I have learned two things in nearly 20 years of pastoral ministry.
1. I need a personal time in the Bible on a routine basis.
I remember when I was younger, I would think that spending time each day in the Bible would make my DAY go better. I will have a better morning, a better afternoon, and a better time at home with my family. But what I have found to be true, is that the Christian life is a marathon and not a sprint.
I have learned in these fleeting years of relative consistency in the Word each morning, that my worst days begin with the Bible and my best days start with the Bible. If the only reason you spend time in the Bible at the start of your day is to ensure a ‘better day’, then maybe an extra hour of sleep could work just as well! (I’ve heard that the average American is consistently operating with less than optimal sleep time . . .)
Hear me carefully . . . I am not saying there is NO benefit to spending time in God’s Word each day. I am suggesting to you that the benefit is in the LONG term. Like a person who weighs themselves every day and after the third day quits because they don’t see any results, so is the Christian who spends 2 months in the Word only to give up because they are still having bad days.
How you look at the world will be impacted dramatically by long, sustained, habitual consumption of the Word of God. I can testify that over the past 30 years, the intake of God’s Word routinely, has been extremely beneficial to me in FORMING me. This renewal of the mind that the apostle Paul speaks of is not finished when the last tick mark is placed on Revelation 22 on your read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan.
A life connected, and connecting, to the Word of God, is a mind that is on the move toward more of the things that God desires. More like Christ. More ready to speak truth. Living more in the culture of the King and less easily brought down by the cares and concerns of this world.
But that leads into the second thing I have learned about being in the Word . . .
2. I love variety!
Variety is indeed the spice of life. And by spending an increased time in the word consistently over time, has freed me up to try some things. I have read most of the English versions of the Bible. NKJV, NASB, ESV, NIV, NLT, CEV, the Message . . . And I am planning in 2024 to read the newer CSB.
Changing up translations has been one way to add variety, but I have also varied the pace and the media. I have read through the Bible in 90 days two times in the past 10 years. I more often will read through the Bible in a year. Sometimes I have read it chronologically, sometimes I have used a Bible reading plan that has me bouncing back and forth between the Old and New Testament. This past year I read the ESV from Genesis to Revelation averaging about 4 chapters a day.
About 6 years ago I LISTENED to the Message over the course of that year.
This year, I am slowing down my pace and using a devotional guide book called “Seeking God’s Face” to foster a more quiet and calming prayer of God’s Word in 2023.
All of these things really only require one thing of me . . . A committed time to dig in to the feast! If you set your mind to read the Bible this year . . . I believe that you can. But why set your sights so low?
Why not instead, set it as a goal to develop a Biblical worldview, by recognizing your need for more than a year in the Word. If everyone who calls themselves a Christian in America were to be genuinely consistent in studying His Word to know Him and His Gospel, I think the health and vitality of our country would be radically changed.
Are we a Biblical people? One cannot neglect the Word AND convince me that they are a person of the Word.
I have often looked at the apostle Paul’s admonition to imitate him as He imitates Christ, with a mildly skeptical stance. I would say in most things, “don’t imitate me, imitate Christ!” But on this front, God has given me the grace to be consistent in his word for decades. If anyone has read this far, and would like some spiritual direction to kick start their life of Biblical study and the transformation through the renewing of their mind . . . I would be honored to sit down and talk through a plan to make the Bible a more central part of YOUR life starting in this new year.