4/7/10

Desiring God's Word: Why reading the bible isn't always so appealing.

This may seem surprising considering I have a blog devoted solely to reading and studying scripture, but there are days when I would rather do anything but read the bible.  Depending on the version, the bible's terminology can be confusing.  You never know how much anything weighs or how much something is worth (unless you look up the conversions in the back, and who does that?).  People live to be 200 years old.  Sometimes reading the bible just isn't that appealing to me.

Another reason I have trouble wanting to read the bible is that I feel like I need to be looking for some verse that is going to magically make my troubles go away or set my day off right.  When I don't find that verse, I'm disappointed.  I'm not saying there aren't verses that can do that.  "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  I actually believe that some verses can stir within so deeply that they literally give you a new and immediate perspective on a tough situation.  But some days, that just doesn't happen.  And it leaves us feeling like the bible didn't offer much that day.  We excuse ourselves from reading because we'll get a good dose of God on Sunday.

The problem with that thinking is that the Sunday sermon doesn't keep us full throughout the week.  If the word of God was physical food, and we only ate on Sunday morning, our bodies would wither away after a few days.  Even if we could stay alive for the next Sunday meal, we would eventually die from starvation.  This is not a new concept, but it is very insightful.  And worth remembering because Jesus, himself, believes it too - "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4).  The word of God is our spiritual food.  Our spiritual health depends partly on reading the bible.

In addition to physical suffering, if we were to go days without food, we would likely become very weak intellectually.  Our ability to understand and reason would suffer due to our lack of nourishment.  The same is true when we starve ourselves of God's word.  Our ability to understand and interpret scripture becomes a weakness.  We barely give our spirituality enough food to thrive, to think, to act!  This cycle holds us back from being active for God.

I started this blog because I was tired of having that feeling.  I was tired of starving spiritually.  But this brings us back to the original issue.  The bible can seem a bit hard to get into sometimes.  After challenging myself to just read the bible, I've noticed a couple of ways of dealing with that feeling.

Act first, feel later.  Yes, there are some days when I don't want to read the bible, but when I push through and read it anyway, I can tell a difference in my attitude for that day - even if one particular verse didn't stand out to me.  The feelings that I'd like to have (desiring God's word) follow after I act.  When we read, God is literally talking to us.  It just takes the form of written word.  So as not to put too much pressure on myself, I read just one chapter a day.  Never more, never less.  I'm in Acts right now and man, that is a good story.  Which leads me my next point.

Try reading the bible like a good novel.   So many times I fall into that trap of searching for the right verse.  I've learned that if I read the bible like a book I would normally read for leisure, the characters start to come to life. You can pick up on personalities and identify heroes and villains.  It is very much a literary masterpiece.  In Acts, for instance, Paul (our hero) is traveling around to all of these cities and preaching the word of God.  In virtually every city he enters, a mob (villains) forms and tries to kill him.  He is imprisoned and escapes.  And then he moves to the next city, where he is beaten and imprisoned again.  With all of the popularity of 24 and other action shows like that, Paul's life as a Christian would definitely receive high ratings if it were turned into a television show.  So read it like that.  Get into the characters of the bible.  It doesn't have to be a search for the perfect verse.

Go at your own pace.  I hear of people reading the bible in a year or six months.  That's great!  But it's not the only way.  Make a plan that's right for you.  Even if it's just a verse a day.  I would suggest staying in one book though until you are finished (aside from other reading of course).  The point is to just do it. If you miss a day because you forgot or you were busy, who cares?  Start back the next day.

Remember, the reason I started this blog was to get people (and myself) to just remember God throughout their daily lives.  But this blog is not even close to a substitute for the word of God.  In fact, this blog is meaningless without it.  If you have started reading this blog, but aren't getting in the word, do me a favor - use the time you normally take to read my posts and read the bible instead.

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