Bibles for Devotions|
Up to now we have looked at which Bible translation and which study Bibles are useful to use in personal study. We thought you might appreciate some help choosing a Devotional Bible and finding a reading routine as well.
Devotional Bibles&Guerilla Marketing Techniques
This issue became apparent to us as we scanned new daily-reading bibles at our local bookstore recently. The newest devotional bible is a read-the-bible-in-90-days scheme. The cover tells you that you must read their particular version to succeed, and you must divide the Bible with their print-type or it won't work. In fact, you must read this particular $19.99 book for this plan to work. Now that is just plain silly.
Making Merchandise of You
This company has even included how to divide their audio CDs into a 90 day plan as well (not such a bad idea). However, their 64 audio CD set costs $79.99, or $119.95 for 66 CDs in the listener's version. They don't include their MP3 version which is less expensive. This verse quickly comes to mind:
…"and through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you" (2 Pet. 2:1 KJV)
Be careful out there - Christian marketing techniques can be aggressive, using guerilla-like tactics to part you with your money. Just like some funeral home marketing, desperate and hurting people may be their target-market.
We suggest that you begin a reading-routine now so that you will not fall into this marketing trap during hard times.
Simple One-Year Reading Plan
Here is a simple, one-year bible reading plan available to you in any version:
Take a plain-text, large-print version. Divide the Bible's total number of pages by 365 to see how many pages per day you must read to complete this Bible in one year. It's that simple.
Balanced-Diet Reading Plan
This option has been around for centuries. Read 2 chapters from the New Testament, 2 chapters from the Old Testament, 1 Psalm, and 1 chapter from Proverbs, daily. Sew 4 thin ribbons together at the top, and place each ribbon in your N.T., O.T., Proverbs, and Psalms page to keep your place.
Follow the above. However, read as much or as little as you wish. Don't force yourself to read exactly 2 chapters from the Old and New Testaments, plus an entire chapter of Psalms and Proverbs. Do what you can, even if it means just two sentences in each section.
Systematic Bible Reading&Listening
Reading the Bible daily or listening to audio-tapes of the Bible, is a wonderful, worthwhile goal. God speaks to us through His Word. If we have a systematic reading or listening plan, God will let us know what He thinks, what He wants from us, what choices to make, and other forms of guidance.
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go" (Ps. 32:8 ESV).
No matter which translation or method you pick, make the effort to read or listen to the Bible as consistently as you can. You may be surprised by how directly God speaks to you through His Word.
"And the word of the Lord will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little" (Isa 28:13 ESV).
While this verse is about the prophet Isaiah throwing taunts back at the Israelites, it is also used by many current teachers to explain how we learn God's Word. (See MacArthur Study Bible, or Life Application Study Bible notes for a good explanation of Isaiah's mockery of the teachers).
Don't Play Divination Games
Please don't play divination games by randomly sticking your finger on a page to receive God's guidance. Remember that the Bible is one book made up of many books with one unifying story. While God can speak to you with the "hunt and peck" method, it is clear from Scripture that He wants you to meditate daily on His Word.
As televangelist Bayless Conley said: "If you read the Logos (The Word) when you don't need it, you'll have the rhema (personal Word) when you do need it." www.AnswersBC.org.
Small Efforts Rewarded - No Guilt Allowed
Don't feel badly if you cannot read well. Make just a small effort to set up a regular reading plan and God will bless it. The nation of Israel gathered their families and children to hear the Law as an entire group and then taught them separately:
"At the end of every seven years…when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God…you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess" (Deut. 31:10-13 ESV).
Which translation or version should you use? See our article about translations. To quickly summarize that article, you might keep a King James Version (KJV) or a New King James Version (NKJV) in your library to represent the Byzantine manuscripts. Then, use either the New American Standard or English Standard Versions to represent the Alexandrian manuscripts. You have lots of choices for your primary reading bible.
Dynamic Translations for Devotions
Are dynamic translations acceptable? (These are thought-for-thought rather than word-for-word translations). Many of our colleagues might say "No" due to the number of bible verses clarifying that words and letters matter to our Lord (see Prov. 30:5 Ps. 12:6-7 Ps. 19:7 Matt. 4:4 Jn. 6:63 Jn. 17:8). Perhaps the most noted is,
"For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:18 ESV).
Many Dynamic Translations are Paraphrases
But, we believe it is a biblically defendable position to have a pastor or teacher, including commentaries explain Scripture to students and in that spirit, dynamic translations that make use of conveying thoughts or paraphrases are valid for study.
Consider this verse: …"the Levites helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading" (Nehemiah 8:8 ESV).
Here is another: "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" (Acts 8:30-31 ESV).
In light of these verses, students may surely feel free to use dynamic-versions with the understanding that these are Learning Bibles or Training Bibles from teachers/translators who are injecting some of their own insights into what the writers were trying to say.
Our experience is that many believers do not like to read, or cannot read well. They have difficulty with King James English, and struggle with formal-equivalent versions such as the New American Standard, English Standard, and New King James versions.
For these readers, we suggest that they read from the New Living Translation with a formal-equivalent version such as the New King James on hand to compare.
In case you're wondering, the NIV is OK. However, in my opinion, the NIV doesn't clearly state where it deviates from formal-equivalence (word for word). The reader is left wondering where interpretation is written into the text. The NLT, however, is clearly a dynamic-equivalent translation and does not leave the reader wondering which is the "real" text. It is a good translation-type of paraphrase.
Therefore, assuming that a reader understands that dynamic-translations contain a lot of commentary or paraphrase, the New Living Translation is useful for:
Reading through large amounts of the Old Testament.
For commentary and clarification.
For stroke-victims who find shorter sentences easier to comprehend.
For depressed individuals who lack concentration.
For the elderly who comprehend shorter sentences better.
For readers with lower reading-skills.
For younger ages.
May we suggest the Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation, large-print, (Wheaton, Ill., Tyndale Publishers, 1996).
Should you use one of Tyndale's One-Year Bibles? Sure. At this time, it is available in the NIV, KJV, ESV, and NLT. Tyndale's One-Year bibles are well-made and last a long time.
Don't forget to keep a prayer journal. It's awesome for a believer to record how God answers prayer…you'll see for yourself.