BIBLE READING HELP

Christian faith takes its lead from the pages of the Bible. This ancient book has shaped our world over the past two thousand years and remains a global bestseller.

The Bible is a big book and reading it can feel intimidating and confusing. Help is available.

GET HOLD OF A BIBLE
On Sunday mornings we use the English Standard Version of the Bible in our meetings. We’ll gladly give you a copy during the meeting which you can keep. Our speakers use this version and we’ll direct you to the page we’re looking at.

The ESV is also available as a free app from Google Play and the App store.

There are many very similar English translations of the Bible available, produced by outstanding scholars, translating from Hebrew and Greek so we can read the Bible in our own language.

WHERE TO START
There’s no rule about how to read the Bible. Two things to bear in mind.

1. The Bible is a collection of 66 books.

It’s easiest to read it book by book rather than dipping in. Things make more sense in their contexts. Though paper Bible’s tend to be formatted in two columns and overlaid with reference numbers (chapters and verses) to help us find things, the normal rules of reading apply.
2. The hero of the Bible is Jesus.

If you’ve never read before then starting with one of the four gospels, biographies of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John is a good idea. Everything before then leads up this, and everything after flows from this. The four gospels tell the same story but highlight particular aspects of who Jesus is and why he came.

You can read Luke’s biography of Jesus online here.

BIBLE READING PLANS
Many people find it helpful to have a plan to read the whole Bible over time. Here’s a few suggestions.

1. Bible in one year.

This comes as an app from Google Play and the App store and gives you a few passages to read each day with some explanatory notes.
This does what it says in a year, if you use it you’ll get through the whole Bible in a year. If you miss some days that’s no problem.

2. Kings English

Available online and via email this plan takes you through 365 famous phrases from the Bible that have become part of the English language since the King James Bible was translated 450 years ago. Each daily reading will help you to see Jesus in the Bible.

3.  Read this book

One book at a time just read the Bible. Take each book of the Bible and read it like any other book. Read for 20-30 minutes (often around 10 chapters) until you’re immersed in the story and spot what Jesus the hero is doing.

Mark anything that stands out with a highlighter pen, don’t worry about things that don’t make sense initially – you can chew on them, and often reading further makes things clearer.

Taking this approach consistently would get you through the whole Bible in about three months.

LETS TALK ABOUT IT
Our experience is that most people find reading the Bible to be possible but challenging. As you read take note of things that don’t make sense or which seem disagreeable. The Christian faith welcomes questions and thoughtful enquiry so take the opportunity to talk with others.

Our Community Groups provide an ideal context to talk with others. We also run occasional seminars to help The next of these is on Tuesday 8th June.

 

WITH MANY ADVISORS PLANS SUCCEED

Larry Osbourne (church leader) refers to his first three years of ministry as, “the dark years.”

Tim Keller (church leader) recently tweeted the sentiment, ‘if we always look back at ourselves and say: we were ignorant and naive, what does that makes us now?’

After three years of church leadership I am aware of the learning I have experienced, while I also feel aware of the learning and need for support that will be ahead. Wisdom in Proverbs says,

[22] Without counsel plans fail,
but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22 ESV)

It is for this reason I am particularly grateful and pleased with the friendship and support that I, and Grace Church Exeter have been both receiving and exploring outside of our local setting.

Matt Partridge (Emmanuel Church Oxford) has been a superb friend, lightning rod, support, mentor and truth teller for me and my senior leadership team. He has ‘been there’ through thick and thin and I am profoundly grateful for his ongoing input. I am yet to beat him and golf. It will happen.

David Stroud (ChristChurch London) has created and is providing contexts for us to be, and get to know a few people asking similar questions to grow in friendship, share wisdom and to spur each other on. It is amazingly reassuring to feel understood among others, not least by those who have planted churches, and led national movements. David and Philippa have provisionally agreed to speak at our church weekend away in 2016.

Mick and Val Taylor (CityGate Bournemouth) have been a tremendous support and encouragement. I love time with the Taylors, and have particularly appreciated Mick reading endless documents, drafts and proposals to bring theological reflection, correction and nuance when needed. Experienced pastors are such a gift to young guns like me.

Howard Worsley BA, MA, PhD (Tutor of Missiology, Trinity College Bristol) has offered me time and some guided reading around some of the issues we are grappling with. It has been an inspiration and really helped trace deeper historical and theological roots to present day challenges. I am pursuing an MA application with Howard and hope to do much work with him in the years ahead. I feel that I have already received loads from him!

Steve and Helen Pollard (Bespoke Ministry) have supported us and had input both through receiving referrals, bringing some teaching and counselling Chloe and I! With 30 years coaching and counselling experience we have benefitted enormously from our time with Steve and Helen. I love the way Helen particularly is able to integrate her faith and professional expertise.

Andrew and Laura Sampson (Grace Church Truro), Jon and Hannah Fielder (Redeemer Birmingham) and Tim Blaber (Christ Central Portsmouth) have been inspirational and challenging peers to have in my life. Time with these guys has been exceedingly nourishing to Chloe and I over the years and we hope to continue these connections in the future.

‘What you do’ is a big deal.

‘Who you do it with’ has also proved to be very important.

Whilst all relationships change and evolve, I am thankful and humbled by all those who have helped us so far. I look forward to receiving more help where people are willing and hope to be a blessing both to these wonderful people and to others as a result.

(Image: © Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon, Creative Commons Licence)

THEOLOGICAL TRAINING

At Grace Church we want to think well about important things. To help you to do that we can offer a range of resources that can be used in different contexts.

From time to time we offer short courses.

These include courses on reading and understanding the Bible, questions such as “how can God allow suffering?”, subjects such as The Trinity. These can also be accessed through Community Groups.

Our Community Groups will draw on a range of resources over time.

In addition to eating together, prayer and other activities, Community Group leaders respond to the perceived needs and questions in the group and draw on appropriate training. These may be written, audio or video resources. These include video & discussion course For the life of the worldBible study, or reading a book together.

We also have a growing library of resources for individual study.

These can be borrowed via our Next Steps and I love my city tables on Sundays. These cover subjects from Life Skills (e.g. money management), Bible reading and prayer, exploring the story of Jesus, books to think about community, the workplace and other subjects.

To find out more about these and any other questions please contact our Training Coordinator Dave Bish.

THE PRAYER COURSE

At our monthly Church Together: Prayer, Worship & Communion evenings we are running The Prayer Course as we look to learn how to pray better.

“An unmissable evening.”

“I’m praying less vaguely and more specifically.”

“I love having space to stop and pray.”

You can find out more at catch up on any episodes you’ve missed at The Prayer Course website.

We meet from 7.30pm-9.15pm on the first Wednesday of each month at Ryan House, The Maynard School, Spicer Road, Exeter.

Next: Wednesday 3rd June. Part 3.

CLEAR VISION

Stuart Alred writes:

Sometimes feel like I have heard so much about vision, and failed so miserably to motivate people, that I should give it up!

I suppose as a leader of any group, a picture of a preferred future that produce passion is a much coveted asset.

At our senior leadership day apart, one of my team mates said, “None of this motivates me. I never talk about this stuff. I just like talking about Jesus.” 

As a Christian, Jesus is the hero. He is the one who we want to draw attention to. We imagine our futures through the lenses of what He said and did.

An observation that has been made around my leadership over the last couple of years is that we have given too much ‘what and how’ and not enough ‘why’.

Simon Sinek makes this point brilliantly in a TED talk which I have understood but strangely struggled to apply.

As it happens, our little local Church has it’s vision sketched around the contours of the life of Jesus. We believe certain things due to the life of Jesus which is shaping our Church.

As we make an intentional shift towards the ‘why’, we hope both members and guests at Grace Church will both understand our motivation and also be more motivated themselves!  

Heaven help me. 🙂

CHRISTIANS AGAINST POVERTY

One of the ways we seek to express love for our city is through provision of relief, through partnership with others.

We work with Christians Against Poverty and offer CAP Money Course to help any who would appreciate assistance. Debt is crippling and then gains from learning to manage finances well can be huge.

After doing CAP Money Course a student said:

“I’m now living within my budget”

Money Savings Expert Martin Lewis:

CAP are unsurpassed when it comes to the debt help they give people across the country. There’s nothing better to start you on the path to having more money in your pocket.

CAP say:

We are passionate about releasing people in our nation from a life sentence of debt, poverty and their causes. Working with the Church we bring good news, hope and freedom.

Find out more about CAP Money Course at Grace Church Exeter by contacting Paul DouglasWe’re working with other churches in our city to raise funding for CAP through this social event Convivial.

Further information can be found on our I LOVE MY CITY tables at our Sunday Gatherings.

HOW CAN GOD ALLOW SUFFERING?

“The painful reality of suffering in our world… will, in one way or another, affect us all” (Amy Orr-Ewing, author)

There are things in life that make us weep, cry out, confuse, enrage or leave us speechless. It seems like this world is not the way it’s supposed to be.

And believing in God can make ‘the problem of pain’ seem worse.

Whether natural disasters or the pain of situations much closer to home, many of us will have at some point asked: “why?” and “If God, why?”

These are important questions, and they don’t have – and shouldn’t have – easy answers.

Over three Tuesday evenings, join with us in walking through these question pursing the beginnings of an answer.

It’s been said that the best time to think about the problem of suffering is before it happens – though we may not have that option.

In the midst of the storm time and space, tears and a listening ear are more helpful but there is also a time and a place to ask hard questions and try to think things through.

8.00pm-9.15pm, Tuesday 19th May, 2nd June, 23rd June at the Grace Church Office, King Street. If you think you’ll be coming please do sign up online to help us with numbers. Feel free to just turn up too.

Grace Church Exeter Training resourced by Porterbrook Learning.

WHY WORK?

It’s Monday morning and here’s a thought or two to get you started on your working week.

Dorothy Sayers writes of work:

“We should ask of an enterprise, not “will it pay?” but “is it good?”; of a man, not “what does he make?” but “what is his work worth?”; of goods, not “Can we induce people to buy them?” but “are they useful things well made?”; of employment, not “how much a week?” but “will it exercise my faculties to the utmost?” And shareholders in – let us say – brewing companies, would astonish the directorate by arising at shareholders’ meeting and demanding to know, not merely where the profits go or what dividends are to be paid, not even merely whether the workers’ wages are sufficient and the conditions of labor satisfactory, but loudly and with a proper sense of personal responsibility: “What goes into the beer?””

And of leisure:

“…we should no longer think of work as something that we hastened to get through in order to enjoy our leisure; we should look on our leisure as the period of changed rhythm that refreshed us for the delightful purpose of getting on with our work..”

Taken from her essay: Why Work?

READING THE BIBLE

We sat round a table in a corner of Samuel Jones on Tuesday evening. The pub was buzzing on one of the hottest days of the year so far. People were talking about all kinds of things around us, and we turned to the subject of reading the Bible.

Seven of us shared how often Bible reading seems hard work, and we easily feel guilty about how we’re doing. We also tend to assume others are doing better than us.

We considered that Bible reading is about pursuing Jesus, and so getting through a plan isn’t the point. Meeting a person is.

We noted that ‘Personal Bible Reading’ is quite abnormal in church history – its a great privilege to be able to read the Bible, but for most of the past 2000 years people’s Bible access has been through hearing preaching and reading with others.

We then took on a case study from the start of Leviticus (!).

Some tips:

  • 1. Read fast – the Bible is a book. Enjoy the story.
  • 2. Read slow – pick a book and study it for some time. Ask at our Next Steps Table for tips on good study guides, tools and resources.
  • 3. Read together – with a friend, with a Community Group etc.
  • 4. Read with help – the Bible is accessible but some of it is harder, it’s ok to have questions and its good to ask those questions of others.
  • 5. Read to meet Jesus – the Bible is for us and about Jesus.

Similar evenings are in the Term Planner on May 12th and June 9th. More details to follow. You can also book Dave Bish to come and lead your Triplet or Community Group through a one off or series of evenings like this.

FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD

In our I LOVE MY CITY series we laid out a bigger vision for life with Christ. What happens in a world where everything matters? What is the purpose of coming to know Jesus? What would such a life be for?

One place would be to use FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD (‘FLOW’) a series of seven videos by storyteller Evan Koons and his friends, built upon rich scholarship translated through the lense of a creative cataylst.

This course aims to re-enchant us with the deeper mystery of life in this world, considering how faith effects relationships, work, justice & hospitality, wisdom & learning, wonder & beauty and the church.

This material forms part of our suite of theological training resources at Grace Church Exeter.

Two of our Community Groups have used this resource along with a number of individuals in recent months.

The first group did an intensive weekend working through all seven 17min videos with discussion, followed up with a meal including a 90min Skype Q&A with US-based course creator Evan Koons.

The second group are working through the material over seven evenings, combined with discussion and prayer.

“My wife and I watched this last night. Mindblowing.” Grace Church Member

“No better curriculum to get a vision for the glory of God” Jon Tyson

Find out more from Dave Bish, and watch this trailer for a taste: