My daughter’s boyfriend, Matt, works in the High-Tech Performance Apparel industry. (I always thought the height of high-tech apparel was the Converse high-top.) He’s an avid sportsman and a NOLS leader trained in Alaskan sea kayaking, mountaineering, and glacier-navigation.

Matt recently described two kinds of people who buy performance gear and apparel. Some buy because they use it. These are the active outdoor sports enthusiasts who know that high-tech boots can make or break an Alaskan hike and that the right carabiner might save their life.

And then there are the tech-geeks who academically argue the advantages and demerits of chromoly vs. stainless steel alloys in their boot crampons.

You see them in Starbucks disputing metal fatigue, manufacturing processes, and moisture-wicking properties. The problem is: you see them sitting in Starbucks, not climbing their next mountain.

Alas! When it comes to biblical authority, too many Christians are like tech-geeks.

The Undermining of Biblical Authority

The reliability of Scripture came under attack during and after the Enlightenment; especially (and oddly) by Christian leaders themselves. In a Christmas Eve sermon in 1806, Friedrich Schleiermacher (a seminary professor) told his congregation that the actual event of Christmas (a baby born to a virgin) isn’t important, just the mood of joy when we imagine it.

A hundred years later, Rudolph Bultmann (another seminary professor) wrote, “It is impossible to use electric lights and the wireless … and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world of spirits and miracles.”

When they proclaim that the “facts” of Christmas don’t matter and that the “spiritual realm” doesn’t exist, they directly attack the reliability of Scripture. Because the Bible insists on the facts of Christmas and the reality of a spiritual world.

To address these flaky professors, real answers were needed.

(What’s with those seminary profs anyway? If you no longer believe the Bible, retire, take a sabbatical, or take up basket weaving! Don’t expect us, like lemmings, to follow you.)

To counter the attack on God’s Word, theologians and pastors for the last two hundred years have been arguing for the trustworthiness of the Bible. And that’s right. The Bible is trustworthy and that we should argue for its authority.

But I wonder if we’re just debating in Starbucks.

Use It or Lose It

A friend of mine from university trusted the authority of the Bible. His life verse was, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). The problem was, he rarely read it.

Sure, he believed it is literally God’s Word, but he didn’t find it life-giving. He scolded me for carrying a small New Testament in my back pocket; it was too disrespectful. He  wouldn’t even underline his Bible; his Bible he kept on the shelf.

He was sitting in Starbucks and not climbing the mountain.

Why Do We Read Scripture?

We absolutely need to examine the inspiration of Scripture. We plan to entrust our lives to it; we don’t want to use a Kmart carabiner on a climb up Mt. Everest. But we must examine more.

Why do we read the Bible? For more than finding proof-texts that the Bible is God’s Word. Once we trust it, we need to use it. Otherwise, who cares? Accepting its authority is simply getting the right gear for your life.

Let’s not leave that gear on the shelf.

We read Scripture in order to personally meet Jesus. The Bible promises that in it we actually come to hear God. And that—how to hear God in Scripture—should be the focus of our teaching. We spend so much time arguing for Scripture that we we’ve forgotten to teach how to use it.

(By the way, could you get me another double, nonfat, hazelnut latte in a to-go cup please?)

Let’s Drink Our Coffee on the Mountain

I wrote the Scripture Meditation Plan with the single goal of helping people personally hear God through biblical meditation. (All you have to do is subscribe and you’ll have access to the plan. Contact me if you need help.)

Let us not merely respect God’s Words, let’s read them; and not merely read them but “delight in them and meditate on them day and night” (Ps. 1:2). And in that meditation, we leave the coffee shop behind and finally begin to see God as we climb Mt. Everest.

Or should I say Mt. Sinai.

Sam

As a college student, I wanted to spend a summer abroad, but money was so tight that Raman noodles were my Sunday treat. I found a communal farm in Israel (sort of like modern WWOOFING) that provided room and board plus ten dollars a month (and a daily pack of cigarettes!) for simple, manual labor. I signed up.

I talked with a few people who had “volunteered” in the past. They said that it’s difficult to gain the respect of the communal farm members; partly because the large farms attracted loads of volunteers; but mostly because the host members found the volunteers to be irresponsible, unreliable, and lazy.

I wanted the respect of the farm members, so I signed up for a small farm (in order to actually rub elbows with members) and I resolved myself to be responsible and diligent.

On the flight to Tel Aviv I read this verse: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Pr. 17:28). In my continuing determination to gain respect, I decided to speak less and listen more.

My siblings had been urging this practice on me for years.

It All Went Downhill Fast

My first job began at 4:00 a.m. I didn’t have an alarm clock so my roommate promised to wake me. But he forgot to set his alarm. Arriving late to my work debut, I desperately wanted to defend myself to my new boss, but the proverb—When he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent—was still fresh. Instead of blaming my friend, I apologized without excuse.

The next day he forgot again, but the verse still haunted me, so I apologized once more.

That evening I had a few hard words with my roommate—I didn’t keep completelysilent—and he swore he would remember. But he forgot. I was utterly humiliated and frantically wanted to impress my new boss. But I apologized this third and last agonizing time. With no defense.

On the fourth night, I stole my roommate’s alarm, set it, and I was the first to arrive for work. Later that week, my friend secretly confessed to my boss that it was his own mistake that caused me to be late three days in a row.

My boss found me in the cafeteria, told me of my roommate’s confession, and added, “Sam, most volunteers overflow with creative justifications for their untrustworthiness. You are my first volunteer ever to apologize without excuse. I will name you ‘Emet’” (which means “true”).

From then on, he insisted I eat with his family, and he introduced me to his fellow members of the farm’s leadership team with these words: “Meet my good friend, Emet.”

He never again called me, “Sam.”

God Frequently Takes Us on Paths We Don’t Expect

When we suffer loss—anything from tarnished reputation, rejection, theft, and even death—we want to get back to what we had before. But the gospel promises more than a mere return to our previous state of affairs.  C. S. Lewis wrote,

For God is not merely mending, not simply restoring a status quo. Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious than unfallen humanity.

I felt stung for three, short days; Joseph endured many years; and Jesus suffered an eternity. God’s ways are better than ours. Even when they’re scary. Because God invented resurrection.

If I had avoided the sting of three embarrassing days, I would never have befriended my boss; if Joseph wasn’t enslaved, he and his family would have died of starvation; and if the disciples got their way, we would never have known the depths of God’s love nor the heights of his freedom.

It’s a spiritual principle that God uses our deepest pains to bring about our greatest joys. Restoration of status quo is child’s play; transformation of suffering into glory is the gospel.

The Principle of Transformation

Scripture predicts suffering for every human being. It may be wounding, rejection, marginalization, forgotten-ness, or maybe the untimely death of a loved one.

But Scripture also promises hope. Every page of the Bible explodes with a simple, spiritual, counterintuitive principle: God transforms our deepest sufferings into our greatest joys.

We need not fear our greatest fears. From a roommate’s minor negligence to the crucifixion of the promised messiah, God always resurrects inconceivable joy out of seeming inconsolable grief.

And that is God’s Emet, truth.

Sam

When I was twelve, my parents taught me to read a chapter of Proverbs a day. Proverbs has thirty-one chapters, so the day of the month determined which chapter to read. (Some months, of course, have fewer than thirty-one days, and I just skipped those last chapters without guilt.)

After ten months of Proverbs, I finally—dare I say it?—got bored. So on a whim, I decided to read Hebrews. But then a Sunday school teacher told me Hebrews is a horribly difficult letter, and I would do better to begin with something easier, like Timothy.

I immediately stopped reading Hebrews. (I didn’t even look at it again until I was thirty.) But studying Paul’s two letters to Timothy was good. I read them three or four times.

And then, once again, I was stuck. What should I read next? My Proverbs / Hebrews / Timothy venture sparked a multi-year struggle to find a reading plan that could pass the test of time.

Those Weren’t My Only False Starts

Our bodies are fed by daily bread, and our souls are nourished by God’s Word. But like my many past diet failures, I couldn’t find a Bible plan that lasted more than a few months. I tried:

  • Several One-Year Bible plans. I always bogged down in the middle of Isaiah or else missed a week and had to read twenty chapters of Leviticus to catch up. And I quit.
  • Numerous daily study plans. Some were frankly stupid: “Read the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. What was the name of the tax collector and what kind of tree did he climb?” (Seriously!) Excellent study plans do exist, but I found myself interacting with their authors more with than God’s voice. And I quit.
  • Multiple church lectionaries. But most lectionaries fail to cover the entire Bible, and the pace of their readings conflicted with the pace of my prayer. I was often drawn to a few verses, wanting to reflect on them rather than move on. I always fell behind. And I quit.

I Never Told a Soul

My multiple misstarts, false starts, and restarts made me feel like a spiritual dweeb. I was sure that I alone—of all believers in the world—had failed to find a good Scripture plan. So I told no one.

Instead, I designed my own reading plan that incorporates lessons learned from my failures into an intentional time of prayerful reflection. And I love it. Even though I used my plan for years, once again, I never told a soul. Not even my wife!

I wasn’t reluctant to share it; I just assumed everyone else had a terrific plan that they loved. But over the last twelve months, I’ve discovered that scores of believers—virtually every one of my friends (including my wife)—share my struggles with finding a long-term plan that works.

What’s So Different about This Plan?

My various failures brought clarity. I wanted a plan designed to hear God in Scriptureand that (a) allowed me to go at my own pace; (b) covered all of Scripture (eventually); (c) intermingled the Old Testament genres of story, poetry, and prophets; and (d) was designed to engage God through biblical meditation.

Each day’s reading fuses together passages from the Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament narratives, and New Testament letters. The Old Testament books are reshuffled so that Isaiah isn’t followed by a dozen more prophets.

You read at your own pace. Some days you may read a few verses from each section; other days, a whole chapter. If you miss a day (or a week), you pick up where you left off—no need to play catch-up. A typical day averages fifteen minutes of reading. But there is no typical day.

A Delightful Surprise

The plan provides a unique mixture of passages every day. This morning I read Psalm 142, Jeremiah 10:1–5, John 3:1–8, and 1 Peter 1:3–9. I’ll never read that mix of Scriptures again. The next time I read Jeremiah, I’ll probably read Luke not John, and the next time I read John, I’ll probably be reading Romans not Peter.

The interplay between passages provides a unique daily mixture of Scripture that I’ll never repeat. Today’s passages gave me a glimpse into a Psalmist’s depression, the futility (and stupidity) of our idols, the hope of being made new, and God’s promise of an unfading inheritance. Tomorrow’s readings will again be a new mixture and enriching surprise.

The plan also provides four different methods of biblical meditation. The length of time for meditation depends on you, but I find myself reflecting on the readings throughout the day. In fact, the majority of my blog articles spill over from those times of listening to God in his Word.

Try it yourself—I offer my plan for FREE

This past year I discovered I’m far from alone in my spiritual dweebness. So I’ve decided to share my plan with anyone looking to try a new Bible reading plan. It’s not so much a Bible study as it is a deliberate, daily approach to seeking God’s voice in Scripture.

And it’s free. I give the Scriptural Meditation Plan to anyone who subscribes to Beliefs of the Heart. Just click on that link,  and subscribe; it will bring you to the download page (or you can follow the directions that come in the confirmation email).

I promise you this: You’ll never fall behind; I won’t ask you the name of Balaam’s donkey; and the book of Hebrews will no longer intimidate you. And I’m pretty sure you’ll love it as I do.

Sam

Do you ever ask yourself, “What was I created to do?” No matter how well put-together our life is, we still wonder if there is more: more purpose, more passion, and a more vibrant relationship with God.

We wonder, “Does God speaks to someone like me? Does he give a significant purpose for someone like me?  Is there more?”

The answer to these questions is, absolutely yes!

As writers, speakers, and personal advisors, we have helped thousands of people find that “more.”

And, we would love to help you.  There are three things that are needed to find the life that God designed you to live, a life that brings life to other:

1. Understanding – you need to understand what calling (purpose) is and what it isn’t.

We have created a free four-part video series which you can watch now:  Discovering Your Calling Video Series

2. Discovery – understanding is not enough, you must discover what your unique, God-designed purpose is.

We have tools to help you unearth this.  Attend our Calling Intensive Workshop, either in-person or online. Note: at this time, only our online workshop is available, starting Feb. 23rd.

3. Implementation – discovering is not enough, you must implement it.  We can help you walk-out your calling through our Calling Advanced Workshop and with the personal advice of experienced trail guides.  Check our Events calendar for future events.

Register now for the Online Calling Intensive Workshop which starts in three weeks.. Since this is live and interactive, we want to limit our class to twelve people.

We would love to help you find your calling.

For information and registration go to Online Calling Intensive Workshop.