I asked you yesterday about your attitude toward the Bible. Most of us do not understand our attitude toward the Bible. We have a sort of love/hate relationship. We love it, but we hate to read it (at least we act like we do). We'll defend it, but we won't depend on it.
My hope for you (and for me) as we continue today is best expressed as a prayer:
“Father, I ask you to give us a taste of Your Word. We need to see how good it is to live by every Word that comes out of Your mouth. Set us free when we read the Bible to hear You speak to us. We ask in Jesus name, Amen”
Before continuing, please make sure you have studied the previous articles in this series. Taken out of context, the articles won't be of much help. The studies from yesterday and today are almost like tutorials, and they will only be interesting if you get results.
4. Read for a certain period of time rather than for a certain amount of words.
I want to make myself very clear on this point. I am in favor of reading plans that take you through the entire Bible in a specified period of time. But if you are reading without interruption (as if you're reading a novel) you will not hear much from God. It is nearly impossible for you to hear from Him if He can't get you to stop reading and listen.
It's important to read through the entire Bible to keep from being narrow‐minded and one‐dimensional (which translated means dangerous). We need to know how the entire Word of God fits together (see Acts 20:26‐27). But this is an intellectual discipline toward a body of knowledge, not a relationship with the Author. If having an intellectual grasp of God's Word indicated a relationship with the Author, then every Bible professor would be born‐again—which is simply not the case.
If we're going to hear from God, we need to also have a different kind of study—one that will allow for interruptions. God wants to interrupt you when you study. He may want to send you to another verse. He may want to take you to a place on a map or in a book. He may want to show you a more complete meaning of a word or phrase. He may want to just sit with you and visit. The only thing predictable is that He will interrupt you.
Unless you are retired and living alone, you probably have just so much time to set aside for Bible study, so let me suggest one possibility for a balanced approach. If this example appeals to you, the numbers can be adjusted to fit your schedule.
Let's say you have forty‐five minutes a day you can spend reading your Bible. I can get through the entire Bible in one year by reading for about twenty minutes per day. But there's no stopping to hear from God. I have to just read. So I suggest you read the daily amount of Scripture on your reading plan non‐stop, which should take no more than one‐half of your forty‐five minutes, and spend the rest of your time reading to listen for God.
Reading through the Bible is more like sitting through a lecture. Studying for a block of time is more like sitting down and visiting with the lecturer. In a conversation with the lecturer, you won't get through all the material, but you will have a much deeper insight into the material discussed.
If you can't or won't do both, then read for a period of time rather than for a quantity of material. I will get criticism for this, but it's more important to know a little Word deeply than a lot of Word superficially. Just keep in mind you can do your “through the Bible” reading in other ways besides sitting down with your Bible. You can listen to daily Bible readings digitally on your way to work, while you're jogging, etc.
Let me share with you what I've been doing lately to hear from God through His Word. Of course, things change constantly in schedules and responsibilities, but maybe this will give you some ideas you can use.
On a typical weekday morning the alarm goes off at 5:15 am and we have about an hour before the next item on our list. Sherrel goes to her office to study and I stay in bed. Sound good so far…? But I'm not sleeping. I raise the head of the bed, grab my smart phone, and sit there in the dark where I'm not as easily distracted by all the sights and sounds of the day. I have everything I need to study right there in my hand, so I ask the Lord what He wants to talk about. If I don't hear anything in particular I just continue on from the day before.
I look up almost every word in its original language and study almost every cross‐reference. I stop and think. I stop and pray. I stop and ask Him questions. He stops me and gives me things to consider. Obviously this process is slower than molasses in February, but it's all good because I get to spend this block of time with my God. My only purpose is to hear from Him. And if I only hear, “Good morning,” I'm okay with that.
I get to have a conversation with Someone who knows everything there is to know, Someone who is more powerful than any political or military force on the planet, Someone who has more resources than I could ever use, and—to top it all off—Someone who loves me and wants to be with me.
If you follow this approach, you probably won't be able to win a debate with a Bible scholar until you are very, very old. But you will hear from God. You will be able to open up your Bible to any page and say, “Speak to me, please.” Of course He's always been speaking, but now the difference is: you will always be listening.
Before continuing with this subject, I'm going to switch topics for a couple of days starting Monday. Most of us are so wired to check things off our lists that it's quite a change to read the Word with no other purpose than to hear from God. I want to give you a few days to practice.
“Father, when we sit down with You, I ask you to animate the Words we read. Make them jump off the pages and play in our heads and our hearts in a way that's more real than what we experience with our physical senses. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.”
Have a good weekend,