Tim Alford continues his exhortatation for us to make the Bible a vital part of your life

Leadership_Plumb Line

“The book is our plumb-line, the book is our gold standard, the book is our magnetic north.
These are not just words, they are your very life”

Ellie Mumford



As indicated in Mumford’s words above, the reading of Scripture is an indisputable and indispensable foundation for every person who is seeking to apprentice under Jesus, live as his faithful disciple, and be continually transformed into his likeness. In short, you cannot follow Jesus without being rooted in his Word.

To that end, we are exploring some practical tools that you can take away and apply to your life, that will help you and your young people build a consistent, life-giving, Jesus-connecting rhythm of Bible reading. Last time out we looked at reading all of it, memorising it, meditating on it and paraphrasing it. Today we conclude with four more ways you can engage with these Holy texts… 

If you want to remind yourself of part one go here


5. Study it! 

Have you ever experienced reading the Bible and hitting something that you couldn’t get your head around or didn’t make sense to you? Maybe you came across some specific words that you didn’t understand? Well, that’s where study comes in.

Now I appreciate that for many of us the thought of ‘study’ doesn’t immediately inspire us! But there can actually be something really thrilling when something that seemed so convoluted or unreachable starts to become clear in your mind, particularly when your study leads you to a fresh revelation of the character of the God you love.

I remember one particular occasion when I was studying this passage from Zephaniah: The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

In my study I was perusing BibleHub.com to get some insight into the meaning of the original language (Hebrew) from which the text had been translated. In doing so I discovered the word translated as ‘Rejoice’ in our English texts is the word ‘gil’ (pronounced, ‘gheel’) in Hebrew, which literally means - get this - ‘to spin round under the influence of violent emotion’!

In that moment I began to understand how my Father’s love for me was so rich, so deep and so fierce that it causes him to spin around and around, like a football fan celebrating a goal!

Isn’t that beautiful? But I only discovered that incredible truth by taking the time to go a little bit deeper into the text and study that verse.

We live in a time where we have more abundant and accessible resources - from commentaries, study Bibles, websites and apps - than at any other time in the history of the world. So let’s take advantage of that incredible privilege by digging a little deeper into the study of Scripture.


6. Talk about it!

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 11:18-19).

Some of the most profound revelations from Scripture I’ve ever had have been when opening the Bible in the context of community, because other people will see things, through the filter of their personality, knowledge, experience and cultural background, that I would never see. Their insights helped me to understand things that I would likely never have grasped hold of on my own.

There is such transformative power in opening the Bible together and learning from one another in the context of community. And this doesn’t have to be in a structured small group setting, (though it’s great to be deliberate about it by being in a group like that), it can and should be part of our everyday conversations with other Jesus-followers as well.


7. Listen to it! 

Listen carefully to what I say; let my words ring in your ears (Job 13:17).

We all have different learning styles. For some of us, listening will be a lot easier than reading. Again the YouVersion Bible App can help us here, with most translations having an audio version available. So why not try listening to a chapter or two before bed each night? I can’t think of many better ways to fall asleep than with the Word of God being spoken over us!

It’s also great to get the perspective of others on the text. Listening to the insights of a trustworthy Bible teacher can really help bring the passage to life in a way that we may not experience through reading it on our own. That’s why I love to listen to sermon podcasts whilst I’m out on a run. It’s a really useful tool to help me orient my life around the Word of God, though it can never become a replacement for the local church.


8. Pray through it! 

The Bible is a conversation starter, the perfect place from which to enter into dialogue with God. It can inspire thanksgiving and praise, it can lead us to a place of adoration and worship, it can reveal our sin and draw us to repentance, it can cause us to ask questions of God (that’s OK by the way, just read the Psalms!), and can cause us to ‘ask, seek and knock’ for others and for ourselves.

Dane Ortlund captures this perfectly, saying, “Reading the Bible is inhaling. Prayer is exhaling … We can easily think of these two disciplines as independent activities. We read the Bible, and we pray. But the most effective way to pray is to turn your Bible reading into prayer.” 

The Bible was never meant to be a dry, academic text book, but a place of encounter and conversation with the living God. So don’t just read it, pray through it.


Live by the Truth

In all this, let us remember that we are a people subservient to an objective, revealed truth, and as such we are not to succumb to the idolatry of self by making our personal perspectives and desires the highest authority in our lives, but by making the will of God as revealed through Scripture the highest authority in our lives. Because the way of Jesus is not to define our own truth and satisfy our personal mores, it is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. In doing so we discover that true fulfilment does not come through self-gratification, but through denying ourselves in order to participate in something that is greater than ourselves.

The One Hope study to which we referred earlier, revealed a fascinating finding which emphatically emphasises the reality that fullness life comes through obedience to the Way of Jesus outlined in Scripture. The study found that those people who demonstrated the behaviours and beliefs of what they called “committed Christians” - which they defined as those who ascribed to the basic tenants of the Christian faith, and prayed and read Scripture on their own at least weekly - were less likely to be depressed, less likely to report a suicide attempt, less likely to be confused about their gender identity, and less likely to exhibit at-risk behaviours. In fact, those young people who evidenced the values and behaviours of followers of Jesus were less likely to evidence concerning mental health issues on nearly every item they measured!   

The Way of Jesus, as marked out for us in the Bible, may very well be counter-cultural, unpopular and unpalatable for some, but the Way of Jesus works! The invitation to life in its fullness is for us all, and the pathway into that life is revealed to us only through the Word of God.

How do we know how to follow Jesus? We read and apply his Word.

How do we how to step into fullness and abundance of life? We read and apply his Word.

For generations, Scripture has taken a central role in the spiritual formation of Jesus-followers. We cannot, we must not, allow it to be sidelined on our watch.

I conclude with this powerful reminder from Psalm 19….


The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes … The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:7-11


Questions for reflection

  • How central is the role of the Bible in your life? Do you need to mark out a daily time in your schedule to read Scripture?
  • In which of the ways outlined in this article do you engage with the Bible? Do any of these practices of Bible reading strike you as helpful for your personality, learning style and stage of life that you may wish to integrate into your practice of Bible reading?
  • How central is the Bible in your youth or children’s ministry?
  • What proactive measures can you take to equip your children and young people to place Scripture as a central part of their own daily lives?