Sunday, January 8, 2012

Have you read your Bible lately?

We all know we should read our bibles. For many of us, we probably have best of intentions, but never get around to it.

Is it really that important? Isn't just a bunch of stories or rules that are either weird, difficult to understand - or we've heard them 100 times before?

Today I read Psalm 119 - which gives us a myriad of reasons why we should read and ponder the Word of God:

1. Those who are dry and lacking spiritual (like lying in dust) are revived (v25);
2. Those that are sad and ‘weep with sorrow’ are encouraged (v28);
3. Those that are distracted by ‘worthless’ pursuits are refocused on pursuits that give life (v37);
4. Those that find themselves in prisons are able to walk in freedom (v45);
5. Those that are growing weary from waiting for God to come through are revived by being reminded of the promises of God and receive renewed Hope (v50 and v81);
6. Those who are lacking direction or seeking direction will find it (v59);
7. Those that are tempted or feel the pull of being ‘dragged into sin’ will be anchored into doing what is right, against the tide of pressure. Young people are helped stay pure (v9 and v61);
8. Those who are miserable are sustained with Joy (v92);
9. Wisdom is gained to outwit, outlast and outplay (v98);
10. We become people of integrity that don't make compromises then feel guilty about the lifestyle we have settled for (v1-5).

Do you feel weary? Are you sad? Are you angry? Do you get irritated more easily lately? Have you started doubting that things will work out to be ok? Are you a bit miserable lately? Feeling a little aimless? Struggling with integrity? Struggling with sin?

The next question has to be - Have you read your bible lately?

Simply put, the Words and laws of God are the sustainer of life - yet some of us starve ourselves of this life-giving source - then wonder why our lives are so difficult and we aren't living a life of focus, obedience and optimism.

A life that is not regularly pondering God's word will have tell-tale signs such as:
- greater struggles with the things they know they shouldn't be doing;
- greater struggles with relationships;
- greater struggles in dealing with work;
- greater struggles with keeping a good attitude;
- greater struggles with complaining
which may then result in strained or broken relationships, negativity or depression, lack of focus, moodiness, lack of self-discipline and being generally miserable!

Yet, when we're miserable, sometimes the last thing we feel like doing is reading the bible. It's no different to people who are overweight living a sedentary life - the last thing they feel like doing is exercising, yet it's the very thing they need to physically regain their life and their energy.

Sometimes we think, "but I've tried it, and I just can't seem to get into the bible". Here's what I've found - it is way too easy to get out of the habit of reading your bible - especially if you think you can 'cram' your daily reading into the ad-breaks of your favourite tv show, or while you're in between other things.

When we try to read the bible in this 'brain-half-engaged' mode, we just won't get anything out of what we're reading because we haven't allowed ourselves time to ponder what is being said and how it might affect us.

I believe the only way we can make our reading worthwhile is if:

* We are doing one thing at that moment - with no one else around. As soon as there are tv's blaring, people interrupting, emails popping up - it is hard to get into the moment because your brain is never fully engaged.

* We have the right resources. This includes a reading plan (so we don't skip around); a commentary of some kind, or study bible; and a list of questions that will help draw the insights out into the open. There are some sections of the bible which, frankly, can seem difficult to understand. Yet with so many free resources available on the net, it has never been a better time to arm yourself with the resources you need to more fully understand what you're reading. Reading plans can be signed up for free on YouVersion. E-sword has a pc program and commentaries for free. There are number of excellent study bibles around (which aren't free). I found this site helpful for me to ponder what I am reading: Questions for reading. I printed out these questions and made it into a bookmark for my bible. Fnally - another great resources I have found is Google books. I search the relevant chapter in Google books, and often there are really good commentaries that provide partial 'free previews' where I can read the relevant pages for the day's reading.

* We write down what we learn. I debated this one for a long time. Is it really necessary? I would lose bits of paper and it was a hassle. I just wanted to read and not juggle notebooks and pens etc. However, I have found that I can't properly learn from what I'm reading and articulate what I believe God might be saying if I don't start jotting down some notes. Sometimes I'll look at the verse and think, "I'm getting nothing!!" But then I'll just start writing something and all of a sudden the insights will come. My husband has found the same experience - after starting to write, the 'gold' surfaces. To avoid losing bits of paper, I type it in (I type faster than I write) using Google docs. However some (eg my hubby) prefer to stick with good old pen'n'paper.

I have blogged today on what often works for me in trying to have a regular and meaningful time of reading God's word. But please don't think that I am perfect - like everyone else I wish I read more, and wish I were more devoted. However, I have learned that the most important thing is just keep trying. Don't be discouraged if you get out of the habit. Just try again. Think about why your reading plan didn't work out last time? Did you hit Leviticus and get bored? - maybe find a reading plan that isn't as intensive. Did you find there were too many chapters to read each day? Maybe find a reading plan that is spread over a longer time so you read less each day?

Being a Christian and not reading your bible isn't sustainable, because it is the word of God that sustains you. While we think sometimes we can 'wing it' and still live the Christian life, eventually it catches up with us and we see the tell-tale signs. That's when we know it's time to get back into the word.

Maybe start with Psalm 119.

Maybe start today.

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