This article is the final of this series on the Reading Rut, and actually the inspiration for the whole series in the first place. Of course there is a myriad of resources out there, so this is just a snapshot of things I have found helpful – so I encourage you to try them out, and I hope that they might be as good for you as they have for me. However if you find they are not for you, I also encourage you to look for something that is! Over the last few years I have discovered the importance of finding a routine and resources that works for you. My husband reads commentaries – he buys the top 3 on each book of the Bible, reads the entire thing making notes, and sits and reflects upon it. This method just isn’t for me – as much as I am so glad that he does it because it means the devotionals he runs for us are so knowledgeable and in-depth – and similarly, what I recommend here may not work for you.
To try and provide a thorough and diverse range of options, I will cover a couple of different resources in this blog. I was certainly tempted to say, ‘if you are pressed for time then start with devotionals and if you have more time read books and commentaries’. And whilst there is certainly some sense in saying this, the fact of the matter is in today’s day and age, we are all busy, and whilst it is something we need to consider in our Bible reading routines, it simply isn’t an excuse to not be reading and studying God’s Word. So in the end I think it is about finding what works for you best in your season in terms of style and content, and making that fit into your life to the best of your ability.
It is also important that in doing this, you ensure your resources are theologically sound, ie: true to the Bible. So here are some things I think it is good to look out for when you are looking for new resources:
1. Choose a Bible translation that you can read and that is true to the original translation.
I am a big ESV fan; it is more ‘word for word’ than ‘idea for idea’ and maintains the original words and phrases. I have no problems with most of the popular translations such as NIV; if you find it better to read, please use it! I do just encourage you to be cautious around a translation such as the Message, which aims to captures the ideas of Scripture rather than the words, and is probably safest to be read in addition to another translation if you want to read it. Essentially what I am trying to get at, though, is to find a balance that suits you that is still achieving the aim of reading the Word of God.
2. Choose books from reputable authors.
This takes a bit of research. Unfortunately, you probably just can’t walk into a Christian bookshop these days and pick anything of the shelf and be sure it will be OK. I’ve found it most helpful to follow blogs, (Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition and Tim Challies are some good ones to start with) and use that as a jumping point of what authors they respect and recommend. If you find a book that you like and is clearly theologically sound, the people they have got to endorse it are often a safe bet also.
3. Be humble and critical.
Know that sometimes, something won’t sit well with you because you are challenged by it, and it is pointing out an area of sinfulness, and other times, things might not sit well with you because it is not in line with God’s word. If after prayer things still aren’t clear, find someone in your church, a pastor, mentor, member of a small group for their insight and guidance.
Ok, that’s all the pre-amble. Let’s get into it!
(NOTE: This post is not endorsed or sponsored by any company, publisher or author. All opinions are my own, and I am not receiving any sort of commission or compensation through this post or through the links to products [which you can access by clicking on the pictures])
So my Bible of preference is this one below, an ESV Journaling Bible. I love it because of its wide margin which I use to write notes in. These journaling Bibles had only just come out when I got mine, so I have a basic black cover (which I decorated), but now there is quite a range of beautiful covers you can get, and they also come in NIV and NLT translation.
I think having a place to write is such an asset, because as we have already talked about in previous posts, knowing the context, meaning and application of the text is really important, so having them written in my Bible means that I am not so likely to forget such details when I read it the next time.
As you can see, I write by using a range of different colours which correspond to different things.
Of course, my Bible is not the only Bible you can use; there are literally hundreds to choose from, but I just wanted to give you a bit of a snapshot of why having a space in the margins to write can be really useful, as it provides such a good opportunity to not only study God’s Word but to delight in it.
These days, everyone has a phone on them, and it can also be really useful to have The Bible on your phone so you have it wherever you are. I use the ESV Bible app; it allows you to write notes and highlight things that you find useful so you can reference it later. I personally prefer having a paper Bible as my primary Bible over an electronic one, simply because it’s harder to get distracted and easier to see the big picture of a passage and flip between books. But absolutely a matter of personal preference.
‘for you’ books
These books have changed the way I read the Bible, and changed my life. I truly don’t think I really got the gospel until I read Tim Keller’s ‘Roman’s for You’ – the first of these books that I read. The target audience for this series is the everyday Christian, who is looking to know and love God more, and these books provide that, and truly reach their goal as a book to ‘read, feed and lead’. They are written by an array of pastors and theologians, all with a passion for the gospel and a great ability to communicate the meaning and application of God’s Word. They are like a commentary in that they provide exegesis and context, however do so in an easy-to-read manner. They also spend most of the time on what is deemed to be most important or applicable to life, and take the time to discuss and explain the most difficult concepts. They are definitely what I use most when reading my Bible, and at the end of each section provide questions to aid my reflection and application of what I have read.
If these sound like something you want to try (and they should!) I recommend starting with any of them, particularly if there is a particular book that takes your fancy – but if not, I can whole-heartedly recommend these ones (which have been my personal favourites):
I’m not going to say much on commentaries, but if you are after a solid whole-Bible commentary, I have and love this one. (The New Bible Commentary).
If you are after some good recommendations on specific book commentaries, my husband uses the recommendations of this guy. (His blog is also fantastic so definitely worth exploring!)
As a teenager I LOVED devotionals, and as I got older, I seemed to find it increasingly harder to find what I regarded as good ones. In addition to this, as much as have tried many times to maintain a daily devotional, I almost always fall off the horse a few months in. Like I said, it’s just finding out what works for you. I actually buy them with the purpose of being able to read them just when I have a few minutes to spare -not long enough for my usual reading but enough for a shorter devotional.
On the go for me at the moment are:
NEW MORNING MERCIES – PAUL TRIPP
A very gospel-centered devotional, based off a short one-liner thought (originally tweets) with a meditation, and a Bible passage to read in addition. I really love it – and great to journal and reflect on! A whole year of devotionals too.
MY ROCK, MY REFUGE – TIM KELLER
This year long devotional I have been using to go through the Psalms one by one with my commentary, reflecting and praying through them, rather than doing it as a daily devotional.
All of Tim’s reflections in this book are great, but I found when reading it that I sometimes didn’t see how what he was saying in his reflection came from the Psalm itself (hence using a commentary, it makes things much clearer!). Still, it’s full of fantastic and Bible-centred themes.
EXPLORE BIBLE DEVOTIONAL.
– This app is by the Good Book Company, the same who produce the ‘For You’ books, and is an application which allows you to download different short devotionals which you can read on your phone. Studies range from being based on Bible books, or Christian life topics. There are a few free studies, and the rest are all very affordable, costing only a couple of dollars (and can use up some of your otherwise unusable credit!). Fantastic for being able to have a devotional with you for whenever you have free time.
Scripture Typer is what I use for Bible memorization. You can use flashcards or repeated writing-out of the verse, but I have found using an app as a happy medium between putting the work into memorization and it not feeling too much like study. The app works by choosing a verse (and a translation) and you memorize by typing the first letter of each word. Would you believe it works really well, and once again, is great to have on your phone for when you are waiting for your friend to show up to coffee or the bus to get to your stop.
Phew! That was more words than I was planning! But I thought it better to give a few reasons why I recommend these resources, rather than simply making a big list. And this didn’t even go into audiobooks (mainly as I have never really used any) or Bible reading plans! But despite that, hopefully there is something useful in there for you (and if you want some recommendations on Bible reading plans send me a message!)
So that wraps up our ‘Reading Rut’ series! If you have had any reflections on this series, whether it has been helpful, you’ve found it challenging, or have disagreed with bits of it, please fill in the comments section at the bottom; I’d love to hear from you!
If you have missed any of the previous posts leading up this this one on resources, you can find them here: Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3 , Part 4 , Part 5.