing ones. But the character of God is indivisible, he is all things at all times. He loves us fiercely and uncompromisingly, despising the sin which keeps us from him. He is patient, wanting to spare people from his righteous judgment. And he is faithful, stopping at nothing to jealously guard his beloved children, even sending his Son to the cross to endure the punishment we deserve.

This is the gospel of grace and it is the antithesis of the gospel of self-help.

The gospel of self-help says: ‘You are in control!’. The gospel of grace says: ‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.’ (Rom 5:8)

The gospel of self-help says: ‘Because you deserve it!’ the gospel of grace says ‘He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done but because of his mercy.’ (Tit 3:5)

The gospel of self-help says: ‘Be the best you can be!’ The gospel of grace says: ‘And we all … are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.’ (2 Cor 3:18)

But Jesus had this to say about self: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.’ (Luke 9:23-24)

As we deny ourselves and hunger after him instead, we are liberated from the treadmill of self-improvement and find ourselves being transformed by the sanctifying work of his Spirit. As we shoulder the weight of our own cross and follow in the footsteps of Christ, we are less burdened by our current circumstances as we understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection has won us an imperishable inheritance.

And here is the real irony, as we read the Bible in this way, to know God better and to seek his glory, we find that the very benefits that the self-help philosophies promise (but don’t deliver) are ours for the taking. So we read, bringing ourselves before the throne of God, not bringing him into our own little kingdoms. Instead of grasping at future blessings and drawing them into the present, we read with joyful anticipation for the day when Jesus returns, saying ‘Behold I am making all things new!’ (Rev 21:5)

Ruth ministers at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, Australia, where she has a particular focus on training and discipling women. This blog first appeared in the Australian Church Record.

Are You a Contender?

by Rebecca Stark, author of The Good Portion: God

Recently, a Canadian mother saved her young son from a cougar that attacked him in her family’s backyard. She pried open the cougar’s jaws with her bare hands as he tried to drag the boy away. A few years ago I read a news story about another British Columbia woman who saved her son from a cougar using a kitchen towel. These two mothers courageously risked their own lives to protect their boys. 

If you google the phrase “mom saves child from cougar,” you’ll find stories of other heroic mamas. One mother used a camping cooler, and another a water bottle to rescue their children from an attacking cougar. One brave mom managed to save her child but died from her own injuries

Faced with a dangerous attack on a beloved child, would any mother simply stand and watch? No, a mother’s love compels her to protect and defend her children, and to fight to the death if necessary. 

When Jude wrote his New Testament letter to one of the early Christian churches, he urged the members to fight to protect and defend the faith. “Beloved,” he wrote,

“although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 3-4 ESV).

“Certain persons” who claimed to be believers had “crept” into the church. They looked like ordinary Christians, and they settled into the church like ordinary Christians would, but they had joined for shady reasons. We don’t know the details, but it seems that both by their actions, which were immoral, and by their teachings, which were false, they attacked “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”

The believers in this church (the true ones, that is) knew enough about the doctrine of the apostles—the teachings that were probably already set down in a not-yet-completed New Testament canon—that Jude didn’t need to flesh out the “the faith once for all handed down.” These early Christians were already united around the body of doctrine that was the faith, so Jude could jump straight into his appeal for them to defend it.

The sneaky false teachers were attacking this church from within, and Jude’s letter is a plea for every single true believer there, everyone “called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1), to rise up and defend the apostles’ gospel. And because Jude’s letter is scripture, it is, by extension, a plea for every true believer down through the ages and across the world to be ready to protect and defend the gospel. The call to defend the faith is not just for pastors and deacons, but for laymen and laywomen, too. God calls us all to be defensive warriors, fighting against imposters within the church who destroy others by distorting the truth. 

Like the brave mothers who snatched their children from the cougar’s jaws, a believer’s fight to defend the faith is compelled by love. We fight, first, because we love the truth, and second, because we love people and want to save them from certain death. We fight to “save others by snatching them out of the fire” of God’s judgment against unbelief and apostasy. We defend the truth as an act of mercy toward “those who doubt” (Jude 22-23).

But we can’t contend for the faith if we don’t know what it is. We won’t recognize infiltrating false teachers if we don’t know what the apostles taught. We can’t discern a destructive false gospel if we don’t understand what the real gospel is. 

Step one for contenders, then, is to know the truth. Jude’s first readers (or hearers) had a partial canon of scripture, yet he assumed they understood what the faith once for all delivered to the saints was. We have a complete canon, and our own personal copies of scripture, so we don’t have an excuse for not knowing the whole body of doctrine handed down to us from the apostles. If we don’t know it, we can learn it as we study the Bible, and as we read or listen to faithful Bible teachers.

Step two is to step up and defend the faith we know. Although there may be cases in which false teachers need to be physically removed from the body, fighting for the faith is mostly a war of words. We fight for the faith by speaking—or like Jude, by writing. And while we may sometimes be forced to use strong language as a weapon against wolves in our midst, most of our contending won’t look like a war, not even a word war. No, our most common defense tactics will be teaching and reminding. 

We contend for the faith when we teach the truth to those among us who don’t have a firm grasp of it. Our hope is that as they learn, they become more grounded in the faith and less likely to be snatched away by false teachers with a false gospel. 

And for those who are already established in the faith? As we remind each other of the beauty of the truth we already know, we encourage faithfulness to it (2 Peter 12-13). We fight for the faith by helping each other remember how lovely our gospel is, because those who are busy basking in the glory of the real gospel aren’t fooled by a false one.

This blog is an edited version of a piece first posted by Rebecca at Out of the Ordinary.

Faith Like Redwoods

Our family took a drive up the coast of California one summer.  Out of all the beautiful scenery we saw, the most amazing was the Redwood Forests, home to the biggest trees in the world.

A redwood tree is quite a sight.  The first giant we saw was a famous tree whose girth was wide enough to drive a truck through.  As you can imagine, it was huge.  But driving through a single tree doesn’t compare to the experience of driving into the redwood forests.  Hundreds of towering trees with enormous, deep red trunks surrounded by beds of lush ferns created spectacular scenes that made us feel we had entered into a magical fairyland.  We explored in and through the trees, enjoying the quietness, interrupted occasionally by the melodic click of an insect or frog.  We marveled at how great and beautiful our God is.  He spoke these majestic redwoods into being, along with the hawks that nest in their branches and the chipmunks that run at their feet.  The beauty and wonder of the forests must pale in comparison to him.

In those enormous trees we couldn’t help but see some analogies to the life of faith.  For one, redwoods start from an amazingly small seed about the size of the head of a matchstick.  Faith also starts with the small seed of the gospel.  The gospel is proclaimed, like seed being spread, and when that seed enters the soil and is watered by God, a sinner repents of her sins and believes the gospel—that Jesus gave his life as a substitute for her, taking the punishment she deserves for her sin (Luke 8:15).  This seed grows by the means of grace, including reading Scripture, sitting under preaching and serving the church, into a huge tree that in turn spreads her seeds, spawning new saplings.

Second, redwoods are rugged trees.  As we walked through the forests we saw many with deep grooves and bark rubbed raw.  Some trees had been hit by lightening, some had been partially burned and some had been blown sideways by strong winds.  Those trees had weathered many storms but they did not look weak or ugly for all their battering.  On the contrary, walking among those mammoths we were in awe of their strength and majesty.  Isn’t that like our faith?  As we are beaten and bruised by the trials of this life, our faith becomes strong because we come to know by experience that nothing—not tribulation, not distress, not persecution, not famine, not nakedness, not danger, not sword—“nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).  And in the trials our faith is made beautiful and glorifying to God, “more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire” (1 Pet. 1:7).

Third, some trees had grown so old they had toppled over.  Their roots were so huge they left craters where they were wrenched from the ground.  These horizontal trees were natural playgrounds where the kids (and John and I) could climb, jump, tunnel, and seesaw in and over sturdy trunks and planks.  Out of the middle of these dead trees, live new redwoods with green leaves on their branches would grow.  The dead redwoods were still giving life to new redwoods.  What a legacy!  Just like the baby redwoods (which, incidentally, were about the size of a regular tree) get nutrients from their dead forefathers, we get nutrients from saints who have gone before us (Hebrews 13:7).  Most importantly from the apostles through the scriptures but also from men in the history of the church who have written on doctrine and the Christian life and from saints we have known personally who have fed us wisdom from their lives.  Don’t you want to leave a legacy?  You don’t have to expire to enrich others with wisdom from the scriptures.  You can teach your children.  You can encourage other women in your church by reminding them of the gospel.  You can reach out with the love of Christ to co-workers and neighbors.

The last analogy that struck us was the contrast between a lone redwood and a redwood forest.  That lone redwood tree we drove through was impressive, but the forests were spectacular.  Similarly, a lone Christian standing up for the faith in the workplace or her home can be impressive, but a whole church of people of different generations, colors, and cultural and religious backgrounds loving one another is a spectacular display of the glory of God.  It is “through the church the manifold wisdom of God [is] made known” (Ephesians 3:10).  As Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).  Your forest is your church.  As we love one another in our local churches as Jesus has loved us, singing together, praying together, sitting under the preaching of God’s Word together, serving together and spending time together, we will, like the redwood forests, look spectacular to the outside world.

Faith is not just like a redwood, it’s like a whole redwood forest.

This blog is a slightly edited version of a 2013 blog by Keri on

Retiring with Heavenly Treasure

I’m proud of my father. He’s the definition of a self-made man. His parents were hardworking but not highly educated (neither had been to college). His father worked on an assembly line; his mother in an office. Dad didn’t do so well in high school but wanted to succeed, so against his counselor’s recommendation, he went to the local community college. He worked as a clerk in a record store (for Millennials that means music store) to pay his fees. Soon he was doing the job of an accountant and graduated from the state college with a business degree. He ambitiously worked to move up the ladder. If he wasn’t being promoted fast enough in his current company, he would move to a better position in a new one. Eventually, he became a financial vice president and then started his own company. He ran that expanding company for 20 years and is now retired.

That was my dad’s end-goal all along—a comfortable retirement. He kept his eye on the ball, working hard, regularly putting money away and making wise investments. He taught us the key to having a good amount of money at retirement is starting to save when you’re young and continuing that practice over years. My dad reached his goal. He and my mom have a nice house, travel when they want and are generous to family and friends. They live the American dream.

My dad isn’t a Christian, but his life is a parable of what can be accomplished if we keep the end goal in mind. The end goal for the Christian isn’t a comfortable retirement in this life. It’s retirement from this life for eternal life with God. We can store up imperishable treasure for that retirement as we wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

It’s about this storing up treasure while we wait that I want to teach my children. When I was in high school and college, I didn’t think very far out into the future. I thought about the weekend, the paper due next week and maybe, after a couple months into the semester, final exams. I was a foolish student, wasting my time on fleeting pleasures that left me empty inside. My only thought about the afterlife was a hope that I had my fire insurance because I had once asked Jesus into my heart. I certainly didn’t live intentionally with Christ in mind.

But salvation isn’t fire insurance. When we repent of our sins and put our trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, we are truly saved from the wrath of God. But we are also saved for the work of God. Ephesians 2: 10 tells us we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Salvation means we are recreated to do the work that God created for us to do. And the Bible tells us that work actually earns us reward. As Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). With our minds set on heavenly things, our studies, jobs, relationships, time and social activity can actually count for the future.

Moms, even if your teenage children are not yet Christians, you can teach them so that when the Holy Spirit changes their hearts they are ready to make those heavenly deposits. Here are three treasures to teach your children to store up:

Knowing Christ

The apostle Paul called the knowledge of Christ “of surpassing worth” (Philippians 3:8). He called everything else rubbish in comparison. What if our students, as they studied Math or History or Spanish, majored in knowing Christ? What if they regularly read and studied God’s word, thinking through texts and applying them to their hearts? What if they worked toward “reaching all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3)? That would be an invaluable depth of treasure that would last throughout eternity. Mothers who teach and model faithful and consistent time in the Scriptures, and dedication to the teaching and preaching of their local church, encourage those same habits in their children and give those students a gift that will continue giving their entire lives.

Forming Christ-like Character

            The book of Titus tells us that the grace of God not only saves but also trains. It trains us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12). Far from “Let go and let God,” this is muscular language. We participate in our sanctification while God works in us to give us godly desires and the ability to fight sin (Philippians 2:12-13). Students who are increasing in their knowledge of Christ can use the stress and trouble of school, the messiness of relationships, and the uncertainly of the future to train themselves to react in Christ-like ways and trust the Lord more deeply. As parents, we can remain involved in our children’s trials and temptations by talking them through difficulty and infusing our conversations with biblical wisdom. Christ-like character leads to being zealous for good works (Titus 2:14) and reaps everlasting reward.

Building Relationships

The teenage and early adult years are times of multiplying relationships as our children move from being socially centered in the home to more independent friendships in the church and world. These relationships can be selfishly used to fill needs and desires, or they can be used for the glory of God. Students are open to exploring the mysteries and meaning of life, giving our children unique opportunities to speak to their friends about what is true and “give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Moms: Regularly point your children (and others in your church) to Christ, and engage in evangelism, then they will be well-equipped to season their relationships in the church with grace and share the gospel with those on the outside, storing up the treasure of Christ-centered friendships that will last into eternity.

The End Goal

Knowing Christ, forming Christ-like character and building relationships for God’s glory is not like putting money in the stock market. There’s no uncertainty in God’s economy. That treasure will reap rewards in this life and forevermore. So let’s encourage our students not to just look forward to graduation or a career or marriage and family but to keep their eye on the end-goal. Let’s teach them to make deposits while they’re young and continue that practice over the years. Let’s encourage them to work hard and let’s work hard ourselves toward retirement from this life, storing up treasure in heaven that will last throughout eternity.

4 Marks of a Potential Bible Study Leader

There were tears in many eyes as Barbara, always an encourager, told us how much we had meant to her. It was our group’s last meeting of the year, and Barbara was moving away.

Read the rest of this article here.

Christmas is Coming!

The first Christmas was announced with great joy. Emmanuel was coming into the world!

We were created for this joy—the joy of knowing God and experiencing his presence. Why not give your mother, daughter, sister or friend a Christmas gift that increases that joy?

The Good Portion: Scripture will cause you to see the treasure that is God’s word and to savor its sweetness.

The Good Portion: God will open your eyes to God’s glory and lead you to rejoice in his goodness.

Curl up with a good book this Christmas and give a gift that keeps on giving joy.


For U.S. orders click on the above links. For international orders: TGP: ScriptureTGP: God.

Not All Women’s Bible Studies Are Created Equal

Linda and Connie didn’t come to church but were regular attenders at women’s Bible study. They did their workbook homework, never missed a week, and were big fans of our video teacher. When we switched to a more intensive, inductive study one fall, they weren’t happy, though they continued to attend.

But then something happened. Linda and Connie started delighting in God’s Word. As they studied the passage for the week, they began to spend hours each day looking up every cross-reference in their study Bibles.

Their new love for God’s Word then ignited a new love for God’s people. They began attending church and became hospitable, servant-oriented members. These women traded their obsession with a video teacher for an obsession with Scripture, and it resulted in their spiritual growth—which ultimately encouraged the whole congregation.

When women truly study the Bible for themselves, they change. God uses his Word to ignite robust spiritual growth that spurs women on and unifies the church. I’ve participated in women’s Bible study in three different churches over the past 20 years. In each case, the whole congregation profited because women were growing in their knowledge of the truth.

Not all women’s Bible studies are created equal. So what made these studies so profitable? Here are three ways we strengthened our studies—and you can strengthen yours:

1. Be Church-Based

When women worship together in church, sitting regularly under expositional preaching of God’s Word, it feeds their souls. They become united in their theology, engage in covenant relationships where they spur each other on, and benefit from the same elder oversight.

A church-based Bible study furthers the work of the main gathering and helps to build up not only the women but also the whole congregation, as fellowship becomes more intimate and women connect their families and friends. There’s a synergy that takes place when we root women’s Bible study in the local church.

At my current church, we encourage women who attend Bible study to also attend our church. We invite them to become committed members of the congregation—to sit under biblical preaching, affirm our statement of faith, reach out with hospitality, and serve and be served. We encourage these things in large-group talks, smaller discussion groups, and one-on-one conversations. Women and families now regularly join the church and become involved through the vehicle of our Bible studies.

Outreach-oriented Bible studies in the community, workplace, or school can be fantastic ministries where people hear the gospel and meet Christ. There’s a place for parachurch Bible studies, but to maximize spiritual growth in Christian women, keep your Bible study under the authority of your local church. It’s good for women, and it’s good for the church.

2. Turn Off the Video

Women need confidence in their ability to understand the Bible. Some video studies are theologically solid and helpful, but many focus more on eliciting emotional responses than leading women to understand the Scriptures. Polished teachers can make us laugh and cry, but if we remember illustrative stories more than the text we’re studying, we miss the point and can become dedicated to the teacher rather than God’s Word. Video teaching can also intimidate women into thinking they can’t handle the Bible themselves.

At the United Christian Church of Dubai, we stopped the videos. We introduced a regular diet of inductive studies through books of the Bible with straightforward questions that lead women to understand and apply the text. We devoured Kathleen Nielson’s Living Word Bible Studies, and since it was so hard to find pure inductive studies for women that were theologically grounded, I began writing my own (most recently two volumes on the Gospel of Mark). These got women’s noses in the Bible.

It’s important to make sure any materials we use are closely tied to the Bible. Look for studies that accurately focus on the meaning of the text and apply that meaning to women’s lives. Wean yourselves off videos and study the meat of the Bible for yourselves.

3. Find Qualified Leaders

In the past, our Bible studies had leadership problems. Anyone could volunteer to lead, using any study she chose. Some leaders weren’t members of the church. Others weren’t even Protestant, so they had no teaching or oversight from our elders and weren’t united by any particular theology.

As we started getting to know the leaders, we realized that one didn’t believe that faith in Christ is necessary for salvation. She had 40 women in the group she was leading—some Hindu and Muslim—and she had never considered that some of these women didn’t know the one true God. It was the Wild West of women’s ministry!

Changing leadership took time, effort, and patience. Our elders taught a systematic theology class for women leaders, encouraging them to think deeply about what they were teaching. They asked past leaders to become members of the church. The church also cultivated new leadership among women who were delighting in the Scriptures and committed to the church. We patiently waited, worked, and prayed for the culture of leadership to change, along with the culture of the entire church.

Fast-forward 10 years and now our leaders are excited about their Bibles, have sound theological instincts, and are committed to the larger congregation. They are women intent on understanding the meaning of the text and serious about applying it to their lives. Our leaders are from Egypt, Ghana, Australia, India, Kenya, Burundi, Ireland, Zambia, Kazakhstan, and America. We may not have much in common, but we all love the Word of God.

Worth the Work

By God’s grace, our women’s Bible study has been reformed along with the whole congregation. We now use God-centered biblical studies, our women love the church, and our leaders are all on the same theological page. We’ve seen women come to know the Lord. We’ve seen women get excited about studying his Word. And we’ve seen women get plugged into the church and start discipling others.

Strengthening a women’s Bible study won’t be easy. It will take wisdom, gentleness, and patience. You may even face opposition. But whether you’re leading a group of three women or 300, it’s worth your time, energy, and even delight.

** This post first appeared on The Gospel Coalition blog:

The True Story

There’s controversy swirling over Disney stories again. After reading Snow White, actress Kristen Bell asks her daughters, “Don’t you think that it’s weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission? Because you cannot kiss someone if they’re sleeping!”

Consent is a hot topic these days. Freshmen on college campuses attend classes and discussions where counselors stress the necessity of consent but then have to define what it means. A “yes” is not a “yes” if the woman is too drunk to make rational decisions. (Of course, there’s very little discussion on the danger of getting drunk in the first place. And there’s no warning that if your decision-making capability is severely impaired by alcohol, it’s likely to be the same for the man you’re with.)

Ms. Bell obviously wants to begin this conversation with her daughters while they’re young. She should be commended for reading with her daughters and discussing hard topics. But this is a good example of misinterpretation of a text. Fairy tales are fiction, and they are often full of symbolic acts with deep meaning. The kiss in Snow White isn’t about sex. It’s about love. It’s about the kind of love that rescues the beloved.

When my daughter was three years old, I walked into a scary scene. My little Ruthie was on the lap of my grandmother, and I heard ominous words coming from the T.V. It was Maleficent declaring, “I summon all the powers of hell!” I exclaimed, “Grandma! What are you watching with my daughter?” It was Sleeping Beauty, and my grandmother’s response was instructive: “She needs to know that Satan is real and there is evil in the world.”

Fairy tales teach us about good and evil with good ultimately winning out. They teach us about love and hate and self-centeredness and sacrifice. It’s been a long time since I watched Sleeping Beauty. (My baby girls are grown.) But I know that it’s about jealousy and pride and evil that curses all that is good. It’s about a kingdom that has fallen asleep. And it’s about a prince who enters into the kingdom, conquers evil, wakes everyone up and marries his bride to live with her happily ever after.

Like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty is fiction and should be read as fiction. But both of these fairy tales point to The True Story: the story about evil that has marred a perfect world and left its inhabitants blind and asleep; the story about the prince who entered into this world and conquered evil by his own death; the story about this prince being raised from the dead and coming to marry his bride to live with her happily ever after.

Now, that’s a story worth talking to our children about!

Six Ways to Increase Your Delight

Love… joy… delight: do these come to mind when you picture the Bible? I love my husband. I delight in my children. I often rejoice in my relationships with others. But do I feel passionately about God’s word?

Psalm 119 overflows with words of passion. The psalmist’s love and joy jump off the page to inspire our hearts. “I find my delight in your commandments which I love, ” (vs. 47) says the psalmist to his God. He goes on to declare, “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (vs. 111). What treasure causes such expressions of pleasure?

The psalmist delights in the Scriptures because he delights in God, who personally communicates with us through his word. As J.I. Packer has said, “The written word of the Lord brings us to the living Lord of the word.”

But what if I’m not “feelin’ it”? Exhaustion, sickness, discouragement and just plain busyness can wreak havoc on all our relationships. Likewise, these things can shrivel our hearts and turn our Bible reading into teeth-gritting duty instead of relational delight. So how can we be like the Psalmist and increase our joy in the Bible? Let me give you seven practical ways:

First, come to know the God of the Bible. (Nothing will give true joy without this.) The psalmist asks God to “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (v. 37). The Bible is an interesting book for anyone, but it is electrifying when you have a relationship with its Author.

God created us for relationship. But even those of us who grew up in Christian homes, go to church and read our Bibles have sinned. We have rebelled against God’s steadfast love and lived for ourselves. We deserve death, not life. But God sent his only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross, taking the punishment for anyone who would repent and believe. After Jesus died, God raised him from the dead, and he makes us alive in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, who awakens our hearts to delight in God’s word. To enjoy the Bible, God must turn our eyes from worthless things and give us life.

Second, pray. The psalmist not only declared his delight in God’s word, he prayed to delight in God’s word. Verse 18 says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law”!

I used to find the Bible boring. My times of reading and prayer were duty not delight. So I prayed and asked others to pray for me. It didn’t happen overnight, but my time in the Bible grew to be my favorite time of day. Unless God gives spiritual sight, we will remain deaf to his word. (We hear God speak with our eyes.) So pray for the Lord to show you wondrous things in the Scriptures. Can you imagine a prayer he would find more joy in answering?

Third, have a regular time, place and plan for Bible reading. We don’t expect to have energy for our day without eating breakfast. We don’t get into the car and drive to work on an empty tank of gas. We fuel our bodies and our cars. How much more eternally important is it to fuel our souls? The psalmist knew of this need: “My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (v. 148).

George Mueller was a nineteenth century Englishman who was famous for his reliance upon God in establishing multiple orphanages in England. He was a busy man. When he was 76 years old, he wrote what he had learned over the past 50 years:

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord…. I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it…. What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and… not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.

If we want to be happy, we need the routine of spiritual meals every day.

A regular place to read your Bible will help you get into a routine. I have a favorite rocking chair next to a bookcase with pencils and a notepad. I don’t have to get myself organized. Everything I need is right there.

And have a Bible reading plan. Whether you’re digging deeply into a particular book or reading through the Bible in a year, know what you’re going to read before you sit down. Don’t allow indecision to stop you before you get started.

A time, a place and a plan will help you stay consistently in God’s word. Soon you will find these are habits you refuse to give up because the Bible is bringing you such joy.

Fourth, meditate on what you read. The psalmist sings in verse 97, “O how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” He “stores up” (v. 11), “fixes his eyes on” (v. 15), “understands” (v. 99) and “unfolds” (v. 130) God’s word. He enjoys thinking deeply about the Scriptures and this brings understanding that spurs on his delight.

Meditating on the Scriptures simply means to think about them—think them through—ask questions of the text, look at every word, figure out the meaning. Then ponder its implications for your heart, your family, your church and the world.

You know, the world ignores God. Television, radio, and social media: these all work together to invade our minds and tempt us to treasure things that bring only fleeting pleasure. We need to purify ourselves from the toxicity of the world by washing in the water of the word. We need to soak in it. As we immerse ourselves, we’ll see the superior pleasures of Christ and his ways. The Puritan Thomas Watson explained, “The reason we come away so cold from reading the word of God is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.” Meditate on the Scriptures to increase your joy.

Fifth, be involved in a Bible-centered church. The Psalms were not written primarily for individual consumption but for community. Psalm 119 was written for the people of God to sing together. You will delight in your Bible even more if you enjoy it with others. Being involved in a word-centered church where others are enthusiastic—not about entertainment, programs or stories—but about the word of God being sung, read, prayed, and preached, will stoke your passion for the Scriptures.

Sixth, speak the word to outsiders. The psalmist declared, “I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love” (vv. 46-47). Sharing the good news of Jesus, dying for sinners, can spur us on in the faith as we contemplate God’s grace to us. It can also challenge us to grow in our knowledge of God through the Scriptures so we are ready to give answers and defend the faith. Our delight in God’s word causes us to share it with others, and sharing it with others causes us to delight in it more. Try it and see!

Treasure… Joy… Delight

The Bible is a treasure more precious than any earthly prize: “I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold” (v. 127). In it is found great joy: “I rejoice at your word, like one who finds great spoil” (v. 162). There is no sweeter delight: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (v. 103). What will be your most precious treasure this year? Your greatest joy? Will your heart go after the world, or is the Bible your sweetest delight?