In my last post, I shared a broad view of my experience reading the New Testament this summer.
Today, I want to share some specific nuggets I discovered along the way.
And if you want to know how determined I am to get this testimony out there before the next Bible Reading Challenge begins, I am typing up this post as our family of seven (+ my mom) drives home from a week at Branson wherein all of my sensories have been engaged to maximum capacity.
And now it’s drizzling outside, the kids are all quietly occupied in their seats in the car…this is prime nap opportunity, people.
I’m not asking you to thank me so much as I’m asking you to forgive me if the following sentencing is gobbledeegookish, and to be okay with quick, bulleted points instead of a flowing masterpiece of wordsmithery.
Okay, and maybe I’m asking you to thank me.
But just a little.
Let us begin with the nuggets:
- The Word of God is meant to be read.
My husband has been telling me this for years, but the knowledge is now mine to understand and share. The Word of God is meant to be read. Like a book. Because it is…a book. For most of us, our personal at-home experience with the Bible is a fortune cookie line here, a graphic design there, or the italicized heading at the top of the page from the latest devotional book we’re reading. In fact, it was shocking to me the first time my husband informed me that the best way a person could read the Bible is to actually sit down and read an entire book in one sitting. I’m sorry, WHAT? High standards, much? What am I, a PhD or somethin’??…
But as it turns out, the reason that seemed so outlandish to me is simply because I was not accustomed to using my Bible-reading muscles. Biblical language is different, and to be frank, a lot of us are just weenies about it. (I’d like to point out that, yes, yes I did just use the words “frank” and “weenie” in the same sentence. And here we thought my post would be gobbledygookish. If a lady can still make hot dog puns, her sensories must not be TOO overloaded…) Once, however, I submitted my heart to coming to this table of God’s Word, my love for it grew, my reading picked up speed, the phrases began to make more sense, and the language became so dear that, by the end of the summer, I was able to read Psalm 119 and actually identify with every word the psalmist spoke about the great riches found in God’s law.
And listen, by the last day of the Summer Reading Challenge, getting through four chapters of the Bible a day was easier than I ever dreamed it could be; it literally takes up such a tiny amount of my time that it is laughable how intimidated I was by it before.
I mean, get this! My husband was given a poster for his office for Christmas that has the word “Romans” emblazoned across it, and if you stand right next to it, you will see that the poster’s background is filled up with little words, and if you read those little words from start to finish, guess what you’ll have read? The entire book of Romans. It all fits on a POSTER. Surely we can read a poster, right? Unless we are what? Weenies.
- The Word of God is meant to be read…by you!
With the above in mind, I found that reading the Bible this way – in large sections at a time – is a unique experience with the Word than any I’ve had before. I mentioned in my last post that, if you had asked me before June if I loved the Bible, I would have said YES! Because I did! I loved to hear it read, I loved to hear it exposited, I loved reading it to my kids, and I believed it to be absolutely true and profitable and amazing and wonderful. But I was missing out on a truly beautiful experience by not reading it cover to cover at home. It’s different. You glean things, even from the most rudimentary reading, that you have never noticed before, and God just USES it. I have anecdotes coming out of my ears from this summer’s readings and how they were fleshed out in my daily life.
- The Word of God doesn’t need you to be worried about it.
You know those tiny little sections of the Bible that you are sometimes tempted to hide from others, as if they are that room in your house where you throw all the things when company is coming? Turns out, when you actually read the Bible, those things clear themselves up. Those last tiny issues I have secretly harbored toward the Bible were resolved when I read it with a humble heart. And what I understand now that I didn’t understand in May is that what might have embarrassed me before had less to do with the Word of God not being absolutely perfect and more to do with my own worldiness. I came across these words from John Piper this summer and they continue to pound in my heart:
“Getting ready to feast on all God’s word is not first an intellectual challenge; it is first a moral challenge. If you want to eat the solid food of the word, you must exercise your spiritual senses so as to develop a mind that discerns between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). This is a moral challenge, not just intellectual.
The startling truth is that, if you stumble over understanding Melchizedek in Genesis and Hebrews, it may be because you watch questionable TV programs. If you stumble over the doctrine of election, it may be because you still use some shady business practices. If you stumble over the God-centered work of Christ on the cross, it may be because you love money and spend too much and give too little.
The pathway to maturity and to solid biblical food is not first becoming an intelligent person, but becoming an obedient person. What you do with alcohol and sex and money and leisure and food and computers, and the way you treat other people, has more to do with your capacity for solid food than where you go to school or what books you read.
This is so important because in our highly technological society we are prone to think that education — especially intellectual development — is the key to maturity. There are many Ph.D.’s who choke in their spiritual immaturity on the things of God. And there are many less-educated saints who are deeply mature and can feed with pleasure and profit on the deepest things of God’s word.”
So are there things in the Bible that don’t sit well with you? Are there sections of it that cause you to squirm because they seem a little archaic or outlandish? Don’t shy away from them. Dig in and read and read and read and the words won’t change, but you will. And your affections will grow Godward, and the “things of earth will grow strangely dim”, and the problems will resolve themselves in a blink.
- The Word of God is healing.
It is not God’s will for us to be anxious. It is not God’s will for us to harbor unbelief. It is not His will for us to be bitter. This summer, I found that my battles against these horrific foes became a thousand times more effective when I was eating the Word every day.
Not to be crude, but I was like a person who discovered for the first time how much better it is to flush the toilet several times a day instead of a couple of times a week.
Because that’s exactly what reading the Word does. By the power of the Holy Spirit, it flushes out the bad and replaces it with good, in the most Philippians 4:8 way possible.
Being a Bible-devouring person on Sunday is a great place to start, submitting to the leadership of your pastors and eating up every word they deliver to you and meditating on it all week long…but being a Bible-devouring person every day of the week will just shoot your spiritual life into a whole new category. Eat your own meals straight from the source and just see what God will do. I am a different person than I was at the beginning of the summer and I could tell you all the specific stories, but instead I’ll just tell you this: twice this summer, after very stressful moments, my husband commended me for handling the situation with maturity and good humor and wisdom. This is a big deal, my friends. The matriarch of the Gore family is growing less faint, and all God’s people said AMEN.
- The Word of God is a weapon.
Okay, I’ll tell you one story. Mr. Gore was recently in Africa for two weeks, and there was one moment when one of the children and I found ourselves going head-to-head over an issue. Emotions began to mount, and both of us were being selfish, and I missed my husband SO much, and in my past, I would probably have excused myself, had a good cry, prayed for wisdom, tried to think of a good verse to meditate on for my situation, and sat in a quiet room until I felt controlled enough to return and handle the situation. On this day, however…I did the same thing. Except I also took my Bible with me. Oh, and I didn’t cry. I just sat on the toilet lid, quickly read two chapters of the day’s reading, prayed, and walked calmly back into the living room. The child and I immediately reconciled and moved on with our day, no dramatics required. And what I realized in that moment was this: all of those times in my life when I had felt “overwhelmed”…”frazzled”…”frustrated”…”doubtful”…I had been using the wrong words. Turns out, maybe I was just “hungry”. And I needed to eat and fill up my mind with something more substantial than my own emotions.
When I feel faint in my physical life, the first thing I think is “I need a hamburger”. That simplicity has reached my spiritual life now, as well. “I’m hungry. I need to read.” It’s amazing how easy it is to rise up and do what you need to do when you have the Word to fuel you.
It really is a weapon, and I have found that “picking it up” can be more literal than I ever allowed it to be. Next time you’re on your way to your “panic room”, grab your Bible, pick up from where you left off, and read. Then go fight your battles.
- The Word of God is not picky.
We touched on this a little bit in the last post, but one of the most fruitful things I gleaned from the Bible Reading Challenge was a familiarity with God’s Word, one that enabled me to approach the Bible less like the leather-bound first edition that everyone in the family is afraid to touch and more like the paperback version of my favorite book that I have read over and over again.
What that means is that I learned to read it this summer, anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes I read all four chapters in one sitting in my favorite chair with coffee nearby. Sometimes I read one chapter sitting, one chapter standing, one chapter bathing, and one chapter drying my hair. Sometimes I listened to the chapters on audio while I cleaned the kitchen. Sometimes I read them out loud to the kids while they colored and made potholders. Sometimes I read them in the car while my husband was driving us to music class. And one night, I laid my Bible in the playpen next to my crying baby and read the last chapter while I patted his back until he fell asleep.
This book became MY book, my favorite book, and I am no longer under the misconception that the Bible demands a quiet room and a concrete forty minutes of solitude before it will allow me learn something. The Bible is not picky and it is not fussy, and found no trouble fitting in to our loud, messy, spirited household where the only thing on schedule is the baby’s hunger.
- The Word of God will be awesome enough for both of you.
I could go on and on for days, but the last thing I’d like to share before I sign off is to encourage you to do whatever it takes to make reading your Bible a habit. When I started off in June, I kept a very loose grip on this challenge and the only thing I brought to the table was a prayerful determination to read. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to get something amazing out of it, I didn’t choose a verse to meditate on, I didn’t choose any verses to memorize. In fact, I told one of my friends that I approached this entire challenge like one would approach a deer in the forest. I tiptoed. I didn’t make eye contact with myself. I didn’t make any noise at church or on Facebook about how important Bible reading was. I just read my chapters and allowed myself to learn to love it. And it was a beautiful and memorable summer. I brought very little to the table, and God and His amazing book worked wonders in my heart.
I pray the same for you, and that as our love and dependence on the Word grows, we will add more and more to the feast. Memorization, cross-referencing, the WORKS!
So what do you say? Join me tomorrow morning for this new challenge? Whatever-time-you-can sharp!!
Find the Bible Reading Challenge here.
Join the Facebook group here.
And read a GREAT new article by Rachel Jankovic at Desiring God here.