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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How Much Better To Get Wisdom Than Gold!

Proverbs 16:16 states: “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” (NKJV)

Over the last few days, I have been thinking about this very concept so it was interesting that it came up in my Bible study today. I have been examining the value placed on different things in our life based on the amount of time spent in each activity. With this on my mind it has been interesting to begin reading and studying Proverbs for some upcoming classes I am scheduled to teach. This is not the only reference to this concept in the book. Consider another:

“My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, [And] apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, [And] lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as [for] hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.” [Proverbs 2:1-5 NKJV]

People say they “treasure” the word of God, but consider…

  • Receive my words…Incline your ear to wisdom”: How can we receive the words of God’s wisdom if we rarely, if ever, open our Bibles to hear what God has to say. Inclining suggests putting forth effort to hear, not just hearing when it might be convenient or easy.
  • Apply your heart to understanding”: How many times have we heard someone say about a person, “Oh what they could be if they would just apply themselves?” Are we really working to understand God’s word and try to know what He wants us to know? Or are we satisfied just skimming by?
  • Cry out for discernment…lift up your voice for understanding”: Are we so eager to know the wisdom of God that we will cry out for help and lift up our voice to ask for guidance and counsel? Proverbs is filled with admonitions to heed the wisdom of the wise, but do we ask for help gaining that wisdom and knowledge?
  • Seek her as silversearch for her as for hidden treasures“: People go to seminars all the time or buy books to find out how to become wealthy or great leaders or successful in business. They will spend hours reading and listening because of the perceived value of the knowledge being imparted. How much do we value the wisdom of God. How much effort and time are we willing to put forth to gain God’s wisdom that he freely imparts!
  • Note that only when these attitudes are applied will wisdom come: “Then you will understand … and find …”. Sadly, some think that time alone will make them wise. But, it won’t. Only a diligent, determined effort to come to know the will of God will lead us to this wisdom.
  • Also, it is not just any wisdom we should seek: “…understand the fear of the Lord … find the knowledge of God”. Reading secular books and gaining secular wisdom is OK, but it is not the wisdom that provides eternal life and rewards.

But, what do we really treasure? Where is our time spent that shows our real desire?

  • I recently applied this concept to my own spare time. I found that when I had few spare minutes I would immediately turn to social media or the internet or to games on my phone. But, how often did I turn to the word of God? How often did I use that precious time to seek more understanding of God’s will?
  • Our society has unprecedented access to God’s word through the internet, mobile devices, etc. But, are we using that to seek God’s wisdom?
  • There is nothing inherently sinful about social media, games, or the internet. But, what are we seeking, crying out for?

Other verses in Proverbs challenge us to think about the value of wisdom over the things of this world:

  • “Happy [is] the man [who] finds wisdom, And the man [who] gains understanding; For her proceeds [are] better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. She [is] more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days [is] in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor. Her ways [are] ways of pleasantness, And all her paths [are] peace. She [is] a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy [are all] who retain her.” [Proverbs 3:13-18 NKJV]
  • “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [Therefore] get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you. Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, And the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, And when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she [is] your life.” [Proverbs 4:5-13 NKJV]
  • “Receive my instruction, and not silver, And knowledge rather than choice gold; For wisdom [is] better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. … My fruit [is] better than gold, yes, than fine gold, And my revenue than choice silver.” [Proverbs 8:10-11, 19 NKJV]

So, ask yourself, do spend hours everyday in the things of the world only to “squeeze in” a few minutes for God’s word each day (if at all)? What does that suggest that we really treasure?

Dan Fontenot

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