The “why” of Bible reading

When I open my online “Read through the Bible in a Year” program, it tells me I am on day 275 of 365.

That’s true, but it’s taken me quite a bit more than 275 days to get to this point. I don’t remember exactly when I started this plan, but right about the time I started falling behind in it, I discovered the “catch me up” button at the bottom of each daily reading list.

At first I felt guilty, as if I were a woman on a diet sneaking cookies.

But I don’t feel guilty now.

Not long ago I downloaded The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer to my Kindle. He wrote this in his preface to the book: “The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.”

I reflected on Tozer’s words in my journal. Why do I study Scripture? I wrote. That is a necessary question to answer. If my desire, as I read, study, and meditate, is not to know God better; to be more awed by His beauty and goodness; to be convinced more fully of His love for me; to be satisfied in Him and by Him—if all this is not my aim, then I may as well read another book.

Christ did not die for me to make me a Bible scholar; He died so I could have relationship with His Father. The only point in being a Bible scholar, then, is to deepen my knowledge of and relationship with God.

Yet other purposes often take over when I read Scripture. Sometimes I am seeking a particular answer to a theological question. Sometimes I simply want to know more just to know more (and I don’t mean that in a good way). My purposes can get even further from what they should be when I am following a reading plan. I like to see the little checkmarks fill in the empty circles on the reading calendar. I like the completion aspect of it. “Well, I got through Leviticus and Numbers. Now let’s tackle Deuteronomy.”

It can become a homework assignment; something to “get through.”

And when I don’t complete it, I experience guilt.

All these purposes cheapen both God and His Word.

Early last fall, my mother-in-law sent me a devotional she’d written for me to edit. The title was “Encountering God.” She wrote this: One way I encounter God that is such a thrill is when I draw near to Him before beginning my Quiet Time. I deliberately turn my focus to His presence. In my mind, I see Him standing before me. I focus my mind on Him, blocking out all else around me. Then I pray: Father God, I draw near to You, and in faith, I receive You drawing near to me. I see Him smiling at me and then coming near to embrace me with His Strong Arms. My soul is filled with delight as I allow myself to feel His embrace and His love for me pouring out through his loving arms. 

He never fails me. When I draw near to Him, He is always ready, and He graciously draws me close to His heart. These encounters strengthen my faith and hope in the One Who calls me His very own special treasure.

If I prepared for Bible reading and study like that, I would see and treasure Scripture as the very words of God. I would be unconcerned with “getting it done” and completely consumed with seeing God revealed in Scripture.

I share this post because a new year began only 21 days ago, and I know that many Christians resolve to read the Bible more in the new year than they did in the old. I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from reading Scripture—it’s still the Sword of the Spirit even when we don’t approach it as such—and I know we gain much from reading the entire Word of God…

but we gain God Himself, and not just knowledge ABOUT Him, when we read His Word with anticipation and awe.

*For a great article about yearly Bible reading plans, read Bible Gateway’s article “When Reading the Bible Becomes a Chore: Six Ways to Keep Your Bible Reading on Track This Year.

*Bible Gateway also has a variety of Bible reading plans. Visit this page.

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A dusty morning

I wrote this post yesterday, but I’m getting the same look today–right away! And I’m not even in the house yet!

I read this quote from Jesus Calling this morning: “Living in My presence means living in two realms simultaneously: the visible world and unseen, eternal reality. I have equipped you to stay conscious of Me while walking along dusty, earthbound paths.”

So far, today has been decidedly dusty.

More accurately, I should write that I am dusty today. It’s a “free” day for me, which in actuality means it’s anything but. It means that I return from taking the kids to school and stare at the hundreds of things that need to be done in my house (both general maintenance/cleaning and the still-moving-in tasks that never were accomplished during this crazy summer—seriously, I still have pictures leaning against the walls of the living room and boxes of stuff in the garage). I have no appointments and no writing deadlines that are due TODAY and, and the fact that I had a big deadline yesterday means that I have left even more things undone (because I would ALWAYS rather write than do housework, no matter how tedious the writing task is).

So today my brain is frazzled. I flit: clean the half bath, fill the soap dispenser, think, “would the sheer curtains make the front room less gloomy feeling?” I try them. Nope, they don’t even fit on the rods—and I like the rods. I get suddenly depressed about decorating my house. I just want it done—and that reminds me of the 8th grade teacher I taught with years ago who drilled her students so diligently on the difference between “done” and “finished” (chicken is “done,” tasks are “finished) that when her students came to my classroom they corrected me.

Em and I had a bit of a grumpy morning, so thoughts about that are also swirling. I’m tossing around the pros and cons of taking on a longer-term writing job possibility. Bits of prayer surface. “Lord, I am so unequal to any of these tasks. I’m not even sure what to do today, much less tomorrow or long term.” But praying and listening get swallowed up.

I am not just dust-y. I AM dust, floating, mis-directed by any small puff of air. I imagine Satan blowing me this way and that, aided by my own un-captured thoughts.

The dog begins following me around, reminding me with soulful eyes that I promised her a trip to the dog park where I have planned to have some quiet time and Bible study.

I put her off for awhile, find more tasks to do, more distractions. Finally, though, the look becomes pitiful, and I succumb, as much to the Holy Spirit as to the dog.

So here I am, sitting, letting it all out, hopefully silencing the talk in my own head and listening, be-ing.

I’ve got to walk in the dust, scuff my feet in it even, but I don’t have to BE it.

I’m posting this and checking e-mails and she’s hoping to be outside very soon! I need this kind of focus!