Daily Bible Reading – From Fantasy to Reality

For Lack of Discipline

I’m not a very disciplined person. I don’t exercise regularly (though I have a desire to). I don’t eat nutritionally unless my wife forces me to. I’ve never been one of those early-riser people who can “get so much accomplished” before the rest of the world wakes up. Nope, that’s not me and, to a certain extent, I’ve learned to be OK with that.

A few years back, as I was beating myself up for not being disciplined enough, some words from a friend, coupled with what I believe were words from God, helped to change my perspective and get me on a track to being a fruitful human being again. You see, what I realized was that my definition of discipline was one that I had adopted from “disciplined” people. In other words, people who were not wired like I am had developed a system that worked for them and I thought that was the only way it could be done.

That’s where I was with the whole idea of daily Bible reading. Now, let me say that I don’t think that following Jesus means that you are required to read the Bible every day. Let me also say that I highly recommend it! But for a guy who sleeps as late as possible each morning and is typically pretty brain-dead by the end of the day, when was I supposed to have my “quiet time?”

Enter YouVersion.com – or more specifically, their Bible App for mobile phones. At first glance, the Bible App is nothing special. It’s a Bible on your phone. But this app enabled me to take my desire for daily Bible reading from fantasy to reality. How? By allowing me to insert my “quiet time” into my¬†spare time.

Suddenly, any time I was waiting for someone before a meeting, standing in line, or taking a…um…break, I could break out my trusty Bible and read. For a guy like me, this was an incredible gift! No longer did I have to dedicate a certain time of day for study. I could read the Bible any time I wanted, anywhere I wanted.

What About the “Want To?”

I can guess what you’re thinking. “Any time I wanted,” indicates that I actually wanted to read the Bible. I know that’s a big hurdle for a lot of people. However, if you are in any way a competitive person, have I got great news for you. The Bible App brings out the competitive nature in us crazy human beings. In this case, I was competing with myself (a worthy competitor), nd I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to go all-in. My very first Bible reading plan on the Bible App was Bible in 90 Days. Yes, that’s right, the whole Bible – all 1,189 chapters of it – in 90 days. It was the P90X of Scripture reading. I chose this plan because I reasoned that I could do anything for 90 days, even if I hated it.

Funny thing is, I didn’t hate it, even though it was incredibly hard. The thing that kept me going – that brought out that competitive nature in me and encouraged me to read 10-15 chapters a day – was the progress tracker that YouVersion has created. In a glance, you can see where you are in your reading plan and, if you get behind, where you should be. Additionally, if you get too far behind, you’ll get an email from the nice YouVersion system encouraging you to get back on track. It’s like having a personal trainer for your daily devotions.

That encouragement, combined with my competitive drive provided the spark for my “want to.” The richness of Scripture provided the fuel. Reading the Bible so quickly reminded me how it all really ties together. Suddenly, the arc of the grand narrative – a story about God and his people – was illuminated for me like never before. I began to thirst for the Bible.

The Next Steps

After completing my Bible in 90 Days reading, I decided that I might as well keep up the pace. I didn’t want to go all the way back to Genesis, so instead, I jumped into New Thru 30, my second reading plan, which took me through the entire New Testament in 30 days on about the same pace as its 90 day, whole Bible cousin.

After completing New Thru 30, I decided to slow down my reading, so as to absorb a little more of the micro, rather than just the macro. My next reading plan was the Canonical plan, which takes you through the Bible in a year. After doing the Bible in 90 Days and New Thru 30, reading 3 or 4 chapters a day seemed like a piece of cake. So, naturally, I decided to challenge myself again. That’s how the Bible in a Year Blog got started. Each day, having read the reading for the day from the Canonical reading plan, I would write several hundred words about that day’s reading.

A year later, I was finished. Over 180,000 words written about the roughly 775,000 words of Scripture. Needless to say, my words pack a lot less punch than those in the Bible. But it was a great exercise – this time fueled by the fact that I knew every day that I had people reading along with me. These same people would come to my blog to see what I had to say about that we read that day. I couldn’t let them down! And so I read and I wrote.

As 2012 became 2013, the Bible in a Year Blog got mothballed. It’s still there if you want to read it, but I had reached the end of yet another journey. So, what to do? I decided once again to slow down – to take in the words I was reading more deeply. For me, this meant slowing to a snail’s pace. I am now on the Read Through The New Testament plan, which takes me on a thoughtful journey through the New Testament over the course of a year.

I am supplementing my daily reading with additional reading from N.T. Wright’s wonderful “…for Everyone” series. [Amazon]. The series is available on Kindle, which works for me for the above-mentioned reasons, and serves as a great thought-provoking, but not too in-depth daily devotional. A month in and I’m still in Matthew, but I’m loving every minute of it.

A New Reality

Having reached this point in my journey, with daily Bible reading as a reality for me, I look back on myself just a couple of years ago. I was depressed about the fact that I wasn’t reading the Bible regularly. To do so seemed like an impossible task – a fantasy. If I had tried to get up early and read even one chapter a day, I would have probably given up after a couple of weeks. But through the use of a tool that was made for people wired like me, combined with a 90 day, intense personal challenge that kick-started my journey, I was able to take the idea of daily Bible reading from fantasy to reality.

I am thankful every day for the words I read in the Bible. Through my reading, I am encouraged, challenged, educated and healed. No other book could do that. No other discipline could do that. I’ve learned to see the Bible not as an instruction book or a text book, but as a true gift of life – Jesus, the Word of God, captured in print. It is my sincere prayer that you will be encouraged to embark on a similar journey. It may look different for you (remember, my greatest mistake was thinking I had to do it like others had done it), but I know you can make daily Bible reading a reality for you, too.

TED Talk Tuesday: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

In this talk, Simon Sinek shares the very simple secret to the success of some of the greatest business and civic leaders of all time. In the end, he says, it comes down to “Why?”

As I listened to Sinek speak, I became acutely aware that most churches and most followers of Jesus fail horribly in this area. The people with greatest why in all of history so often begin by talking about the what. Even the most faithful among us talk about their actions rather than their motivations.

In our church, it’s easy to talk about what we do. We do a lot of really great things! And we know our motivations, but, so often we (or at least, I) fail to tell others exactly what those motivations are. Consider these two sentences:

We went out this weekend and served meals to people in our community who needed food and they were extremely grateful!

versus

We believe that God loves every single person with a passion that is greater even than the love we have for ourselves – a passion that drives us to work toward justice, opportunity and a better life for all people.

You see, what we do is important, but people need to hear the why.

Leaning In – The Positive Power of Opposition

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about opposition. The genesis of this thought process came last week. I had given a passionate talk on Sunday about stepping up our game and really being all-in on loving our city. I was fired up. I know some other people were fired up. The idea of setting aside our personal agendas and pursuing God’s desires for our neighbors was one that we were ready to walk out.

But a funny thing happens sometimes when you decide to go all-in for God. You somehow find yourself in someone else’s cross-hairs. You see, God does protect us, but there is a very real enemy who wants to see us fail. The closer we get to God’s heart and plans, the more that enemy wants us to fail. Remember, this is the same guy who tried to get Jesus to base jump without a parachute just as he was beginning his public ministry.

In the days following my passionate plea to go all-in for God, I was hit left and right by unexpected problems. They weren’t life-altering problems. They were, in many ways, just everyday junk that all happened to hit me at the same time. They were mostly financial in nature – that is, they would cost me money I didn’t have.

One day, as all that junk mounted, I just kind of shut down. I completely ceased to be productive. I don’t even know if I was consciously thinking of anything. What happened next, though, got me thinking differently about my situation. You see, in the midst of my blank, mindless stare, I realized that I was coming up against opposition. This wasn’t just about bad stuff happening to me. I was being assaulted – an aggressive attempt to shut down what God had fired up in me. And when confronted with that reality, something in me rose up.

Suddenly, I no longer had a desire to shut down or to run from these issues. On the contrary, I was defiant! I wasn’t going to let the garbage of life drag me down. I wasn’t going to let it get in the way of what God had called me to. I was going to fight! And I was going to win! Come what may, I was going to push through this opposition and keep moving in the direction God had pointed me. I wasn’t going to back down. I was going to lean in!

Opposition has a way of causing us to do that, doesn’t it? The fastest way to get me to do something is to tell me I can’t. That’s why reverse psychology works – the more I try to keep you from doing something (or fraudulently appear to keep you from doing it) the more you want to do it. You lean in to opposition.

And that’s just what I did last week when faced with opposition and, in many ways, that opposition shrank when I leaned into it. Sure, it got a piece of me. My wallet is little lighter (and my disdain for certain companies and professions a little stronger) but there was no way it was going to keep me down. The opposition was fierce. It is fierce. But in the end, I’m going to lean into it and I’m going to break through.

You see, in my eyes, that’s what opposition is for. It is not there to stop us. It is there to strengthen us. When we lean in instead of running away, we will get through it. When we push and reach and scratch and claw our way through, we will get to where we’re headed. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Items of worth always come at a price. But when it comes to God’s kingdom, whatever price I pay is and always will be a bargain.

So, if you’re faced with opposition – especially opposition to the thing you know God desires of you – lean in. You might be surprised at how much stronger you are when you break through to the other side.

TED Talk Tuesday: The Future of Lying


“People lie for a reason,” or so says Jeff Hancock. And I think that’s true. Self-preservation and ego stand out to me as two reasons that people frequently lie. The question presented here, for me, is not why we lie or even how we lie (though that is Hancock’s focus). The question that interests me most is what are the consequences of our lies.

As Hancock alludes to, people for many centuries lied because it was very unlikely that they would be caught. Think back a few months to the U.S. Presidential elections. In those elections, as in most recent elections, you had people lying and being caught in their lies. Rewind 100 years and I’m guessing there was just as much, possibly more, lying. But what were the chances they were going to get caught? A politician could say one thing in one town and another thing in another town and it was highly unlikely that either town would be the wiser.

Today, all of that has changed. We live in an information-saturated society. Everybody is a writer, everybody a videographer, everybody a reporter. There is so much information out there about any given subject that you can Google almost any question and come up with an answer. And we are only increasing in this information output and consumption.

I recently read of two devices being developed for “life logging” – that is, recording nearly everything that happens in a person’s life. The current devices do this by taking photographs at short intervals – say, every 30 seconds – in order to catalog your day. Future devices will, no doubt, include video, audio and perhaps other atmospheric, biological or geographical data. In short, we are nearing a place where one will be able to have a searchable database of the occurrences of their life.

So, back to my question: What are the consequences of lying? Well, obviously, the more information that is available, the more difficult the ruse. The consequences of even the smallest lie could be catastrophic if there is a mountain of evidence that we, in fact, lied. In that sense, perhaps Hancock is right. Maybe the internet is making us more honest. Here’s to hope that theory holds true for politicians in the near future!

The Deaf Man, The Thug and Gun Control

I read an article the other day about a deaf man who was stabbed multiple times because a passerby mistook his sign language for gang signs. Yes, you read that correctly. Some gang thug was walking down the street and saw this guy using sign language and stabbed him.

Of course, there are layers and layers of wrong to dig through in this story. First off, I know low-level gang members aren’t necessarily the sharpest knives in the drawer (pun definitely intended), but how in the world do you A.) not recognize that a guy is using sign language and B.) jump to the conclusion that since you don’t know what he’s doing with his hands, he must be part of a rival gang. I mean, if he was, shouldn’t you know which gang based on the signs he was supposedly flashing?

But even if he was flashing gang signs, this would still be a ridiculous crime. The whole notion of one group of people “claiming” a particular piece of turf while also claiming superiority over another group of people is one of the most juvenile and asinine behaviors you could possibly be involved in.

To prove your superiority and defend your self-defined boundaries by beating up anybody who might not be on your side is just silly. It reeks of insecurity, intolerance and, at a deeper level, a complete devaluation of human life.

We know this. We recognize it in a story like this. This is a case of a man going about his everyday affairs, minding his own business and being brutally attacked by another man who wrongly assigned meaning to the deaf man’s actions. In short, he misread the signs.

Unfortunately, this colossal misinterpretation of basic information is not confined to high school drop-outs and drug runners. This “condition” is actually a pandemic among supposedly serious people – people of power, people of influence. We live in a time and place where we are ready to stone anyone who does anything that we construe as not being 100% on-board with our ideas.

Consider the whole “Deport Pierce Morgan” movement. Here’s a guy who happens to disagree with our current gun laws, who has a platform from which to voice that disagreement and financial impetus to do so and who, at much risk to himself (you don’t want to anger the folks with guns) decided to put his opinion out there.

Now, whether you agree or disagree with him, surely we can all agree that one of the great things about this country is the First Amendment to our constitution (the one just before the Second Amendment), which gives people the right to speak freely – to give their opinions on any number of issues without fear of arrest, imprisonment or – yes – deportation. The idea that we would deport someone for disagreeing with us is as ridiculous as stabbing a deaf man for using sign language.

At the end of the day, we live in a country where Pierce Morgan and gun rights advocate Alex Jones are both free to speak their minds about guns and gun control – even if they sound crazy doing it. I’m fine with that. In fact, that is part of the bedrock of our nation. I don’t have to agree with either of them (and I don’t), but an America that ceases to allow public discourse is decidedly un-American.

If you want to keep gun rights the way they are, that’s great. Speak up. Speak out. Let your Senators and Congressmen and women know how you feel. If you feel otherwise, that’s great, too. Make your voice heard. We live in a country where politicians are more concerned about getting reelected than they are about doing the right thing (whatever you think that may be), so if you want to change their mind, convince them that you’ll change your vote.

In the midst of it all, remember that even the person with whom you vehemently disagree is still a human being, that they have reasons for thinking and saying what they do and that, in most cases, if you actually listen to them, you might learn a thing or two. Whatever you do, think about the deaf man and the gang thug before you decide to pick up a metaphorical kitchen knife and start stabbing away at anyone who thinks, speaks or acts differently than you. That’s what grownups do.

TED Talk Tuesday: Shut Up and Listen!

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How can we change the world? The answer is simple: we can’t. The world must change itself. More precisely, the people of the world must be the agents of change to bring justice and opportunity around the globe.

Perhaps it would be beneficial (although probably not) if the people of Africa, for example, would just listen and follow the instructions of some foreigner coming in to tell them how to grow food, start businesses, care for their families, etc. The problem is, the people of Africa, Asia and anywhere else don’t want someone else to tell them how to live their lives.

Imagine that scenario happening to you. Let’s say some stranger arrives in your community from some foreign land. This person is very successful and she wants to give you the keys to be just as successful. First, you must embrace some communist ideas, including the suppression of free speech. Second, you must force out of your neighborhood any neighbor who disagrees with you. Third, you must wholly submit yourself to this woman’s authority. Are you interested in obtaining success through her methods?

Most of us would say no. And yet, this is the kind of thinking that we so often subject others to. In the name of trying to help them, we are actually trying to “convert” them – to a way of thinking, to a culture very different from their own. We have a lot of great ideas – ideas that are born out of our culture and our experience – but we fail to take into account the culture (which goes back thousands of years prior to ours) and the collective experiences of these people.

One of the keys, I believe, to working with people around the world is to understand that they aren’t less intelligent, less skilled or less able than us and ours is not and should not be a teacher/student, master/servant or parent/child relationship. We are brothers and sisters – each one learning from the other, each one giving and receiving and each one sharing from our own unique perspective.

If we want to help others, we need to take Dr. Sirolli’s advice. We need to shut up and listen!

 

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