Reading the Bible


Another Facebook post slow to be pasted onto my website…

READING THE BIBLE – Part 1
3 December 2010

Recently a friend wrote and asked me about why it is important to read God’s Word.  Not that she doubts it is important.  But she wants to really own its importance – not just doing something because she always heard in Sunday school that it was the right thing to do – but because she really wants to know that she knows reasons for why it is important for her personally.  She knows that’s the real way to become a passionate Bible reader.  I’m all about that.  Never do anything just because “you always heard it’s the thing to do.”  That’s not going to hold you to it during the rough, tough, or just plain “there is something more fun to do” times.  In all disciplines in our life we’ve got to wrestle through the reasons we do them and passionately embrace the discipline.  She is a wise woman to be thinking on this. 

For this post I would love your comments.  I’m going to post some reasons for the importance of Bible reading that initially pop into my brain, but I know there are a ton more.  Let’s get a great list together!

(Actually, I just read what I wrote below.  This post deals with What it’s All About, Developing Your Style, and What to Read.  I felt it was important to start with that foundation before moving to her actual question.  I’ll have to include the How to Read and the Why to Read next time since I have to go make dinner – one of those boring things about growing up – I am going to ask Nicholas for a fairy godmother for Christmas so that she can do her bippity boppity boo dance and dinner will magically appear every night).  But in the meantime, do send along your input.  We’ll make a great posting as we collect thoughts.)

WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT

I want to dwell on something for a minute.  Reading the Bible is all about a relationship.  It’s important to remember that.  When we love someone we want to develop that relationship with him.  If I love Nicholas I am going to talk with him and get to know Him better.  If there was a book he wrote to me, I would read it because I want to know him.  Not that an earthly relationship compares to our relationship with our God, but it gives a general idea.  When you read the Bible you are personal getting to know the Holy, Awesome, All-Powerful, Author of Love, God of the Universe who chose you as His girl.  Never forget that.  Reading the Bible is not just a duty one does becomes it makes her look like a good Christian.  It is about furthering a relationship with the One who live is all about.

YOUR STYLE

When I was growing up (in the 80s and 90s) I remember hearing godly women talking about their “quiet times.”  They’d open up their floral Bible covers and have their quiet times every morning.  They just loved getting up at 3am to spend 55 hours reading Ezekiel and then spending some time crying because they loved Jesus so much and He made them cry as they sat there wearing their bathrobe and their foam pink curlers in their hair. 

Well… actually I don’t think I ever heard a woman exactly say that.  But that’s what I pictured for some weird reason (my mom didn’t do that so it isn’t as if I saw an example – I actually think that I got the idea from the cartoon Duck Tales where a mother duck looked like that… yeah, I know, way weird). And, honestly, it made me feel all uncomfortable and embarrassed.  So when I was 12 and decided to try reading the Bible (my pastor had passed out Bible reading plans to all the church members), I didn’t want anyone to know what I was doing.  I actually hid downstairs and would read it in the basement! 

I still get the shivers when I see too much floral.  Just the other day Nicholas and I were picking out a Franklin Covey planner for me for next year and floral pages were an option.  I about died as I stood there at Office Dept:  “NICHOLAS, I CAN’T GET THOSE!!!!!!!!!  I DON’T WEAR FOAM CURLERS!”  But I also wouldn’t get the “green” pages because the inconvenient truth is that I am rather anti being green.  We finally found a style that worked and Nicholas left the store that day knowing to be sure never to broach the subject of foam curlers.    

All that to say (sorry about my wacko tangent), realize that reading the Bible is a relationship.  And its cool.  And you don’t have to try to mold into something or someone you are not.  You gotta let this spiritual discipline kinda roll with who you are.  You have to make it yours.

Some people find it important to have a specific place where they read their Bible.  In bed, in a cozy chair (like my AMAZING craigslist deal!  Seriously you must come visit me and meet my green recliner), at Starbucks, in a place where you won’t be distracted by other things to do or people talking, etc.  That really isn’t as big a deal for me.  But it might be for you.  If so, figure out where you will read your Bible.

Find a time that works with you.  A lot of godly people say:  “Read your Bible early in the morning.”  That works grandly for some people.  But other people are not morning people and reading the Bible in the morning is hard because we just want to curl up and go back to sleep.  I like to cling to the idea that, since in the Hebrew mind the day starts the night before, I am reading my Bible early in the day since I read it at night :).  Actually I think it helps me sleep better since it is the last thing on my mind at night. 

If you aren’t a morning person, or your mornings are so chaotic and you just aren’t finding success reading your Bible in the morning, don’t feel bad!  Try reading it at night.  The important thing is that you are reading it, not that you are reading at “the most godly time.” 

When I was in DC I used to like to go down to the Longworth House Office Building Cafeteria and read my Bible over lunch.  In Florida I would read my Bible late into the night because I had adequate time – I could always stay up later and read more (vs. in the morning I had to be at work at a specific time so had to cut it shorter).  Now because of Nicholas’ schedule I read a little at night and most in the morning. 

What to Read/How to Read/Getting Your Reading Plan Planned.  OK, so obviously don’t just randomly flip open your Bible and read whatever.  Seriously big no no.  That just isn’t developing a good study habit.  Plus, how do you get to know how the whole Bible works together?  And, you’ll be cheated out of knowing the rest of God’s thoughts!  You’d be shocked at what percentage of believers have not read the whole Bible and do this kind of thing.  It’s like if I said to Nicholas, “I’m glad I’m in a covenant relationship with you, but I only want to hear you talk about  Federal government earmarks again and again.  How about you tape everything you want to tell me about them and I’ll just fast forward randomly to a place in the recording and listen to a few sentences every day.  We’ll get to know each other great that way!” (NOT)

So, you need to have a plan and you need one that works for you.

How about reading: 1 Proverb a day (there are 31 so you can read the one that corresponds to the day of the month).  Or a Psalm a day. Or committing to reading 5 minutes a day. Some people do things like read something such as the same little Pauline epistle (the little New Testament books Paul wrote – Philippians, Colossians, etc.) every day for a month. That way they get to really know a certain book.  That can be really cool, too.  (Just don’t only read Philippians for the rest of your life lol).

Your commitment to Bible reading doesn’t have to be 12 chapters a day.  Just read what works for you. If you want to read the Bible through in a year, you will need to read 3 or 4 chapters a day.  There are good Bible reading plans where you can mark off and keep track.  Robert Murray McCheyne has a good one (I just googled and found this – http://www.bibleplan.org/).  I have a little pamphlet with this plan and it fits neatly into my Bible.  I use that one but kindof modify.  Some books are harder for me to get excited about or harder to understand (such as Leviticus and Ezekiel) and I know by now which books have longer chapters (which means slower reading) I modify.  And I know which ones I LOVE and zip through (so I want to read only a little at a time of those while also reading a harder section).  I always read Leviticus first, because I get it done first.  I just get bogged down in it otherwise.  Sometimes I read a few Old Testament chapters and a chapter of one of the Gospels.  You’ll find what works for you.

Try to stick to your commitment.  Even skipping it for one day can get you off long-term (because then it is easier the next day to justify not reading…).  Try to stay as committed to reading your Bible as you are to brushing your teeth. 

You’ll find a balance of how much to read – you don’t want your goals to be too small (a challenge is always great) but you don’t want them too big (it is so discouraging to fail in taking on a challenge – it is better to accomplish something smaller and press on to do more, than always feel behind). 

You also don’t want to be trying to read so much that you are just reading to mark it off your to-do list.  You want to be reading an amount that allows you to meditate on it – to really think about the words (What does it say about God?  What does it say about you?).  If you are just flying through your reading (read a chapter and then ask yourself if you know what you just read) you need to slow down.  And, sometimes you will run into a chapter that is just so amazing and you’ll want to throw out the normal plan and just read 2 verses for the whole day because it is so rich and you want to not miss thinking on such wonderfulness.

Maybe a Bible study book works for you.  Maybe this will help you stay in the Word.  They didn’t really work for me because I felt it was so canned looking up the verses the writer told me to look up and filling in the blanks.  I’m just not into filling in blanks.  But everyone is different.  Now I like doing Bible studies as a facet of my Bible reading (but it doesn’t replace it) but I still tend toward ones without “fill in the blanks.” Lol.

If you do work from a Bible study, do not let this take the place of being in the Word.  Maybe do a Bible study plus read a Psalm a day.  There are a lot of “good” Bible studying helps out there but we can’t let the good keep us from the great.  Just like I don’t want to only hear Nicholas’ mom’s interpretation of Nicholas (although I do find out the BEST info about his childhood escapades), I want to hear from Nicholas Himself.  The same with reading the Bible – I want to not just hear someone else’s interpretation of God.  I want to read it myself from the Word.

More to follow…

Standing Strong in Your Identity in Christ


I posted this on Facebook last week and thought I’d post it here as well…

3 December 2010

Since I’m stuck on the sofa because of my knee, someone just asked me to write up some thoughts for her as she talks with a friend who struggles with self-image.  This was for someone who knows her identity in Christ but just needs some encouragement in it.   This is not the best written piece since I just blurted out quickly what was in my brain.  But I figured I’d post it anyway for what it is worth since we all struggle with facets of this as times. 

Deep down within a girl’s heart she has questions… am I beautiful… am I worth being chosen… am I worthy of delight… and I worth being fought for?  Am I likable?  These are great questions and we don’t have to be ashamed of them at all – in Christ we find answers to all of these – and in a perfect world the Church and marriage would confirm these answers… but, alas, we’re under the curse and life ain’t quite like that.

Situations in life as we are growing up give “answers” to these questions.  Even seemingly small things make gigantic impacts into what we understand the answers to be of these questions… for example, a father’s response to her daughter (even little things like noticing or not noticing a new haircut, commenting on her weight, telling her she is lovely or never telling her that, etc.) and also a father’s response to her mother and other women (comparing the mom with others, showing the mom godly love, praising her character qualities, etc). all play into a girl’s image about herself and about women’s worth in general.

Add culture’s devaluation of women – even as culture says that women should have rights, they are missing the point and ultimately devaluing and objectifying women – making them into sex objects – we see that in the magazine articles at the grocery store lines, movies, clothing styles, ads, etc.

The world takes women’s strengths and needs and twists them to pervert them.  For example, women are to be delighted in by men (God made women to be attractive to men), women are nurturers, women are emotional, etc. But the world takes each quality and perverts it.  Instead a man taking true delight in his wife’s body (like in a godly marriage) women become the sex objects, etc.  Instead of being able to be secure in their femininity,  women are told they have to be like men and become masculine, etc.  There is a major attack on women in our culture today.  (For more on all this I can e-mail you the “book” I wrote which deals more in depth with all this).

Combine this with Satan’s attacks on women – attacking God’s answers to our questions, and attacking women in general (which is a major target for him because the relationship of man and woman is the example of Christ and the Church and is at the core of the Gospel – that is why I would go as far to say that homosexuality, sexual unfaithfulness, etc. are actually forms of blasphemy against the Gospel itself and are such a major spiritual battleground).  All this to say, it is tough being a women and it is tough being strong and always on the alert in the battle of our self image.  About 2/3 of women really struggle with self-image.

Something that is a key for a woman to know – and not just know intellectually but really in her heart – is that the Lord truly delights in her.  That doesn’t mean God loves me because He has to love me because, afterall, Jesus died for me so He better love me.  But an actually “Really likes me”, really delights in me.  The Lord delights in just the way He made me.  I am not a disappointment to Him.  He likes the way I wrinkle my nose.  He likes my odd quirks.  He shaped my toes just the way He wanted them.  He loves it when I am happy.  He likes my laugh.  He delights in showing me how much He loves me throughout the day.  He REALLY delights over me.  He actually delights over me with singing! (Zeph 3:17) He calls me His treasured crown!  (Isaiah 62:3) The God of the universe actually thinks I’m cool!  And The God of the universe’s opinion is really the only one that matters because it is the only truly true truth anyway.   Sometimes I ask the girls what God would say about her and back that up with Scripture.  For example, what does God say specifically about Kathryn (not just generally what God says about people)?  “When God thinks of Kathryn what does He think?  God says ‘Kathryn, I formed you.  You are precious in my sight.  I love you.  You are chosen.  You are mine.’  (All that in just one chapter – Isaiah 43).” Etc. 

But how do we constantly walk in that truth when culture and the Enemy seek  to destroy our joy? 

1.  Preaching the truth to ourselves – constantly reminding ourselves of God’s deep covenant love for us and our acceptance in Him.  When God looks on us He sees Christ’s righteousness in us.  Maybe each day picking a truth of your identity (you can type in something like “Who I am in Christ” on a google search and find  listings of verses about this) and camping on it – how about putting a verse that directly applies to it onto a sticky note on your mirror or a 3×5 card you can carry with you (seriously, even in the bathroom you can pull it out and look at it or think about it while driving somewhere or walking to class– these are tons of otherwise lost minutes in the day that you can think on your verse). 

2. Constantly taking negative thoughts captive (those subtle or not so subtle lies we have bought – every time someone says something negative about us/we allow the Enemy to feed us an untruth/we tell one to ourselves, we are put in the position where we either “buy it” and it takes root in our soul or we reject it… we have all “bought” a lot of lies in all sorts of areas and we have to ruthlessly find them and kill them) and replacing them with towers of truth – words from the Word. 

3. Letting go of past mistakes and looking ahead to the victory we have in Christ – we are already seated in the heavenlies even now – our inheritance is sure (Ephesians 2) and, regardless of our past, God calls us His daughters of purity. 

4.  Purposefully identifying and guarding yourself from things that personally pull you down (and don’t feel bad if a certain thing causes a struggle for you that isn’t a struggle for someone else – we are all different – like magazines don’t really affect me – they actually make me irritated.  But when I don’t do well on an exam it is a struggle for me not to feel stupid – and I have to guard against dwelling on it).  Maybe for you it will be not reading magazines that preach trash can thinking, limiting communication with certain people that discourage you, TV shows or movies that fill you with negative thoughts about your identity and worth, etc. 

5.  Being ruthless.  Be ruthless for the truth.  Although self-pity, negative self-image can seem like a comforting friend sometimes, it is straight from the pit of Hell.  Even silly things can be of help – like in times past when a negative thought has come to me as I am in a store walking around, I actually will step backwards and step again as I think: “That’s not of God.  I’m rejecting that and am going to take that step in thinking the truth.”

6.  Another thing that is important is that one differentiates the difference between God as her Heavenly Father’s view of her from her earthly father (or other male figure’s) views (or perceived views – a lot of times a guy doesn’t even realize how he has said something that hurt her – such as he was just trying to help her when he said her hair looked better before she got it cut.  Not that he doesn’t like it now but he liked it better before.  He was just trying to be honest and didn’t even know it hurt her feelings – guys just are sooo different than girls and just don’t get how girls think.  They are also “fixers” and want to “fix” the problem – they think that’s what a girl wants because that is what they would want and how they would feel most loved – when girls often are just asking for emotional comfort.  My favorite example of this is from my own life – when I was almost arrested for stealing my own car (I had just bought a few minutes before) when I lived in DC and, crying, I called my dad as I freaked out.  I wanted some emotional comfort:  “Oh, you must feel so scared” but all he did was try to fix the problem “Next time when you buy a car from someone and it is still registered in the other person’s name, you need to have the title with you.”  It is one of our favorite stories now, but at the time it was frustrating.  Anyway, we must learn to camp on the reality of who God says we are instead of what we feel other men told us about our worth (or anyone for that matter – so that means what the girl who sat next to you in 6th grade said about you having an ugly nose, or the attitudes of the others in your church as they quietly scoff you since they don’t think your shoes are cool) (shock! even at church our identity can be attacked) just are not what your identity is based on and need to be taken out with the garbage.   

7.  And a major thing -   immersing yourself in Scripture.  Really know God.  Marinate in God’s Word.  As it comes alive to you it will all start clicking together and powerfully impact your whole reality.  One thing I trump a lot and won’t ever tire of saying, is read the Bible as many times as possible while you are single.  That’s when you have the most time and that’s when you need to really come to solid grips with your identity (it will be monumentally beneficially for the rest of your life and all future relationships).  Reading only a few verses out of one’s devotional each morning just doesn’t cut it.  And, it creates opportunity for taking things out of context (I am sorry to disappoint you, Christian bookstores of America, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” just doesn’t really apply to winning a relay race).  Busyness is not a good enough excuse.  I know the Enemy is going to do all he can to get His daughters and sons out of the Word.  But fight it.  When I was in DC my mom challenged me to never let a day go by without at least reading a Proverb.  That kept me in the Word.  Even if I’d initially forget and had gone to bed already, I would get up and make myself read it.  Seems like a silly thing but it made me stay committed.  The second year I was in DC I decided to read the Bible through twice a year.   I have done that since – one year read it four times – and that was one of my busiest years.  It is crazy because now when I’m reading a passage that I’ve read a bunch of times already it will just leaps off the page and connects with a totally different book of the Bible and just make so much sense.  And yet I know 40 years from now I’ll still be finding wonderful new things as I read.  I’ve taken a whole paragraph to talk about this – but I guess it is because I am soooo passionate about this.  The more one knows God’s truth the more one knows their God and their identity in Him and how this identity fits into all of history.

…remembering…


Today I got blood drawn AGAIN.  And the nurse said:  “You have good veins.”  And I made a joke about how that’s my one claim to fame.  AGAIN.  I wonder how many times I’ve gotten blood drawn the last 11 years and joked about that.  Too many to count.  This is in such extreme contrast to Nicholas who never goes to the doctor.  I think he was there once the day he was born.  And probably showed up again for a tetanus shot when he was a kid and had gotten into his latest in the woods injury (“But Dad, I didn’t know you didn’t want me to play with machetes!”)  He is so healthy.  I used to be healthy, too.

 But when I was hit by the car things changed.  So a month ago when I was bit by a brown recluse spider I was frustrated, but after awhile the pain went away.  But the past two weeks my knee has been terribly infected and we don’t know if it is related to that or possibly to an infection from my bone grafts of years ago.  I’ve been in a good amount of pain, stuck on the sofa, and frustrated.  I really had wanted to be recovering chairs this week.

I was in a ton of pain  at urgent care the morning after Thanksgiving.   The doctor had just mentioned that it could be more serious than what we were hoping.  A few minutes later I hoped into the bathroom and cried a little.  The pain was terrible.  I was frustrated.  I was feeling sorry for myself.  And I was a little scared.  I looked into the mirror and remembered looking in a different doctor’s office bathroom mirror years ago.  It was when I was in the midst of the doctors and doctors and doctors and doctors who were putting me back together after the car hit me.  I had stared in the mirror and told God the pain was just too much.  I was tired.  I just couldn’t handle it.  I needed a powerful reminder that He hadn’t forgotten about me.  “God, show me Yourself!  Show me You still love me and haven’t forgotten me!”  And later that day God strengthened me in the reality that the One who put every star in the sky, who traced the lines of every fingerprint, the one who attached every butterfly wing, is the God who was there holding my hand and very much had NOT forgotten about me but was very powerfully working the nightshift in my life.   (That had been a key moment in my life – sortof a mountain of remembrance – one of those pillars of remembrance like it talks about in the Old Testament.) The fruit of that has been profound. 

But back to the other day.  I think just the idea of the cause of the pain being related to the injuries of years ago had freaked me out.  I looked in that mirror and I said:  “God, I’m tired.  I’m hurting so bad!  I’m scared!  And I am still very much deep down the girl who looked in the mirror 10 years ago and cried.  I am ultimately not any stronger because You alone are my strength.”  But this is what came to mind next.  “You may still be that girl.  But don’t forget that I’m that same God.  And, actually I have become greater to you since then (not that He has become any bigger, but I have come to know His greatness more deeply).  You know my faithfulness.  You have seen my goodness.  You have seen my sovereignty.” 

I was really encouraged in that.  Sometimes it is just cool to walk into a similar moment as in the past and just be shocked back into the reality of all that God has done in the past and what that means for the present and future.  God is so good!  I don’t know what’s going to happen with my knee.  BUT I know God and I know I am His.

Take a moment to remember one of those mountains of remembrance in your life.  How God’s profound covenant faithfulness upheld you then.  May that give you such confident joy in this same faithful God walking with you today!

PS. George Frederick is growing up so cutely!  It is so funny to us because he is growing straight up!   A funny gangly little 2 pounds of exuberance who has recently discovered the joy of Christmas wrapping paper and ribbons.