Friday, January 11, 2013

Bible Reading Plans

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Bible reading plans, good emotions do not come to mind. Truth be told, though we know that all Scripture is inspired by God, some parts are definitely harder to get through than others (think Leviticus compared with Genesis).

However, muddling around and not really doing any Bible devotions and meditations is not good either. It would be better to have a crummy (if there is such a thing) Bible reading plan than to never pick up God’s Holy Word. After all, all Scripture equips us thoroughly for every good work (that includes Leviticus!). And every Christian wants to live a life pleasing to God.

So a friend introduced me to what I think is a very special Bible reading plan. It allows you to get through a lot of the Bible in a week (70 chapters, hopefully), but also diversifies your reading.

Here’s what I mean. This plan has ten lists, which you can bookmark yourself. You are supposed to read one chapter out of each list each day. The lists take you all over Scripture. For example,  one could be  reading simultaneously through Luke, Genesis, Galatians, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Proverbs, Ruth, Isaiah, and Acts all in the same day!

Not only does this allow you to work through significant portions of scripture in a week, but also helps you become not so leery about reading those heavily detailed descriptions about Levitical Law (important as they are!).

It also allows you to see connections between passages that you would have never seen or noticed before. It’s really quite amazing.

If you think that ten chapters a day sounds terrible, then first you could split up your readings into two sections (five chapters in the morning and five chapters at night), and second you should read the Bible to find out why ten chapters is not terrible at all!

Some people say their busy schedules don’t allow for long periods of reading the Bible. But I really don’t buy it. At the end of a long day, thirty minutes to an hour spent in the Word of your God is not too much to ask.

Reading ten chapters a day is, of course, not a law. But God does look at the heart. So if our lives are not comprised by the Word which meant so much to the early Church, to Peter, Paul, John, and Jesus, then there is a serious problem. The Spirit works through the Word, and that is one of the most exciting, heart inspiring things to comprehend. Think of how God will bless you when you take up and read (even if it's not using this Bible reading plan)!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Stop Trying to Believe in Your Belief!

Ever since I was young, up until I was 18 years old I tried to believe in my belief. Though I had been told in sermons to put my faith in Christ, I wondered if I really had.

Question upon question would pop into my mind: “I know I’m supposed to have faith, but what if I don’t?” “Have I really believed, and if so, how can I be sure?” “What if I’m not elect?”

I was in agony and agonizing. “What if? What then?” I would feel terrible for being so terribly unsure. I was not supposed to doubt! Why didn’t I feel saved? Why didn’t I feel loved? Why did I not feel anything at all?

Here was my problem: I hadn’t understood who Christ was. I hadn’t understood what Christ came to do. I hadn’t understood that the basis of my acceptance was Christ alone, and not whether I felt that I was accepted by Christ alone. After all those years, I was still trying to secure my salvation by wishy-washy emotions, by indecisive feelings.

What I didn’t realize was that Jesus had already secured my salvation. He had lived, he had died, he had risen, and he had ascended. He did not do all those things so that I would be unsure, uncertain, and unconfident.

He did these things so that I could be the most certain of all men, because my salvation did not rest on a feeling, it did not rest on my faith. It rested on something so much more secure, so much more safe. It rested on Him alone.

Faith is not interested with faith. Faith is consumed with the object upon which it rests. For years I had agonized over the faith I (maybe?) held rather than resting, clinging, and trusting to the object upon which it was meant to cling to all along.

I had wondered why I wasn’t feeling anything. Why didn’t I feel any love towards (or from) Christ? I knew I was a sinner, and I desired to be saved, but, I figured, there was nothing I could do to be sure about it.

But when I realized for the first time the beauty and simplicity of the gospel in putting a stop to all my pursuits at "feeling" it; when I realized that I didn't have to do anything, because everything had been done; when I realized that all answers really were yes and amen in Christ, something incredible happened.

When I realized that faith was not about faith resting on itself, I understood what it meant to have biblical faith. When I realized that my faith was not about feeling, I began to feel. I began to love Christ, because he could relieve me of my faith in my faith. He relieved me of the agony of my agonizing, and said to me: “You are weary; you are heavy burdened with your attempts at trying to feel my love, at wondering whether you've actually believed. Look to me! Look at what I have accomplished!”

I felt released from the heavy weight of my problems with doubt. God could forgive my sinful doubt. I didn’t have to worry. I could know he loved me because of what Jesus did, not because I "felt" like he loved me. All I needed was Christ, to cling to him, and to his life giving blood. I could say: “Jesus, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Imagine this: When freed from having to feel, I truly experienced what it was to be loved by God. He really could forgive my sin and doubt! Of that I could be sure, because of a surely finished work. I understood what it was to have a faith that rested solely on Christ, on the solid rock, rather than on a foundation of sand.

Christ came to put an end to all our pursuits at salvation. So stop trying to believe in your belief. Place your faith only and always on an unshakable foundation—the foundation of Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension—upon the message of the gospel--that your sins are forgiven, that you have rich robes of His righteousness laid over you, that God looks at you as an adopted son or daughter, despite how you feel.

Be taken and all consumed with Christ and your doubts about whether you've believed enough will no longer matter, because all that will matter are Christ's accomplishments on your behalf.