Can we have an honest conversation about… “Quiet Times?”
(You know, that daily duty of reading our Bibles that we often feel guilty about for neglecting?)
I have a confession to make: I don’t read my Bible every day. (Gasp!) And sometimes, I’ve gone a week, and probably more!
No, leprosy did not break out on my body, nor did the earth open up and swallow me alive. In fact, God’s smiling countenance over me never wavered. At worst, my thought patterns became a little more fleshly, internal grumbling more frequent, and my vision more self-centered. I felt sluggish, like a computer that needs rebooting.
I have felt guilt in the past. I distinctly remember a sermon illustration where Jesus patiently sits at the same Starbucks table every morning, hoping that I’ll keep our appointment, only to be stood up… again. He leaves, dejected, with the indelible lines of disappointment and frustration on his face. Disappointment and frustration… toward me. My sense of guilt is further compounded by the conspicuous scars he bears, the infinite price which secured our table reservation. Yes, I had the unspeakable privilege of being “called into fellowship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:9), and yet my sleep, my to-do-list, my email, or Facebook was somehow more important than that. Ughhh.
I’ve since learned to tenaciously reject both the guilt from my negligence, as well as the self-satisfaction from my faithfulness. Both are wrong! God’s love, acceptance, and longing disposition toward me is a fixed compass needle, not a fickle weather vane.
Still, motivation is an issue. Not every quiet time impacts my life like a fresh, hot, Krispy Kreme donut. Sometimes, it’s just plain bread without butter. And sometimes, I doze off at the table with the King of kings. But I keep coming back. Because everything else is like the plastic fruit in a furniture showroom. It’s not only tasteless to my soul, but void of any nutrition.
Assuming that you no longer open your Bible out of dry duty, why do you open it? For years, I opened mine for knowledge. I needed to become well-acquainted with Bible characters, doctrine, history, and how everything ties together. But after a while, we all tend to master those things – at least, to a high degree. So why keep reading? Well, one might as well ask, “Why keep eating meals?”
Each of us consumes up to three physical meals per day (more, if you’re a Hobbit). And yet our familiarity with food does not dampen our appetite for the next meal. Why? Because whether the food is tasty or not, our body still needs it. Whether it’s familiar or not, the nourishment is what’s important. No 85-octane Christian book can take its place. My soul craves the black coffee, 100-proof, weapons-grade, jet fuel of Scripture.
And there’s something equally vital to me reading my Bible. As David Kirkpatrick puts it: “We don’t [just] read the Bible; the Bible reads us.” It’s the only mirror in the world that doesn’t flatter or distort. As Hebrews 4:12 states,
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Don’t let the familiarity of your Bible breed contempt. Contrary to our estimation of that inanimate tome collecting dust on the shelf, it is not mere paper and ink. It’s alive! And not only alive, but active! And not only active, but interactive! It is not dull, but sharp; not blunt, but piercing; not blind, but discerning! And not just mildly discerning, but insightful to the depths of our being! These are spiritual words, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:13 (NASB),
We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
God does not relate to us legalistically… ever… period. So if I could encourage you in just one thing this year, it would be this one word: “Feast!” Feast on the pure, God-breathed, living, fully-inspired, active, Spirit-illuminated, complete, and eternal Word of the Living God. And pray over what you ingest. You will be transformed, from one degree of glory to the next, with the unalterable, inescapable destination of Christ-like… perfection.
Christ, through his Spirit, at the interface of his word, beckons you today in love:
“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David.”Isaiah 55:1-3 NASB
– Perry Paulding