At the beginning of the year I resolved to read the ESV Study Bible in accordance with the ESV Study Bible reading plan. It’s a pretty ambitious plan with readings from four different sections of scripture each day:
- Psalms and Wisdom Literature
- Pentateuch and History of Israel
- Chronicles and Prophets
- Gospels and Epistles
In fact, while most Bible reading plans take you through reading the Bible in a year, this one will actually lead me to read a couple different sections more than once. The good thing is the I love reading the Bible. One of the signs of God’s greatest graces in my life is that, as skeptical as I am, I haven’t really questioned the authority of Scripture. While I can see and understand where some of the skeptics of the Bible’s authority can pick and pull their arguments, I haven’t really wrestled too deeply with their questions mostly because of one truth:
God does not fit into the human paradigm and therefore cannot fit into our human rationalization.
So, for the first few months of the year, I loved having a daily plan. Up until that point, I had ensured that I got into the Word at least four days a week. To keep up though, the plan encourages daily reading and this was new to me. I, again, loved it.
Then I got to March. And while I was still enjoying all that I was learning, my frame of mind shifted. Reading the word became a check box item and it often happened at night right before I went to bed. Keeping Psalm 50 in mind,I knew that this pattern was not ideal. The Lord desires relationship and thanksgiving from us when we sit before him, not a mind more concerned with a checklist.
At this point, I was tempted to take a break, to curb legalism. I knew though that this wasn’t what the Lord desired from me though. Instead, I prayed to Him that he would help me push through this season. That he would shape my heart and make what could be devalued by my human limitations a pure joy instead. He was ever-faithful to fulfill this prayer and I enjoyed finishing the Psalms and even reading Leviticus and Numbers, books which are typically hard to get through.
Then, early June approached and my workload got busy. As in, I gave up on washing my face and brushing my teeth before bed busy. I fell asleep on the floor twice busy. And the worse part: I sputtered then stopped reading my Bible busy. Just as I was getting to one of my most favorite books Deuteronomy, I stopped.
All of this to say, I’m sitting in front of the keyboard, coffee in hand, and my “catch up” plan written out before me. Before starting to dive in, I shaped my day with this prayer:
Father, let this time be sweet. Don’t let it be overwhelming. Help me resist the urge to become anxious to finish or worse, just read words without engaging my mind.
Why blog about this? Well, I happened to forget my journal at work (duh, duh, duh) and I can’t imagine reading through Hosea, Titus and Philippians without a tangible place to record what I’m learning (and to avoid reading words without engaging my mind).
So, below are the verses which stick out to me* and, if appropriate, my prayers through them.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
(Titus 2:11-14 ESV)
I love how all of the verbs are carried out by God, the Father and Jesus Christ. He appears and brings. He gives and purifies. Meanwhile, we wait and receive purification.
Remind [Christians] to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
(Titus 3:1-5 ESV)
Perfect courtesy to all people? The bar is so high and I consistently pass under it.
Were once? It feels like I’m disobedient and a slave to various passion still this very day.
Yet, Paul is quick to remind Titus (and me as a reader of this letter) that I am saved apart from my works (both good and bad) but in accordance to Jesus’ terms of mercy. How grateful am I that his terms expand to anyone and everyone who believe in Him, who believe that it’s not so difficult for a supernatural God to become man, live a sinless life, die for the world’s sins and then conquer death through resurrection. Because He’s God. He’s above the earthly order as evidenced by His creation of it.
*Titus is brief by biblical standards – only three chapters. As I included some of the verses which stuck out to me, I decided to do a new post for each book in an effort to keep these short. Next up… Hosea.