It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “The Bible in 90 Days,”
but I’m not marketing a Bible reading program to a church! 🙂 Last week, I finally finished reading through the Bible, 5 months later than the rest of our congregation, but with God’s help, I’m done! God taught me a lot of unexpected lessons through it, some worth recording here so I don’t forget and maybe even to encourage you!
When our church announced the program toward the end of last year, I did not want to do it. I loved the approach I was taking of inductively studying through the Bible and had made it from Genesis to II Kings, with some study in Proverbs after Schaeffer arrived. I did not want to interrupt the good thing I had going. I admitted this to Matt but said I was going to do the program with our congregation anyway. His response, “Good. I wondered if I was going to have to make you do it.” Nice. A reputation like that won’t get you “Pastor’s Wife of the Year.” We talked about it, and both acknowledged since I am a slower reader coupled with this busy phase of life with young kids, the speed with which I would have to read to keep up was pretty unrealistic for me. I was overwhelmed before it began, but said I would do the best I could with God’s help.
And so it started on January 9. Within a few weeks, others were talking about how much they loved it and were seeing the big picture of Scripture like they’d never seen it before and I just kept thinking how much I wanted to get back to my plan. And so the lessons began.
1) It didn’t take me long to realize I loved my Bible study plan more than I loved God’s Word. My tools of study had become more important than the blessed object of my study. Ouch.
2) In order to complete the reading in my life span, I self-imposed a fast from listening to online sermons (outside of our local church) and reading devotional books until I finished reading the Bible through. This fast revealed a few things.
a) I had neglected to differentiate between what was helpful and what was necessary in my walk with God. John Piper’s sermons are amazing. They minister to me and help push me closer to Christ in significant ways, but they aren’t necessary for my Christian walk.
b) I was too preoccupied with what and how much devotional/religious reading I was doing and being in the know about the latest and greatest books available. All the devotional resources we have at our disposal are such a blessing. People who know a lot more than me are writing some really great things from which I can definitely benefit. However, for a heart check going forward, I have to remind myself of Simon Peter’s words recorded in John 6:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have
come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (emphasis mine)
What anyone else has to say isn’t better than what God’s Word says and no one else can say it better than God’s Word says it.
3) A lot of spiritual activity with reading lists and the devotional gymnastics of journaling, color coded prayer lists and the like, contributed to a self-righteous attitude. When some of those things were removed from my routine to make more time for Bible reading, I realized how much I was relying on them for my secure standing before God instead of Christ’s work on my behalf. I didn’t “feel” as spiritual because I hadn’t jumped through all the hoops I had instituted to “get to God.”
4) There are times when reading the Scripture is more force feeding than enjoyable feasting. And that’s OK. It’s not hypocrisy to read anyway. It’s obedience. But I need to pray that God would change my heart and help me taste the sweetness…even in the chronologies. 🙂 Reading my Bible isn’t really about me and how it’s suiting my palate on any given day. It’s about His people, in His place, under His rule. It’s His story and although I’m part of it, I need to enjoy and love reading about what He has done, is doing and is going to do because I love Him. That makes for some good eats! (Delete mental image of Alton Brown.)
These lessons aren’t profound and some may be unique to my personality and it’s dysfunctions. However, this Bible reading program surfaced sin struggles in the seemingly unlikely place of my devotional life. Maybe that’s something to which we all can relate. The Scripture provides encouragement and hope for those kinds of sin struggles too. “…everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)