In our world today, news and media comes in short, easy-to-read snippets that get the point across quickly.
This is great for breaking news and disposable thoughts, but unfortunately, our minds are becoming rewired to expect all information to be fast and convenient. We are trained to read 280-character tweets, watch short Snapchat stories and show someone we care by double-tapping their photo.
A recent study showed that people’s attention spans are now only about eight seconds. That is a second less than a goldfish can concentrate on a thought while swimming around a fish bowl. Let that sink in for a second (but probably not longer than eight seconds).
Our generation is apt to always be thinking about the next thing, and in turn, we become distracted easily. Even the San Francisco 49ers know that this is true: They implemented “cell phone” breaks into practices and meetings every half hour, because studies from Stanford show that millennials are too distracted and really aren’t learning anything after that threshold.
This way of thinking has seeped into the way we read the Bible. With our phones always in front of us, we can fall into viewing the Word of God as something to fit into a tweet or lay over a beautiful landscape on Instagram. We’ve shifted from reading the Bible for ourselves to reading short Bible verses or opinions shared by others.
As Christians today, it’s easier to repost a Bible verse for all of our followers to see than to spend half an hour reading the Bible and become a more effective follower of Jesus. And this is a problem. Jesus Himself told us in John 15:4, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
We are called to remain and abide in Jesus, and the way we remain in Him is through Scripture. This means the majority of our “quiet time” should not be spent with the words of social media in front of us. The Bible is not something we can just scroll through and double tap our favorite parts. It’s something we must read, study, meditate on and then let change our life.
Our daily dose of Scripture should come before we ever check our phone. But this is going to be a hard habit to create. So how do we do this?
First, find a reading plan that allows you to know where you are going and set goals to achieve along the way.
When I first started reading the Bible, I started by randomly opening it up, placing my finger on whatever passage I had opened to, and starting to read from there. That lasted about three days before I gave up. I was jumping from place to place and had no rhythm or reason as to what I was reading. But then a buddy and I decided to read through the entire New Testament and keep one another accountable. In about four months, we had both read it through it and were ready to set a new goal.
Each of us need to figure out what’s going to work for us. Maybe you find a plan to read the Bible in a year. If you don’t feel that’s doable, find a two- or three-year plan. If you don’t know where to start, look around the Internet or check on YouVersion. There are plenty of great plans out there. No matter what, plan it out and start reading.
Second, find a time and place that is consistent and allows you to have time to yourself and with the Lord. This might seem intuitive, but while we often plan out other aspects of our days, we often avoid doing so with Bible reading, instead just hoping we’ll get to it if we have time.
You have to be intentional about spending time with God. If you don’t carve out the time, other things will get in the way. You can even be creative about where and when. It could be at a local coffee shop in the afternoon, or it might just be your kitchen table every morning before everyone else gets up.
Third, find a way to journal your thoughts, prayers or reflections on what the text is saying. This will allow you to document the ways the Lord is working in your life and look back to remember His faithfulness. This also can help you understand yourself in comparison to God. As we write about what Scripture is saying, we are automatically going to relate it to our own lives and how it will impact the way we live.
Once again, tailor journaling to fit your lifestyle. This could mean handwriting in a journal, creating a journal on a computer or tablet, or even, if you are artistic, drawing what the Lord is teaching you. I find it helpful to write out three different things: what the author is saying in the text, how I need to apply it to my life, and then a prayer for God to bring about the change in my life.
Fourth, and lastly, find a way to take what you read with you. As Don Whitney wrote in his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, “When we meditate on Scripture, it colors our thinking about God, about God’s ways and His world, and about ourselves.”
We emulate the things we think about, so we need to find ways to always be thinking about Scripture. One way to do this would be by memorizing Bible verses with a friend. Another would be to pick out a verse or phrase you read and constantly be thinking about it throughout the day. One more would be to pray through the text over and over again as you go about your day.
Whatever your method ends up being, try to fill your mind with the things of God. What we read in the morning should impact our lives—not just our social media feeds.