This March will mark my 11th year in full-time, vocational ministry. In 11 years, I've picked up on a few things. I’ve noticed that Christians tend to have predictable, cyclical behavior. For example, many Christians start the new year with two things:
- A Daniel fast
- A “Read the Entire Bible in a Year” reading plan.
Don’t believe me? Look at the search trends on Google:
Bible Reading Plan:
Note that these topics trend EXACTLY the same! It rockets up, yet crashes down after January!
I can hear some of you yelling: HOW IS THE DANIEL FAST DANGEROUS!?! Calm down, Shia LaBeouf. I wasn’t referring to the Daniel fast. I was referring to the Bible reading plan and here's why:
A few years ago at the beginning of the year, my home church wanted to do a "Read the Bible in a Year" reading plan. I was stoked and excited! For about one week, I was reading the Bible like a YouVersion-sponsored Olympic gold medalist! I was fast, efficient and methodical! I don’t remember what I read, but I know I felt accomplished reading it! One day as I started my reading, I got to the second verse and it happened: The Holy Spirit spoke to me! It was like pulling a hamstring at the start of the race because I was done! Couldn’t move forward, couldn’t keep going. I was a sobbing puddle of mess! I was only able to read five verses….yet the revelation the Holy Spirit was giving me from those five verses were so powerful and impactful! You might assume that I cut my reading and prayer time short, but that time with the Lord went longer than I expected! I must admit, like any card-holding Christian, I tried to get back on track with the reading plan the next day, but as I kept my heart open to the Holy Spirit, it happened again….and again…and again: The Lord would speak to me during my reading time. Eventually, I would find myself behind on the reading plan, yet I ended up encountering God. I learned that instead of planning my time with the Lord in ink, I would prearrange it in pencil and give the Holy Spirit liberty to erase my agenda to do something else.
Truth be told, I was hungrier for an encounter with Him more than accomplishing the goal of my reading plan. It was an easy trade in! After all, isn’t that why we read the Bible? To encounter the God of the Bible and to learn more about Him? Or do we read the Bible to stuff more knowledge into our cranium? Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 8:1 “while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church” (NLT) and he continues in verse 3 by saying that “the person who loves God is recognized by God.” (or “known by God” in the NIV). I probably should've stated this at the beginning of this article, but Daniel fasts and Bible reading plans are not bad things in and of themselves. However, when we read the Bible with a goal apart from knowing and encountering the God of the Bible, we no longer read out of our love for God. When knowledge or religious duty are valued over encountering God, we read for the habit/discipline/notch on the religious belt….and that will likely cause us to miss the true reward, which is an encounter with Him.
I want to encourage you to set time alone with the Lord regularly this year and when you do, anticipate encountering Him because He is longing to encounter you! If you are doing a Bible reading plan, set your plan in pencil and allow time for God to speak to you. Don't let the pressure of being on pace with your reading plan or with others rob you from meeting with God. If He does interrupt your reading, let Him! Sit back, bask in His presence and go with where He’s taking you! After all, isn't that why we read the Bible?
Last modified: February 1, 2018