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What to Do When the Bible Seems Boring

In November 2015, I decided that it would be a good idea to read through the Bible again. The last time I had done it was a number of years ago, and since then, I mostly hung out in the Gospels and the letters of Paul, venturing forth occasionally to Genesis and Proverbs.

It was about time I caught up on my Bible reading. I figured three or four chapters a day could get me from Genesis to Revelation in about a year. That should be simple, right?

Well, apparently not. It is now January 2017, and I am not even halfway through. What went wrong?

I started off great. On the whole, Genesis made for some pretty interesting reading, with the Creation story, Abraham, and all that. Exodus started off pretty well, but quickly got bogged down by all the rules that God laid down for the nation of Israel. Then there were more rules, followed by long lists of family names (called genealogies). I knew that if I persevered and kept reading, I would have other complaints, as I’m sure many of us do. But I just couldn’t get over the genealogies.

After setting my Bible aside too many times, I finally reached out to my friends in frustration. But I got the same response over and over again. “Just read straight through,” they said. They told me that I did not need to do in-depth study on everything—the important thing was just to read it.

Which I did. And I quickly discovered that when I do sit down and read through the more “boring” parts of the Bible (usually aloud, since that helps me stay focused), I sometimes notice things that I didn’t before. For example, I’ve read the story of how David took Uriah’s wife and sent Uriah to be killed in battle a good number of times (2 Samuel 11). What I had never noticed before was that Uriah was listed among David’s 30 mighty men (2 Samuel 23:39). These were David’s best warriors; many of them had been following him since the days of Saul. This meant that David knew Uriah personally. Suddenly, David’s sin took on even greater proportions. And God’s mercy seemed ever richer.

Of course, I don’t always notice something new. For me, the lists are often a chore to work through, and I have to fight to keep my eyes from glazing over. Time and again, I remind myself of 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

You’ll notice that Paul said “all Scripture,” not just the interesting parts. This includes the laws that God gave Israel. And all the lengthy family trees. And the obscure stories that I don’t quite know what to make of. God breathed out all of it, and all of it is useful.

Sure, there are many passages in the Bible that I still don’t get. But I’m going to take God at His word, and trust that if I keep reading and re-reading this entire book that He has given us—instead of just picking out my favorite verses or chapters—His Scripture will continue to teach, rebuke, correct, and train me in righteousness.

Think about it: during Jesus’ ministry on earth, He only had the Old Testament. And the books that He quoted from the most were Psalms and Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy! That makes me think twice about skipping it in my reading plan.

God reveals himself to us in both the Old and New testaments. He is revealed in every chapter, every paragraph, every smallest letter. Jesus told His followers, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18). That makes the Bible worth reading.

I’m in the Psalms right now. I’ll be honest: I don’t love every moment of it. Unlike the psalmist, I do not always find God’s words “more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).

But I hope to one day. And in the meantime, I’ll keep on reading, trusting God to use every last letter of it to “[equip me] for every good work.”

ODJ: only the gospel

November 14, 2015 

READ: 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 


I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified (v.2). 

The outgrow never we gospel. What’s wrong with that sentence? It violates the rules of grammar and syntax. Writers may sometimes break rules for effect but if they want to be understood, they’ll never graduate beyond grammar.

The ‘grammar’ of the Christian life is the gospel. Paul said the gospel is that “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). This good news that Jesus died and rose again to forgive our sins is what the gospel is built on.

It’s important that we never graduate beyond the gospel. It’s tempting to think that believing in Jesus is necessary only for starting the Christian life, and that we grow in Him by practising spiritual disciplines such as meditation, memorisation and joining accountability or Bible-study groups. These are all important practices, but they’ll draw us to Jesus only as they point us to the gospel.

The closer we come to Jesus, the more we grasp what it means to be set free from sin and death by God’s grace. If we forget this—if we think we’re somehow earning our way to God through our spiritual disciplines—we’ll lose our grip on the gospel, just as Peter did when he shamed the Gentiles for not keeping the Jewish practice of circumcision (see Galatians 2:14).

It’s good for us to have favourite practices that draw us closer to Jesus. But may those methods never excite us more than what Jesus has already done. Let’s look at that opening sentence again, this time with proper grammar: we never outgrow the gospel.

—Mike Wittmer

365-day-plan: Acts 25:1-27

MORE
Read Philippians 1:1-29 to see how the gospel transformed Paul’s life and attitude. 
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What spiritual discipline draws you closer to Jesus? How does it remind you of what He’s already done for you? 

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ODB: Crumbs of Time

November 11, 2015 

READ: Daniel 6:10-23 

Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Daniel 6:10

 

A friend was coming to town. He is a very busy man and his schedule was tight, but after a difficult day in important meetings, he managed to see my family for half an hour for a quick and late dinner. We enjoyed his visit, but I remember looking at my plate and thinking, “We only got the crumbs of his time.”

Then I remembered how many times God gets the crumbs of my time—sometimes just the last minutes before I fall asleep.

Daniel was a busy man. He held a high government position in the ancient kingdom of Babylon, and I’m sure he had a full schedule. However, he had developed the habit of spending time with God—praying three times a day, praising God, and thanking Him. This routine helped him develop a strong faith that did not waver when he faced persecution (Dan. 6).

God desires a relationship with us. In the morning we can invite Him into our day, and then we can praise Him and ask Him for His help throughout the day. At other times we can treasure some time alone with Him and reflect on His faithfulness. As we spend time with God in prayer and in His Word, we grow in our relationship with Him and learn to become more and more like Him. As time with God becomes a priority, we enjoy His company more and more. 

— Keila Ochoa

Dear Father, I want to have an intimate relationship with You. I invite You to be part of my entire day—from the time I awake until I go to sleep.


Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Isaiah 40:31