A Personal Reading Journey

This post will vary from my normal format of trying to spend as much time in the text of God’s word as possible. I simply wanted to share a few observations from a recent experience. Rest assured, future posts will return to my normal content.

I have loved to read for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, we lived near a library. In the summer I would make many trips and read many books. I could read for hours at a time.

At the beginning of this year I decided I wanted to return to taking some time for reading. So, I went to the nearby library and checked out some books. But, before I got started a thought dawned on me. I had never read the Bible. Now, obviously I have read parts of it and probably at one point or another have read all of it. But, I had never sat down with the goal in mind of reading through the Bible like I read through a novel. When I get into a novel, I read it every chance I get. I may not put it down for hours. I may read late into the night. But, I had never attempted to read through the Bible with that kind of passion and intensity.

So, I decided to set aside the books I had checked out of the library and read only my Bible. I then decided to take all but one of the games off my phone. I was trying to remove as many distractions as possible. I also determined that all those times that I would normally just surf the net or play games I would turn into opportunities to read the Bible.

I surprised myself with what I accomplished. I finished reading the New Testament in 19 days. Then, I completed the Old Testament in the next 70 days. So, all total, I completed reading the entire Bible in about 90 days. This was an amazing experience for me. I want to share a few personal observations.

  • The Bible is an amazing and powerful story to read

This may seem like a simple observation, but reading the Bible in such  a short period of time was a totally unique experience for me. Reading the four gospels one right after another helped to unify the stories told in several of the gospels. Hearing the teachings of Jesus over and over through the gospels reinforced the messages Jesus taught to his disciples and others of His day. These are messages and life lessons that we still need to learn and apply today. Picturing the events of Him as He was betrayed and crucified in each of the four gospels was powerful. To think that God in human form submitted Himself to die for our sins is an amazing story.  Then to read the book Acts and see the faith of the apostles after the events of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension put an interesting perspective on the events of the early church. Reading the letters to churches immediately after hearing the stories of the early church made it easier to think about the new faith of the Christians to whom the letters were written. The images of Paul’s persecution in his preaching journeys was fresh in mind as I listened to the letters he wrote to these Christians whose faith was being challenged both from within and without.

The story of the Old Testament and God’s people prior to the time of Christ was also quite interesting. People often describe God as a God of wrath and vengeance in the Old Testament. But when I read through the whole story what stood out to me is that God has always been a patient and gracious God. He has always wanted people to have time, opportunity, and the will to change. Only when He had exhausted every attempt to change their hearts did He finally bring devastating judgement on those who simply refused to serve and honor Him.

  • Our prayers should be better

I was impressed with frequency with which prayers are recorded in the Bible When we think about prayers in the Bible we often think primarily about the book of Psalms, but there are prayers recorded in many books of the Bible: prayers of kings, prayers of prophets, prayers of priests, prayers of ordinary people, prayers of men, prayers of women.

I was also impressed with the nature of the prayers. So many times our prayers are treated more like an interference in our lives and we just want to rush through them and get back to our lives. The prayers in the Bible are expressive of praise, honor, and glory to God. Many of the prayers are lengthy. Jesus was said to have spent all night in prayer. Many of the them do nothing but praise God. Often prayers are prayers of repentance, but not merely generic (“forgive me if I sinned”) prayers of forgiveness, but expressions of specific guilt and deep regret. And the prayers of thanksgiving are often lengthy and descriptive in thanking God for the riches of his grace.

  • Reading is not studying

While we certainly need to read, there were many places where I want to go back and dig deeper. The Bible is so full of information that one simple read through will not begin to scratch the surface of the rich treasures of knowledge stored in its pages. This experience has rekindled my desire to get back into God’s Book, study further, and have a better understanding of what He is trying to tell us. There is a reason He recorded and preserved these messages.

  • Just reading caused me to think about some behaviors

As I read the story of God’s people and His desire for them to be righteous, I could not help but think about some of my own actions that might not be in line with that. How can I read God’s word and then turn around and watch and support TV and movies that clearly undermine the principles of God’s word and His righteousness? How can I try to fill my mind with the messages of His Word and then listen to music that glorifies lifestyles and attitudes that are so contrary to what He is telling me through these stories?

  • I could read more and do better

While I am thrilled about having the opportunity to read God’s word in such a short period of time, I also know I fell short at times and didn’t always use time wisely during this stretch. I pray that this experience will only spur me to read more, study more, and learn more because there is no more important task in our lives than to understand and apply God’s word in every aspect of our life.

Dan Fontenot

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Desire The Pure Milk Of The Word

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, [1 Peter 2:1-2 NKJV]”

Most people who profess to be Christians talk about wanting to grow in spiritual and moral conduct and thought. Many excuses are given for why we can’t change our habits and seem to be trapped in the same bad habits year after year. Yet, Peter provides the formula for “laying aside” the bad habits from the world: Desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”

If person wants to lose weight or improve their health, one of the first things they need to do is change their eating habits. If a person says they want to lose weight, but can’t understand why they don’t, you might ask what they are eating. If they respond with, “My normal menu is three slices of bacon, four eggs, biscuits and gravy for breakfast; double cheeseburger with bacon, large fries, and extra large non-diet soda for lunch; and steak, loaded baked potato, and a large slice of apple pie a la mode for dessert for dinner; and a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce for before bed for a snack.” Any logical thinking person would say, “You can’t lose weight eating like that!”

So, if we can understand that our bodies need a certain nutrition to change our weight or health, why can’t we understand that our mind and spirit need a special kind of nutrition to become what God wants us to be.

Consider some additional passages:

  • “The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul; [Psalms 19:7 NKJV]” – To “convert” is to “turn back or restore.” If we want to return our soul to what God desires, we need to spend some time with the law of the Lord.
  • “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. [Psalms 119:9 NKJV]” – Young people constantly find service to the Lord challenging. What can help them overcome these challenges and temptations? Spending time in the word of God.
  • “For the commandment [is] a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction [are] the way of life, To keep you from the evil woman, From the flattering tongue of a seductress. [Proverbs 6:23-24 NKJV]” – How many sexual sins could be avoided if people would spend time in the counsel of God’s word?
  • “You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they [are] ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies [are] my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, Because I keep Your precepts. [Psalms 119:98-100 NKJV]” – Where do we get the wisdom to change who we are and how we live? From the commandments, testimonies, and precepts of God.

So, which are we filling are minds with? The commandments and word of God or movies, TV shows, books, etc. that…

  • Mock God and serving Him.
  • That undermine the principles of His word by teaching that immorality is OK and promote conduct that God would condemn.
  • That are filled with language we should be ashamed of and that God would certainly not approve.

There are only so many hours in a day. If we spending all of our time filling our minds with the things that make us spiritually fat and lazy, how can we find the time to nurture our mind and spirit with the God’s word to help us become the person God wants us to become.

Which spiritual diet will you choose?

Dan Fontenot
(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

Blessed Is He Who Reads

“Blessed [is] he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time [is] near. [Revelation 1:3 NKJV]”

The admonition in this passage refers specifically to the book of Revelation and those to whom the letter was written. However, throughout the Bible we see an emphasis on reading God’s word and the impact of reading God’s word in the lives of those who take the time to read it.

  • One of the first things Moses did after coming down from the mountain was read God’s covenant to the Israelites. – “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.’ [Exodus 24:7 NKJV]”
  • Moses emphasized to the people that once they had a king, the king should always keep a copy of the law handy and read it. – “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that [are] around me,’ … Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from [the one] before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment [to] the right hand or [to] the left, and that he may prolong [his] days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. [Deuteronomy 17:14, 18-20 NKJV]”
  • They were commanded to read the law publicly every seven years at the feat of Tabernacles. – “And Moses commanded them, saying: ‘At the end of [every] seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing.’ [Deuteronomy 31:10-11 NKJV]”
  • Joshua made a point to read the law to the people once they entered Canaan. – “And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them. [Joshua 8:34-35 NKJV]”
  • The reading of the Law during King Josiah’s reign led to the observance of the Passover as it had not been observed since the days of the judges. – “Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. … Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read it before the king. Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. [2 Kings 22:8, 10-11 NKJV] … The king went up to the house of the LORD with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem–the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD. … Then the king commanded all the people, saying, ‘Keep the Passover to the LORD your God, as [it is] written in this Book of the Covenant.’ Such a Passover surely had never been held since the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. [2 Kings 23:2, 21-22 NKJV]”
  • After returning to the land after 70 years of captivity, Ezra read the Law to the people. – “Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that [was] in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who [could] hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that [was] in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people [were attentive] to the Book of the Law. [Nehemiah 8:1-3 NKJV]”

But what about in the New Testament? Is there any emphasis on reading there?

  • In the book of Matthew alone, we have at least six times where Jesus asked the scribes and Pharisees and those who questioned him, “Have you not read?” (Mat. 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31) He expected them to have read the word and have a working knowledge of it. And this was in a day and time where the written word was not readily available as it is today.
  • In Acts 8, the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading and it led to his salvation: “The place in the Scripture which he read was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth.’ [Acts 8:32 NKJV]”
  • In Acts 15, the Apostles expressed that they expected to Jews to be familiar with the Law because it was supposed to be read in the synagogues on the Sabbath: “For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath. [Acts 15:21 NKJV]”
  • Paul wrote his epistles with the expectation that they would be read:
    • “…by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, [Ephesians 3:4 NKJV]”
    • “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the [epistle] from Laodicea. [Colossians 4:16 NKJV]”
    • “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren. [1 Thessalonians 5:27 NKJV]”

God has always delivered His word with the expectation that it be read, heard, and obeyed.

  • Shouldn’t we be reading and listening to what God has to say?
  • Shouldn’t we be ashamed when we don’t read it instead of bragging when we do?
  • Shouldn’t reading God’s word be our norm instead of the unusual thing we do occasionally when it’s convenient?

A final thought: How do we know what impact God’s word can have in our lives if we never open it and read it?

Dan Fontenot

(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)