Confession: I am playing catch up for the next several blogs. Eventually, my goal is to have the YouTube channel lined up with the blog postings on Fridays. In order to line up this schedule, the next few posts will continue to focus on the video content.
In the last post, I set up a framework for thinking about the concept of walking with God. It is as simple as riding a bike; literally just keep getting on the bike and keep riding, despite the many falls and crashes. Eventually the riding skills will be developed and riding will be simple coasting. It seems too simple for a concept as weighty as walking with God, but I find that many theological concepts are actually more simple than we like to make them.
As I mentioned in the last post (you can read it here), students often discuss with me their struggles and questions about walking with God or feeling like they can be consistent in their walk in order to develop their relationship with Him. I also find that students need something tangible in terms of a plan; otherwise, they are quickly discouraged by their uncertainties. That being said, whenever I am discipling a new girl or students bring these questions to me, I always discuss the following three things with them as being necessary to their walk with God.
I know this seems a bit obvious, but I still frequently find myself in conversation with students (and even adults) that desire a relationship with God but cannot seem to open their Bibles. There is a reason that the Bible is often referred to as “God’s Word.” Most Christian denominations agree about the inherency of God’s Word, that the words written in the Bible were in fact inspired by God Himself. Since God is not exactly a tangible, physical being that we humans can see and hear and physically interact with on a regular basis, the only way that we can truly learn Him, as in get to know Him, is through His Word. The next best thing other than His visible, tangible presence, is what He has to say. His words communicate to us who He is. Therefore, if any person wants to know God or experience any sort of relationship with Him, it requires spending time in the Bible, reading it, studying it, meditating on it, memorizing it, etc.
This is actually the part that seems to be the most daunting to people. The Bible can be like a foreign object, especially for anyone that was not raised in church. Although modern printings of the Bible manage to scale down the size some, it is still a relatively large book. When I talk to people about reading the Bible, their eyes sometimes gloss over at the thought of actually reading the thousands of pages it contains. The book diva in me wants to shed tears over this. If only this generation still found value and enjoyment in reading… I cannot help but wonder if this would effect the general perception of reading the Bible or not. Unfortunately, though, size is not the only fear factor of the Bible. There are also the endless lists of foreign names and measures and numbers and places… I could go on. Because of these lists, combined with the shear size of the Bible, I find many people are simply intimidated by the idea of becoming intimately acquainted with God’s Word.
This is the point at which I would draw your attention back to the simple idea of just getting onto the bike. As little children, riding a bike can be just as fearful. The bigger tires, handlebars, and pedals combined with the lack of training wheels and an actual chain powered by the force of a tiny kid alone is enough to discourage any child from getting onto the bike. Plus, children have zero understanding of balance at that age. They are certainly capable of and are practicing balance, but it is not because they understand it. Despite all of these forces working against them, day after day, children learn to ride bikes. They overcome the big scary bike by continually getting on it again, sometimes with the helpful encouragement of a parent or older sibling, but nevertheless, they learn because they just keep trying. The very same principle applies with God’s Word.
The Bible may be intimidating to a newcomer, but learning and understanding it is as simple as learning to ride a bike. Just keep opening it.
The second thing I always encourage students to keep close to a Bible is some sort of journal. Journals come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and formats today, and there is really no reason that a “journal” has to fit any sort of mold. The only real important factor is that it can somehow, in some form or fashion, keep information stored and documented. I fear that as much as this generation has lost the art of reading, they have also lost the art of journaling. Journaling has long been a place for people to track not only their thoughts, but their growth as well. This why I believe journaling is an important part of walking with God.
Part of the benefit of walking with God, of being in close intimate relationship with Him, is that over time our character begins to look more and more like His character. Just like when we meet new friends and begin spending significant time with them, we often pickup on each other’s mannerisms and begin speaking and acting alike. In a way, the same thing happens with us when we spend time with God. Thankfully, His character will never shift to becoming more like ours, that would be scary, but we will slowly become more like Him. Documenting this change and growth in our lives can be a massive encouragement in our lives and can also provide a place for us to continually reflect on what we are learning from Him.
Journaling also provides an opportunity and allows space for deeper thought on the things we are reading and studying in the Bible. Sometimes just the simple act of copying down a verse from the Bible is enough pause to get our thoughts surrounded around the concept and teaching of the verse. It is also a great place to keep track of any questions and answers that arise from regular Bible reading or studying. This helps to keep information at the forefront of our minds rather than a fleeting thought or passing question. The more we are able to center our thoughts on God and His Word, the more likely we are to benefit from spending time in God’s Word.
As a small disclaimer, I do not know of any place in the Bible that commands we keep a journal. When I say that I believe a journal is necessary, I say this as my own opinion and intend for you to see it as such as well. I do believe there are many places in the Bible that speak highly of treasuring God’s Word, meditating on it, and memorizing it. All of these things can be accomplished with the use of a journal, but they also can be accomplished in any other way that works for you. What is important is that those things occur; how they occur has some freedom attached to it.
For many years, I utilized the help of reading plans without actually being aware of doing so. For the first several years of my walk with God, I had always been provided with a mapped out plan of whatever book of the Bible my discipleship group was currently studying through. In a later post, I will discuss the details of different types of Bible reading plans and their benefits, but these mapped out books of the Bible were actually reading plans. I just did not know it. In the beginning, I was not actually reading through the entire Bible as if it were a novel. I was reading it though, and I was actually using some sort of plan. My reading plans were just much smaller and shorter than the one I am currently using.
For the last several years, I have chosen to use a Bible reading plan that maps out the Bible in such a way that allows me to read through it entirely in one year. One year Bible reading plans are very popular and very beneficial. To a person that is just starting out their Bible reading adventure though, sometimes the entire Bible in one year is a very scary thought, and I have witnessed several people simply be discouraged by it and give up. Just like there is really no set standard on what is considered a journal or even what journaling necessarily needs to look like, I believe that there is also freedom in the use of Bible reading plans. Again, what is important is that you are reading the Bible consistently. How you organize that can certainly have some variation.
Consistency is key when it comes to Bible reading. Well, actually when it comes to almost anything you desire to grow in. Bible reading plans are important not because God commands us to abide by them but because they provide a PLAN, and plans help us to be more consistent. Ask any person that trains, or studies, or prepares for some goal in the future, and they will likely agree that having a plan is the best way to go. Plans help us to forethink also. Knowing when you lay down at night that your plan is already set for the next day is much more motivating than say a Saturday morning with zero plans. You are less likely to wake up at a scheduled time and begin a routine of any sort if you have no plans for Saturday morning. Trying to read the Bible by this same “no plan” method is very difficult. Reading the Bible only when we feel like it is even less likely to happen either. Having a plan not only gives you something to look forward to and know is scheduled, but it keeps a set pattern in place that aids in your understanding and growth.
I am sure that it would be much easier to just follow Jesus around all day, but really, even the disciples still struggled with this sometimes. Thankfully, God is gracious and is more concerned with the long term goals than the short term mess ups along the way. If being consistent in your walk with God has been a challenge for you so far, or if you have never actually started the journey of walking with God, these three tools, a Bible, journal, and reading plan, can help you stay focused and on the path. Having tools and a plan does not necessarily mean that you will not hit any bumps along the road, but they certainly can help you to be more prepared for the journey. I encourage you to get your hands on these three tools and just keep getting onto the bike.