Posted by: alisonwalley | 2 August 2009

Closer to God: A Review

This is the second in a mini-series reviewing adult Bible reading notes. (Find the first here.) Closer to God It’s another set of notes from Scripture Union. You can find the notes on the web as well as in paper format, and as with many notes, each set covers three months worth of readings. I’m going to talk about the paper version.

closertogodCloser to God is smaller than SU’s two other adult notes, and bound differently, so it’s more like a (very) small paperback. Unlike Daily Bread, but like Encounter with God it doesn’t use any colour on the inside. It uses the space well, with clear (though small) text and good use of shaded boxes for emphasis.

Unlike some notes, where one author writes all the notes on one book of the Bible or theme, which could run over several weeks, in Closer to God, each week is treated as a series. The same author may, but doesn’t necessarily write all those on the same subject. So you might get two weeks on, say a gospel, but perhaps two different people might write the notes for these weeks. Some of the ‘series’ are on themes and so will look at different passages from the Bible. There’s a spread of Old and New Testaments and themes. So for instance if you’re reading it for July–September 2009 you’ll get a week on ‘Rest’, chapters from John’s gospel, Genesis (life of Jacob), Hosea, theme of Vive la différence!, 1 Peter, chapter from 1 Corinthians, and a concluding theme series.

How does it work? Each week starts with an introduction (which could be just to a couple of chapters) and is followed by five readings with notes. Each day has a ‘prepare – read – explore – respond’ format. After day 5 there’s a Meditation around a subject of the last five days (‘Going deeper’) and a ‘Looking Outwards’, which challenges you to put what you’ve been reading into action. The week concludes with two extra readings with short notes which together take up one page.

Extras in Closer to God include ‘Up Close’ articles as well as an editorial introduction. You can find these on the website too, along with how to use the notes. (You can also sign up on line so that you can leave prayer requests and messages on the site.)

Ok, so that’s how it works. Who is it aimed at? The tagline for Closer to God is “Reading the Bible in the power of the Holy Spirit”. SU says it’s “for anyone who longs to hear God’s voice in today’s noisy world. If you believe or hope that God speaks to ordinary people; loving, freeing, changing and healing them, then Closer to God is for you.” That probably covers a lot of people! I think they would be encouraging for anyone who has been discouraged by reading the Bible before and wants something more manageable, where it doesn’t matter if you miss a couple of readings each week.

The way the readings are broken up into weekly series may not suit everyone, and some people might find that just as they get into a book, you switch to another. (But that does have the advantage that you’re not ploughing through, say Genesis, for a whole three months!)  The meditations and ‘looking outwards’ pages encourage readers not just to read through the notes but to consider what’s been read more deeply. If you have found some Bible notes a bit dry, then you might want to try Closer to God.

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