So you want to read your Bible. Well, maybe want to is too strong of a sentiment…
So you know you should read your Bible.
Not to mention, you feel guilty that you don’t. And you feel guilty that you’re a Christian who doesn’t know enough. And you feel intimidated around other Christians who you’re convinced know more. And you’re also already overwhelmed enough by life that the thought of being overwhelmed by one more thing is…well…overwhelming.
Take a breath. This is not how it has to be.
I just got a video message from a fantastic kid 2,000 miles away who wanted to ask me a question: “Why did God give us the Bible?”
What was my answer? Because even though we can look at the things God made and learn some things about how powerful and creative He is, there are other things God wants to reveal about Himself to us, especially the story of how He makes us and saves us. We hear His purpose: to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15). In other words…
If reading the Bible feels like a guilt trip, we’re probably doing it wrong!
I want to share my experience, because I’m pretty passionate about this subject. I read the Bible cover to cover when I was in high school for a few reasons. First, I was a nerd who liked to read (most people don’t read all that much anymore). Second, I figured I should read this thing for myself instead of taking other peoples’ word for it. Third, I wasn’t satisfied with the versions I was hearing of what a meaningful life looks like, and I wanted better answers.
Here’s what happened over the course of 9 months. My paradigms shifted. My worldview changed. My heart was convicted on a few different things. And I started to grasp the heart of God. In the process, God altered the path my life would take. I honestly didn’t expect any of these changes to happen, but they did.
Here’s what I know: few people will ever sit down and read the Bible cover to cover. To be honest with you, I do this for a living, and sometimes I stall out.
This is not a guilt trip. I repeat, this is not a guilt trip. Remember, God’s intention is to show us His heart, to lead us to a wise trust in the promises that come through knowing Jesus, and living meaningful and abundant life in His name.
I was thinking about these things this morning as I was getting ready for the day, and I wanted to share a few things that are helping me as I continue to try to figure out how to be a better listener.
Here’s what is helping me:
- I’m spending more time listening to God’s Word. I have a free and amazing tool at my disposal now: the YouVersion Bible app (free) on my smartphone. It is amazing how much Scripture I can get through this way. I have been a big podcast listener for years (mostly sports), but I have replaced part of the time I spend listening to podcasts with time spent listening to God’s Word. For me, this means mostly time I spend in the car and time I spend walking or running with the dog in the morning. Three days into this week, I have already listened to 25 chapters of the Bible!
- I bring my (physical) Bible with me. I’m not saying I carry it everywhere; I’m saying I carry it somewhere. Call me old-school, but there is still something about using a physical copy of the Bible. I can feel it, I retain more, I can read verses in context, and I can write in it. If you bring your Bible nowhere else, bring it to church! Some of my best thoughts and insights come when I am listening to someone else preach God’s Word and I’m following along in my Bible.
- I am reading my Bible with a bigger purpose. For the past four years, I have been reading and writing in Bibles with the purpose of giving them to my children. I have already completed one copy (twice – long story) to give to our firstborn son. Now, I’m working on another Bible for our daughter. This keeps me on task, and adds a special spiritual nature to the process. It’s not just for me, and it helps me focus on what’s important. To be honest, sometimes the deep truths bring tears to my eyes due to my deep love for our children and the impact of what these promises mean not just for my life, but theirs. Maybe you’ll never do this as a gift for someone else; that’s just something I’ve chosen to do. But – God willing – someday when your life on this earth ends, someone else will open your personal Bible and learn from it what was or wasn’t important to you. This is a powerful gift in itself.
- I am finding more ways to be not just a hearer but a doer of God’s Word. Some things have changed in the last few thousand years, but many things have not. There a million chances for me to work on practicing what I preach. That’s the definition of integrity, and I’m a whole lot more engaged in what I’m hearing if I’m finding ready-made opportunities to apply God’s Word to my life. Put another way, I tend to listen more closely if I know there’s going to be a quiz or skills test (or that I have to know it well enough to teach it later!).
I’m still working on this. Honestly, it will be a lifelong pursuit. But my observation in trying some of these things out recently is that they’re impacting my daily life. God is giving me sustenance I need through this steady diet.
I would love to hear your comments about simple ways you’re working on being a better listener to God’s voice.