Our Pastor, Jim Congdon, began a new sermon series last Sunday entitled, "All Things New: A New Testament Challenge." The challenge he issued to the congregation is for us to all read through the New Testament with him by the end of the year. The church even printed up these wonderful check-off cards for every day through December 31, 2012 so you can chart your progress (as a "do list" person, who gets a pathetically sad thrill checking off my lists, I loved this part)! He asked us to read approximately two chapters a day in order to meet the goal (with a few extra chapters tossed in occasionally for the mathematics of it all). Pastor Jim will in turn, preach each Sunday on the 14 or so chapters we've read that week prior. He asked us all to sincerely commit to doing this together as a church, and he prayed over us that we'd be able to do it faithfully. It seemed like a small commitment to make at the time--I mean, if we can't read two chapters a day, our lives are whirling out of control. Furthermore, if we can spend an hour a day on Facebook or on the computer in general, (which I would guess is a conservative estimate for the cumulative time most users probably spend per day), then we can surely find the time required to read two chapters of God's Word. On that happy note, if you're reading my daily blog religiously, but you don't make time to read God's Word daily, please STOP reading my blog til you do. This blog is more of an historical account or journal of my life than it is wisdom. It is mainly just my personal thoughts, feelings, and goofy stories! And though I try to put Scriptures into my blog regularly and in plenty, God's Word is UTTER WISDOM. You'll find pure and lasting truth in all 66 books and on every page. Parts of God's Blog have been around since before Christ walked the planet, and the Bible has been reported as the best selling Book of all time. My blog doesn't even have the honors of making it on the, "worst reads of all time list." Any wisdom I have came from God's Blog anyway, so go there first!
The main issue our church body will face in making this vow to truly dive into the Word together is that the enemy isn't going to like it. Our church reading the Word together faithfully and in unity will drive him bonkers! He will most certainly try to distract each of us from sticking to our said commitment (his plays and tactics are so readable and predictable--they are actually quite boring). Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged
sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and
marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." God's Word is powerful and life-changing. I'm pretty sure the devil isn't going to like that our church is making this pledge together because the benefits, blessings, and changes that are bound to occur in each of our personal lives, as well as, in our church as a whole, are going to be huge. God says so. He tells us His Word will rock our worlds, and the enemy wants to keep us as far from truth and God as possible. In fact, it is his life's mission. As 1 Peter 5:8 warns us: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." This verse tells us clearly that we are going to need disciplined self-control in our lives because we have an enemy who wants to take us down.
In his opening sermon last Sunday to kick-off this new challenge, Pastor Jim shared with us the stats from a study done on Bible reading in America by "Lifeway," a Christian Literature Co. in Nashville, TN. The study found that approximately 90% of Americans have at least one Bible in their home, around 80% of Americans say that it is the best book ever written and that it IS the Word of God, but only 10% have ever read it. If we really believe it is the best book ever written, and that it is the infallible, true Word of God, why don't we read it? We supposedly act on our beliefs. Worse, he shared that less than 20% of Christians who attend church regularly read the Bible during the week. So essentially, we who say we live and abide with Christ, aren't really soaking up His Words much more than the outside world that doesn't profess to live the Christian life. Is it any wonder the church has the same problems the world does, and doesn't really rank any better in divorce rates, addictions, and the like? God tells us His Word is life and breath to us, so if we're not reading it, we aren't going to be living the abundant life in Christ that we desperately need. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." If we want to live God-breathed lives, we have to be in His Word and hearing from Him daily.
Personally, when I am not in God's Word, I can tell it. My entire thought life suffers. I am more negative, more weary, and more caught up in things that just don't matter. If I'm not filling my mind with the Word of God, I will be filling my mind with something else that just doesn't satisfy. I am not someone who can just exist without stimulative thought--I hunger for it. I'm always reading or doing something to keep my brain occupied, and if it isn't reading God's Word, which is lasting and true, it is more than likely a total waste of my time. So this challenge is certainly convicting for me. But I also find it really thrilling. I feel like it is me versus the devil to do this~and I'm a fighter by nature. I've decided that I am going to seriously view this as a personal war. The enemy wants me to become disinterested and dissatisfied with God's Word. He wants to bring out my weakness and laugh when I fail. He wants to put stuff in my path to entice me to be distracted. He already has tried to do that this week in telling me there are things I need to read on the internet that would be of great interest to me. But I know better. The enemy loves to use "baiting" thoughts and words to distract us and steal our time and energy like a sneaky thief. But God's Word satisfies like no other words, and God not only knows what He's talking about on every subject, He tells the whole truth. His Words are not only stimulating and well-crafted, but His Truth feeds my soul and nurtures my heart. He is not only the best novelist, journalist, and letter-writer ever, but He is also the most honest, creative, and romantic poet you'll ever find. And He means every word. The "wisdom" (and other "stuff") spun viral every day on the internet by flawed human beings doesn't come close to comparing. I've got three and a half months to prove the enemy a liar and a loser, and I'm planning to do it.
Personally, I am already asking God for protection over my mind, heart, and life so that I can stick to my vow. The enemy aside, my flesh is weak. I thought about how Pastor Jim said for us to read "two chapters a day," and how it almost sounded like he was giving us an Rx when he said it. That is actually the perfect way to view it--God's Word will cure what ails you! Just as many of us have our little routines for personal health each day, (exercising, taking vitamins, and trying to eat right), we also need to remember to, "take two a day," and make this Book, that we Americans profess is the best book ever written and God's true Word, a part of our daily health, as well. Two chapters a day, and we're on our way.