Speedboat versus Glass-bottom Boat
By Dina Ellens
One of the best ways I’ve found for bringing God into my daily life is through reading the Bible. As a young Christian, I was fascinated by this verse: “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”1
Just think of it! God promises to fill our lives with His presence if we’ll commit to reading and keeping His Word. Someone once put it this way when he said, “The Bible is the only book that when you start reading it, the author shows up.”
I’ve found, though, that it’s important to make time so the author has a chance to show up regularly. I tried just reading whatever I opened up to in the Bible for a while, but that was kind of a hit-or-miss approach. That’s when I realized the value of having a Bible reading plan that gives me a daily goal to shoot for. There are lots of reading plans available online. I use one put together by Robert M’Cheyne in 1842.2 His plan makes it possible to read through the whole Bible in a year by reading four chapters a day.
People have different devotional styles, but what works for me is a “do it first” approach. First thing in the morning, I grab my coffee and find someplace quiet. I take several minutes to reflect on five or ten things I’m grateful for. Starting my day on a positive, praiseful note like this gets me on the right footing with God. I’ll then read from the Bible, following my reading plan. On mornings when I don’t have much time, I jot down the four chapters for that day. I have a Bible app on my phone, and since I use public transport, I use that time to read. I don’t always get to read all four chapters every day, but at least I have a goal in mind.
The danger with a reading plan, though, is that it can become a routine—just another thing to tick off on your to-do list. But if the goal is to have the author show up, that means taking time. Just reading a Bible chapter for the sake of getting through it can be compared to taking a speedboat across a lake. On the other hand, taking time to read slowly and reflect on what you’ve read is like taking a glass-bottomed boat across the same lake. It’s amazing what hidden treasures and beauties show up below the surface! Praying before I start to read is a good way to avoid the “speedboat” approach.
Another thing that I’ve found helpful when reading the Bible is to stop when something in the text grabs my attention and to highlight the verse. Then I use some questions to “interview” the Holy Spirit about that passage. The following questions are from the book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald Whitney:
- What does this passage say?
- What does this passage mean?
- What is God telling me?
- How am I strengthened and encouraged?
- Is there something I need to confess and repent of?
- How can I change so I can learn and grow?
- How does this apply to me? What will I do about it?
- What can I model and teach?
- What does God want me to share with someone?
When I take the time to think about the verses that speak to me, going through a few of the questions from the above list, I find that those verses tend to stay with me throughout the day. It’s definitely a whole lot better than thinking about the last TV show or movie I’ve seen.
King David said, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”3 That’s so true! On the days that I’ve taken away a fresh tidbit from God’s Word in the morning, I’m not so affected (shaken) by worrisome events the day might bring. Things that would otherwise have thrown me off, I tend to take more in stride. And that’s a good feeling.
In fact, that’s why I’m thankful for this reading routine. I feel that as I take more time in God’s Word, I’m growing closer to Jesus and, hopefully, becoming more like Him.