I recently read a report on a study conducted by the American Bible Society – The 2012 State of the Bible Report. I found this study quite interesting. I write this blog, because of things I learn and the personal growth I experience which is profoundly influenced by my daily reading in the Bible. It was astounding to me to discover that many people seldom or never actually read the Bible, yet those same people had strong opinions about both the content of the Bible and the relevance of the Bible to daily life.
I don’t feel entitled to judge people who say they have no time to read the Bible, because I know that many people are committed to tasks and activities that more than fill every day. Yet I know from experience that people do what is important to them. I worked as a consultant for several years. My work days started at 6AM, no matter what time my flight arrived the previous evening. Those days extended until the work was done, even if the work continued long after a normal dinner hour. Those were exhausting years. Yet I remember making the commitment to read the Bible and pray every day, even if for a brief time, and I remember how hard it was just to get up in time to make it to work by 6AM, and I remember how it was even harder to do after I realized that the only time I could count on for Bible study and prayer was before the work day started. After many years of that discipline, I now look back and thank God that I made the time for just fifteen minutes each day.
At first that fifteen minutes was a huge challenge. As I grew in faith and in commitment to that daily time apart, I found I wanted more time, not less. I learned that I needed that time to nourish my faith the way I needed mealtimes to nourish my body. Today that fifteen minutes is often closer to an hour, but there are still times when it is hard to make even fifteen minutes. I don’t quibble about that. I’ll be honest. Sometimes I don’t even get the fifteen minutes. I always regret it. It is like forgetting to kiss my husband when he gets up. There may not be any cosmic disaster attributable to missing my time apart with God, but I feel the loss. When I first started my devotional discipline, it seemed hard to make the time every day. Now, when it is hard to make the time, I am highly motivated to do it anyway, because I know the value of letting God speak to me through the Bible and in prayer.
My experience is this. When I first committed to the daily discipline of fifteen minutes, it was very hard, but I found it fulfilling and worthwhile. Amazingly, this discipline enriched my worship experience on Sunday mornings. It led me to attend another worship service each Wednesday evening. More worship led me to richer time alone, and I found it easier at that point to expand my daily time than to cut it short at fifteen minutes. I wanted more. The more I know God, the more I want to know.
Writing this blog is only one of the many things God has led me to do as his obedient child. Over many years of prayer and Bible study, I began to recognize that our culture is growing simultaneously both indifferent and aggressive toward Christianity and Christians. In my childhood, the communities where I lived were very much shaped by values drawn from Christian teaching. On Sunday, people either went to church or felt guilty for not going. Anyone who spoke in curses in the presence of women or children apologized for it. My teachers read the Bible or Bible stories to us before classes started each day. That was then.
Today, none of these attitudes prevail in most communities. There is outspoken resentment when anybody assumes that Christian values prevail or Christian traditions are dominant. The culture wants Christians to keep their faith, their practices and their values to themselves. A Christian who presumes to speak of the faith that shapes his life is at risk of being called a bigot simply because he has convictions.
In this environment, Christians need more than ever to be firmly rooted in their faith. If their faith is challenged, they need to know how to answer. It is very much like the experience of early Christians in the Roman Empire. I don’t know if the not too benign scorn for Christians will escalate to outright persecution, but it could. There are certainly cultural indications that if Christians refuse to lock their faith up inside their church buildings, there will be cultural, and perhaps governmental, consequences.
This blog is my response to the culture of religious suppression. On May 1, the Occupy movement reared its head to make political statements in demonstrations around the country. This movement does not speak for everyone in the nation, but a startling number of people are sympathetic, even if they are not involved. Here you can see a number of photos which ought to shock citizens of the USA. Occupy demonstrators are waving flags that advocate Marxism, the very ideology which turned churches into dormitories and factories in the former USSR, an ideology which sent some Christians to “re-education” camps, an ill-disguised euphemism for torture facilities. Maybe this country will never sink to that level, but Christians need to be aware that this stream of thought is now prominent in our culture.
How shall a Christian live and stand up for Christ in the current culture of the USA? Mourning the past is a waste of time. Outrage and name-calling is not the way Christ taught us to respond to the growing disdain or even hatred. Jesus said we should love and pray for those who want to persecute us for our faith. I hope this blog will encourage you to do exactly that. That is the reason I ask if you make time for Bible study and prayer. That is why I share my experiences. That is why I ask you to share your own experiences.
Do you make time in each day or most days to read your Bible and pray? If not, why not? When life throws slings and arrows your way, how do you cope? Is it your habit to pray or to remember something from the Bible when you are hurt, angry, confused or depressed? Do you think you would react differently if you “knew more” about the Bible? Do you think you ought to spend time every day in Bible study and prayer, or do you think that nobody needs to do it that often? Do you think the current culture of the USA is more tolerant or less tolerant of Christians than it was twenty years ago? How do you think Christians should react to rejection or insults in public? What is the right place to seek advice on living a spiritual faith in a secular culture? I would really value your response.