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So you’ve signed up to CBE and you’ve got your CBE New Testament right in front of you.  That’s the easy part.  Now for the longer part of the journey – the reading.  I’m not sure how you’re feeling today.  Maybe some of you are excited to get stuck in, or nervous that you won’t be able to keep up.  Maybe some of you are expectant to hear from God, or overwhelmed at how thick the book is. 

So here’s one thing to remember and three ways to go about structuring your daily devotions with God:

From Information to Intimacy

Let’s start with a basic of what Bible reading is all about – it’s about growing in intimacy with God, not just growing in information about God. 

Our big problem is that we often forget this truth when reading the Bible.  It can be especially hard when we are reading larger amounts of His Word, and while trying to answer questions about it as well. You’ll learn a lot of information about God on this journey and that’s good, but it can be dangerous if that’s the only way you grow.  All the information you learn is meant to produce love, worship, and joy in your heart towards God.  It’s meant to fuel your passion for Jesus and draw you closer to Him.  It’s meant to highlight sinful issues in your life that need to be dealt with so that you can draw closer to Him.

Reading Scripture is about intimacy.  It’s about relationship.  It’s about drawing close to God.  It’s about stepping more in line with His Kingdom. It can be so easy to forget that, so here’s how I’m trying to structure my daily devotions throughout this to help me seek intimacy with God.

1. Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

You need to remember what you’ve read above so find some way of doing this.  I’m simply going to write ‘From Information to Intimacy’ on a Post-It Note and stick it on the shelf where I keep my book.  That way it’ll be a reminder every day that I hopefully won’t miss.

2. Pray

I cannot overstate the importance of this!  Before you start reading, pray.  Prayer helps you remember it’s about a relationship, not simply reading.  But it’s not just another reminder about what this is all about.  We need to pray because we often miss the entire point.

Some Jews read the Bible but completely missed Jesus – ‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me [Jesus], yet you do not come to Me that you may have life’ (John 5:39-40).

It’s easy to miss Him. Our hearts can grow dull.  We can start to believe that consistent Bible reading is where life and salvation rest instead of in Jesus.

The Bible is meant to fuel our passion for Jesus, but if we’re honest, sometimes it just feels a little… dead?  We know it’s alive and active (Hebrews 4:12).  We know it’s meant to lead us to joyful worship in our minds, hearts and actions, but that’s not always our experience.  It’s easy to miss Him.  Our hearts can grow dull.  We can start to believe that consistent Bible reading is where life and salvation rest instead of in Jesus.  That’s a fault in us, not His Word – and that’s why we need to pray.  Here’s my prayer for us all:

‘Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law’ (Psalm 119:18). 

Ask Him to open your eyes every day.  Ask Him that your heart might burn with passion as you read His Word.  Ask Him for wonder and joy as you read His story.

3. Journal Your Thoughts

Most of you doing this plan will be reading with others, so you’ll want to find some way to easily remember what you’ve been learning.  There’re some questions on the CBE Reading Plan that you should hopefully have (if you don’t go here: https://www.biblicaeurope.com/cmsfiles/resources/covers/reading-plans/CBE-NT-Bookmark-final—Copy.pdf)

There are five questions on the six week plan side:

1. What’s something you noticed for the first time?

2. What questions did you have?

3. Was there anything that bothered you?

4. What did you learn about loving God?

5. What did you learn about loving others?

I’ve added a couple of extra ones for myself:

6. What does this teach me about God?

7. What does this teach me about my identity in Christ, or my sinful nature as a human?

That’s a lot of questions to answer and they can be overwhelming, so let me be clear: by journal I don’t mean write every thought you have down.  You’ll probably not have enough time for that and then you’ll fall behind and feel guilty about it.  Side note: if you’re growing in intimacy with God but falling behind the plan that’s not failure… there’s nothing to be guilty over.  But you’ll probably want to keep at the same pace as everyone else for accountability and engagement in our discussion times.

Here’s how I’m planning to journal my thoughts: 

I’ve assigned each question with a colour and if something stands out to me from one of the questions I’ll underline it with that colour.  It’ll really help me when it comes to sharing what I’ve learnt with others.

Sometimes I’ll write a few words in the margin to help me remember why it stood out.  Some from this morning are: ‘investigation leads to certainly’ or ‘by repentance.’  They are short and simple.

Put a star beside something if you’d love to look at it in more detail.  You can revisit it later, or do a more in-depth study at the weekend when there’s no reading plan.

Lastly, I’ll have a small journal for the end where I’ll answer 3 questions:

1. What’s My Big Take Away? – I’ll pick one thing that stood out and write a short bullet point of what it is.  Maybe some days there will be 2 or 3 short bullet points.

2. What Am I Going To Do About It? – What’s one thing I can do today that will help me apply God’s Word?  It could be an action or something I need to think more deeply about (meditate on).

3. What Can I Pray About From the Text? – maybe it’s for help to answer question 2.

4. Pages to Revisit – Okay I know I said 3 but here’s number 4. This will be space to write down bits I might want to come back to at the weekends.

Just so you know, my journal has A7 sized pages and I plan to only write one page a day, two at most.  Simplicity is key here in keeping with the plan.

Change It Up

I hope this will be helpful to you as you start CBE, but just remember that this is not a set formula, it’s a guide.  I’ve already changed colours, added questions, added a journal etc.  I’ll probably keep changing it and adapting as I go on.  You’ll maybe do the same, but keep the main structure the same: remind yourself what it’s all about,  start and finish in prayer, and engage your mind with the text with some sort of underlining or note taking.