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Time for Bible Reading

Why do we need to read the Bible every single day?

Life is full of challenges. Some are big, like mastering the software your employer requires you to use for your daily work. Others are simple, like brushing your teeth. Yet when you write down a list of all the things you need to do every day, simply doing all of them may be the biggest challenge of all. Continue reading Time for Bible Reading

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Take Your Time

Open Bible

The world today is about speed. The ability to multi-task is not only highly valued, but quite necessary for survival. Employees are asked to do more with less, and that includes less time. Studies have determined that many people sleep less than seven hours a day, not resting nearly enough to give their bodies and minds time to recharge.

This state of affairs explains why many people have trouble making time for the Lord. Their days start early in the AM, and they run as fast as they can go till late PM.

These busy people all believe they must be organized. The industry that makes organizers is alive and well and growing. What fills up all this time? The entries cover work, family, home maintenance, physical exercise, volunteer charity work, professional education, and so forth. It is no wonder that people throw up their hands in despair when someone says that they should take time every day for spiritual nourishment in prayer and Bible study.

Yet the Bible is very clear that God wants us to spend time with him. After he had created the first man and woman, he met them in the garden every day. Every day! The first time they missed a meeting, it was because they had disobeyed him, and they felt too guilty to face him. When people today miss their meetings with him, God feels the loss.

Jesus, God’s Son, needed time with his father, though he was often so busy that he did not even have time to eat. (See Mark 6:33) Contemporary families can identify with that problem. Yet throughout these busy days, Jesus made time to pray.

Mark 1:21-39 records a very busy Sabbath that opened with a demon-possessed man in the synagogue and ended with “the whole city . . . gathered together at the door” of Peter’s house. (Mark 1:33 ESV) Yet Mark says that, “very early [the next] morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35 ESV).

Old Testament or New Testament, God’s desire to spend time with us is a consistent theme. You can read the complicated story of Saul’s anointing to be king of Israel in 1 Samuel 8-10. The country is suffering, and Saul is clueless about his future. When Samuel contrives to be alone with Saul in order to let him know God’s plan, this is what he says: “Stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God” (1 Samuel 9:27 ESV). Samuel as God’s agent, God’s voice to Saul, separates Saul from the busyness in his life and compels him to slow down for a while in God’s presence just to listen. To listen!

That is why we need to spend time with God. We need to make our petitions for our needs, because God desires to care for us, but even more than we need to get what we want, we need to hear God speak and share what he wants for us. How many blessings do we miss, because we do not take time to listen to God? What would have happened in Saul’s life if he had said, “Sam, I’m a busy man. I don’t have time to sit down for your jawboning right now. Why don’t you have your people talk to my people, and we will for sure get together soon.”

Many, many people treat God this way. They get up to the sound of the alarm clock. Maybe their first thought is, “I promised myself that I would make time to pray and read the Bible today. I’m gonna do that today for sure. Soon as I get out of the shower.” After the shower, they say, “Oh, I need to read my Bible, but maybe I’ll get coffee going first.” Then they remember that today’s status meeting is fifteen minutes earlier so the district manager can attend. “Okay, I’ll throw everything in the car right now, and then I’ll grab a few minutes for the Bible, and then I’ll go.” After the car is loaded, they can’t find the Bible or the devotion book or the phone rings. They hop in the car for the early meeting and run by Starbucks for a cuppa to get through the early meeting. As the meeting comes to order, the district manager says, “Folks, I’m sorry, but I have some bad news.” The participants sigh, “Oh, God!” and that is the prayer of the day.

Many, many contemporary Christians feel that they simply do not have the time for prayer and Bible study, and they have this attitude, because they do not realize what will happen after they start spending regular time with God.

I know this to be true.

I started my time with God by allotting only five minutes a day to him. I knew, or felt that I knew, that I should give him more time, but I knew, or felt that I knew, that I would never be able to give more. At that time, I started work daily at 6AM or earlier. I never left work till 6PM. I tried to have a life after work, and it was very hard to add anything to my days. Yet God kept whispering his call to me, and I kept feeling as guilty as Adam and Eve, hiding in the bushes. I had to do something.

I allotted five minutes, and I specified it would be immediately after my shower. Out of bed, start coffee, hop in the shower, dress, and sit down for God’s time. Five minutes. I gave God five minutes out of a day of 1440 minutes. I gave God .3% of my day.

I used the Daily Texts published by Mount Carmel Ministries. I read two verses and meditated on them. Then I read the prayer already written for me in the book. Five minutes, and I was gone.

What was the consequence of that decision? I was never late for work because of that commitment. I discover that those five minutes were very precious to me. I began to look forward to them. Those five minutes became my daily refuge in a very hectic and demanding career. Before long, I wanted to write down my thoughts on the verses, and I increased my time to ten minutes. Soon, I was reading my Bible, journaling my meditation, and praying for fifteen minutes. Yet when work responsibilities were overwhelming, and I worked round the clock from time to time, I could always find at least five minutes. It takes that long to go to the bathroom or go get a cup of coffee in the break room. I could give God five minutes.

That five minutes has been increased several times over the years, but I have never forgotten how important it was, even when it was just five minutes. During the most frantic days of my life, I never want to miss that five minutes. There have been times when I was so overwhelmed that I truly did let it slip away. Those were days when my motto was “Watch and pray,” and I hated being unable to step out of the midst of things for time alone, time to slow down and listen. However, months and years of having made that time apart happen day after day meant that I had a reservoir of peace and fulfillment that helped me through the days when it simply could not happen.

You may not realize it right now, but you need time alone with God every day. You may think you don’t even have five minutes, but almost certainly you do. There is more than one way make that time work, and here are four suggestions:

  • Sign up at Bible Gateway to receive the Verse of the Day by email each day. This site has a wealth of Bible reading plans and devotional series, but you can start giving God your five minutes by reading, meditating and praying a single verse each day. If you start with this simple practice, your life will change.
  • Use Daily Texts published by Mount Carmel Ministries for Kindle and paperback. There are many excellent devotional helps in this book, but you can start very simply with two verses and one prayer.
  • Get the First5 app on your phone. It allows you to set an alarm for the time you choose to give God your five minutes. The alarm will sound, and when you respond, you will receive a devotional and prayer. Step out of the fray and give God your First5.
  • Sign up to receive “Drops from the Well” each Sunday afternoon on your phone or by email. The site provides suggestions for ways to use a single verse as inspiration for meditation throughout the week.

Do you really think you cannot give God just five minutes each day? Think again. It is worth the time.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Open Bible
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOpen_Bible.jpg
By Wnorbutas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0

 

How Much of the Bible Should You Read?

Open BibleWhen someone says that you need to go to the Bible for help when the world comes crashing in, you may ask, “Where, exactly, do I go for help with this specific problem?” Some people use Bible verses in much the same way as they use prescription medicines: if a specific problem arises, they meditate and pray a specific verse from the Bible. This is a legitimate use of the Bible if you are familiar with the whole Bible, but picking and choosing among verses without consideration of their context is a mistake.

Many years ago, a movie portrayed what can happen when a statement without its context is used as exclusive guidance. The name of the movie was The Conversation, and in the movie, two people heard an isolated statement and acted on it. At the end, they discovered that they had utterly and fatally misinterpreted the statement, and in so doing, they put themselves and other people in great danger.

When you pick some isolated statement out of the Bible and make it a mantra, you risk doing the same thing.

Before you get too excited about any single statement in the Bible, you need to get familiar with the Bible as a whole. Why? Because the Bible is truth.

In our confusing and scary world, we need truth. The Bible is the place to find it. The Bible is God’s revelation of himself to humankind, and the only way to get that revelation is to read the Bible. The only way to get the whole revelation is to read the whole Bible.

When you read the Bible, you are reading words that have survived for centuries, because generation after generation has come to know God by means of those words. People who know God love the Bible, because in the words of the Bible, God draws near. The Bible is so precious that some people have actually given their lives to protect it. There are governments even today that forbid possession of the Bible, or they place so many restrictions on the translation, the publisher and the place where it is read that it is very difficult for people to access it. People still need to be vigilant to protect the Bible from those who wish to destroy it.

People like Jerome, Luther and Wycliffe followed God’s leading to translate the Bible into languages more useful for Christians than the ancient Greek and Hebrew languages, because they thought it was important for individual Christians to be able to read and understand the Bible. The imperative to provide education in many countries was originally driven by a desire for people to be able to read the Bible. Through the centuries, faithful men and women taken huge risks in order to protect and preserve copies of Scripture. Even today after a church in Ethiopia was burned by terrorists, the congregation felt blessed to recover many pages of the altar Bible afterwards. In China, where many people are unable to obtain Bibles, a congregation spent an hour each Sunday after worship memorizing a passage from Scripture. Even after most of the congregation finally did obtain Bibles, they continued memorizing long passages, because it was such a blessing to have so much Scripture in their heads and hearts.

God uses the words of the Bible to melt hard hearts, heal broken individuals, and mend divided families. These things happen, because the Bible is truth. You can count on it. You cannot count on a single word or a phrase unless you count on it as it fits into the whole Bible.

If you only read a little bit of the Bible, you risk not having the perspective of context that will give you real understanding and guidance. You might read the story of the ascension of Jesus and read the words, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” If you read nothing else in the Bible and cling to this statement, you have a difficult life ahead of you. You will suffer all sorts of trials and tribulations. You may fail to get the job of your dreams, or the person you love with all your heart may reject you. It could feel to you as if Jesus lied when he said he would be with you. How could he be with you with all his power and let such things happen to you? A piece of the Bible is not the whole truth of the Bible. You need to read all of it.

That could take a while. It could take a long while. But it is worth every minute of the time it takes, and when you finish it the first time, you will turn right around and read it again. I have seen it happen many times. You can read the whole Bible in 30 days, or 90 days, or a year, or two years. The amount of time it takes is not the point. Your faithful persistence in reading every day is the point. How much of the Bible should you read? All of it. When should you start? Now. Just do it.

Prayer and Bible Study are as Essential as Food

Open BibleMost Christians are very familiar with the story of the temptations of Jesus.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God'”  (Matthew 4:1-4 ESV)

We often marvel at the very idea that someone could fast for forty days. Whether you think it is a literal forty days or just a long, long time, most of us have trouble fasting between breakfast and lunch, let alone one day. Forget forty days. One of the largest segments of the food industry is devoted exclusively to snacks. Our culture expects people to eat meals three times a day, but we also expect refreshments after worship, during seminars and just about any time two or more people gather anywhere.

Anyone in the USA who fasts for any reason knows that it is hard to get by without food, even if you don’t really need any.

Yet Christians regularly try to get by without the food Jesus said we need more than anything—the Bread of Life.

We all need the words that come from the mouth of God, and the best place to obtain those words is the Bible. The Bible is God’s revelation of himself, and he gave it to us as a guide for faith and life. Jesus’s statement that God’s words are food just like bread was not the outcome of quick thinking. The words were written down centuries before by Moses who told the children of Israel the same thing:

[God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, . . . that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:3 ESV).

God’s words are the most important food we can eat, yet many of us would resemble the prisoners held in Auschwitz if our spiritual bodies were photographed, because we do not eat the Bread of Life that we need so very much.

If we lived in a country like Uzbekistan, where people can be arrested simply for possessing a Bible, let alone reading one, we might have some excuse. In Uzbekistan, there is a Bible that is legal, but it must be the Bible approved by the government. Printing Bibles is not a priority with the government’s approved publisher, so there are not nearly enough legal Bibles. It might be understandable if you were not reading the Bible in Uzbekistan.

In the US, there is no such excuse. Bibles are available everywhere. There is no law against possession of a Bible. There is no law specifying only one legal translation. You don’t even need to buy a Bible, because there are numerous groups and churches that will give you a Bible if you ask. Some may even accost you on the street and ask if you want one.

The truth? You probably have more than one Bible on a shelf or in a drawer or on your nightstand. If you attend church, there is undoubtedly one in a pew rack in front of you. You might even have taken one with you to church last Sunday. You could easily find a Bible to read if you wanted to.

You aren’t missing any meals. Why are you missing out on the Bread of Life?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Open Bible
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOpen_Bible.jpg
By Wnorbutas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0

Your IQ is Fine for Bible Study

Open BibleMany people avoid personal Bible study, declaring themselves not “smart” enough to understand the Bible. This attitude shuts people out of God’s revelation of himself to all people through Scripture. Jesus Christ our Savior is God’s living Word to us, and the Bible is God’s written word to us. God inspired people to write the many different books, letters, and poems that make up the Bible, and his purpose was to give people something they could read for themselves in order to know his will and his way. The Bible is our guide for faith and life, and the Bible is for everybody.

Too many people talk themselves out of reading the Bible, because they hear scholars and preachers speak eloquently of the teachings therein, and these people fear they simply will not understand it. If you feel that way, take heart. God wrote the Bible for everyone.

Think about a familiar Bible story, one that is often told to children: the story of Jonah.

Children identify with this story because Jonah acts like a three-year-old. God tells him to do something he doesn’t want to do, so he pouts and runs away. Like a loving parent, God captures the runaway, gives him a timeout, and then gives him a second chance to obey.

Any child can learn from this story that God is patient and loving, even when we are disobedient.

There is a lot more to the story, but a child can absorb the child’s portion of the story. The beauty of this and many other Bible stories is that there is so much more, and it is accessible to people of all ages. The person who read and learned from this story at age 5 will find more to learn at age 9, and age 17, and age 45.

The story reminds us that people have not changed much in the thousands of years since Jonah lived. For adults confronting a culture that talks about evolving morality and the steady improvement of humans, that lesson about the persistence of sinful human nature is valuable.

The story reminds us that when we undertake to obey God, our failures do not result in the failure of God’s purposes. Jonah did eventually go to Nineveh, but the story says he only barely got inside the city before he proclaimed his message and then went off to see what happened. God wanted him to tell all the Ninevites, not just the ones he passed the first day he arrived. Yet God was there in the words Jonah spoke grudgingly, and God used those words to prick the hearts of person after person, all the way up to the king. The best Jonah could manage was a half-hearted, half-done job, but God used it anyway and achieved his purpose for Nineveh.

You don’t need a high IQ to notice these things in this story. You don’t need a degree in theology or rocket science or ancient languages. You need to do one thing: read the story.

As I mentioned in the first post of this series, many people don’t read the story, because they claim they do not have time. I recommended that you consider whether it might be good stewardship of God’s gift of time to set aside just five minutes in each 24 hours for prayer and Bible study. That is how you get the time. Lack of time is no reason to fail to read the Bible.

In this post, I have showed you that you can use your own common sense to read the Bible and learn from it. You have the intelligence to understand the simple words of Jonah’s story and learn from it. The Bible is full of stories you will understand readily if you simply read them. Lack of Bible training is no reason to fail to read the Bible.

In posts yet to come, I will help you get past some of the other ways you may be justifying to yourself your failure to read the Bible. You know that you need God’s help every day. You experience frustration, fear and anger as you are jolted by the daily chaos. You know that the Bible is God’s gift to guide us in faith and life. There is only one way to get past your failure to read the Bible. Just do it.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Open Bible
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOpen_Bible.jp
Attribution:  By Wnorbutas (Own work)
License:CC BY-SA 3.0