Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reading the Bible

Another Facebook post slow to be pasted onto my website...

3 December 2010

Recently a friend wrote and asked me about why it is important to read God’s Word.  Not that she doubts it is important.  But she wants to really own its importance – not just doing something because she always heard in Sunday school that it was the right thing to do - but because she really wants to know that she knows reasons for why it is important for her personally.  She knows that's the real way to become a passionate Bible reader.  I’m all about that.  Never do anything just because “you always heard it’s the thing to do.”  That’s not going to hold you to it during the rough, tough, or just plain “there is something more fun to do” times.  In all disciplines in our life we’ve got to wrestle through the reasons we do them and passionately embrace the discipline.  She is a wise woman to be thinking on this. 

For this post I would love your comments.  I’m going to post some reasons for the importance of Bible reading that initially pop into my brain, but I know there are a ton more.  Let’s get a great list together!

(Actually, I just read what I wrote below.  This post deals with What it’s All About, Developing Your Style, and What to Read.  I felt it was important to start with that foundation before moving to her actual question.  I’ll have to include the How to Read and the Why to Read next time since I have to go make dinner - one of those boring things about growing up - I am going to ask Nicholas for a fairy godmother for Christmas so that she can do her bippity boppity boo dance and dinner will magically appear every night).  But in the meantime, do send along your input.  We’ll make a great posting as we collect thoughts.)


I want to dwell on something for a minute.  Reading the Bible is all about a relationship.  It’s important to remember that.  When we love someone we want to develop that relationship with him.  If I love Nicholas I am going to talk with him and get to know Him better.  If there was a book he wrote to me, I would read it because I want to know him.  Not that an earthly relationship compares to our relationship with our God, but it gives a general idea.  When you read the Bible you are personal getting to know the Holy, Awesome, All-Powerful, Author of Love, God of the Universe who chose you as His girl.  Never forget that.  Reading the Bible is not just a duty one does becomes it makes her look like a good Christian.  It is about furthering a relationship with the One who live is all about.


When I was growing up (in the 80s and 90s) I remember hearing godly women talking about their “quiet times.”  They’d open up their floral Bible covers and have their quiet times every morning.  They just loved getting up at 3am to spend 55 hours reading Ezekiel and then spending some time crying because they loved Jesus so much and He made them cry as they sat there wearing their bathrobe and their foam pink curlers in their hair. 

Well... actually I don’t think I ever heard a woman exactly say that.  But that’s what I pictured for some weird reason (my mom didn’t do that so it isn’t as if I saw an example – I actually think that I got the idea from the cartoon Duck Tales where a mother duck looked like that... yeah, I know, way weird). And, honestly, it made me feel all uncomfortable and embarrassed.  So when I was 12 and decided to try reading the Bible (my pastor had passed out Bible reading plans to all the church members), I didn’t want anyone to know what I was doing.  I actually hid downstairs and would read it in the basement! 

I still get the shivers when I see too much floral.  Just the other day Nicholas and I were picking out a Franklin Covey planner for me for next year and floral pages were an option.  I about died as I stood there at Office Dept:  “NICHOLAS, I CAN’T GET THOSE!!!!!!!!!  I DON’T WEAR FOAM CURLERS!”  But I also wouldn’t get the “green” pages because the inconvenient truth is that I am rather anti being green.  We finally found a style that worked and Nicholas left the store that day knowing to be sure never to broach the subject of foam curlers.    

All that to say (sorry about my wacko tangent), realize that reading the Bible is a relationship.  And its cool.  And you don’t have to try to mold into something or someone you are not.  You gotta let this spiritual discipline kinda roll with who you are.  You have to make it yours.

Some people find it important to have a specific place where they read their Bible.  In bed, in a cozy chair (like my AMAZING craigslist deal!  Seriously you must come visit me and meet my green recliner), at Starbucks, in a place where you won’t be distracted by other things to do or people talking, etc.  That really isn’t as big a deal for me.  But it might be for you.  If so, figure out where you will read your Bible.

Find a time that works with you.  A lot of godly people say:  “Read your Bible early in the morning.”  That works grandly for some people.  But other people are not morning people and reading the Bible in the morning is hard because we just want to curl up and go back to sleep.  I like to cling to the idea that, since in the Hebrew mind the day starts the night before, I am reading my Bible early in the day since I read it at night :).  Actually I think it helps me sleep better since it is the last thing on my mind at night. 

If you aren’t a morning person, or your mornings are so chaotic and you just aren’t finding success reading your Bible in the morning, don’t feel bad!  Try reading it at night.  The important thing is that you are reading it, not that you are reading at “the most godly time.” 

When I was in DC I used to like to go down to the Longworth House Office Building Cafeteria and read my Bible over lunch.  In Florida I would read my Bible late into the night because I had adequate time – I could always stay up later and read more (vs. in the morning I had to be at work at a specific time so had to cut it shorter).  Now because of Nicholas’ schedule I read a little at night and most in the morning. 

What to Read/How to Read/Getting Your Reading Plan Planned.  OK, so obviously don’t just randomly flip open your Bible and read whatever.  Seriously big no no.  That just isn’t developing a good study habit.  Plus, how do you get to know how the whole Bible works together?  And, you’ll be cheated out of knowing the rest of God’s thoughts!  You’d be shocked at what percentage of believers have not read the whole Bible and do this kind of thing.  It’s like if I said to Nicholas, “I’m glad I’m in a covenant relationship with you, but I only want to hear you talk about  Federal government earmarks again and again.  How about you tape everything you want to tell me about them and I’ll just fast forward randomly to a place in the recording and listen to a few sentences every day.  We’ll get to know each other great that way!” (NOT)

So, you need to have a plan and you need one that works for you.

How about reading: 1 Proverb a day (there are 31 so you can read the one that corresponds to the day of the month).  Or a Psalm a day. Or committing to reading 5 minutes a day. Some people do things like read something such as the same little Pauline epistle (the little New Testament books Paul wrote – Philippians, Colossians, etc.) every day for a month. That way they get to really know a certain book.  That can be really cool, too.  (Just don’t only read Philippians for the rest of your life lol).

Your commitment to Bible reading doesn’t have to be 12 chapters a day.  Just read what works for you. If you want to read the Bible through in a year, you will need to read 3 or 4 chapters a day.  There are good Bible reading plans where you can mark off and keep track.  Robert Murray McCheyne has a good one (I just googled and found this -  I have a little pamphlet with this plan and it fits neatly into my Bible.  I use that one but kindof modify.  Some books are harder for me to get excited about or harder to understand (such as Leviticus and Ezekiel) and I know by now which books have longer chapters (which means slower reading) I modify.  And I know which ones I LOVE and zip through (so I want to read only a little at a time of those while also reading a harder section).  I always read Leviticus first, because I get it done first.  I just get bogged down in it otherwise.  Sometimes I read a few Old Testament chapters and a chapter of one of the Gospels.  You’ll find what works for you.

Try to stick to your commitment.  Even skipping it for one day can get you off long-term (because then it is easier the next day to justify not reading...).  Try to stay as committed to reading your Bible as you are to brushing your teeth. 

You’ll find a balance of how much to read - you don’t want your goals to be too small (a challenge is always great) but you don’t want them too big (it is so discouraging to fail in taking on a challenge – it is better to accomplish something smaller and press on to do more, than always feel behind). 

You also don’t want to be trying to read so much that you are just reading to mark it off your to-do list.  You want to be reading an amount that allows you to meditate on it – to really think about the words (What does it say about God?  What does it say about you?).  If you are just flying through your reading (read a chapter and then ask yourself if you know what you just read) you need to slow down.  And, sometimes you will run into a chapter that is just so amazing and you’ll want to throw out the normal plan and just read 2 verses for the whole day because it is so rich and you want to not miss thinking on such wonderfulness.

Maybe a Bible study book works for you.  Maybe this will help you stay in the Word.  They didn’t really work for me because I felt it was so canned looking up the verses the writer told me to look up and filling in the blanks.  I’m just not into filling in blanks.  But everyone is different.  Now I like doing Bible studies as a facet of my Bible reading (but it doesn’t replace it) but I still tend toward ones without “fill in the blanks.” Lol.

If you do work from a Bible study, do not let this take the place of being in the Word.  Maybe do a Bible study plus read a Psalm a day.  There are a lot of “good” Bible studying helps out there but we can’t let the good keep us from the great.  Just like I don’t want to only hear Nicholas’ mom’s interpretation of Nicholas (although I do find out the BEST info about his childhood escapades), I want to hear from Nicholas Himself.  The same with reading the Bible – I want to not just hear someone else’s interpretation of God.  I want to read it myself from the Word.

More to follow...