Please do not misunderstand what I’m about to say. Having said that, I’m sure I’m going to get some clap back.
As I’ve looked over the ole inter webs this morning with my bible, journal and reading plan in front of me having completed my reading for the day, I noted an abundance of advice for the season, and some of it included things like “read a devotional or a passage from the bible”.
Devotional or a passage from the bible. Has anyone stopped to think about what happens if I just read a devotional? I intake information that is someone else’ exposition of a single passage and their application IF it is a devotional from a bible passage. Sometimes devotionals are, pardon my harshness, worldly advice with a bible verse tacked on at the end and completely misused. (FYI: Philippians 4:13 don’t have anything to do with me or you lifting that weight or overcoming that obstacle. It has everything to do with the people at Philippi overcoming their conflicts in the church as the center their affections on Christ, and few other things, but you get the picture.) Those kind of books are few steps removed from the Holy Spirit speaking directly to you from his word. What if they are a degree or two off of true north? What if it feels good but is not right? What if I read a passage from the bible? Have I read enough to get the point and make a good interpretation and therefore application?
Do you believe that the Holy Spirit wants to speak to you from the Manual himself? Him to you in fellowship with other covenanted followers of Jesus. He wants to counsel you (plural) into more Jesus. He will guide you. Jesus promised this awesome gift of the Holy Spirit to help us do kingdom first. Do you want that?
Here in lies a challenge. The more I lead in the local church and work around the world the more I notice a dichotomy between us here and our brothers and sisters there. We read books about the bible, and they read the bible. We read devotionals and they are living by the Manual that creates devotional stories. I want that last one.
Please, again, don’t misunderstand. Read. Read lots. I read lots. I plow through books like they are candy. I also plow through candy like it’s candy, but I digress. But in all things, I can never let my reading of other books outdo my bible reading and bible understanding.
And when I say reading my bible, I don’t mean a verse a day. I mean a plan that gets met through Old Testament and New Testament in chunks. A plan that gets me through the OT one time a year and the NT and Psalms two times a year.
Why is this important? Because the bible is THE narrative of THE God confronting all other counter narratives that stand against the good news of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Reading a verse here and there does not get the totality of that narrative into your soul.
What if I watched only the first five minutes of a Tolkien movie, or better yet, only read the first 10 pages of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe? Would I know enough of Middle Earth or Narnia to really understand what is going on? No. I’d know enough to act like I knew, but as we got deeper into those worlds, I’d just have to smile and wave, and pretend or move on to something else. I think that is what we do with our bibles sometimes.
Read. Read broadly. Read deeply. Read in volume. But whatever you do, don’t substitute bible reading. If necessary, read it only until you get the cohesion of the narrative, the conflicts between the protagonist (Jesus), and the antagonist and his agents. Learn to see how each author meshes with and feeds off of the entire narrative, and how miraculous such a cohesive narrative could be written by so many authors over such a span of time into one narrative. Its dad gum supernatural. It says of itself that it is alive, and it is living and active. Nothing you read and understand can shape history like reading your bible, in community, applying in community, and seeing the God of that bible work on our behalf. Also, so you don’t miss it, notice the “in community” and “our behalf”. Nothing in the Manual is isolated to the individual in personal application. It’s God’s work to his people. All personal must feed into the corporate or its incomplete. It’s in the Manual.
So, don’t neglect your bible. Read it, and if you need help, hit me up.
Here are a few bible reading plans you may like: