Intentionality Is A Necessity
My son is growing up so fast I can hardly believe it. Seems like yesterday the nurse was helping me change his first diaper and now we are trying to figure out how we are going to lead him in “successful” potty training.
I’m the kind of guy that likes to go into situations fully prepared. I want to read all the books and seek out the best advice. Why? Because I know this situation can get MESSY if intentional steps aren’t taken.
As a pastor, my heart breaks for the growing multitudes of people that grew up with the God of the Bible; whether it be at home or at church, but in all honesty, don’t know much about either. Sure, they can recite to you many of the Bible’s stories but the ability to see the Bible as one connecting story of God and His people escapes them. And as messy as unintentional potty training can be, it doesn’t come close to the unintentional Christianity that refused to take God’s commands – to purposefully and intentionally hand down a love of God from one generation to the next (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) seriously, which has caused much of the biblical illiteracy.
The Danger of Familiarity
An old proverb goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.” The more comfortable we become with something the less respect we often show for it. We may not see the connection to church at first, but when it comes to our first car I feel like we can…Remember the hours you spent detailing it? You ensured everyone knocked off their shoes before getting inside. Always spotless! Well, how does that car look today? You don’t know, do you? You probably don’t even know where your first car is located. When it was “new to you” it was something to cherish but after the “newness” wore off it was just a means of transportation.
From my experience, new Christians are rarely apathetic towards the Bible. More often than not, they at least attempt to read it (with or without encouragement). However, over time, the familiarity with God’s word forces believers to become intentional towards it. A theologian once said that at any time God is actively doing 10,000 things around us and we may be aware of a handful. I believe his assertion is true but I will also add that out of the many things God does for us He will never force us to read, study, or show reverence to His word.
The Danger of Missing the Point
A second danger I witness all too often is people confusing biblical knowledge with biblical understanding. The most difficult sermons for me to preach and teach center around texts that people think they understand. And surely, they know a lot of the facts. They know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. They know that the shepherds were the first to hear the good news, but when it comes to understanding how the Old Testament and New Testament come together to explain God’s Big story of Creation, Fall, Rescue, and Restoration the room often goes silent.
I believe many people would agree that the “Bible Heroes” are important but it is for a far greater reason than the moralistic interpretations that often leave us content. Ultimately all the stories of Scripture paint God’s amazing picture of a loving God who went to great lengths to restore a broken relationship with His children. God uses the Bible Heroes to preserve and explain the plans of God but their stories all display their imperfections and mankind’s need for a true savior.
The entire Bible hinges on the day Jesus did for humanity what humanity could never do for itself. Through His death, burial, and resurrection – He destroyed the barrier and made a relationship with God possible. Does the Bible teach about good morals and how to be a positive citizen – certainly. But if we go away from the stories of Scripture without seeing God’s incredible plan and it’s ultimate fulfillment – from beginning to end – we are in danger of living a life that misses the point.
From the moment I gave my life to Jesus, I’ve had a desire to read His Word. (If you truly believed God loved you enough to write you, you’d read it too.) However, my desire to read comes and goes. Let’s face it, there is ALWAYS something else we could do. But thankfully, God placed men and women in my life, specifically, a mother who daily began her mornings with God. So, for several years now I have selected a different Bible reading plan each January as a deliberate step to help me follow my mother’s example. Some of the plans have gone cover to cover and others Chronological. But through all of them, God has taught me that whenever I intentionally open up His word, for the right reasons, – He joins me.
Reading the bible for all it’s worth does not happen by accident, but it does happen and it happens often.
Two Tips to Help Sustain Time In The Bible
1. Commit to the Time – When, Where, How? – Studies show that it only takes 21 days to develop a habit (good or bad!). If that is the case, when is a time that you can consistently and cheerfully engage God’s Story? Remember, it won’t read itself.
When will you read? The time is so much more than the number at the top of your smartphone. It’s also the situation. Will you read prior to your family getting up so you can be as distraction-free as possible? Or will you give the time after everyone goes to bed? (I believe giving the first moments of our day can send a strong message to our hearts but everyone is different and the intention is the bigger issue.)
How long will you read? The plan you choose will largely dictate this but I encourage people to designate a repeatable amount of time. The time does not impress God but I do believe he works through consistency.
2. Commit to the Text – What reading plan will you follow? – I know some people that could not comprehend reading the Bible any other way than from cover to cover. It sorta makes sense right? Name a book other than a dictionary or encyclopedia that doesn’t begin on page 1. Well, the Bible can be added to that list because it is not a normal book. Unlike modern books, it isn’t isolated to one genre (there are at least 8 genres). It was written over a span of some 2,000 years. It does present from beginning to end the story of God, but it is not chronological in its traditional form.(Our 2017 Bible Reading Plan)
So where should you begin? The Gospel of John and then the Book of Acts would be a great start! Or maybe a 21 Day or 30 Day Reading Plans.
A Final Challenge
I unapologetically believe that your life would be better if you were actively engaged in God’s Word. I’m confident that if you intentionally designated time to draw near to God that He will draw near to you. It’s not an issue of manipulating Him to work through His Word, but rather a step of faith, trusting that His Word 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.” (Heb 4:12)
Be intentional. Allow time for it. Pray the Lord will bless it. I’m confident He will.
I pray this helps you grow in your love for Christ, His Church, and His Mission