How Not to Read the Bible in 2015 – by Matt Smethurst

How Not to Read the Bible in 2015

When it comes to daily (or not-so-daily) Bible reading, January 1 can be a welcome arrival. A new year signals a new start. You’re motivated to freshly commit to what you know is of indispensable importance: the Word of God. Yet this isn’t the first time you’ve felt this way. You were entertaining pretty similar thoughts 365 days ago. And 365 days before that. And 365 days . . . you know how it goes. So what’s going to make 2015 different? What, under God, will keep you plodding along in April this year when staying power has generally vanished in Aprils of yore? From one stumbling pilgrim to another, here are five suggestions for what not to do in 2015.

1. Don’t Overextend

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!”

This hackneyed high school yearbook quote is bad advice for most things, Bible reading plans not excepted. If you shoot for and miss the “moon” of six chapters a day, you won’t quietly land among the “stars” of three. You’ll just be lost in space. It’s better to read one chapter a day, every day, than four a day, every now and then. Moreover, the value of meditation cannot be overstressed. Meditation isn’t spiritualized daydreaming; it’s riveted reflection on revelation. Read less, if you must, to meditate more. It’s easy to encounter a torrent of God’s truth, but without absorption—and application—you will be little better for the experience. As Thomas White once said, “It is better to hear one sermon only and meditate on that, than to hear two sermons and meditate on neither.” I think that’s pretty sage advice for Scripture reading, too.

It’s easy to encounter a torrent of God’s truth, but without absorption—and application—you will be little better for the experience.

2. Don’t Do It Alone

When it comes to Bible reading consistency, a solo sport mentality can be lethal.  Surely that’s why many run out of gas; they feel like they’re running alone.  To forestall the dangers of isolation, then, invite one or two others to join you in 2015.  Set goals, make a commitment, and hold one another accountable.  Turn your personal Scripture reading into a team effort, a community project.  A daily devotional, too, can function as a helpful companion and guide.  D. A. Carson’s For the Love of God (Volume 1; Volume 2) and Nancy Guthrie’s Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament are two excellent options.

3. Don’t Just Do It Whenever

Every morning we awaken to a fresh deluge of information.  We’ve now reached the point where, I’ve heard it said, an average weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than Jonathan Edwards encountered in his entire lifetime.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure makes me think.

It is imperative, then, to set a specific time each day when you will get alone with God.  Even if it’s a modest window, guard it with your life.  Explain your goal to those closest to you, and invite their help.  Otherwise, the tyranny of the urgent will continue to rear its unappeasable head.  What is urgent will fast displace what is important, and what is good will supplant what is best.  If your basic game plan is to read your Bible whenever, chances are you’ll read it never.  And if you don’t control your schedule, your schedule will control you.  It’s happened to me more times than I care to admit.

If your basic game plan is to read your Bible whenever, chances are you’ll read it never.  And if you don’t control your schedule, your schedule will control you.

4. Don’t Live as if Paul Lied

Did you know Leviticus and Chronicles and Obadiah were written to encourage you? That’s what Paul believed, anyway:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom. 15:4; cf. 1 Cor. 9:10; 10:6, 11; 2 Tim. 3:16)

What a sweeping word!  Paul is going so far as to claim the entirety of the Old Testament is for you—to instruct you, to encourage you, to help you endure, and to flood your heart with hope.  Few of you will conclude Paul is simply mistaken here.  Good evangelicals, after all, are happy to take inspired apostles at their word.  But does our approach to our Bibles tell a different story?  Do we act as if Numbers or Kings or Nahum has the power to infuse our lives with help and hope?

Whenever you open your Bible, labor to believe that God has something here to say to meWhatever I encounter in his Word was written with me, his cherished child, in view.  So pursue God’s graces on the pages of Scripture this year. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow everywhere await.

Whatever I encounter in his Word was written with me, His cherished child.

5. Don’t Turn a Means of Grace into a Means of Merit

Your Father’s love for you doesn’t rise and fall with your quiet times.  If you are united to Jesus by faith, the verdict is out, and the court is dismissed.  You’re as accepted and embraced as the Son himself. Period.  To be sure, you’ll desire to hear and follow his voice if you’re truly one of his sheep (John 10:1–30; cf. 8:47; 18:37).  Not always and not perfectly, of course, but sincerely and increasingly.

So as another year dawns, commit yourself anew to becoming a man or woman of the Word.  But don’t overextend, do it alone, just do it whenever, live as if Paul lied, or treat means of grace like means of merit.  Your Bible is one of God’s chief gifts to you in 2015.

Open, read, ruminate, and obey. May you be ever transformed into the image of our incarnate King, and may he alone receive the acclaim.

 

*Original post can be found at The Southern Blog by Matt Smethurst — December 29, 2014

Deer Brother,

Deer Brother,

Deer Brother,

Some things only brothers understand.  I always see pictures, picture frames, and wall art that talk about sister this and sister that.  You never see grown men with wall art about their brothers.  Don’t worry; this isn’t a post about men needing cheesy artwork on their wall.  But, there is something different about brothers.  We have a unique insight probably due to the fact that we grow up in constant competition, ragging and covering up for each other.

Insights that only brothers can pull out of their tool bags to support each other or pull out of their sheath as a weapon to destroy one another.  Brothers know all the right buttons to press, dials to turn, and switches to flip to swing the emotions of the other just where they want them, usually on the edge of an extreme reaction.  We see brothers time and time again in scripture using their insight to both support and destroy each other.  Cain and Able were brothers that jealousy tore apart which lead to Cain killing Able.  Jacob and Esau got in such a dispute that Jacob had to run from his brother.  It took almost an entire lifetime for Jacob to get the nerve to face his brother again.  Jesus tells the story of the “Prodigal Son”.  If you remember the story correctly, the older son holds a grudge against his younger brother when he returns from squandering his father’s money and making a fool of himself.  On the flip side, it was Andrew that meets Jesus and runs as hard as he can to tell his brother Peter.  Then its James and John who leave their fishing company to follow Jesus together.  Jude and James “the younger” were brothers that followed Jesus.  That means half of the disciples followed Jesus with their brother.

Brothers have insights that only brothers can pull out of their tool bags to support each other or pull out of their sheath as a weapon to destroy one another.

I watched my little brother turn to Jesus in the kitchen when he was 12, I soon followed Jesus myself.  But, that’s not the story I want to tell here.

My brother took up hunting about 6 years ago.  I took it upon myself to make sure he had everything he needed.  Cover scent (buying your brother urine to pour on himself, awesome), grunts, rattles, and anything else that it looked like he needed, I got him.  But, I knew nothing about hunting and didn’t have any interest…then he got Lyme disease.  Side effects of Lyme disease include anxiety, fearing what could happen, and feeling like things just aren’t right with your body.  So 3 years ago, I took up hunting so my brother could go out and hunt.  I got all the gear I needed: a rifle, head-to-toe insulated camo, and cover scent (covering yourself in urine, not as awesome).  We hunted within shouting distance for 2 years, texting back and forth.  In the first 2 years of hunting, I didn’t see a single deer!  Not one!  Sitting morning after morning in the freezing cold and then climbing out of tree stands in the pitch black and I see nothing!

Thanksgiving always falls on the opening of gun season and my brother is feeling much better now, almost back to his old self.  So we decided to head out on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving.  We gear up and hike out to a new spot that he has been scouting and climb up into a 2 person deer-stand.  After sitting as quietly as we can for over 2 hours, he nudges me right at sunset and whispers, “Deer, get your gun ready”.  For the first time in 3 years, I have a deer in my sights!  That deer was so far away and so small that when I put my cross-hairs on it the deer completely disappeared.  However, I instantly knew my brother’s intentions; he was going to make sure I got a deer.

“It’s far off.  I’ll have to be a good shot.  Do I want my first deer to be a doe?  Why isn’t it moving?  Well if it’s not going to move.”  BANG!!!

4:15 am – BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  Time to get up, sneak out of the house, and drive off into the dark.  Beating the sun to the deer-stand with the crisp 27 degree chewing at the tip of my nose, a feeling that I have told myself now for 3 years is how I am going to get a deer.  My brother and I get situated in the stand right at 5:30 am; sunrise is at 6:23 am.  The first signs of the sun making its rounds have just started; I am surrounded by that funny gray color the world gets in the moments before the sun peaks out from the horizon.  My brother just whispers “deer”, points and then says “it’s a doe, if you think you can make the shot.”  I raised my gun and a black silhouette of a deer is painted against a gray canvas.  Thoughts race through my mind… “It’s far off.  I’ll have to be a good shot.  Do I want my first deer to be a doe?  Why isn’t it moving?  Well if it’s not going to move.”  BANG!!!  I have just shot what sounds like a cannon blast, he leans over and whispers, “I think you got it!  I saw it drop.”  Not 30 seconds later he says, “There’s another one shoot it you have the shot.”  I never saw that deer… All of a sudden there was a barrage of gun blast coming from his rifle.  It sounded like “there was a firefight!”  To be clear, it was only 2 shots, but it sounded like he had just started a war!

“There was a firefight!”

As we sat waiting perhaps for another deer to walk out, he told me that what felt like an eternity of thoughts flying through my head was really a smooth 5 seconds of swinging the gun up, steadying, and taking the shot.  He said it was calmer than he had ever been when he sees a deer. Then this look came across his face.  “Haley, what if you shot a buck?  That was a big body doe, it would be really exciting to walk up and it be a buck.  But, I think we got 2 does.”  We climbed down out of our stand and walked directly to where I shot the deer, but there was no deer, just a drop of blood.  What!  I missed!  And then I saw it just 25 feet away from where I shot it, laying just on the other side of some tall grass where I couldn’t see it very clearly.  My brother ran over to it and started yelling, jumping and pumping his fist like he had just won the World Series, “It’s HUGE!  You did it, you got a BUCK!  It’s bigger than anything I’ve ever shot!”  I didn’t care about that deer at all in that moment.  Don’t get me wrong; sitting in the woods that long, I wanted a deer, bad.  But, my brother wanted it for me more.  I’m not sure if he knew it was a buck or if it really was the biggest deer he had the opportunity to shoot, but I can’t help but think he did.  But, that wasn’t his goal.  His goal was to get me a deer.

Thank you Casey, my brother.

Brothers know what we need, sometimes better than you do.  They understand that fixing something doesn’t necessarily mean fixing it.  Sometimes what we need is a win and brothers know how to make that happen.  They know if they sacrifice themselves for their brother, it will be returned, somehow, someday.

Brothers understand that fixing something doesn’t necessarily mean fixing it.  They know if they sacrifice themselves for their brother, it will be returned, somehow, someday.

Not to spiritualize things too much but as the oldest child, I didn’t have a big brother until Jesus.  He knows what I need way more than I ever will.  He sacrificed Himself for me just as any good big brother does for their little brother.  That gift is free, but He knows as a brother, I will sacrifice my life for Him, somehow, someday.  Romans 12:1, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Jimmy buffet

Not to leave the other brother out (that would turn the wrong crank).  As I am carving the beautifully grilled Thanksgiving turkey, a chunk of salt and spices flies into my eye and I let out a yell of pain and frustration.  As I’m trying to get to the sink to flush my eye out, I see out of the corner of my eye my other brother, in slow-motion, in the air, completely clearing the couch trying to get to me.  He grabs the syringe I use to inject the turkey, fills it with water and begins to flush my eye. (Don’t worry, the needle was not attached or I would have passed out.)  Brothers know what to do, when you don’t.

Thank you Hunter, my brother.

FullSizeRenderBy the way, I killed a 185 pound, 8 point buck from 237 yards away with a perfect shot just behind the front shoulder.  Yeah, it was awesome!

Brothers, I love you both.

Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014