How to Get Out of a Bible Reading Rut

How to get out of a Bible reading rut

Routines can help us establish good habits. Half the battle in establishing a regular quiet time or devotional time is staking out a workable, regular time and place. Some days—and some seasons of life—upend our schedules, and all we can do is watch for any available minutes. But we usually do better when we plan to work Bible reading into our day.

But a routine can become—routine. A rut, even.

How can we keep our Bible reading from becoming routine—or dig it out of the rut if it’s already there?

Pray. Ask God to remind us of the treasure His Word is. Sometimes I pray Psalm 119:18 just before starting my Bible reading: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Or Psalm 119:25: “My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word” (NKJV).

Remember. Perhaps make a list of reasons to read the Bible or read Psalm 119 to renew our appreciation of it.

Don’t expect high excitement every time. A Thanksgiving feast is wonderful and memorable. But the monthly tuna casserole and everyday peanut butter sandwiches nourish us as well. Some devotional times leave us overflowing with joy or conviction or inspiration. Most quiet times don’t end that way, yet the Word feeds us every time we partake of it.

Remember the purpose of time in the Word: not just to get through a certain number of chapters or a certain amount of time, but to meet with the Lord and get to know Him better.

Change your plan. If you usually read the Bible through in a year, maybe switch to a two-year plan or a five-year plan—or a 90-day plan. Or a biographical plan or a chronological plan. Bible Gateway lists 18 different plans. Near the end of the year you’ll see a number of posts and articles about ways to read the Bible in the New Year (though you don’t have to wait til then to start).

Change your style. We benefit from both reading and studying the Bible, but most of us are inclined one way or the other. If you usually read large chunks for an overview, perhaps study a particular book in more detail. If you like to camp out in one passage for days, maybe get the bigger picture by reading several chapters or a whole book at one sitting.

Add aids. I’ve only had a study Bible the last few years. The background information and notes help so much in comprehending more of the passage. One year I used Warren Wiersbe’s With the Word as a companion. This year I am using his “Be” commentaries.

Have a Bible reading project. Once I read through the gospels looking particularly for claims Jesus made about Himself. I put a “C” in the margin beside every verse of Jesus’ claims and then put them all together. Doing so provided a valuable resource plus woke me up from falling into familiar patterns from familiar passages. I’d love to read through the Bible noting every reference to God as Creator and what the passage shares about Him (His greatness, His power, etc.) I’d love to do the same thing with every passage where God promises to be with someone. Mardi Collier started reading the Psalms, jotting down every truth about God that she came across. As she came to a new truth, she’d write it across the top of a notebook page, and then list verses underneath as she found them. Some of the page titles focused on what kind of Person God is: My God is holy, My God is good, etc. Others shared God’s actions: My God hears me, My God is in control, and so on. Her study ended up covering the whole Bible and eventually became a book, What Do I Know About My God?

Ask different questions. When I first started reading the Bible on my own, I was instructed to look for a command to follow, a warning to heed, a promise to claim. I underlined them in different colors as I found them. Later I heard of asking the old journalism questions of a passage: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Those are great questions, but If you’ve asked them several times, chances are you already know the answers. Maybe ask, instead or along with those, what does this passage show me about God? Or, how does this person change over the course of his story? For example, the first few times I read Genesis, I missed the transition of Judah from Genesis 37-50. Now, reading in Exodus, I am noticing Moses’ change from arguing with God that he couldn’t fulfill His calling in Exodus 3 and 4 to becoming a great leader over the rest of the book. The changes in people in the Bible come about as God works in them and enables them through the circumstances He puts them in. That can inspire us that He is doing th same in our lives.

Try a different translation. I used the KJV for some 25 years. When I read the NASB and ESV, I saw passages with new eyes. I prefer to stay with the translations that are as close to word-for-word as possible rather than paraphrases. But sometimes I look up the paraphrases as commentaries.

Remove the references. Before we could cut and paste from the Internet, one of our former Sunday School teachers suggested that we type out some of the epistles as the actual letters they are without the verse numbers and headings. The chapter and verse numbers weren’t in the original text, but they do help us find and discuss passages. Sometimes, however, they are not well placed. One sentence can be broken up into several verses. So sometimes reading without the verse numbers can help us not to fragment the verse. Now you can buy Bibles printed without chapter and verse numbers.

Stop and think. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” It’s easy to sail through a familiar passage. In the narrative portions, we see how everything turned out just a few pages later. Remember the people in those situations—David hiding in caves from Saul, Joseph in prison, Daniel facing the lion’s den, etc.—didn’t know how everything would turn out. If we put ourselves in their situations the passage opens up to us more.

Make notes. I stopped journaling during my quiet time when I found I was spending more time writing than reading. But recently I’ve gone back to just writing a few notes both to reinforce what I just read or to remind myself later. My notes are usually just a short summary, but thinking about how I’d describe the passage helps me not gloss over it. Some people like to draw charts and diagrams and arrows and circles to engage the Scriptures more.

Don’t compartmentalize. Often we read for so many chapters or minutes and then pray, or vice versa. But we don’t have to separate prayer and reading. If we’re in a section of praise, we can stop and praise God. If a passage convicts us about something we’re doing wrong, we can stop and confess it to God right then.

How about you? What ways have you found to avoid or get out of a Bible reading rut?

I delight in God's Word

(Sharing with Hearth and Soul, Sunday Scripture Blessings, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot), Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are some great reads found this week, the first few Christmas-related.

Christmas Is for Dark Times, HT to Challies. “For many, 2020 has been a dark year – physically, emotionally, mentally, financially. People have lost their loved ones, their jobs, their security and their health. Does this mean Christmas should be cancelled? No. The real Christmas happens in the darkness.”

3 Ways to Have Less Stress at Christmas. We can all use less stress, especially this time of year. I love Stacey’s tips.

An Advent Mindset: Mary’s Prayer. Sarah brought out some aspects of Mary’s prayer that I had not considered before.

A Simple Strategy for Meditating in God’s Word, HT to Challies. “God speaks to you directly through His Word. He directs your heart as you read it and meditate on it. Here is a simple strategy that can help you to feed on God’s Word directly.”

Can a Difficult Marriage Change? Sarah shares from 20 years of experience.

The Biggest Threat Faced by the Church, HT to Challies. “What is the biggest threat faced by the church today? Many in the U.S. seem to think the answer is government tyranny. Tyranny is always a danger, but tyranny is not the biggest threat faced by the church in the U.S. or any other nation.”

All Moms Need to Do Is Remain, HT to the Story Warren. “But moms already have so much work to do, and our relationship with God is often put on the backburner. Well-meaning friends, family, and podcast hosts may tell you that it’s okay, busy moms just don’t have time to meet with God. People think they are letting you off the hook, but it makes remaining with God seem impossible (or at least improbable).”

Are Masks a Conscience Issue? HT to Challies. “I’m not qualified to offer a defining medical word on masks, but I want to offer some thoughts on the implications for Christians who refuse to wear a mask because they say it violates their conscience.”

And finally, a fun look at different kinds of Christmas shoppers, HT to Steve Laube:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here are some noteworthy reads from the last week or two:

The Do Not Depart site is focusing on “Snap Shots of Bible Study” this month. Each writer will share the tips they’ve found most helpful. The two articles so far have been good.

How to Influence Your Teenager’s Quiet Time With God. Good tips here.

Small and Holy, HT to Challies. For those who lament not knowing the exact time of their salvation, “It is not only a beginning date, but our following, stumbling, and returning to God that matters.”

Don’t Quarrel Over Opinions but Welcome One Another, HT to Challies. “Our commitment to unity is only really put to the test when something comes up that we have different and strong opinions about. One way to maintain unity would be to eject the minority who think differently. That would leave a very united congregation! But it would be the artificial unity of the cults, where everyone has to think the same on every issue. Gospel unity looks very different – that’s where we bear patiently with one another, love one another and strive to think the very best of one another.”

FAQ: Aren’t Missionaries Really Just Colonists? HT to Challies. “It is more than a little ironic that the Americans leveling colonization accusations argue based on American presuppositions. They attack missionaries across an ocean, assuming they know what is best for the Africans. Were they to come, sit down, and discuss the issues with our neighbors, they would walk away with a very different perspective.”

Acedia: the lost name for the emotion we’re all feeling right now, HT to Rachelle. Many have mentioned kind of a listless, can’t get thoughts together feeling since the pandemic started.

This is a cute video about a baby who gets very excited about paint samples. (Maybe an HGTV show is in his future!) HT to Steve Laube, who said if books were substituted for paint samples, book lovers would have the same expressions.

Happy Saturday!

What do you look for when you read the Bible?

What do you look for in the Bible

Many look for something to meet their current need. They are sad and want comfort. They have a problem they need help with. They feel lonely and unloved, and they need affirmation that God cares for them. They’re frightened and anxious and need to know God is in control and will take care of them.

Those aren’t wrong motives in themselves. The Bible does help and comfort us. God wants to meet our needs. But the Bible is so much more than a momentary fix.

We talked a couple of weeks ago about reading the Bible to foster our relationship with God. Part of getting to know God is learning truth about Him.

Most people don’t approach their time in the Bible eagerly wondering what doctrine they are going to learn that day. The word “doctrine” smacks of theological arguments, dry, dusty old books, and difficult academic language.

But what if we thought of doctrine as bedrock truth that helps us get to know God better and helps us live for Him?

Which is better?

To feel momentary relief from loneliness, or to be convinced beyond all doubt that God will never leave us or forsake us?

To question God’s handling of a situation, or to rest in the fact that the Judge of all the earth will always do right?

To struggle with feeling unloved and unworthy, or to remind ourselves that God has accepted us in Christ and has always dealt with us in grace, not according to what we deserve?

One way to mine the Bible for truth about God is to write down that truth as we come across it. Several years ago, Mardi Collier told her husband she wanted to get to know God better. He suggested she go through the psalms and write down every truth about God that she came across. As she came to a new truth, she’d write it across the top of a notebook page, and then list verses underneath as she found them. Some of the page titles focused on what kind of Person God is: My God is holy, My God is good, etc. Others shared God’s actions: My God hears me, My God is in control, and so on. Her study ended up covering the whole Bible and eventually became a book, What Do I Know About My God?

You may or may not want to do a full-fledged study like that. It would certainly be beneficial. But at the very least, the mindset shift of actively looking for truth rather than looking to the Bible as just a problem-solver, as something to make us feel better, or as just part of our routine for the day, will enrich our time in the Word and our relationship with God.

We still need to read the Bible, even when we feel we have a good grasp on particular truths. We’re forgetful. We need reminders and reinforcements. We can always learn truth more fully.

The better we get to know Him, the more we see Him as He truly is, the more we love Him, and the better we represent Him to others.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon, Remember Me Monday.
Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday,
Worth Beyond Rubies, Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth,
Blogger Voices Network. Linking does not imply 100% endorsement)

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Not to “laud” my own link, but I wanted to let you know that a devotion I wrote for the Christian Devotions site is up today: Unsteady. It’s takes one point from a longer earlier post, How to Have a Steady Soul. I enjoyed the exercise of writing for a smaller word count with just one focus.

Here are some great reads discovered this week:

Is Soft Totalitarianism Coming to America? I sure hope not, but there are troubling signs.

Don’t Pitch a Fit When You’re Writing. I love how this is written. It’s written in the context of writing, but a good reminder for us all.

A Song of Salvation at Weihsien Prison Camp, HT to this post at The Story Warren. I had read in several other books and biographies about the Chefoo Mission School in China which was taken prisoner and the students and personnel all moved to Weihsien Prison Camp during WWII. Eric Liddell, famed Olympian featured in Chariots of Fire, taught at the school and died at the camp. This post is the testimony of one of the students there, a great-granddaughter of Hudson Taylor. I’m amazed at the teachers and staff doing everything in their power to maintain structure, buoy spirits, continue classes, and turn work and killing bedbugs and rats into games.

Christian, Be a Peacemaker, HT to Challies. This doesn’t mean we never take a stand for truth. But “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).

You’re a Reconstruction Zone. Great analogy between road work and life. Bumps and delays are part of the process to a smooth path.

Francis James Grimké – Through a Pandemic and Social Unrest, HT to Challies “We are not the first generation who must deal with a pandemic and racial unrest at the same time. The Spanish flu of 1918 hit America at a time when racial segregation and lynching of blacks were commonplace and largely ignored by the majority of Americans. Francis James Grimké led his congregation through both challenges, while defending human rights in his speeches and writings.”

What to Do When Life is Miserable, HT to Challies. “Reach into a miserable, painful, hopeless situation in your dead of night with prayers and songs. Someone may be quietly listening.

Why We Should be More Familiar with OT Sacrifices, HT to Challies. “For the first time in my life, I’ve been spending significant time studying the book of Leviticus. You know, that book you and I have always avoided, except perhaps for annual reading plans? It’s all been fulfilled by Jesus, so we don’t need to know it very well, right?” Probably most of us feel that way about Leviticus, but it has some rich nuggets to mine.

Gold in the Laundry:Finding Value in the Mundane. A friend who went with her family to the mission field reported back that she was surprised to be spending so much time in her kitchen instead of doing “missionary” activities. It’s all part of our calling.

Since we’ve had this season’s first days of cool weather here in TN, I identified with this:

Yes, I have had the same struggle with foggy windshields and trying both hot and cold air! 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineHere’s my latest collection of good online reads:

Why Unhealthy People Crave Controversy, HT to Challies. “Over the years I’ve seen Christians who have engaged in controversy when needed, and I’ve observed the way that the Christlike among them so often do it—with a sense of love for the good, and for the well-being of those they believe in error, not a love for the fighting itself. And I have seen those I thought were ‘zealous for the truth’ who, in time, proved to just be zealous for the feeling of zeal.”

How Perfectionism Makes You a Spiritual Quitter. “It has taken me 43 years to begin to learn that there is a happy, spiritually-nourishing medium between praying for an hour a day and not praying at all. Between reading five chapters in my Bible and not reading a single word. Spiritual disciplines don’t have to be feast or famine, and they shouldn’t be.”

Small Miracles. A neat story of answered prayer from author Lynn Austin.

4 Ways to Help Your Kids See the Bible as Truth, HT to Story Warren. “How do we grandparents and parents convince, show or prove that we can rely on God’s truth?”

Stories Teach—Even If We Do Not Want Them To, HT to Story Warren. “When we are hoping to be merely entertained is the precise moment when we let our guards down the most, and it is in the letting down of our guard that we are most susceptible to dwelling with and admiring and eventually imitating.”

No photo or video this morning because I don’t have one handy and need to go somewhere in a bit. But, you may have heard a tiger was spotted loose in Knoxville recently. I haven’t heard whether they’ve found it, though either another one was spotted in Kingsport or this one traveled that way. Anyway, almost immediately someone started a Twitter account for Knoxville Tiger. I love people’s humor and creativity. My favorite is this one.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here are some of the good reads that caught my eye this week:

The Quiet Power of Ordinary Devotions, HT to Challies. “If we are reading our Bibles rightly, in fact, we should expect many mornings of ordinary devotions: devotions that do not sparkle with insight or direct-to-life application, but that nevertheless do us good. Just as most meals are ordinary, but still nourish, and just as most conversations with friends are ordinary, but still deepen affection, so most devotions are ordinary, but still grow us in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

A Dangerous Trend. “Whether you’re a new believer or seasoned saint, don’t fall prey to the danger of replacing the Scriptures with other books. Let your love for God’s Word be rekindled as you come to the Word afresh to see, meditate, and delight in God’s glory. Don’t read the Bible merely to acquire knowledge or be challenged. Come to meet with God. ”

That Time I Went After an Older, Godlier Man. I’m thankful for this confession and the questions that arose from it.

People Need the Lord. How a pastor renews his compassion for people. Good not just for pastors.

Love What’s Near. “I now look askance at anyone who seems to speak primarily in the abstract: ‘fixing the economy,’ or ‘changing the culture,’ or ‘loving humankind.’ Why? Because it’s easy to succumb to self-righteousness when you pursue utopian visions in regard to great and massive things. It’s when you are faced with the smaller things and the people nearest you where you begin to spot your own flaws and diagnose your lovelessness.”

How to Explain to Your Kids Why Social Justice Warriors Hate Christians So Much. “Events like these that suddenly and explicitly pit Christianity against the cause of many Social Justice Warriors (“SJWs”) are the tip of an ideological iceberg that many Christians are (to a large degree) unaware of.”

Alone Against the Mob: Crowds, Cancel Culture, and Courage. “There really is nothing new under the sun. Today’s issues, as desperate as they can be, were first yesterday’s issues. This means one convenient and profound truth for the Christian: the solutions have not changed.”

How to Be Consistent in Memorizing Scripture. Great tips!

Are You Having Doubts? The doubts in question are whether/when/how this COVID thing is going to end. But I love the example of turning away from fears and frustrations and turning toward tangible ways to help others.

Finally, this almost made me cry: a baby sees her mother clearly for the first time:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineHere’s my latest collection o good online reads:

The Song That Was Sharper Than Sting. This is a lovely piece of writing, referencing Tolkien and Lewis and the Bible about songs of Home that encourage us in the darkness.

Redemption May Be Closer Than You Think. “I have learned not to lose heart when everything around me crumbles. God is working. I can trust Him. It may be that what looks dead is about to spring to life.”

The Day I Scheduled God Out of My Life, HT to True Woman. “Your schedule will be different, and you’ll have a choice: to let your schedule dictate the depth of your relationship with Christ, or to let Christ dictate your schedule.”

Carrying a Knapsack, HT to Challies. Thoughts from Galatians 6 about what it means to bear burdens and carry our own load while relying on God’s grace to do so. “Problems arise when people act as if their ‘boulders’ are daily loads and refuse help, or as if their ‘daily loads’ are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry. The results of these two instances are either perpetual pain or irresponsibility.”

Be Quiet: Cultivating a Gentle Spirit in a World That Loves Noise. “Quiet, they claim, is weakness. Being still and speechless is no longer an acceptable option in a culture that values its own noise above all else.”

10 Awesome Art Appreciation Book Series for Your Homeschool (or to supplement whatever kind of schooling you do), HT to Story Warren. This is an area I wished we’d had more time for. These books would have helped.

Since we had two birthdays in our family this month, here’s Happy Birthday in 12 major keys and different styles:

Dwelling Richly

Letting God's Word dwell richlyHave you ever wondered what Colossians 3:16 meant when it said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”?

A couple of translations and one commentary connected “rich” to the “Word of Christ,” indicating that God’s Word is rich, and we should let it dwell in us. It is, and we should.

However, most translations phrase the verse so that “richly” modifies “dwell.” In fact, according to the definitions at the bottom of this page, the Greek word translated “richly” is an adverb meaning “Richly, abundantly, copiously.”

So how do we let God’s Word dwell “richly, abundantly, copiously” in us?

One former pastor put it this way. When a guest of honor comes to your home, what do you do? You “roll out the red carpet” for them. You give them the best bed, the best room. You bring out the guest towels and dishes that you save for company. You make your best recipes. You generally set aside your normal pursuits to some degree to spend time with that person.

In these days of more casual entertaining, you might not have special dishes or towels for guests, and you might have everyone work together on the meal and the clean-up. Still, you make some accommodations for a guest. You don’t generally put them in a drafty back room with a lumpy mattress where the Wifi doesn’t reach. You don’t invite someone over and then ignore them. You don’t go about your business and then bump into them in the hallway and act surprised: “Oh! I didn’t know you were here. Carry on.” Well, you might if one of your children’s friends came over unexpectedly.

What do most who come to your home value? Time, the hardest thing to give. As lovely as special table settings, wonderful food, and a well-appointed guest room are, they all fall a little flat if the hostess is constantly flitting about taking care of details. As Martha learned, Jesus cared more about her time, attention, and open heart than what was on the menu.

So how do we let the Word of God dwell richly with us? First of all, notice the word “dwell.” The Bible isn’t just a special guest who comes to visit once a year. It stays, lives in, abides in, inhabits us. Jesus spoke of His words abiding in us. God often tells people in the Bible to meditate, think over, chew on, His Word. You can’t think on what you don’t know. That meant they had to have read or heard it enough to mull over a piece of it at a time.

So we don’t treat God’s Word as a once- or twice-a-year visitor. We let it abide, dwell with us. That involves spending time with it. As we’ve discussed before, that doesn’t necessarily mean spending hours a day reading and studying it. Some days and seasons of life allow for more time than others, but we try to give it some time most days. We try to give it the best time of our day when we can get the most out of it rather than the leftovers of our day. One of my mottoes regarding the Bible is any time spent with it is better than nothing. So there may be busy, weary days when we fit it in whatever spare moments we can find. But as much as we can, we make room and time for the Bible.

And then, throughout the day, we think about it. That might involve listening to Christian music, sermons, Christian radio or podcasts. Or it might involve just thinking. John O’Malley suggests in Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles that we jot down on a 3 x 5 card something that stood out to us during our Bible reading, and then set the card where we can see it through the day and think over it.Some people have memory verse cards they’ll go over when their hands are busy but their minds are free.

Many mental health experts recommend getting away from the constant barrage of information available through our phones and computers, especially when so many agitated opinions are flung about. Instead of automatically checking our phones, we could spend those minutes reading the Bible or thinking about what we read earlier.

Psalm 1:1 says “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”

What’s the result of this rich dwelling we give God’s Word? Colossians 3:16 continues: “ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” When we fill up on God’s Word, we spill over into serving others and worshiping God. Psalm 1 goes on to say that the one who meditates on God’s Word day and night is “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” When we’re filled with God’s Word, we have a continual source of nourishment.

If our service seems lifeless and forced, our worship barren, our inner spirit dry and withered, we probably need some time letting God’s Word dwell richly in us.

What are some ways you let God’s Word dwell richly with you?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Hearth and Home, Global Blogging,
Senior Salon, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement,
Recharge Wednesday, W2W Share a Link Wednesdays,
Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth,
Blogger Voices Network)

 

My Journey with the Bible

My journey with the BibleI never heard Handel’s Messiah until I was in high school.

I had not grown up listening to either classical or religious music. (I grew up hearing “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and other such lovely little ditties). So while I was impressed with the beauty and grandeur of Handel’s oratorio, I can’t say I got much out of it. It was like drinking from the proverbial fire hydrant.

But my college performed selections from the Messiah frequently. And the church we attended the first fourteen years we were married did the same. I even got to be in the choir at church some of those years, so I learned the songs in more detail. Plus, I had become a Christian in later high school, so I could understand more of the spiritual significance and message of the piece.

When I learned that The Messiah had been composed during the Baroque era, with its “excessive ornamentation or complexity,” I understood why it was written the way it was.

As a result of hearing The Messiah over and over, becoming more familiar with it, learning more about it, and growing in the Lord, I came to love this piece of music. I anticipated each section just like I would rereading a favorite book or rewatching a favorite movie.

And then, just from growing familiarity with the music, I began to notice details. For instance, I had always thoughts of Isaiah 53:6 as somber and sad: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him   the iniquity of us all.” But the tune Handel put to this verse seemed almost jaunty to me at first. Then one day I noticed the notes on the word “astray” were going astray.

Further into that piece, on “We have turned,” the notes are turning over and over.

Isaiah 40:4 says, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” In the song based on this passage, the notes on the word “crooked” go up and down—they would look crooked on the sheet music. And the melody on “straight” and “plain” is mostly straight. The notes on “exalted” go up.

The melodies illustrate the words! And I had listened to and sung this I don’t know how many times before that clicked. In fact, I just caught “exalted” going up watching this video.

In many ways, my journey with the Bible parallels my journey with this piece of music.

I had attended church occasionally growing up. I knew some basic Bible truths and narratives. But I didn’t start reading the Bible myself until high school. The church I started attending when I was sixteen strongly encouraged its people to read the Bible through in a year. So I did.

And it was like trying to drink from a fire hydrant.

But I am so thankful for that emphasis at the outset of my Christian life. That grounded me more than anything else and set me off with good habits.

I didn’t understand everything I read. Similarly, in church, I couldn’t have told you the main points of the sermon afterward. But I got enough to chew on and to nourish me. The Bible speaks of those young in the faith as taking in milk from the Word. So I took in and digested what I could, and my life was changed.

When I got to something I didn’t understand, I’d just keep going.For instance, Psalm 60:4-5 says:

Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah. That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.

And I would think, “Wow, that’s good!” Then the next few verses listed a bunch of names I didn’t know. And then I came to verse 8: “Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me.”

And I thought, “Huh?”

And then I’d keep going to verses 11 and 12: “Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.” And I’d think, “Wow, so good!”

I don’t know if that’s the best way for a new Christian to go about Bible reading. But no one had told me what to do about the parts I didn’t understand. I had never heard of study Bibles in those days. Still, the Lord met me in those times with His Word.

And as I kept reading in the 40+ years since (though not through the whole Bible in a year any more), I understood more and more. I saw how individual verses and books fit within the whole. I know what Moab and Edom and Philistia are now. There are parts that are as familiar as any favorite, much-read book. There are parts holding dear memories of God giving me just the right words in an hour of need. I anticipate what’s coming next in a passage. But I am still learning new things even from old, familiar stories and chapters.

So, why am I telling you this today?

I want to encourage you to get into a habit of reading your Bible, if you’re not already doing so.

And I want to encourage you to read all of it. Maybe not in a year. There are two-year plans and five-year plans and almost any kind of plan you could think of. But if we just keep turning to our old favorite passages, we’ll miss so much.

And if you’re discouraged because there is so much you don’t understand, I want to encourage you to keep reading. You’ll “get” more and more of it the more you read it. Someone has said that the Bible is shallow enough for a child to wade in, but deep enough for an elephant to swim in. God can speak to you and minister to you even if you don’t understand every little thing in the passage. In fact, we’ll never exhaust the Bible in this lifetime.

The Bible says to “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2-3), and then to go on to solid food (1 Corinthians 3:1-2) as we “ mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrew 5:11-13).

But even more than spiritual food, the Bible provides spiritual fellowship. We don’t read the Bible as an end in itself, but to get to know God better. The Bible is the primary way God speaks to us. From the time God’s words were first written all the way through until the end of time, God expected His people to read and follow it.

God’s thoughts are precious to us. The Bible bears witness about Christ, increases our faith, guides us, teaches, improves, corrects, trains us in righteousness, equips us, builds us up, gives us hope and comfort, helps us avoid sin, makes us stable and fruitful, gives us life, understanding, joy, hope, wisdom and discretion.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Peter 1:3-4).

What a treasure trove we have in the Bible! May we partake of it every day.

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16).

Taking in and rejoicing in God's WordSee also:

Finding Time to Read the Bible

Ways to Both Read and Study the Bible

Real Life Devotions

Studying the Parts to Understand the Whole

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Hearth and Home, Global Blogging, Senior Salon,
Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday,
Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth,
Blogger Voices Network. Links do not imply 100% agreement.)