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Friday, December 30, 2016

Don't Point Out a Need, Create a Hunger (An Invitation to join me on my Bible Reading Plan for 2017)

Several weeks ago, my friend Gary Stewart* challenged me with the words above. In a sermon, I had just issued an invitation to our church to join me in my Bible Reading plan for 2017. His phrase has haunted me ever since. I have longed for years to know how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to create a hunger in us to meet God in His word. God began creating such a hunger in me as a teenager. Then, in my mid 20's I experienced a revolution in getting at scripture in a way that transformed my life and I continue to follow it to this day. But how to effectively help others to develop this hunger has mystified me.

Gary's challenge put words to my concern that bluntly stating, "you need to read the Bible" does not motivate anyone. I have some insight now as to why that is. The time I meet with God in His word each morning is not a duty. Rather, most days it is a delight! But it seems that my encouragement to others often comes out sounding like it’s a task to be performed. Reading the Bible is not primarily an intellectual experience as if I am just trying to learn something. It is how I meet with God. Even when I'm reading tough passages, as long as I don't rush, this time hearing from God and responding in prayer nearly always reminds me that my relationship with God is not based on obligation but on love. I'm reminded God is still God, I am not alone, and regardless of what I'm facing that day, I can live with hope and confidence. Though I am often reminded through scripture that I am more sinful than I feared, I'm also reminded that I am more loved than I ever dreamed.

I want to hear and respond to Jesus' invitation in Rev. 3:20, often used in evangelism, but was initially directed to those already in God's kingdom:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.

How can we refuse such an invitation?

Jesus spoke out of a culture that richly valued unhurried time at a meal as a deep act of friendship. Don't think of scarfing down waffle fries while rushing off to the next engagement or standing over a sandwich and checking email on the phone. No, this is an invitation to a rich experience that results in knowing God, which Jesus says (John 17:3) is the very thing that our soul craves whether we realize that or not.

In 2017 one way I plan to accept Jesus' invitation is to read the Chronological Bible plan. Several in our church have used this plan in recent years. I have not used it before but am very much looking forward to it. You can purchase a physical copy (several translations available)** that follows this plan or you can get the plan for free and read it on a phone or tablet (if you can manage the distractions) or print out the plan and read it in your own Bible.  A few days a week, I will make observations about the reading for that day and send it by email to those who sign up for those updates. Though maybe not profound, I will engage with some portion of the daily reading a few days per week in a way that I pray will be helpful. You can expect two or three emails per week. Please send your email address to or by private Facebook message to subscribe to this list.

*Gary Stewart and I have been friends for more than 20 years. He recently retired from serving as a full time pastor. He and his wife Melinda have been attending Bethany Place for a couple of months. Gary is preaching at Bethany Place this Sunday while we are visiting with family in Kentucky. I’m looking forward to the privilege of preaching in my home church, Cumberland Baptist, Sunday morning.

**There is more than one chronological approach to reading through the Bible in a year. I'm using the one linked to above. You can purchase a physical copy in several translations, but there is not one for the ESV (my preferred Bible) following this specific plan.  I'll be printing a plan and reading from my own Bible or computer.

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