I don't remember the issue--I was a teenager, so there were any number of them to choose from. Something, somewhere, contradicted what I had been taught and threatened to shift my entire worldview (or so my 15-year-old mind reasoned).
So, I did what I had always done...I went to my dad for advice. I'll never forget his response: "What does the Bible say about it?"
My deep, adolescent response was something like, "I dunno," when I was really thinking, Huh? I have NO IDEA what the Bible says about it! That's why I'm asking you...THE PASTOR!
I'll never forget what he said: "Why don't you find out and then we'll talk about it."
That one response rocked my 15-year-old world. I had always relied on my dad for answers to deep Biblical questions--I would ask, he would answer, and I would go on with my life. For the record, I was fine continuing that arrangement!
Since it was the Dark Ages (before Biblegateway.com), Dad gave me some passages to look up, and I went to work. I studied the Scripture, formed my own opinions then, just like he promised, we discussed it. It was a lot more work than our previous arrangement, but it taught me a valuable lesson that followed me into adulthood:
We each have a system of beliefs and values that influence every decision of our life. If we do not intentionally build those beliefs on the foundation of Truth, they will be influenced and shaped by other influences (culture, obligations, family, friendships, etc.). Or worse, we'll end up swept along the path of "least moral resistance."
As Christians, we often end up building those values on what our parents taught us, what our church teaches, or even what we've come to justify in our own minds. Those things may not be wrong, but in the end there's only one Truth on which we should build any belief: What does God say about it? (as in, What does the Bible say about it?)
Here's the catch: In order to do that, we have to read what He has to say. (Revolutionary, I know!)
It sounds so simple, so why does it prove to be so difficult? If we fast-forward about 25 years from the scenario above, you'll find I had allowed the daily demands of life to crowd out my regular discipline of Bible reading. I had rationalized that I could coast on what I had "already stored up" through years of Christian school, Bible college, and working for a Christian publisher.
But when you face a situation that shakes you to your core, you tend to go back to the basics. So over the last year and a half, I've discovered that my spiritual life is strongest when I feed it a steady diet of God's Word.
Honestly, I still struggle with it. I have to #BeIntentional about not allowing other things to crowd out this vital component of my spiritual life. It's not easy, but things of great value rarely are.
That's why I'm committing to #BeIntentional about reading God's Word in 2015 with this simple plan:
When: The time has varied over the years--as a young adult, I would read late at night before bed. When I worked full-time, I would routinely read on my lunch break. Now, with two active kids in the house, I try to get up early and spend at least 15 minutes reading my Bible before the rest of the house stirs. With an early-riser in the house, that doesn't always happen! On those days, I rely on extra grace and plan a specific time later in the day for it.
Where: There is a specific spot in front of our fireplace where I like to settle in to read. I keep my Bible, a devotional, my journal, and a pen within reach. Settling into that spot triggers my brain (even when I'm still half asleep) to focus on what I'm about to do. And since I am NOT a morning person, I need all the help I can get!
What: I need a plan. If I don't have some sort of idea what I'm going to read, I'll spend the entire time flipping through my Bible in search of random passages. I've done all types of plans--chapter by chapter, topical studies, etc. It doesn't matter how simple or complex the plan, but I've found it is helpful to have one! There are hundreds--probably thousands--of reading plans available today in every format and on every topic imaginable. You can find a one-year plan here, or shorter plans here or here .
And for you "non-readers" out there...if the thought of sitting down with a book (of any kind) makes you break out in a cold sweat, no worries! Download the YouVersion app and listen to the Bible while you go for a run, clean the house, or fold the laundry. Or find a devotional on Audible or Christian Audio and listen on your commute.
"If you feel uncomfortable in the Scriptures, and inadequate in the art of Bible reading, the single most important thing you can do is make a regular practice of reading the Bible for yourself." ~David Mathis, Bible Reading is an Art
More Great Reads on Reading the Bible Intentionally:
Bible Reading is an Art
3 Tips for Better Bible Reading
The Bible: Fact or Fiction?
Don't Just Read the Bible for Yourself
Finding Hope in God's Word
3 Reasons Moms Need to Be in the Word
Thirty for 30: A 30-Day Bible-reading Challenge
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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.