Over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about routines. Even yesterday I discussed new routines for the blog, but one major area in my life that I am working to improve is my time with God in the Bible and conversation with Him in prayer. I am in the process of reading the Bible all the way through. I do not plan on doing it all in a year- if you’re one of those “Read the Bible in a Year” people, go you…I just know it’s not for me. When I try to do it that way it becomes more of a to-do list item and often very stressful (especially when I fall behind). I begin to focus more on just trying to “check it off” than actually glean wisdom, knowledge, and faith-growing nuggets from what I’m reading.
I have established a new routine in that area, though. I am now trying to read 2 chapters from the Old and New Testaments daily. I refuse to get down on myself, though. There are times when I only get to read half of what I planned to read, so I just do the other half the next day and move on instead of feeling guilty. The point of reading the Bible is to grow in God and grow in a LOVE for His words in my life…not checking it off a list.
I’m currently in Genesis and Psalms in the Old Testament and Matthew and Philippians in the New Testament. I’ve added as I’ve gone, so the chapters don’t really line up, but I’ll be honest, it’s fascinating to see how it all connects and different topics or events in different books and parts of the Bible still relate and connect with each other.
I really want to share some of the scripture that challenged me in relationship and communication with God. Again, I found it incredible how 3 different books that I was reading at the same time could all work together and relate in communicating the same message.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14
This section of scripture really challenged me. There are so many views and opinions floating around out there about what it means to be a “Christian.” Many people say it’s all about love and many will make it out as something that is really easy. Christianity, at its core IS very simple: Love God and love others. Even Christ said these two commandments make up the whole of the law. It is a simple idea, but it’s execution is often VERY hard. It requires discipline and the willingness to CHOOSE what’s right, even when no one else is choosing what’s right. That’s the narrow path- walking one way that looks difficult and somewhat scary and sometimes doing it all by yourself, while everyone else is walking the other way waving at you, telling you to come with them. It’s choosing to follow what Christ has called you to, despite what everyone else tells you. It’s hard…and I know I fail at it most days. I’m praying that God will help me in this area and grow in this ability. It’s kinda funny, too, it reminds me of the popular Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken“.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.'” – Matthew 7:21-23
I don’t know about you, but this passage shakes me to the core. I see so many religious movements, and people doing things in the name of Christ. It’s awe-inspiring and intimidating at the same time. I wonder…”Why haven’t I done these things?” I make myself feel “less-Christian” because I haven’t…or I make myself feel MORE-Christian for having done something…I put on the holier-than-though attitude because I did _____. But then I hit this passage. Holy cow (except cows are holy)…even people that ARE doing and HAVE done things in the name of Christ won’t be admitted into Heaven. Just because I say or act like a “Christian” doesn’t mean that I am one. I think the key questions to ask ourselves from this scripture that truly point us to Christ are these: 1) Am I doing the will of God? 2) Did I open myself to be known by God and I to know Him?
As humans, we often try to do, do, do…earn, earn, earn…but when it comes down to it, did we really follow God’s will? Do we accept His sacrifice for ourselves, and just as we have freely received that sacrifice, do we freely (and joyfully) share it with others? Do we truly love God? Do we TRULY love people? Again, it’s easier said than done. It’s easier to APPEAR than to BE. Do I have conversations with God? Do I know and follow His voice and allow Him to mold and shape me, or do I do my own thing? Again, this piece of scripture both terrifies and challenges me. It pushes me to grow in my relationship with Christ even more and reflect on the condition of my relationship with Him.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” – Matthew 7:24-27
“That (blessed) person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” -Psalm 1:3-6
I want my foundation and center to be on Christ and His will. Honestly, that is something I heavily struggled with through the end of high school, college, and a little after. There were so many different opinions about Christianity and what it meant to be a “Christian.” Was it “hippie-lovey-dovey everyone’s going to heaven”, or “you must have a theological degree”, or “you must speak in tongues”, or “Christnaity, who needs it?” I was so confused and spinning in circles. I described it as feeling like I was falling down a cliff. Nothing and no one could bear my weight to stop my fall..except Christ. And as much as people want to say that Christianity and the Bible are “irrelevant,” it’s just not true. The values, guidance, and spiritual foundation is timeless and when you REALLY look at what God asks of us and what Christ taught, it really never changes: Love God, love people, follow Christ and repent of our sins. I want to be founded in Christ, I want my anchor in His word because I know it won’t ever change. I don’t want to be like the most popular social media networks and just follow what’s “trending” because what’s “trending” will NEVER be the same. What’s right one day will be wrong the next and if you follow that you’ll totally lose your way. Have your faith centered in Christ like refugee slaves on the Underground Railroad, they set their eyes on the North Star. They did that because it was a fixed point that never changed, it guided them and led them on their path, even through the scary and tough times. Having that fixed point helped them reach their goal…freedom…rather than get lost in the wilderness by trying to find their own way.
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men. Because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” – Ephesians 6:7-8
What my faith and life must come down to is this: Do I follow God and His word? Do I follow His teachings? Do I live my life and every action for His glory? If I do I will never go wrong. It doesn’t mean it will all be rainbows and butterflies…but even in the hard, oppressive, terrifying moments, I will always have a firm foundation that cannot and will not be shaken. I will have my center in Christ that will keep me from tumbling or being pulled over by others’ distracting or tempting words and ideas. He will be my hope and my fortress. He will be my North Star in a hard and dark journey in which I don’t know what lies around the corner.
I don’t know about you, but that is the faith that I want to have in my life. Be blessed.