The Life-Changing, Life-Long Gift


It’s Christmas time! Well, almost. Here in the US, after our Thanksgiving Day, it seems most people turn their attention to Christmas. Music, decorations, and of course, gifts.

Interestingly, the best gift I ever received wasn’t really a gift—not in the sense of someone buying me something special and wrapping it in holiday paper or topping it with a bow. I didn’t receive it on December 25 either. In fact, it isn’t even something you receive. It’s something you do.

I imagine some people might be thinking of various giving activities that would be appropriate at Christmas time. Ways to help the needy, the less fortunate. Ways to bring Christmas to those in convalescent hospitals, to families of prisoners, to prisoners themselves.

These are all wonderful things, and they might well be life-changing to some degree, but the gift I received, or didn’t receive, wasn’t anything like that.

Rather, as I may have mentioned in this space before, I had a principal early in my teaching career at our Christian school, tell the entire staff that we ought to be spending time in the Bible every day since we were teaching the Bible.

Sure, yeah, of course. We all had Bible as our first subject of the day, and why wouldn’t we want to familiarize ourselves with the material we were teaching? It made perfect sense to me.

I also had a teacher friend who became a model for me. Some years earlier she had started the practice of reading through the Bible every year. By the time I discovered this, she’d been through the Bible, like ten times.

Wow! That seemed so . . . formidable, but also desirable. So I started out. I wish I could say it was easy sailing, but it wasn’t. I had starts and stops, frustration, even some boredom where I had to bring my wandering mind back from all the other things on my plate. I had guilt and questions about my motives, but slowly, bit by bit, I had the roots of a habit–a life-long, life-changing habit.

Now, all these years later, I can’t think of one other thing that has made a greater difference in my life. God’s Word simply has revolutionized the way I view the world.

I don’t know that my principal realized what a great gift he was giving. After all, the reasoning behind his statement to us was utilitarian–you can’t teach what you don’t know. But there’s a greater truth there–you can’t live what you don’t know, either. And you also can’t love Who you don’t know.

Simply put, the Bible shows me God.

Day in and day out, I see how God interacted with people in history–how He formed them, loved them, warned them, redeemed them. And oh yes, I see that all those recorded relationships are meant to inform me about my own relationship with God.

No greater gift.

I was reminded of this some years ago as I was driving home from church. Joni Earkson Tada had a short radio spot that aired on Sunday here in the LA area, and that week she talked about how she and her husband had been reading through the Bible in a year. She challenged her listeners to do the same.

How cool, I thought. Someday someone else is going to look back and say, Joni changed their life because she gave them the greatest, most life-changing gift of all.

The gift, of course, isn’t really the challenge. The gift is the doing. And the continuing to do.

My friend who had read the Bible at least ten times? She’s still at it. She’ll change things up once in a while to keep looking at the text anew. Sometimes she’ll read back to front or in a different version from her norm. But she’s there, day in and day out, meeting with God in the pages of His book.

How could spending that much time with God NOT change a person? What a great gift!

Apart from some minor editing, this article first appeared here in November 2012.

Published in: on November 27, 2017 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Bible Reading Challenge


256px-Northwest_Crown_Fire_ExperimentI started reading Scripture regularly when I was an adult. I taught at a Christian school which required each of us to teach Bible. During one of our morning faculty devotions our principal made a clear statement: we could not be giving to our students what we ourselves were not taking in. In other words, to be good at teaching the Bible, we actually had to read the Bible.

Imagine!

You’d think that would be self-evident, that we’d all know instinctively the truth of that statement, but I, for one, needed his push. Not that I proceeded perfectly. In fact, I didn’t know precisely how to go from there.

I’m not sure if it was because of his directive to us or not, but I talked with a teacher friend who was ten years my senior, and she told me that she read from Genesis through Revelation each year. I forget when she started, but she’d already racked up an impressive number of times through the Bible.

I’d read it once, for a class in college (except for the parts I skimmed). And of course there were the parts I’d memorized as a kid and the ones I’d read in church. But on my own? I’d made a couple stabs at it when I was younger. I remember being quite impressed with how interesting Genesis was, and even the beginning of Exodus. But inevitably, I’d stall out.

At last I had extrinsic motivation to read it through—my principal’s clear direction that I needed to know the Bible if I was to teach the Bible. And I had an example of someone who read the Bible in a year and kept coming back to do it over and over. In other words, for the first time, I wanted to do this and believed it was doable.

I admit, I didn’t find establishing a routine of reading the Bible to be easy. I tried my friend’s method—three chapters a day on week days, and five on weekends, I thought. (I don’t have that right, but that’s what I remembered when I was starting out).

Eventually, after some struggles, I decided, I was not my friend, who is an incredibly disciplined woman. I decided I needed a plan that worked for me, and whether I finished in a year or a year and a half or two years, was immaterial. This was not a race. What was important was that I read the Bible.

Slowly things got better. I understood more, but also asked more questions. I began to see how one passage echoed another, how one writer quoted from others, and how all pointed to Jesus Christ.

I also had incredibly great Bible teaching at my church, and I learned a lot about what goes into studying Scripture.

All that to say, I needed someone to tell me reading the Bible was vital. So, I want to do that for you, whoever you are, reading this post.

Reading the Bible is vital. No, you may not be formally teaching Bible as I was, but you are informally teaching with your life. If you have kids, you’re teaching them. If you have neighbors, you’re teaching them. If you have colleagues, you’re teaching them. If you have friends, you’re teaching them. What we teach is made up of what we know and believe to be true. But to know something, we have to learn it.

When the people of Israel were told they should teach the Law to the next generation whenever they stood up, lay down, walked along the road—in other words, at all times—it was a given that they knew the Law.

Sadly, they didn’t follow through, and when one of the last kings of Judah determined he would fix up the temple, the priests discovered a copy of the Law. The king read it and learned that the people of Israel had broken their covenant with God, that He would bring on them the curses written in the Law. As a result, this young king humbled himself and went about changing the idolatrous culture of his nation.

The point here is that at some time, the generation who knew the Law stopped passing it on until it fell into obscurity. Perhaps they stopped passing it on because they stopped knowing what the Law said or believing that God’s word mattered.

Christians who declare the Bible to be true, can just as easily slide away from it if we don’t read it, study it, and pass it on.

The choice is ours, then. Will we decide to read the Bible or not?

Yes, we’re busy. And it’s nearly impossible to find a quiet place to read. And parts are hard to understand. Or are quite frankly boring. I mean, who wants to turn to a chapter of unpronounceable names for their source of inspiration?

But here’s the thing. We all find time for what we want to do. Have a favorite TV program? Play golf? Go shopping? And today, with smart phones and iPads and Kindle Fires and laptops, we have the Bible a click away. We can read Scripture any time.

The parts about temple measurements and sacrifices and dietary laws, skip until you want to read them. The key is to come up with a plan that will keep you reading. And eventually, sooner than you thought possible, you’ll be through the Bible and ready to start over again. Next time you might add in some of those chapters you skipped, and eventually you might find yourself studying them.

But not if you don’t start.

So here’s the challenge. Take a month and read a chapter a day, or two if you want, even three. Whatever you think you will actually follow through with and do. Start with Genesis. If you make it through one month, then maybe you’ll want to re-up and commit to a second month.

But not if you don’t start.

Reading God’s word regularly will only happen if you read God’s word on day one.

For those who already do read God’s word regularly, here’s a challenge for you as well. Repeat this challenge for at least two people, then pray for them.

Do you know how quickly the number multiplies if we pass on what we know to two people, and they in turn pass it on to two others? Imagine the power of God’s word multiplying like wild fire.

Published in: on July 3, 2014 at 5:52 pm  Comments (5)  
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The Life-Changing, Life-Long Gift


It’s Christmas time! Well, almost. Here in the US, after our Thanksgiving Day, it seems most people turn their attention to Christmas. Music, decorations, and of course, gifts.

Interestingly, the best gift I ever received wasn’t really a gift–not in the sense of someone buying me something special and wrapping it in holiday paper or topping it with a bow. I didn’t receive it on December 25 either. In fact, it isn’t even something you receive. It’s something you do.

I imagine some people might be thinking of various giving activities that would be appropriate at Christmas time. Ways to help the needy, the less fortunate. Ways to bring Christmas to those in convalescent hospitals, to families of prisoners, to prisoners themselves.

These are all wonderful things, and they might well be life-changing to some degree, but the gift I received, or didn’t receive, wasn’t anything like that.

Rather, as I may have mentioned in this space before, I had a principal early in my teaching career at our Christian school, tell the entire staff that we ought to be spending time in the Bible every day since we were teaching the Bible.

Sure, yeah, of course. We all had Bible as our first subject of the day, and why wouldn’t we want to familiarize ourselves with the material we were teaching? It made perfect sense to me.

I also had a teacher friend who became a model for me. Some years earlier she had started the practice of reading through the Bible every year. By the time I discovered this, she’d been through the Bible, like ten times.

Wow! That seemed so . . . formidable, but also desirable. So I started out. I wish I could say it was easy sailing, but it wasn’t. I had starts and stops, frustration, even some boredom where I had to bring my wandering mind back from all the other things on my plate. I had guilt and questions about my motives, but slowly, bit by bit, I had the roots of a habit–a life-long, life-changing habit.

Now, all these years later, I can’t think of one other thing that has made a greater difference in my life. God’s Word simply has revolutionized the way I view the world.

I don’t know that my principal realized what a great gift he was giving. After all, the reasoning behind his statement to us was utilitarian–you can’t teach what you don’t know. But there’s a greater truth there–you can’t live what you don’t know, either. And you also can’t love Who you don’t know.

Simply put, the Bible shows me God.

Day in and day out, I see how God interacted with people in history–how He formed them, loved them, warned them, redeemed them. And oh yes, I see that all those recorded relationships are meant to inform me about my own relationship with God.

No greater gift.

I was reminded of this on Sunday as I was driving home from church. Joni Earkson Tada has a short radio spot that airs on Sunday here in the LA area, and this week she talked about how she and her husband have been reading through the Bible in a year. She challenged her listeners to do the same.

How cool, I thought. Someday someone else is going to look back and say, Joni changed their life because she gave them the greatest, most life-changing gift of all.

The gift, of course, isn’t really the challenge. The gift is the doing. And the continuing to do.

My friend who had read the Bible at least ten times? She’s still at it. She’ll change things up once in a while to keep looking at the text anew. Sometimes she’ll read back to front or in a different version from her norm. But she’s there, day in and day out, meeting with God in the pages of His book.

How could spending that much time with God NOT change a person? What a great gift!

Published in: on November 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm  Comments (2)  
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