The first time our Joy-Bubble saw me reading my Bible, she said, ”What you doin’ mom?” and I replied that I was listening to the Lord. She looked puzzled and put her hands up in the air, like “What?” Then she stuck her ear down on my Bible waiting to hear something. It was precious!
It is just a life truth, that when I do not make time to listen to the Lord speak to me through His word – everything gets topsy turvey. I vividly remember a few years ago, hearing a pastor downplaying the importance of daily Bible reading. While his intent was to release people from bondage, it was not a helpful statement for my life at the time. Obviously reading your Bible every day will not always create wonderfulness and if you don’t read you’ll not be doomed for the opposite. But it took me several years to get that pendulum-swing advice out of my head and come to the desperate realization that if I wanted to know the Lord personally and commune with Him afresh, being filled with wisdom and the knowledge of what it means to live a holy life (and to be continually reminded of the knowledge of who I am in Christ)…I would have to make listening to the Lord a daily priority. And even as important as prayer is…eventually our prayers become selfish and me-centered when they are not being renewed by the Word. We feed our bodies every day, right? We only skip feeding them when we are sick, fasting or have no food. And yet I fear that many of us are spiritually starved…and it’s not because we don’t have the Word, our food, readily available, here in our country, at least. It is because we don’t think eating is that important…life-and-death important. And this food isn’t the dead and dying kind that we put into our bodies. This food is life! This food will sustain us now and into eternity. This food comes with promise after promise that we can cling to all our days. John Piper says (click the link to read it all!), ”Bible-reading is not a cure for a bad conscience; it’s chemo for your cancer. Legalists feel better because the box is checked. Saints feel better when their blindness lifts, and they see Jesus in the word. Let’s get real. We are desperately sick with worldliness, and only the Holy Spirit, by the word of God, can cure this terminal disease.”
When I began spending daily time feeding my soul, I found that there wasn’t an ounce of legalism (dependence on law rather than faith) about it. I was fully aware that whether I read my Bible or not, I was still a daughter of God – enjoying all the benefits of being in His family. There is nothing and will be nothing I can “do” to be un-adopted by my Father. Jesus has paid for and covered all my sin, past present and future…once for all. I am God’s child, a chosen heir, who will inherit the blessings of eternal life with Christ forever! The Creator God of the universe, who spoke and it came to be, knows me personally and intimately. And I came to the place where I wanted to know my Daddy better! It became the motivation to get out of bed early and sneak it in when there was down time. I found I actually wanted to know what the next chapter had to say…I actually loved listening to the Lord. And every morning I was struck with some “new” truth that I had read before. But the Spirit took the Word each day and brought it to bearing on my life in fresh new ways.
Fast forward over a year…slowly the habit and desire waned a bit. Life got super busy. And the lies of the devil creep in slowly and methodically, don’t they? And busyness…the rat-race curse of our culture, keeps us all doing good things and neglecting the best. And it wasn’t that I stopped listening to the Lord altogether, it just wasn’t a driving motivation to cause me to make it a priority over other good and worthwhile things. It started to feel peripheral and optional. And isn’t the Lord kind through it all?! Then that small little thing called “mama” to five kids (who pattern their life after me…good, bad and ugly!) was the jolt and wake-up call from my Father to help me ask…again…, “What in the world am I doing, not wearing my Bible out?” The pressures and responsibilities of life are too great to “wing it”. And as Christ’s followers, beloved and called His own, we don’t enjoy winging it! He has put His Spirit within us and we do long to read His words, to some degree, though the cares of this life often choke it out. Shooting from the hip hits all the wrong people and buttons, I have found. ”But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17
Around the middle of December, I found my old Bible-reading bookmarks for this plan and dove in. Desperately starved and in much need of this means of grace! That’s what my Bible is to me…a means of grace. And I need all the grace I can get! I prayed as I began that the Lord would take His word and change me and teach me and grow me little by little – that he would restore to me the longing and love of His words that used to be. I was (and still am) banking on the truth that His word does not return void, but accomplishes what it was sent to do. (Isaiah 55:10-11) There have been days I haven’t been able to read, but overall I have read over 400 chapters of the Bible in the last 30-some days. It hasn’t been a chore…it has been a tremendous blessing. My prayer life has new fervor and meat to it. And I can say that the Lord is answering those prayers prayed last month! Because this reading plan covers so much of the Bible at once, it has been amazing to me how I’ve been able to speak the Word more readily to my kids…because it is on my mind and in my heart. (As opposed to being in just Leviticus for 30 days.) M asked me the other day why I always said, “If…if…if the Lord wills.” I was able to take her to the Word of God (not my words) and share the passage in James about the arrogant boasting of making plans without acknowledging the Lord’s sovereignty and right to change them. I was able to share with Adam my encouragement from the story of Gideon’s early life – how the Lord uses small, weak, fearful people. No task he assigns us will go undone…He will strengthen us and bear us along to live out the works he has pre-planned for us. Such an amazing and mind-boggling truth. I have been encouraged each time I open the Word to not be fearful and anxious of the happenings in our world…Christ is coming back and He will right all wrongs and the wicked will come to an end, though they seem to flourish at the moment. Daily exposure to His Word has an overall softening effect on our hearts and increases our faith and trust in the Lord. Our new favorite verse is found in Mark 5:36, “Do not fear, only believe.”
I was reading during the kids afternoon quiet time a few weeks back and T came down, without saying a word, sat down next to me with his Bible and started reading in Proverbs (his favorite place). It was another reminder to me that our children watch and pattern after us. What a blessing to be able to pass on His Words to the next generation, both by word and example. And as I sideways glanced at T, I banked on the fact that God’s Words will not return void in his life either.
Will you get into the Word with me and let it change us, making us more and more into His image of beauty and glory? Will you not ignore our Father’s wise means of grace? Come, listen and eat with me and be nourished and transformed by this feast spread before us.