The thing I look forward to most each New Year is beginning my read-through of the Bible. Awhile back I posted that I had an emotionally-charged battle to bring my departed Dad's New Living Translation Bible out of my basement office and into my bedroom to begin reading that. I had not finished reading it when I felt surely the Lord telling me to give it to one of my Dad's closest friends with a challenge to READ IT and not just allow it to become a dusty memento from his dear friend.
Parting with my dad's now very marked up Bible was difficult for me. But, my dad's friend needed the Bible much more than I do. And it is my firm belief that he may well read that Bible simply because his friend read it and it changed his life. So, I prayed over it and lovingly packed the Book up and mailed it off. What he does with it could possibly change his whole life. And not just his, but the whole scope of people that his big life touches. He is a very busy man. God knows who he is. So, please lift him up in fervent prayer. Call him "Bob's friend".
Too many people do not read their Bible. Christians and non-believers both have these Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth in their possession and yet, they fail to open it up and begin the challenging task of learning about God as He has revealed Himself to man.
We run in to many people who have a very skewed philosophy and therefore their lives show it. They know one or two verses of scripture...one or two things they think are scripture but are definitely not...and a few things they've learned along the way from here or there added in with something their Grandma told them about God. This is a spiritually toxic cocktail to live your life out on.
But, the Bible tells us that mankind was made in the image of God: male and female did He make them. And He didn't just make us and leave us to figure it all out on our own. He gave us His word. A book of loving instruction on how to live this life the right way. A way that blesses God and a way that blesses others and at the same time, you get blessed, too. Miraculous. I think people really do believe that God is a made 'em now I'm done with 'em God. Sad. He wants so much to be involved in every aspect of our lives.
Once you read His word you begin to see that is what His heart is. So much is this His passion, that He sent His Holy Son away from paradise to inhabit flesh on earth and dwell among sinners and then, after a short life season of teaching us about God's ways (which are not man's ways, that is in Isaiah), God told His Son to take the ultimate punishment for all mankind and allow Himself (His HOLY, SINLESS self) to BECOME SIN! Why? The Bible as a whole indicates to us that God loved the people of the world so much that He couldn't bear the thought of paradise without us. Without you.
The first act of disobedience on the part of the First Couple plunged all of mankind after them into spiritual separation from our God. A spiritual death. Adam and Eve WALKED IN THE COOL OF THE DAY WITH GOD. When we read that in the Bible it seems as though this was a daily occurrence. Can you imagine walking and talking with (not just to) God Almighty? But, God had warned them: don't eat it or death will be the consequence. And separation and death did come. And it keeps on coming. And for those outside of Christ (non-believers) there is not one death but TWO! Oh, who can save us? What is the answer? Only God can fix such a huge problem!
Jesus is God's answer to that spiritual separation. He became God's ONLY acceptable solution to the problem between God and man. Jesus is God's way of handling our problem. I hesitate to put a lower-case "o" there, because the "our" I speak of is God's and ours. I mean, we're in this thing together. He designed us for that. Jesus is God's solution for reconciling sinful man back to Himself.
When a humbled person admits their sinfulness to God and confesses that sin and announces their belief that Jesus took the punishment for sin upon Himself (like your big brother taking the beating you know you deserve) and then the sinner confesses that Jesus is LORD, a Holy Legal Transaction takes place in the Spirit World. God has a book filled with the names of His children. It's called the Lamb's Book of Life and as a believer in Jesus Christ, your name gets recorded there. And then, there is no more condemnation for those who are IN Christ Jesus. If your name is in that book, then you have eternal life.
If your name is not written in that book, why not? What are you waiting for? What is so fantastically wonderful here that you aren't willing to say to God Almighty: "I screwed up. I'm sorry. Please forgive me and help me not to do it again. I trust You. I believe You are who You say You are. I need You. I want You. Please help me walk this life every day from now on." ?
Jesus said He came to give us life and that life more abundantly. We were talking about abundant life recently in church and it occured to me at that moment that the abundant life that Jesus is speaking of happens inside your heart. Peace with God IS abundant life. Coming to God HIS way and not mine is abundant life. Trusting that God is alive and on His throne and intensely interested in my life, my cares, my worries, my health, my loved ones and my best is abundant life. KNOWING that I know that I know that I know that the moment my last breath comes and goes I will be in the presence of God in Heaven is abundant life.
I didn't get the abundant life by confessing my sins and becoming a Christ follower. It took years of trials and trusting God and praying and hoping and believing in Him and His promises and His power and waiting and watching Him come through over and over that gave me part of it. The other part of it...the other half of it...came from reading my Bible and daring to believe what I read.
There are parts of God's word that will absolutely rock your world. There is such an intensity of scandalousness in there, that I am still shocked and sometimes even disgusted when I read it. But, God doesn't leave out the ugly sin of man. He includes all of it and He deals with it. He doesn't always handle the same sin the same way twice. But the promise is there: "Be sure your sin will find you out." Makes me shiver.
When you read the Bible you discover how God is amazing and so powerful! and the way He does things through the people's lives in the scriptures is astounding. When you read it you realize God loves people. And He wants to be loved in return! Hates our sin, but He loves us. And you realize God is Holy. He cannot tolerate sin because He is God...all good, completely uncompromised, full of justice and righteousness. And He tells us that all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. That's what God thinks about your good deeds apart from Jesus Christ. The only thing you can impress God with is being cleansed by the Blood of the Lamb.
And so, I read the Bible every day to LEARN HOW TO MAKE JESUS MY LORD, not only my Savior!
How can I know what to do with my life now that I am a Christian?
Read your Bible!
I'm scared...all those TV evangelists are talking about the end of the world!
Read your Bible!
How do I handle this problem?
Read your Bible!
If God is so loving how come He let's all these bad things happen?
Read your Bible!
I want a closer relationship with God but I just don't feel it!
Read your Bible!
You lament and say, "But, I don't understand it! I've tried to read my Bible and I just don't get it." I say, buy a Bible translation you CAN understand and pray before you read it and READ it every day of the week!
YES, especially Sundays. Because once church is over and all the ooey-gooey feelings leave, you still have a closer walk with God because now you are filled with not only His Holy Spirit but also His Word.
So, here's my challenge for you. Read your Bible all the way through this year.
Get a Bible you like (that is a very important first step.) It's kind of fun, just go to the bookstore and get a Bible that you LIKE. Make sure the font isn't too tiny. Study Bibles are good. Also, don't get something too big to read comfortably (that's my advice). My mom has this ancient white Family Bible...it's bigger than Webster's dictionary. It does have beautiful art, but it's not the thing you want to climb into your comfy chair with.
PRAY over your Bible before you begin to read it. Tell God how you feel. Whether you're scared or unsure or still think you can't understand it. God hears you. He loves you and I'm sure He's tickled pink you want to read HIS WORD! Ask Him to help you understand it every time you read it.
Make a plan. This was my plan when I first started reading my first Bible I bought for myself (an NIV Student Bible, by the way). I got five ribbons and I placed them in these places:
The ribbon that was attached to the Bible I placed wherever the Pastor left off last time we were in church.
Every morning I read one chapter in each of those five places. (Sounds like it must take a long time to read five chapters of the Bible, but really...it takes about fifteen to twenty minutes on average.) When I was finished with a book I moved onto the next book. Except for Psalms and Proverbs. I just read them again and again. And the Matthew ribbon...I stay in the Gospels continually: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. You always need to keep your finger on the pulse of Jesus. You'll see new things all the time, even though you've read it before. God's word is ALIVE!!
(Tell you what, email your address to me and I will send you five hand-braided bookmarks for you to use...just to encourage you in this challenge!)
PLEASE, take your Bible to church! Don't leave YOUR BIBLE at home. YOUR Bible LOVES to go to church with you. And bring a pen.
Please go to a Bible believing, Bible teaching church. If the pastor doesn't crack open the Bible during the sermon...that's a bad sign. Find a church that believes and teaches the flock the ESSENTIAL WORD OF GOD!
Don't be afraid to mark in YOUR Bible. I use a yellow crayon to highlight passages that speak to me (my crayon works better than any other "Bible marking pens" out there. Crayola is best, trust me.) Write some notes with your pen in the margin. Take it from me, I read notes that I wrote about something in 2002 and I'm still benefiting from them.
So, that's it.
Ring in the new year, the new month by reading your own Bible all the way through. Make a commitment to stick with it. I promise you that if you do it, you will never be the same. And next year, read a different translation.
Oh, very important...Satan, your enemy, does NOT WANT you to use this particular piece of God's armor (read Ephesians chapter six). He will make the dog chase the cat, the baby cry, the phone ring, etc., etc., etc., to try to distract and derail you from reading the Bible. Don't let him get away with it.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. This is a promise from your God to you from His book called James.
I'm so excited for you.
God bless you.
Here's my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh PS...the artwork and photos I downloaded off the internet. That little guy at the bottom is the son of a Sister in Christ from the blog: A Little Busy. Amen!