It was the period before Time… better known as Eternity Past. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit opened the Book of Life. In it they wrote down her name.
Her beauty was angelic. Her features were flawless. Her heart was tender. Her birth was predestined. Her parents were chosen. Annie’s life to come was joyfully celebrated. The triune God along with the angels of heaven were eager for the day when little Annie would be conceived.
Annie’s future was to be a bright one. Not only would she bring extreme joy to her parents, she would also be the one to reconcile them to God, through the miracle of her birth. Annie would bring hope and relief to millions. As she grew she would become a medical doctor, and God would use Annie to discover the cure to a cursed disease that had taken the lives of so many in the world.
But wait. Eternity Past would first need to intersect with Time — for a few short millenniums.
As Time briefly took center stage, the day of Annie’s conception approached. And then it arrived. Annie’s first moment of life began as her parents, yet unwed, succumbed to their desires. While their passion was driven by pleasure, it resulted in the blessing of Annie’s life. God had ordained her precious life. As He looked upon that moment, knowing that Annie was not conceived according to His laws, God still loved Annie and her parents. In fact, it had been known in eternity past that Annie’s life would begin in this manner. It did not change God’s master plan.
Those first moments of Annie’s life turned to days, and days to weeks. As they did, Annie’s little body began to take form. As she began to grow, the first hints of thought began to materialize. Annie’s little brain, not yet completely formed, was nonetheless beginning to recognize sensations, warmth, sounds, even light. She was unsure of what she was sensing, but she felt safe… secure… wanted… loved. It was a feeling that she could not yet describe, but she relished it. She felt at ease. She instinctively knew that she was where she belonged.
The weeks passed and as they did she began to hear sounds. Melodious sounds. Music that gave her pleasure. She also heard a steady continuous sound that never ceased. In fact it was two sounds… one faster, the other slower. One louder, the other softer. Thump… thump… thumpity-thump. Her heart and that of her Mommy’s often lulled her to sleep.
But she also heard what she would soon come to know as voices. The higher one was always with her. The lower sound would sometimes be there — although it sounded a little more distant. Annie instinctively knew that the higher sound would always care for and love her. But that lower sound was mysterious, one she also longed to meet. Annie’s heart accelerated whenever she heard those two sounds together. They were sounds that she loved deeply.
As Annie became more aware of these sounds and emotions she became even more at ease. She felt so peaceful in this warm place. She would sleep often and as she did, she would dream.
Annie wasn’t quite sure how to relate to what she dreamed of since the thoughts she had were not borne out by any experience. But it was as if Someone was supernaturally guiding Annie’s thoughts and interpreting her dreams for her. She envisioned the smile of her father. She dreamt of the caresses of her mother. While she felt safe inside her mother, she also longed to see and touch the one who was bearing her. She sensed that this warm place was temporary… that there was a better place for her. Her dreams affirmed this. And so she began to grow restless to see the ones she had dreamt of often.
As the weeks had now turned into many months, Annie longed for something else. She felt confined. It was becoming more difficult to stretch her legs and arms. The continuous thumpity-thump she now understood was her heart and her Mommy’s. The sounds she now knew as voices. The low one was her Daddy’s and the higher one was her Mommy’s. Her dreams had revealed these things to her and so she longed to meet them. She could sense that the time was growing near.
As she began to sense the day was approaching, she suddenly heard the thumpity-thump sound of her Mommy’s heart accelerate to a pace she had never heard before. Instantly she felt something she had never sensed. It’s as if the fear of her Mommy had been transferred to her. Annie’s own heart began to speed up. She knew something was not right. For the first time in her existence she felt fear. She no longer felt secure, safe, or protected.
And then it happened. An intense moment of pain. Her cry was silent. No one heard her. Annie writhed in pain. She attempted to pull away from the pain. She tried to grasp her Mommy but the pain just grew exponentially. The sound of her own heart had accelerated to such a rapid pace that it seemed like one continuous thump. She thought her heart would explode. The pain was more than she could bear. She screamed one last time, hoping her Mommy would save her. And once more, no one heard Annie.
And then it stopped………..
The thump was gone. The sounds were gone. The feeling was gone. No more. Annie was gone. Her body was limp… bleeding… lifeless… apart…
Annie’s Mommy lay there, weeping as the procedure continued. For an instant she almost thought she heard her little baby crying. The physical pain Annie’s Mommy felt was dwarfed by the emotional trauma and guilt she was enduring. What had she done? Why had she done this? The precious life inside her was gone… forever… never to be restored.
Just as quickly as all had stopped for Annie, God’s little one instantly found herself in the presence of the Author of Life. Annie’s delicate rosy cheeks were wet with the tears of loss. Her life inside her Mommy was over… but her eternal life had just begun. The dreams she’d had were not to be. The joy she would bring to her parents would not occur. The cure that God had desired for her to bring to the world was lost — and many more would die because of her own death. As she thought of her Mommy and Daddy, whom she had never met, her body quivered with emotion and the tears continued to flow.
But as Annie looked up, she saw the face of a Glorious Man, and His voice said, “Come to me little child.” As Jesus spoke, He stooped down and wiped Annie’s tears dry, and as He did, Annie felt the embrace that she had dreamt of so often. She knew she was now safe, secure, forever.
“Oh that you would choose life…” Deuteronomy 30:18
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalms 139:13, 15-16
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” Psalms 127:3
America is a mess. The world is in even greater turmoil. If one is a prognosticator, the outlook for the future is less than favorable.
An honest assessment of our nation would leave any young person discouraged and depressed. Bankrupt is the word that might best describe our current status in these areas and so many more:
As someone who is the father of two millennial young men, I look at the condition of our nation, our communities, and our families, and there is only one place I can go to ascribe blame.
Yes, my generation, and perhaps those before, are accountable for the drastic decline in the bankrupt conditions we are grappling with today. Our focus, our attention, and our priorities shifted little by little, year after year, decade after decade. And this slight change of direction over the years has veered us of course from much that is good, pure, and God-honoring.
It’s possible that many of us in my generation are beginning to see the errors of our ways, and we are seeking to acknowledge before God Almighty, and a searching world, that we have wronged Him. But as we have wronged our Creator, we have inadvertently wronged our posterity.
But, while I may have run my leg of this ongoing relay race poorly, and while I may have even dropped the baton I was carrying, as I pick it up and hand it off to the next generation of millennials, there is only one way that this new generation can run a better race than their forefathers, and have hope for their own future.
That hope is in change. And the hope I am referring to is not in some change in a political message. Or a social justice message. Or an environmental message. Or even in a message of tolerance.
Rather, the hope for this next generation is in God, the One who has never stumbled, never faltered, and never wavered. Consider what the Psalmist had to say about the hope for each new generation, including millennials:
“So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors— stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.” Psalms 78:7-8
Yes, my generation was, and perhaps still is, stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful. We have refused to give our hearts entirely to God, being lured into many “good” things, but perhaps not the best. But if we are honest, we may have also been lured into many bad things as well.
But lest any of you millennials begin to pile on the criticism of your parents and forefathers, I caution you to consider that the same temptations and struggles that we have experienced will be presented to you as well. A foolish response would conclude that “I can stand; or I will withstand, the temptations that derailed my fathers.”
But God warns, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” A common thread that binds all generations to each other are the frailties, the struggles, and the failures that each of us experiences. We are all infected with a spiritual virus that, if left untreated, will always result in national, cultural, moral, and individual spiritual bankruptcy.
But there is hope by returning to God.
Perhaps that sounds trite, so just what does a life that “returns to God” look like? Does that person put on the attire of a monk or nun, and then retreat to a secluded corner of the earth somewhere? Or is it possible to have a fully engaged, productive, and exciting life, while still returning to God?
Yes, Yes, and Yes again!
Life will never be experienced to its fullest and it will never truly be fulfilling until a person embraces God fully. To embrace God though, it may require you and me to change our behavior, our priorities, and our values. So here’s a quick list of some things that will characterize a person who is embracing God:
Bible — this will become the most important Book in your life and you will seek after it like a thirsty man seeks water. So a life that returns to God will read the Bible, everyday, for the rest of his life. And read it a lot.
Pray — you and I will communicate with God many times daily, sharing our deepest secrets, struggles, needs and victories, just as we would our closest friend.
Repent — as we fail God, falling short of His clear standard, we will promptly acknowledge our sin, and in a spirit of humility and sorrow, repent of our transgressions to God, because of the forgiveness that is offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son.
Return — When we repent, we will return to the top of this list and begin reading and praying again.
Serve — Jesus taught, both in word and deed, that the greatest among us would be a servant. So one of God’s way to the hearts of men is through service. Ask God to soften your heart, seek humility, and then walk through the doors God opens as you begin to live the life of a servant. You will be amazed at the abundant opportunities that are all around you to demonstrate the heart of Jesus via service.
Glorify — man’s chief aim and purpose is to glorify God. That is what you and I were created to do. While this may seem like a vague purpose, if you begin to meditate on just what this means, and find how you can do so via God’s Word, God will begin to quicken your mind to the unlimited ways in which you can glorify the One who has given you the breath of life, and everything else you have. Remember, “whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31
So as you consider the many bankruptcies confronting you and me, “let’s not get tired of doing what is good.” We will all be judged individually, regardless of what an entire nation is doing. The old, godly way is the one that will lead to true fulfillment in life, and it’s the only one that offers peace in the midst of the storms surrounding us.
I pray that you will grab the baton, and run the race, in a way that you will look back and know that God is pleased. In so doing, you will be assured of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And the eternity ahead, will be one beyond your wildest imaginations!
“This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’” Jeremiah 6:16
“Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young…” Ecclesiastes 12:6
I was recently reading an email from a friend of mine who was warning about the threat of Islam in America. It caught my attention because for many years I too warned folks about the threat of radical Islam. In fact, following an attack by a deranged Muslim in Chattanooga a few years ago, I personally organized an event that featured a prominent international expert on Islam. That event drew over 400 individuals, garnered plenty of media attention and as you can imagine, created a fair amount of controversy as well.
My friend’s email went on to warn that “the hand writing is on the wall” with regard to the Islamist incursion into America’s government. While I don’t disagree with the assessment in general, the “hand writing on the wall” took my mind to a verse I read a few days ago. Jesus was speaking with His disciples when He shared this truth:
“…You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present times.” Luke 12:56
It’s likely many Americans are well versed in interpreting the dozens of warning signs that have been apparent for decades now in our nation. We see the threat of radical Islam, the pending repercussions of an exploding debt, the impact of a crumbling moral decline, the results of a failing educational system, along with the too many other obvious threats to mention here. And these threats are all real, without question.
But these threats, are merely signs of a much greater storm that is brewing — an eternal one. While the aforementioned threats pose great danger to the future of a nation, and they have no doubt awakened the passion and activism of many to expose and defeat them, I question whether there are some greater signs, of eternal consequence, that we are missing or perhaps ignoring?
I don’t assume that everyone who might read these thoughts will embrace the Bible, but I would venture to guess that many do. So if this is true, I’m also reminded of the verse that asserts, “What does it profit a man if he gains the world but loses his soul?” Perhaps an amplification of this verse (which I believe is true based on numerous other passages) could be “What does it profit a man if he gains a nation, but loses the souls of his fellow citizens?”
As real as the threat of radical Islam is to our nation, the truth is that each Muslim has a soul. God loves every one of them. And God’s Son Jesus died for each Muslim. For that matter, He died for each of us. So as we may warn about the ideology of radical Islam, and its questionable history, (of which I am quite familiar), there is a greater sign that I believe Jesus was referencing when He warned His disciples. (By the way, I’m reminded of a radical Jew who went about persecuting and killing Christians, until Jesus transformed his life and he became one of the most widely read authors in the New Testament, who we know as the Apostle Paul.)
There is nothing bad about being informed about today’s highs and tonight’s lows when it comes to our weather. But the greatest value of forecasts is when a tornado or hurricane is bearing down on your home. At that point, having the most relevant info to protect against such a storm, is of great value.
Likewise, there is a spiritual storm brewing. The eternal implications vastly exceed the temporal impact of the myriad of issues, many of them good, that can distract us from one day to the next. But the truth is that the battle that is raging is for “all the marbles” and those “marbles” are the souls of men and women, not merely the future of a nation.
I do not share these thoughts to judge or convict anyone who might read this, as they are written to me as much as to anyone else. These are thoughts I have been thinking through for some time.
Someday each of us will stand before our Creator to answer for the use of our time, treasure and talent. Personally I must confess I’ve misused all three of these over the years. So I have wondered if attempts to save a nation, will be impressive to God, or will He ask me and you, a different set of questions?
What about your neighbor? Did you love him/her? Did you share My truths with him? Did you reach out to that one that you disagree with, but I died for? Did you show him the love My Son expressed towards Him? Did you love your enemies (as I instructed you to)? Did you forgive your enemies, as Stephen did when he was being stoned to death by his enemies?
Only you can weigh whether these questions are valid. Only you can evaluate what you believe to be the pressing “signs of the times” to which Jesus alluded. But as you consider these thoughts, and evaluate the signs, I would encourage you to read the entire chapter of Luke 12 so as to gain the context within which Jesus warned His disciples about the “signs of the times.” For me it was instructive to better understand just what Jesus was discussing.
I look forward to any thoughts you might share as you consider my thoughts and this verse. And may we all be like the sons of Issachar who we are told were men who “understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” (I Chronicles 12:32)
The election season is over. For some voters, going to the polls was merely a civic duty. For others voting was a matter of stewardship, understanding that God gives us this American privilege, and we will be held accountable for every vote we cast.
But my real focus of this article is not on voters, but rather it’s a message to the newly elected (or re-elected) officials.
God has given me the opportunity (and sobering responsibility) to meet and get to know dozens of politicians, from councilmen to several Presidential candidates. While I’m no longer active in political endeavors, many of these friends or acquaintances were elected to office this last cycle. These offices range from school board members to US Senators, and many offices in between.
So with this as a backdrop, the following verse jumped out at me this week from the book of Daniel:
“For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” Daniel 4:17
The Instruction Manual
The book of Daniel is the instruction manual on how Christians in government should behave. Daniel also illustrates to believers how we should respond to government, particularly adversarial ones.
As we read this manual, for guidance both in civics and governance, it’s important to understand that the government officials we are introduced to in Daniel are both followers of (the one true) God, as well as pagans (followers of someone or something other than the one true God). In addition to Daniel, there are many other books and passages in the Bible that offer insights into God’s view of government officials, and their role in serving Him.
God Elevates Both Believers and Unbelievers to Government
This is the first principle that each recently elected government official should understand. Regardless of whether you believe in and follow God, or not, it is God that has given you the victory you are celebrating. It’s not the voters. It’s Him. Sure, the voters all cast a vote, some for you and some against you.
But ascribing your victory to voters is akin to thanking a courier who hands you the keys to your new car, that your rich uncle just bought for you. Your uncle deserves the acknowledgement and thanks, not the courier.
God “gives them (kingdoms) to anyone he chooses — even to the lowliest of people” affirms this principle. So whether you were elected the county dog catcher, or the President of the United States, God has lent you the office to test your stewardship. That’s not only an awesome opportunity, but it’s more importantly a sobering responsibility. You will be held accountable, not merely by the voters, but more importantly by God Almighty.
God is Testing Your Humility (or Pride)
In Daniel, we read about the story of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and a powerful ruler of his day. But with that power, we also see a man who grew very proud. We read in Daniel 4:30 these words:
“As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’” (Daniel 4:30)
If ever there was a man who embodied the spirit of the “self-made” man, King Nebuchadnezzar was that man. Note how his power led to pride. (And we’ll find out in our next principle, what the king’s pride led to.)
It’s a very difficult task to resist the temptation of pride. Power and pride seem to go hand and hand. So as someone is elevated to a position of power, who was a “no one” or perhaps a “lesser one” before his election, it’s so easy to become prideful in that new found position. A politician can easily look at himself as important. As special. As above others. As privileged. As deserving.
But all those attitudes are not only false, they are Pride whispering lies to us. It’s incumbent on you as an elected official to resist such temptations, and rebuke those attitudes. But if you fail this test, you will soon experience the warning from Proverbs 16:18 where we’re told:
“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”
How many politicians do you know that seem to struggle with pride? If we’re all honest though, this is a sin many of us have succumbed to in our own lives. So Mr/Ms Politician, resist this huge temptation that comes to all of us, but particularly those with power. If you don’t, you may find yourself experiencing the next principle.
Pride Leads to Bad Stuff
I suppose I could have been more “sophisticated” in describing this principle, but “bad stuff” really is the result of Pride in the life of an elected official. The prophet Daniel, who was also a high government official in King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, warned the King of what would occur if he took credit for “his” achievements versus ascribing any success to God. Note Daniel’s warning:
“You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses… King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.” (Daniel 4:25, 27)
Sadly though, this is what occurred when Nebuchadnezzar refused to heed God’s warning, spoken through Daniel:
“…A voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’” (Daniel 4:31-32)
What a great fall King Nebuchadnezzar experienced! From the height of world power, to the lowliness of an animal — simply because he allowed the spirit of pride to rule in his life.
It’s uncanny, but should not be surprising, that 600 years later, Jesus, the Son of the Voice from heaven who spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, reminded us again of the repercussions of pride in our lives:
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
So be sure of this elected official. Pride will tempt you, but you can resist it in your live, and as you do, and take the less travelled path of humility, God will exalt you, according to Jesus, God’s Son.
Nebuchadnezzar’s own life is a reflection of this reality for when the king finally humbled himself and acknowledged the One who had exalted him to begin with, this is what the king had to say:
“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.” (Daniel 4:34, 36-37)
We’ve all heard of the “servant leadership” principle. It’s a teaching that’s hip these days, and often promoted in corporate entities. But long before motivational coaches latched onto this truth, Jesus had this to say about the role servant leadership should play in all of our lives, including elected officials:
“But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27)
Having been around elected officials for many, many years now, I have seen a spirit that is often anything but “servant leadership.” The head tables, the honored seats, and the best of everything is always reserved for politicians. And yet, the elite status most politicians enjoy is entirely at odds with their self-assigned title of “servants of the people.”
So if you were just elected and want to be different and break the political mold, what if you were to truly embrace the idea of “servant leadership” in your elected role? Perhaps one antidote against the pride that will lead to destruction and fall, is to simply commit oneself to truly being a servant in practice versus simply in words.
There are at least two reasons to do so. The first is because Jesus modeled such leadership and what better person to pattern our lives after than the Son of God? But there is another reason, and it has to do with future rewards:
“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
God’s Elevating of An Individual Does NOT Suggest He Endorses That Individual
We often misunderstand God’s actions and choices, assuming that because He places certain individuals in positions of authority, that God must then endorse such an individual. This fallacy has been a huge stumbling block for Christians, particularly over the last couple years. But this could not be further from the truth, as taught throughout Scripture.
God elevates individuals to positions of authority for several reasons including 1) to achieve God’s greater Plan, 2) to test that individual, 3) to punish, test, or refine those who are under the ruler’s authority, or some other purposes. We cannot always be certain of God’s reasons, but we can know this:
“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
We also know that at times God will even elevate evil or immoral rulers to achieve His greater Plan. But when that Plan is achieved, God will discard the ruler, when he does not turn to God and acknowledge His sovereignty. The examples of the numerous kings of Judah and Israel in the Old Testament are an affirmation of this principle, as God used both good and evil kings to continue to advance His objectives. But as soon as God finished with an immoral ruler, God always discarded him.
So the lesson any elected official should learn from this truth, is that God’s selection of you for the office you now hold, is not necessarily an endorsement of you, your political solutions, ambitions, or even your character. Rather, He has placed you there for His purposes. So it’s incumbent on every elected official to ask these questions:
“Why did God elevate me? What does He want to achieve through me? How can I best serve God in this capacity? Am I ready to give account to Him for my actions in my current position?”
All these questions require one particular attitude which we referenced earlier: Humility.
In closing, I trust as you assume the new office or term, which you have been given for a brief moment, that you will ponder these truths from God’s Word. I trust you will acknowledge Whom it is that elevated you, that you will remain humble, that you will truly model servant leadership, and that you will never assume that God endorses all you do, simply because He has granted you this position of authority.
Remember what Jesus said to Pilate when He, as the Son of God, stood before the government official who had been lent the power of life or death:
“Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11)
So if your authority is given to you by God Himself, then this should be your response:
“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Blessings to you as you move into what has often been portrayed as “The Swamp.” But in reality, it may be your greatest opportunity and responsibility to:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
(If you know an elected official, and agree with this message, would you forward this to him/her?)
First, let me say that I’m a big sinner. I struggle with sin. My daily battles are not engaging with some jihadi terrorists half-way around the world. But the battles I face are as real, and in some regards even more consequential. Without a doubt, our troops are engaged in many physical life and death encounters, with some really bad guys. But if you’re alive and breathing, you’ll acknowledge that you, like me, are engaged in very real spiritual battles every day… oftentimes many, many times each day. And the consequences of these battles are eternal in nature. Think about that for a minute.
The struggles you face today, tomorrow and next week, and how you respond to them, will have eternal consequences! As in forever!
When I thought about writing this article, I struggled to do so, lest anyone believe I am holding myself out as some kind of spiritual guru or example. The truth is, I’m the exact opposite. If you could spend a day or two in my shoes, you’d see why I completely identify with the Apostle Paul when he exclaimed that he was “the chief of sinners.” If you doubt me, just ask my wife.
It’s because of the reality that I struggle with sin, that in 2016 I took up the challenge to read through the Bible in a year. I have read the Bible off and on since I was a kid. Sometimes that meant reading through the Bible in a year. But typically it meant reading a few verses or chapters here and there, for a few days or weeks. But it was seldom structured or consistent, and never permanent.
But when I took up the challenge to read through the Bible in 2016, I did it with others in our church. I completed the “Bible in a Year” Plan on schedule and decided to do it again in 2017. But as I began, now two years ago, I recalled the example of my grandfather.
🔹My Grandfather’s Example
When Oscar Werner turned 50, he set a goal of reading through the Bible four times a year so that when he was 75 he would finish reading the Bible 100 times. He met his goal and continued that same schedule until he died in his 80’s. I wrote an article about his story which you can read on my blog. It’s entitled “The Wisdom of the Ages: The Example of My Grandfather“.
So as I began reading through the Bible again in 2017, I began to double or triple up my readings each day. I realized that doing so was actually quite easy. I enjoyed it and was also challenged by the increased amount of time in God’s Word.
Four and a half months into 2017, I completed reading the entire Bible. And it was such a joy to do so. With this renewed love for God’s Word, I felt I needed more. So I found a reading program via my Bible app that would take me through the Bible in 90 days. I set out to do that. In essence this was the same schedule that my grandfather had embarked on 75 years earlier.
But 44 days later, I completed reading through the Bible again. I was impacted, and inspired. When the Bible says that it is “alive and sharper than any two edged sword” I could testify to this truth. I was being convicted and challenged over and over, day after day, in such a meaningful manner. At the same time, my thoughts and philosophy on a host of matters were being changed, dramatically, as I sought to conform them to God’s Word! (That’s a whole separate story.)
So I continued on my reading program, starting on my third time through the Bible in June 2017. As the weeks ticked by, I continued to ingest God’s Word at an ever increasing rate. 18 days. 21 days. 27 days… and on and on. By the end of 2017, I completed reading through the Bible ten times, and nine of those times were in a little over seven months.
Truthfully, I was addicted… in a good way. I started 2018 with a continued fervor to devour the Word. It had become the single most important activity in my life each day and something I eagerly anticipated.
Walking. Waiting in line. Traveling on a plane. Riding in a car (using the audio option). Hiking in Nepal under the shadows of the Himalayas. Whenever I had time where I was not engaged with someone or something else, I found myself continuously opening my Bible app and getting some more “time in the Word.” It replaced my love for music and talk radio.
So as I write this, a few days before Christmas 2018, I just completed my 17th time through God’s Word in 2018 — 27 times in 2 years.
Perhaps the most exciting thing for me though has been to see my wife become consumed with this same passion, as she also completed reading both the entire Bible as well as the New Testament multiple times in 2018, and has now started the 90 Day Plan.
🔹My Challenge to You
Again, I want to reiterate that I don’t share this to bring any focus to me. The fact is I’ve had this article written for months and have hesitated to share it lest it be misunderstood.
Truthfully, I share this for one reason. It’s the same reason I believe that my grandfather allowed his family to know about the goal he had set: to inspire and challenge others to do the same… to get into God’s Word. Oscar Werner knew that if his family would follow his example, we would find the answers to life’s deepest questions, and most difficult struggles.
So like my grandfather inspired me, I want to inspire you to get into the Bible.
No, I’m not suggesting that you read 2-3 hours a day, although some day I hope you will. Rather, I want to challenge you to simply begin reading consistently through the Bible, every day, in a structured manner. Never miss it. Set a reminder if you must.
Every significant habit, begins with a simple decision.
When a person is suffering from a debilitating disease, oftentimes the only cure might be a blood transfusion. Their own diseased blood must be replaced with new, fresh, pure blood. Likewise, we as humans are diseased. Our nature is sinful. Our thoughts are impure. And our hearts are unrighteous. And only through a daily transfusion of God’s Word, can we ever hope to live a life of humility, repentance and victory through Christ’s strength.
So I challenge you to get into the Word. Start today. And if you do, or are already doing so, I’d love to know that you do. In fact, let’s do it together!
Finally, as a result of my time in the Word over the last couple years, the following verse summarizes this season in my life:
💡 “Let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully…” Ezekiel 3:10
I hope you will allow God’s Words to sink deep into your own heart as well.
Let’s make 2019 the Year of the Bible. Will you do so?
💡 “When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.” Jeremiah 15:16
Here are my reading suggestions, but they are simply what work for me:
Find “Read Through the Bible” Plan (It’s a one year plan)
Click “Start Plan”
My favorite version is the New Living Translation (NLT). Not only is it in modern vocabulary, but it has a great Audio option.
I both read (with eyes) and listen (with my ears) via the Bible App. Even when I’m reading with my eyes, I have the audio playing, so I can see and hear simultaneously. It helps me to better understand and retain what I’m reading.
Regarding the “Audio” option, it’s pretty much all I listen to anymore when I’m driving, walking/exercising, etc. It connects well with any Bluetooth device. Also, the NLT audio is by far the most pleasant to listen to, in my opinion. It also includes dramatization where various voices are used to “act out” the stories in the Gospels and Acts.
I recommend you Register with “You Version” so you can track your Bible reading, interact with friends and so much more. If you do, please send me a friend request so we can encourage each other via the app.
If you start on this journey, and have any questions whatsoever, please reach out to me. There’s nothing more important to me than encouraging others to read the Bible. So if I can help in any way, including questions or problems with the Bible app, please let me know.