In December, 2009, I committed to reading the Bible in its entirety. During 2010, I simply read straight through it; I began in Genesis and ended with The Revelation. I remember that much of the time I felt confused and lost, not understanding much of what I was reading, unable to connect all the dots. But I also remember how clear it was that I had a lot in common with the people I was reading about. One after the other, I saw how I was like them in so many ways. I found comfort in knowing they were not perfect people; relieved to see all their faults, weaknesses, and failures. As I learned more about these people, I understood that God loved me in spite of the mess I had made of my life just as He loved these people in spite of all they had done. I was hooked. Reading the Bible was no longer a chore – I looked forward to the time I spent each day discovering new things about the God I thought I knew. I’m not sure if I understood that recognizing these things was one of the ways God was “talking” to me but I was learning things I had never known before and couldn’t stop reading. The line of communication between me and God was no longer one-way – I had opened the door for Him to speak directly to me.
Each year since then I followed different reading plans to help insure I read the Bible each day and to read it completely through each year. In 2011 I utilized The Legacy Reading Plan, which grouped the books of the Bible based on things like genre, author and context. The 3rd and 4th year I followed chronological plans which allowed me to read events in the Bible in the order they happened (as much as can be determined). During those years, I supplemented each plan with books by Biblically-sound authors, commentaries, studies, sermons and articles. My goal was to learn everything I could so I would be able to answer any question about the Bible that anyone might ask. I wanted to know the events and people backward and forward.
I struggled for several weeks to find a plan with a different emphasis for 2014. Then, as He has done many times in the last 4 years, God thumped my noggin and pointed out to me that I had allowed reading the Bible to become little more than an intellectual exercise. I seldom used the time to listen for God’s messages to me. I had lost sight of the fact that each time I sit down with His Word, God wants to say something unique to each one of us. It was right for me to want to learn things – doctrine, theology, historical events and facts. But I had let learning facts become THE reason I read His Book. I did not spend much time listening for the things He longed for me to know.
So, this year is different. This year my primary resource for reference and study is God. My goal is not to add to what I have learned about doctrine, theology, and history; although I am still learning something about those things as I hear from God. I pray fervently before reading that God will open my eyes, ears and heart to what He has to say to me. I am recording the thoughts that dominate my mind as I read – that is how I hear Him. The thoughts are clear and they come to my mind repeatedly. I anticipated there might be days when He would not give me a clear message, but as of this writing, that has not happened. Each day as I read God has given me a clear understanding of a passage and I have never been confused or left to wonder about what He is saying to me.
John 8:31-32 “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth…”
This last week I was reading a Scripture from Philippians – my “book of the month.” I read a passage and an understanding came to my mind. I immediately wanted to grab a commentary to find out if my understanding was “correct.” But, as long as the thought I have does not contradict God’s character or His message as a whole, I can know that what I “hear” is from God. It is easy to be led astray if we don’t allow ourselves to hear God’s message when He is trying to correct or rebuke us. It’s tempting to take passages out of context to justify sin in our lives or defend choices that aren’t in keeping with God’s commands. While Satan cannot enter our minds, he has planted deceptions in the world that lead us to believe contradictory beliefs are from God. When this happens in my life, I feel unsettled and find myself arguing with myself. When I experience those feelings, I go back to the passage, re-read it and wait for a new understanding that is from God.
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
The insight to the Philippians passage brought me great peace and helped settle a question I have had on my heart for some time now. As I write out the thoughts God lays on my heart and expand the ideas He presents to me, I learn so much about God, about me, and about living life in a way that’s pleasing to Him. So far it’s been an amazing process and I feel a deeper love for my Father! This “reading plan” has confirmed to me that God communicates with us in a very real way. It also highlights for me how important it is to take time to listen – get rid of all the noise that prevents us from hearing Him and connect with Him every day. How amazing that the Creator of the universe wants this kind of relationship with us and that He provided a way to speak to us directly. How sad it makes me that so many don’t have this experience or dismiss the reality of my experience as a myth or some sort of fanaticism. God is in the world, He is living and He wants to be a part of our lives. Open that Bible and let God talk to you!
1 Corinthians 2:13 “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual”
For those who might be struggling to “understand” what you are reading, I pray you will not become discouraged. Often this is the reason people stop picking up their Bibles. But, when the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we can know that we will understand exactly what God wants us to know at the time He wants to reveal it to us. A thought about what we’re reading might not come for an hour or two after reading it – perhaps it will even take a day or two. But always read, and then think on the passage throughout the day. Pray before, during and after your reading time for God to open your eyes, ears and heart. If you’re a new believer and want to discuss something God has revealed to you, be sure to ask a trusted believer, to seek out trusted authors, preachers or teachers. Just keep in mind that God will reveal things to you in His time, not ours. My daughter and I are often amazed at how often we read a passage or a Scripture that we have read many, many times but our present reading of it yields new understanding – perhaps we’re understanding it for the first time. But God speaks to us when He is ready to speak about something – not when we want Him to. We are always amazed at how His timing coincides with the circumstances in our lives. There are still passages that haven’t been made clear to me but I know in God’s time He will speak to me when I need the message in my life to accomplish His purposes. He will do the same for you.
“Each time he listens to the word of the Father, or asks the Father to listen to his words, he dares not begin his Bible reading or prayer without first pausing and waiting, until the soul be hushed in the presence of the Eternal Majesty.” – Andrew Murray, Abiding in Christ