Question of the Year: Where in the Word Are You?

by Stephen Rhoda

I propose that this be the Question of the Year for 2010, “Where in the Word are you?”  As disciples of Christ, we should always be in the Word.  There should always be a book of the Bible that we are reading, there should always be a subject or theme that we are tracing out in Scripture, and there should always be a shorter passage that we are committing to memory.  So… where in the Word are you right now?  And where in the Word do you plan to be this year?

Parents, introduce this question to your children and let them know that you’ll be asking them regularly.  Each Lord’s Day start the week by asking them where in the Word they were in the past week and where they plan to be in the coming week.  

As we start a new year, here is the challenge to make plans and set goals for your reading and study of God’s Word in 2010.  Remember that reading our Bibles should not be a matter of “voluntary spirituality” but of survival.  In other words, it’s not about “getting fulfilled” or “scratching an itch,” but about persevering in faith to the end and saving your very soul.  Will your faith be stronger or weaker by the end of the year?  Will you be more or less sure of the reality of Christ’s kingdom?  Let us not be presumptuous in our faith.  For each of us, both faith and the perseverance of faith are not natural to us.  Faith was the gift of God to start, and faith will persevere only as we remain in prayer and in the Word.

Here are some suggestions for studying God’s Word in 2010:

1. Study Thematically ~ Choose a subject or theme and trace it throughout Scripture.  For example, study the theme of God’s presence with His people, starting in the Garden and finishing in the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21-22.  A topical Bible can be helpful.  I have used one from Baker Books called Topical Analysis of the Bible, by Walter A. Elwell.

2. Study with a Commentary ~ Choose a book of the Bible and get a commentary for that book.  Read a passage or chapter and then the commentary to deepen your understanding of that portion of God’s Word.  You can find access to many commentaries online or order one for your shelf.  Buy with confidence anything from Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing or Banner of Truth Trust.  Check out Banner of Truth’s “Let’s Study” series for something fairly accessible to the average person.  However, don’t shy away from reading Calvin and the classics of Reformed scholarship, including Spurgeon and Matthew Henry.  You may not understanding everything, but I trust you’ll understand most of what you read.

3. Study with a Map ~ In your love for Christ, you might trace His path on a map as you read the account of His life and ministry from one of the Gospel writers.  You can find such maps in the back of a Study Bible or online.  Otherwise, make your own map and fill in the locations as you come across them in the text.  This method reminds us that our study of God’s Word is about loving Christ and finding communion with Him.

4. Cross-Referenced Study ~ Choose a book of the Bible and read one passage or chapter per day.  From each reading, commit to checking all the cross-reference passages given for one or two verses.  In time, it will come more naturally to cross-reference words and expressions that are difficult or especially meaningful to you. Note: You will obviously need a cross-referenced Study Bible.  I recommend the English Standard Version, but regrettably its cross-referencing is not nearly as strong and thorough as the NIV.

5. Study with the Standards ~ Acquire a version of your preferred confession/catechism with proof texts.  In my experience, most copies of the Heidelberg Catechism will have the proof texts, but most copies of the Westminster Standards will not.  Why is that?  Read one Article or Question & Answer per day, tracing the teaching to God’s Word via the proof texts.  Once in God’s Word, follow cross-references to other passages and write them in as your own notes.

6. Study to Sing the Psalms  ~ Study a psalm per week in order to be more conscious of Christ in your psalm singing on the Lord’s Day.  Even further, sing at home on your own or with your family as you study each psalm.  Parents, share with your children what you’ve learned before singing that psalm as a family around the table.  Note: You will need a least one copy of the Psalter or Psalter Hymnal, but a worthy investment to have even two or three.

7. Read through the Bible in a Year ~ This is a rather ambitious goal, requiring you to read four chapters a day for every day of the year.  It’s worth doing, but my recommendation is to be just as faithful in reading one or two chapters a day and finishing in two to three years.

Regardless how we study, we ought always to have a specific answer when asked the question- “Where in the Word are you?”  Read the Word.  Study the Word.  And glory every day in Christ!