During this season of Lent, I’m refocusing my heart and mind on God by practicing a different spiritual discipline each week. Last week, here on the blog we focused on prayer: knowing Whom we pray to changes when we pray and how we pray. This week, we are going to look to the Lord through the spiritual discipline of bible reading.
No other Spiritual Discipline rivals the importance of the intake of God’s Word. No other Spiritual Discipline can compensate for the lack of it. Without feasting on the food of Scripture, no one will enjoy a growing, healthy Christlike life. –Donald Whitney
Bible reading is different from bible study. Bible study is where you’re digging in, looking up words, cross referencing, asking and answering questions from the text, etc. You’re probably sitting in one passage or working your way through book-by-book, seeking higher-level comprehension and understanding God’s character and story.
However, this discipline will merely be bible reading. Though I shouldn’t say merely, because for most, bible reading is often a struggle. For most Christians, daily bible reading stays on the “to-do list” but never really gets done. For most of us, bible reading is a task and not a relationship. We claim we’re too busy or don’t have the time, but I think if we’re honest, bible reading is never about not having time, it’s about not making time.
As a wise person on Pinterest said “If you’re too busy for God, you’re too busy.” We have so much to do in a day, yes, but we all find time to watch TV, to check Instagram, and scroll Facebook, and do what matters to us. We have the time; we’re just not redeeming the time.
When we understand that bible reading is an invitation to be WITH God, to learn from Him and enjoy His presence, it moves from duty to delight. When we see that Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14) we can begin to see this time in the bible as time with Him. What a joy and a privilege!
Perhaps one of the main reasons Christians never read through the entire Bible is discouragement. Many people have never read a thousand-page book before and get discouraged at the sheer length of the Bible. Do you know that recorded readings of the Bible have proven that you can read through the entire Book in seventy-one hours? That’s less time than the average American spends in front of the television every month. In other words, if most people would exchange their TV time for Scripture reading, they’d finish reading the entire Bible in four weeks or less. If that sounds unworkable, consider this: In no more than fifteen minutes a day you can read through the Bible in less than a year’s time. Only five minutes a day takes you through the Bible in less than three years. And yet the majority of Christians never read God’s Word all the way through in a lifetime of decades.
USA Today reported a poll that showed only 11 percent of all Americans—Christian and non-Christian—read the Bible every day. More than half read it less than once a month or never at all. A survey taken less than a year earlier by the Barna Research Group among those claiming to be “born-again Christians” disclosed these disheartening numbers: Only 18 percent—less than two of every ten—read the Bible every day. Worst of all, 23 percent—almost one in four professing Christians—say they never read the Word of God.
Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
So there you go, you are not alone. Most Christians don’t read the bible, and most of our lives bear the fruit of our neglect.
If we are not living in the bible, then we are living according to our own strength and wisdom. We struggle through life, wondering why we experience no peace, yet we don’t go to the Prince of Peace for help. We don’t connect to the True Vine, and wonder why we don’t bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We wonder why things are so hard, why life is overwhelming yet we don’t put our feet on the path to true freedom and rest.
Let’s confess where we fall short and move forward. No guilt, no condemnation. Lord we believe, help our unbelief! Lord we’re the worst and you’re the best, and you love us even when we neglect and reject You. Thank you for your grace, please draw us near.
So what is bible reading?
It’s just that—reading the bible. It’s not reading a verse in a devotional and someone else’s thoughts on that verse, it’s not reading a book about the bible or listening to a podcast, it’s actually reading the bible. You and the Book. For a week, reading Scripture in the purest form, with the Holy Spirit in you to guide you toward truth.
Most of us eat 3 meals a day. So for this next week, as you’re nourishing your physical self why not nourish your emotional/spiritual self? During each meal, let’s read God’s word. We are not studying each time; we are reading—opening God’s word, reading, and closing it. What happens beyond that is between you and the Lord.
AM Reading (Breakfast): Psalms
During breakfast or with that first grab of your phone in the morning, before you check Facebook or email, read through a Psalm. Some of my favorites are Psalm 1, 23, 34, 51, 145. I will be reading through Psalm 119 over this next week. I’ve downloaded a bible app so before I move into checking social media, I will read a few verses before I rise.
Mid-Day Reading (Lunch): Genesis
I am studying Genesis right now, and usually do my bible study around lunchtime. So I’ll be reading a chapter of Genesis during lunch (Genesis 27-31) over this next week. That might be random for you if you’re not studying Genesis, so pick a small book like James or Philippians and read a chapter a day during lunch.
PM Reading (dinner): John
Since Easter is around the corner, I will read John 13-17 (the upper room discourse). So during or after dinner, or while I’m laying in bed before I fall asleep, I’ll read a chapter in the evening.
Remember, you’re just reading, like flipping through a magazine. If my plan of Psalms, Genesis, and John is too much, pick a book and read a different chapter during each meal. This is meant to be life giving, turning from things that don’t fill us up but steal our time (TV, social media, internet) and turning to God and His word. It’s a 3-5 minute pause around meals to enter in with the God of the universe, slow your heart and refocus your mind morning, noon, and night.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)