A quarter-century ago, my father-in-law sent me a One Year Bible. Inside, he’d inscribed it, “RX: once a day.”
Dad was godly and I wanted to obey him, but most of my life I found my flesh opposing my spirit in this matter of daily Bible reading. I believed in it, but didn’t do it—to my constant regret and shame.
Who knows why we sin against God? The Bible is, shall we say, “good?” Perfect? Helpful? The very words of God? Inspiring? Wise? Fascinatingly contrary to everything we think and do, today.
A few months ago there was a breakthrough. The first thing I do every morning now is read the Bible. What changed?
God’s grace changed me. It’s the only thing that ever does. I’m so thankful to God for being everlastingly patient with me.
Maybe you fight to read the Bible as I did most of my life? If so, ask God to give you grace for it. I can testify to His power and kindness in helping us grow in righteousness.
Now then, some coping mechanisms for those of you who aren’t daily sort of disciplined men.
First, read the Bible each day at a family meal with your household. Mary Lee and I made this a habit when our children were in the house and it’s the bedrock foundation of the Christian home. You don’t have to read anything more than a few paragraphs or one chapter (we read one chapter) for it to be the bread of life to you and your family.
Don’t make it tedious. Don’t sit there and lecture your family until they’re bored stiff. But yes, do teach them, keeping it pungent and interesting. Funny, even. Self-deprecating (if you don’t know the word, learn it).
Finish with prayer. Nothing will establish emotional health and spiritual growth in your family more than daily sharing around a table the food of life and the bread of God.
Second, get a job as a pastor. I’ll never forget my first week in my first call, preparing to preach and thinking to myself, “This is crazy! I get paid to do this!”
I’m sure many pastors have had the same joyful realization.
You may wonder why I’d be happy to study the Bible while not having success with daily Bible reading?
Beats me, but I did (and do) love to study the Bible and read the Bible while studying it, and preach it to my flock, and teach it to you here on Warhorn. There are many parts of being called to shepherd God’s flock that are mysterious to me. Lots of them are unanticipated benefits. The reading and study of Scripture is one of them.
Jonathan Edwards would say the real test of my love of prayer and the Word of God is not my duty, but my desire. He’s right, but that doesn’t mean I can’t thank God for the secondary victory of having a strong desire to do my duty.
“But you get paid to read Scripture,” you might say.
It’s not money, I assure you. Although I battle the love of money, I’ve never pastored God’s flock for money. As I’ve had said to parishioners who were angry at my preaching and came to warn me they wouldn’t keep paying me if I kept preaching the way I was:
You realize that if you stop paying me, I won’t stop preaching to you, right? I mean, I miss gardening and cleaning bathrooms and carpet and stripping and waxing floors and washing windows. I can support my family just fine doing that once more, and to be honest with you, it would give me joy. There are such obvious results in physical labor and you can take joy in looking at what you’ve done when you garden and clean.
Anyhow, I’ll continue to fulfill God’s calling on me to preach the Gospel and shepherd His flock. Doesn’t matter if you give me money.
When my conscience assaults me over the righteous acts I get paid for and the sins I’m barred from because of my calling, I remember Harry Blamires’s helpful words in that essential little book of his, The Christian Mind. There Blamires thinks out loud about the bishop’s hat and staff (mitre and crozier for all you classical curriculum fans). He says most people think this bling (accoutrements) is worn to show how much more holy the bishop is than other men. Blamires says, rather, the Christian mind will see it’s more likely the Lord requires the bishop’s bling to keep him holy.
It has been the kindness of God to me that, despite my failure at daily Bible reading, I’ve never failed to have very close to daily Bible reading and study. It has been God’s kindness to me that it’s my job, so I have no choice. But yes, I’ve enjoyed that part of my work very much, strange as it may seem. This has reassured me.
Third, it’s probably important to note I’ve always kept fighting to read my Bible daily. I’ve never given up.
My goal has always been to read through the Bible yearly. Remember, the One-Year Bible? Some follow Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan (which I commend). Anyhow, though the Bible each year has been my standard which has defined my failure. Still, for a number of years now, I’ve been thankful to God that His Spirit has helped me read through the Bible about every two years.
You ask how I’ve managed that without daily reading and my response is that I didn’t say I didn’t read the Bible regularly; only that I didn’t didn’t read it daily. Personally read it—by myself. Not counting what I read with the family. Not counting what I read for work. Only what I read personally as my devotion to God.
It may be that the reason I’m reading daily now is that I’ve settled on reading two or three chapters, rather than five. If so, I wish I’d made the change decades ago!
Now to you. Read your Bible. Do as I say, not as I did.
Nothing comes close to the Bible and prayer for vaccinating us against the real DNA change that should make us really tremble—which is to allow this evil and wicked world to form us into its own mold. Read church members’ social media posts and see how worldly we are. We hate authority. We love money. We keep track of fashions. We lose our stupid minds over masks. We whine and complain about each other. We mock men called by God to church office. We blather on and on about food allergies and how irresponsible young mothers are who give birth in an unsanitary stable and place their newborn in a manger to sleep. We call child protective services on her; she should know better.
Did you notice the Jerusalem church spent her time devoting herself to the preaching of the Apostles, breaking bread around the Lord’s table, hanging out with one another in Christian fellowship, and joining together in prayer?
John Calvin points out that the first devotion (Scripture) is placed first because doctrine is the foundation of everything else.
To survive in this evil and wicked world, we must devote ourselves to our shepherd’s preaching of the Apostle’s teaching and our reading of Scripture in between his preachings of Scripture.
How will you do that this coming year?
I don’t know, but make sure you do it. Maybe change from five chapters a day done irregularly to two-and-a-half done daily?
Aren’t you weary of your thoughts and others’ thoughts? I mean, really; aren’t you utterly bored by what passes for “thoughts” and “insights” today? To paraphrase Paige Patterson, whether among commoners or the bright boys yip-yapping at us, listening to what people write and say today is like eating the Sahara desert.
But God’s thoughts? God’s words? God’s ways?
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55;9)
Clear water. Green pasture. High as the heavens. Deep as the sea. Unendingly and irrepressibly fascinating. Contrary to everything being written and said around us. Refreshing to our souls and the souls of our loved ones.
So then, work hard at it this coming year. Read your Bible. I don’t care where, when, or what schedule you follow as long as you do it. Again, do as I say and not as I did.
Until recently when God changed me yet again. Praise God with me!