As I sit down to write this blog post, I feel a bit like a woman who has gone around the world in 80 days and now has 1000 words or less with which to describe the wonders she has seen. Is it possible?
But, like our brothers in the fourth chapter of Acts, I cannot help speaking about the things I have seen and heard.
I’ll do my best to keep it short. Medium-short. How about medium? Oh, who cares? This is going to be long.
So on June 4th, I opened up a book.
And through the encouragement of a thriving group of godly women in Idaho, I read a portion of that book every day this summer.
The book was the Bible, and the invitation from the Christ Church Ladies Fellowship was simple: we are reading through the New Testament this summer and we are following this daily plan. Join us. Oh! And by the way, don’t make this more difficult than it needs to be. And if you get behind, don’t stress out about catching up. Just jump in on the next day’s reading. “You aren’t behind if you are reading your Bible today…”
And, just like that, a woman who has struggled her entire Christian life to have “a daily quiet time” discovered that there really is gold in them thar pages.
There are a couple of reasons this “Summer Bible Reading Challenge” worked so well for me.
First, I think the Lord sovereignly bestowed this grace upon me at this specific time. I remember several years back, when my firstborn was probably a Kindergartener, I let out a sigh that caught his attention.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I’m just frustrated,” I told him. “I’ve always wanted to read my Bible every day and I just wish I could do better.”
“Maybe God’s not ready for you to do that yet,” he said.
His statement struck me, not because it was perfectly right…God wants us to love and read His Word TODAY…but it wasn’t exactly wrong, either; there are certainly times in the Christian life when the growth we long for doesn’t come right away.
And so of course that does not take away any of my culpability for not being a woman who loved the Word so much that she picked it up every day.
But it DOES make it so that, when the desire finally did come to fruition this June, there was no one to credit but God and His goodness. Years of failure and shame to humble me, there is no doubt in my mind that, this summer, He “was ready” for me to make this stride, and He enabled me to do it. I am so grateful.
Secondly, and on the shoulders of this sovereignly-timed and Spirit-given bit of awakening, was the verbage surrounding the Bible Reading Challenge that was used by the Lord to break through those barriers that had tripped me up for decades.
The ringleader of the Bible Reading Challenge, Rachel Jankovic, worded it this way and, as she states in the first sentence, this was, indeed, the ‘real meat and potatoes of change’ for me:
“This is a super practical aspect to this challenge, and for many women where the real meat and potatoes of change happened. You are going to miss days, you might get substantially behind, and you will read your New Testament this summer like a real person with a real life and not an imaginary person in an imaginary life. We want to be learning to come faithfully to the Word in our normal lives! So take a minute to think about what might be an obstacle to you. You may need to try all kinds of different methods in your life to make this happen.
You might need to forget about mythical quiet times and learn to read in the middle of the kids playing. You might learn to listen whenever you clean the kitchen or drive in the car. You might need to take a minute to think about what it might really look like in your real life, and how you will prepare yourself and not be discouraged when you find yourself facing very real obstacles to your reading.
You probably won’t feel like it some days. You will probably think it is doing nothing for you some days. You will probably have headaches and be tired and be oh so normal. And this is the life that you need the Word of God in – not your imaginary perfect life, but this one, here, now.
The reality is that there are really only three things standing between you and consistent Bible reading. The world, the flesh, and the devil. The world will distract you, the flesh will be weak, and the devil will accuse. Be ready for all of those things! And remember that God is for us. He wants you in His Word! Rely on Him to resist all of the temptations we will all face – for it is certainly true that if God is for us, who then can be against us?
“Mythical quiet times”, yes, yes, and AMEN. When I was a young teen, the “daily quiet time” was presented to me, and I have had trouble keeping up since; but with the debunking of that myth in the above instruction, I received a freedom to approach the Word in a way that worked for me, and I quickly learned that Rachel was exactly right, and that many of us have made Bible-reading a thousand times more complicated than it needs to be.
We just need to eat.
The Word is a feast laid out for our nourishment and enjoyment, and so many of us are starving as we wait for the perfect opportunity to materialize by which we can calmly sit down, put a napkin in our lap, and slowly chew each morsel in a thoughtful and uninterrupted manner.
All of which is great and good…who wouldn’t love to have that moment?…but sometimes we need to get over the quiet time dream and mimic the actual lunch that we often have to consume as we are clearing the table, stuffing the peanut butter and jelly crusts into our mouth and eating the funky looking grapes that the kids left at the bottom of the colander.
Because that’s what hungry people do.
Sometimes on the go.
Sometimes snacking every hour.
Sometimes having that calm and uninterrupted sit-down.
But eating, day in and day out, as if this food is a life-source.
And here is what I found as I “ate”: once you submit yourself to actually reading the Bible as it was written and to stop thinking about what you are providing to the equation by way of quiet and highlighters and coffee and an uncluttered heart, soul, mind, and living room, you fall so stinking in love with the text that, all of a sudden, YOU NEED A HIGHLIGHTER.
In other words, I’ve realized that the cart was always in front of the horse for me, as I bore this heavy idea that I should sit down with brimming devotion to have an emotionally-charged and meaningful time with God every morning, even though, with so many little children in the house, there WAS no morning. And I could never get there, in a practical way, and I also could never get there in a spiritual way, because I never got around to picking up the Book with my own hands and reading it cover to cover.
Therefore, as it turns out, the really crucial step I needed to take all these years in coming to the Word of God was…well, coming to the Word of God.
And that’s when a whole new world opened up before me.
I recently came across these words in John Piper’s “21 Servants of Sovereign Joy”, and I thought they highlighted the point I’m trying to make perfectly. Referencing Augustine, Piper says, “Even his ability — and his hearers’ ability — to see the truth of Scripture was governed partially by the delight he took in what he found there. He would always tell his readers that they must ‘look into the Scriptures [with] the eyes of their heart on its heart.’ This means that one must look with love on what one only partially sees: ‘It is impossible to love what is entirely unknown, but when what is known, if even so little, is loved, this very capacity for love makes it better and more fully known.’ In other words, loving, or delighting in, what we know of God in Scripture will be the key that opens Scripture further.”
And that’s why I wanted to write this blog post today. I want to encourage you, fellow traveler.
Maybe you are just like me, a congregant who eats up every word of the sermon, who reads great articles by great theologians like they are candy, who “loves the Word”, who loves theology, who loves good, biblical doctrine…
but your relationship with the Bible, though reverent, though passionate, has always been from someone else’s feast. As the ladies in the Bible Challenge would describe it, you’ve been living on the “crumbs” from what another believer has been enjoying at the table of God’s Word.
Let that love that you already have, “if even so little”, entice you to pick up your Bible and, no matter what is going on in your crazy house full of little people or your schedule full of to-do’s, to read it.
Read it sitting. Read it standing. Read it aloud to your kids. Read a chapter while the coffee brews and one after lunch and one on the porch and one before bed. Read it with a fox. Read it in a box.
I promise you, just like John Piper said, this love of what you already know “of God in Scripture will be the key that opens Scripture further.”
And what wonders you will find once that key is turned!
Jeepers. I have so much more I want to say, and perhaps I will do so in a follow-up blog post, but I want to end this here so I can get to the really good news.
With the Summer Bible Challenge now concluded — that’s right! Mrs. Gore read THE ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT THIS SUMMER LIKE A REAL CHRISTIAN LADY, WOOHOO!!! — the ladies of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, are about to kick-off a brand new Challenge, starting September 11th. And we are all invited!
September 2018. What a great month to become a person of the Word. And, trust me, that can happen overnight.
You can find everything you need to know (including beautiful printables!) here.
You can join a super-encouraging FB group here.
And, if you want to hear the talk that really broke through my thick skull and set me on this path in the first place, listen to this interview that Rachel Jankovic did with Sheologians. It’s powerful and eye-opening and inspiring.
I promise I’ll try to get that follow-up post written, because I have so much to share from this summer. But, until then, if you’d like to hear dailyish stories and snippets about family and the Christian life, join me on Facebook! And let me know in the comments if you did the Summer Bible Reading Challenge and how it enriched your life – I’d love to hear from you!