Lent: Week 2 {Bible Reading}

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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)

 

 

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Lent 2016

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Though I did not grow up in church, I have always been slightly drawn to the liturgical. Perhaps it was my friends who were Catholic and would talk to me about why they wore ashes on their foreheads or it was my visits to the local Jewish temple with my best friend from Jr. High School?  Whatever it was, I was fascinated by piety, tradition, and religious practices.

Looking back on my childhood and teen years, I think I was drawn to these traditions and rituals because I feared I was missing something deeper, something more spiritual. And I was. But what I was higher than rituals and chanting and incense; it was Jesus. The spirituality I longed for was less of a religious practice, and more of forgiveness and grace. I was broken and didn’t realize my fix wasn’t found in rituals and rote sayings, but in repentance and mercy. It was less about achieving and striving, and more about receiving and abiding.

So this season, I’m trying to look at Lent afresh. I’m approaching “Lent” not as a ritual or routine, not merely as something I give up but Someone I’m turning to. Not as some religious practice that makes me feel self-righteous, but a season that leads me to repentance and humility, seeing Christ for who He is and drawing near to Him in a deeper way.

What is Lent?
“Lent is the span of time in the church calendar that starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday commemorates the beginning of Jesus’ 40-day fasting and temptation in the desert, and Easter Sunday commemorates Jesus’ resurrection from the grave after his crucifixion.

Lent, then, is generally observed as a time for Christians to reflect, repent, and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter. It is commonly observed by many Christian denominations—Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and others—although not every Christian church or denomination does so. Because Lent is not officially instituted in Scripture, observing it isn’t in any way a “requirement” of Christianity. However, Christians from many different theological persuasions choose to observe it as a way of focusing their thoughts on Jesus Christ during the Easter season.”  (Source: What is Lent?)

I wanted to be intentional this season by practicing different spiritual disciplines. Our generation hears the word “discipline” and immediately cries “legalism”. However, spiritual disciplines are practices that are meant to deepen your relationship with the Lord; they are not activities that are done to somehow earn more favor or approval from God. We practice these disciplines to draw near to God out of an overflow of love and grace He has given us. We draw near because of the Gospel.

God’s love for us is the motivator in cultivating our love for Him.

Through Jesus; His life, death, and resurrection, we are promised right relationship with our Heavenly Father. In resting in His finished work on the cross, spiritual disciplines become less about duty, and more about delight.

So for these next few weeks (40 days), I’m inviting you to join me to be more intentional this season. Being intentional in our relationship with Christ doesn’t have to be begrudging, guilt ridden, or legalistic. Intentional simply means: done on purpose, deliberate.

Join me as I try and remember Immanuel, God With Us, over these next few weeks. Remembering that Christ came to live among us and to die for us. Would we use these practices to be intentional to see Christ, to remember, reflect, and anticipate Resurrection. Let’s move toward Christ in a different, smaller, quieter, slower and more intentional way over these next few weeks, beholding the beauty of Christ in a new and fresh way this season.

You can subscribe to my blog here to receive the posts via email, or check back each Wednesday for resources, devotionals, and direction on a specific discipline.

*If you are looking for a deeper study on spiritual disciplines, you can download the 8-week study I wrote here: Spiritual Disciplines