You know that feeling you get that can only be described as conviction? You might swear all day and even when you’re sleeping, but one Sunday you hear a powerful sermon about the evils of the tongue. This feeling sparks in you and makes you fidget in your seat. The uncomfortable feeling takes root, digging into your mind, until it changes into a nagging doubt. It tells you maybe cussing at coworkers is worse than you thought before, maybe your use of language damages how other people see Christians and, by extension, Jesus. You start to wonder if you should cut out swearing altogether.
God has convicted me to read the Bible daily. That small, still voice whispered every time I picked up one of my books that I am missing out on something greater in my spiritual life by not choosing The Book. Doesn’t God’s Word deserve the top spot on my reading list?
At the beginning of the summer, Olive Tree Bible Software (where I work) released the Olive Tree Summer Bible Reading Plan. The e-book gives readers a guided tour of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, along with short introductions to each genre collection and book. The people who came up with the idea for a summer reading plan invited me to help pull it together in time for the release date. Besides joining the collaborative editing process, I wrote the introductions for the genres of Books of Wisdom/Poetry and Gospels/Acts, as well as introductions for all the books those genres include.
Readers learn background information and contextual details as they cover an overview of the Bible in three and a half months. According to the description page, “A reading plan for new believers and mature Christians alike, Olive Tree’s Summer Bible Reading Plan will take you through the Scriptures book by book and fill your summer with the Word of God.” (Intrigued? The plan is downloadable at the above link for the steal… uh, deal… of 99 cents.)
Why am I telling you this now and not on June 1 when it released? Well, when we finished the work, I plugged it all over my social networks and to the certain friends I thought would be interested. I downloaded it myself and fully intended to support the project by following the plan for the summer. The download was free back then, and I had the time for a little daily reading.
As you can probably predict, other summer plans soon distracted me from the Summer Bible Reading Plan. My previous reading commitment faded from memory, and I turned to books made of paper, not bytes, I had collected beforehand and had yet to finish. Since then, the list of books to pick up has only grown. My summer apartment has a small bookshelf that is quickly running out of shelving space, even with most of my book collection still at my parent’s house. Last week, a friend let me borrow two more books by C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce and God in the Dock, which are waiting on the bookshelf.
I’m trying to keep up by reading all at once Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels, and 19 Gifts of the Spirit by Leslie B. Flynn. Another book joined the list Tuesday, given priority for professional improvement, when The Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition came in the mail.
But there’s something still missing from my daily reading. I’ve recently started to notice how everything I read tells me reading the Bible itself is beneficial and good, necessary even. I find little reminders in the verses at the end of each Jesus Calling devotional, Bill Hybels’ frequent examples of prayer in Scripture, and how spiritual gifts are apparently rooted in regular devotion to the Word. Besides Chicago, my book list reduces down to reading about the Bible, yet most of my time in the Bible only comes through my work for Olive Tree.
I decided to start with Psalms, which I’ve wanted for over a year to read straight through. Somehow, it never happened. I started this Monday, and in five days, I’ve already covered 78 psalms. Psalms lasts 120 pages in my Bible. I only have 58 pages to go, just short of half. Not too hard for the longest book of the Bible, right?
The best part: Psalms is one of my favorite biblical books. I prefer to read Psalms aloud, enjoying it not only as part of the Bible, but as a collection of ancient Hebrew poetry. Each psalm is written as a song or prayer addressed directly to the Lord. The themes of praise, thankfulness, sorrow, celebration and trust connect with every human emotion and experience in relationship with God. Whatever your situation in life, there’s a psalm that tells in beautiful poetry what you are feeling and God’s loving care over you.
But now that I’m halfway done with Psalms, I don’t know what to read next. Suggestions are welcome. What are your favorite books in the Bible? Tell me what part of the Bible I should read, and if you’re looking for a Christian book outside of the Bible, a summer reading list is coming your way in my next post. Let’s help each other.