Read Mark’s Gospel
The date of this Pep Talk is the 17th February which happens to be Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent which runs for six weeks (approx.) leading up to Easter Sunday. Some parts of the Christian church make a very big deal about Lent and emphasise giving up certain things, a greater focus on prayer, daily devotions and the repentance of sins, whereas other parts of the Christian church barely acknowledge the season. Generally, our approach will be governed by what we grew up with and the traditions of the church we attend. Some of you will be used to setting aside time each day to read God’s Word, others may never have attempted it, and for others the spirit is often willing, but the flesh is weak and it’s all a bit hit and miss. Here’s our challenge! This Lent let’s read Mark’s Gospel together. You’ll find an extra sheet attached this week giving the daily readings (see attachments). On each Wednesday’s through Lent the Pep Talk will be from Mark’s Gospel. When it comes to Bible reading these seven tips may help
- Get a Modern Translation of the Bible. This sounds rather obvious, but I’ve met plenty of people over the years who inherited a very old bible from a family member and felt that they are honouring them by using it but have struggled to understand it. So, tip 1, get a modern translation, for example the 2011 NIV or the English Standard Version. Alternatively, download the bible onto your phone/device (Bible Gateway).
- Have a plan. There is an adage- ‘Fail to plan and plan to fail’ and this is especially true when it comes to Bible reading. Four things you need to decide- a) What to read? For now, let’s collectively drop anchor in Mark’s Gospel- one of the accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. b) When to read? It’s great to set aside a bit of time each day to read the Bible by yourself. Personally, I’ve always found early in the morning as the best time but choose a time that best suits you. c) How long to read? If you were beginning to train for a marathon then you wouldn’t make your first run 10 miles. It’s best to start small and build up. That’s the same with bible reading. I’d suggest starting with 15 mins. This should be long enough to read the passages in Mark each day. d) Where to read? This may sound a bit odd but how easy would it be to concentrate if you picked the kitchen table when everyone else is having breakfast? Not so good! Try to find a quiet place.
- Pray before you read. God speaks to us through His Word and it’s right to ask God to help us to be able to hear him clearly, not get distracted and to have a responsive mind, heart and will. That’s one reason why I think it is better to use a physical bible away from a phone or tablet as the chance of distractions (texts, FB, emails) are fewer.
- Read & note things- Read the passage slowly, and underline (highlight) things that strike you as interesting. Put a question mark next to something you’re not sure about or an exclamation mark against a surprise! It’s really helpful to keep a little notebook with you to write down your reflections or a verse that God might impress upon you.
- Respond in prayer. Prayer is a part of our response to God. He has spoken to us through His Word and now we speak to him in prayer. It may be that we want to thank him for some encouragement we received that day. Maybe we discovered something about Him that we’d never seen before and we want to praise him. Maybe we were convicted about something wrong in our lives and we want to say sorry to him. Perhaps we were challenged about something and we want to ask for his help in putting it into practice. Maybe we read something and struggled to grasp what it means, and we ask God to make it clearer to us. It’s helpful to note these down and then as we look back, we’ll see God at work in our lives and answering our prayers.
- Just do it! Several years ago, Nike had the advertising slogan Just do it! And that is very appropriate when it comes to our response to God’s Word. The Bible is not like an academic subject where the aim is to master your subject. In fact, it’s the very opposite. James writes in his letter- “Humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (1:21) We don’t sit in authority over the bible deciding what we like and don’t like, but we sit under it and allow it to master us. We read the Bible not so that we would know our bibles better, but so that we would know God better. And then in the very next verse James tells us what this looks like- “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (1:22) As we hear from God then our right response is to put that word into practice in our lives.
- Keep feeding on it! How often do you start the day and think to yourself, “I don’t really need any food today!” I doubt whether you do. I certainly don’t. We all need food to keep us going. What is true of physical food, is even more true of our spiritual food. Jesus said this one day to Satan as he was being tempted in the wilderness (quoting Deuteronomy 8:3) “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every world that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) The Word of God is crucial for strengthening and growing us as followers of Christ. We can’t grow without it, even though at times we think we can. It’s vital to get into the habit of feeding each day on God’s Word and it’s good to encourage each other in doing this as we face an enemy in Satan who wants us to keep our bibles firmly shut.
So, are you up for the Lent challenge? Why not partner with someone and encourage each other to make this a daily priority and even share some of your discoveries. If you’re in a small group or the community group encourage the others to take part.
Prayer- Dear Lord God. I want to know you better and grow as one of your children. You know the struggles that I face in reading your Word so please help me over Lent to make this a daily priority. May I grow in ever greater likeness to your Son. Amen
Bible- if you don’t have a modern translation of the Bible then please get in touch and we can get a copy over to you ASAP (firstname.lastname@example.org or 01784 240014).