At this time of year, lots of people are making New Year’s resolutions. I bet you can guess what the most popular resolution is. That’s right: losing weight/getting in shape. Many of us aren’t eating right or exercising, and we know we probably should be. So at the start of the New Year, we give it another go.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that among Christians, one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to read our Bibles more, read them all the way through, read them daily… It’s something we aren’t doing but we know we should be.
In past articles, I’ve talked about paying attention to the voices our children are listening to. They’re looking for approval and acceptance, especially through social media. As a result, they’re driven by the opinion of their peers.
This isn’t just a problem facing our children and young people. It’s an issue we all have. Whose voice are we listening to? What’s the voice that speaks loudest in your life?
In Louis Giglio’s book, “Goliath Must Fall,” he talks about how Goliath came out to taunt the Israelites every morning and every evening. So as the Israelites got themselves up, the very first thing they heard was the voice of Goliath, reminding them of their continuing failure. And the last thing at night, as they were going to bed, they heard that voice ringing in their ears.
I want the first voice I hear to be God’s. That’s why it works best for me to start my day with the Bible. I don’t want to start my day being confronted with the news or other things. For me, email is particularly dangerous. In a world of constant communication and working with a global team, there are always so many issues that need to be dealt with. If I start with emails, I’ll get absorbed in them, straight away. And I’ll be impacted by the content of some of those emails. They will get me in bad form. Before you know it, the other voices will drown out the voice of God.
I need to have the discipline of starting the day listening to God. So I make it my habit, wherever I am in the world, to have my Bible with me. I want to hear what God is saying to me and what God is saying about me. That’s what gives me my direction for the day. It gives me a grounding and gets the compass point set properly. It helps me remember that everything else I do in that day should be in the context of who God is and what He is saying.
For me, it works best to take time – to set aside time specifically for reading God’s Word. I try to find someplace peaceful and allow God’s Spirit to speak to me.
One of the many amazing things about Scripture is that it’s living. It’s alive and active, and when we submit ourselves to it, God can work in our lives. That’s why you can read a passage of Scripture one day, and five days later read the same passage and it can have another message. The Holy Spirit walks that road with us and applies the Word of God to us in each particular life situation.
If we start our day with the Word of God, it’s remarkable how many times that is relevant for what happens the rest of the day. So often things come up and I am able to trace back to what I’ve read.
Everyone needs to find a routine that works best for them. The morning is the best time for me. I need to hear God’s voice at the start of the day. Hopefully, that sets the agenda for the rest of the day.
I like reading plans that allow me to understand something of the context in which the books were written – reading plans that take seriously the integrity of each book of the Bible.
This last year, I finished reading the whole Bible in a year. It was a reading plan that went through the Bible chronologically. It tried its best to give you the readings as the historical narrative unfolded. I found that to be a really fantastic way to read the Bible.
Another thing I’ve found helpful is to do my Bible reading from a physical Bible. I’ve stopped doing it from a screen. There are a couple of reasons I’ve gone back to a printed Bible.
Number one, there’s good scientific evidence that shows when you read on a screen, you do not read the same way as when you read a real book. On a screen, you tend to scan and don’t absorb the material as well as you do when reading a book.
As I was reading a printed Bible through chronologically, I also started to notice common themes on the two open pages. Phrases that showed up in one chapter and appeared in the next. I was able to visually link them on the page. It’s just easier to grasp it when you can see it on the physical page.
The last twelve months have been the most difficult months that I can remember. But during that same time period, my sense of the Word of God being alive has been greater than ever. It has gone hand in hand with the challenges and the struggles and the pain of the situations we have experienced. Often it is in the most painful of times that His voice is the clearest. So while I would prefer not to have gone through those things, I wouldn’t trade that opportunity to hear God for anything. I have found it absolutely incredible how God has prepared me for situations – where it was almost as if He was speaking specifically to me and guiding me, showing me what He expected of me.
It’s a remarkable place to be. It’s inspiring. It’s humbling. And it keeps reminding me of how alive the Word of God is. If we are prepared to take it seriously, read it carefully, to build it into our lives, and let it be the center of our lives, God, in His economy, will do miraculous things.