What do you mean, I'm late? We're only like 4% of the way through the year! It's still new!
And it's that time of year again. The time of year again when blogs contain things like this and this... posts about ways to start a Bible reading plan and stick to it. I've done the same myself from time to time, and we've even got some Bible reading plans available at ScriptureMenu.com if you want to get your toes wet. It's the time of year for "resolutions," and judging from the number of weight loss/dieting/exercise/stop smoking ads I've been getting in my mailbox and seeing on TV, resolutions are still alive and well.
If you've been following this blog for a while, you will know that I'm on an on-again, off-again quest to read all the way through the Bible. In fact, I am planning to do it all in one year. That year is 2010, so I am officially starting my third year of my one-year Bible reading plan. I faltered a little bit that year when we had some family situations that basically disrupted our lives for several months; at the end of the year I renewed my commitment to keep at it. And I did keep at it... for a while, at least! I wound up getting stuck at the end of the book of Jeremiah, not because Jeremiah was a particularly hard book, but because this summer we moved to a new town and I ran into an intense spot at work that often left me drained at the end of the day. To make things worse, the new place is a bit smaller (we'll be moving into a bigger house soon), which means it's a little bit harder to get away from the racket of having a 4-year-old and an 11-year-old in the house. Basically, it got hard, so I never officially "quit" reading, but I sort of just didn't continue reading consistently.
You know what? I can see the effect that it had on me when I was reading consistently, and I can see that it's not there now. I'm convinced: just reading the Bible consistently really does change you for the better. It's not just something that the Bible publishers say to get you to buy Bibles, and it's not just what your pastor says because it's his job; it's a reality. And listen, this blog is certainly not my job. I don't get any dollars or brownie points for saying this. It's the honest truth.
My good friend Justine blogged a few weeks ago about her failure to follow her Bible reading plan last year to the letter (or the number... make sure you check out her post if you're a math nerd like she is!) But actually, she didn't call her experience a failure, and I don't either. Time in the Word is never a failure, even if it's not as much time as you had planned. I don't really do the "resolution" thing, but now is as good a time as any to get back on the horse and ride... so last night I opened my Study Bibles back up to where I left off.
I almost laughed when I realized I was picking up at maybe the least popular book in the whole Bible! I mean, even Leviticus isn't as not-popular as Lamentations. At least Leviticus is part of the Pentateuch, and everybody loves Genesis and Exodus. I wasn't afraid of Lamentations, but I wasn't particularly looking forward to it, either. I didn't have any feelings either way when I opened it up.
What I found when I read chapter one of Lamentations was a beautiful, vivid poem about how much sadness there is when God's people have ignored His instructions and leaped (not fallen) time and again into sin. I had read the story in the Historical books, and I read read the warnings in the Major Prophets, and this was the aftermath. I kept thinking about how sometimes I'll tell my kids, "You need to stop doing that or else I'm going to have to punish you," and then they keep doing it and keep doing it, and finally I know that if I don't punish them, I'm going to lose their respect as an authority figure who they need to obey. I've given them the rule, I've outlined the consequences, and I've even given them mercy a time or two, but they've proved that they have an unrepentant heart, and they've brought consequences on themselves.
That's what happened to the Israelites, and that's what I read in the first chapter of Lamentations. I stopped after one chapter; this year, because my study environment is still not particularly conducive to long periods of study, I'm not going to push myself. If I get a nice quiet block of time to read, that's wonderful, but I'm happy with as little as one chapter a day if that's all I can get. I'm going to try to be diligent to get that chapter in. One chapter a day won't take me to the end of the Bible by the end of the year, I don't think (I haven't crunched the numbers), but it will get me on track again. Some days I expect to get in more chapters anyway, so I may yet make it by the end of this year. But 2012 or not, I'll make it eventually. And I know that even a little bit of the Word most every day will make a difference.
Read it! You'll be glad you did!