May 18, 2014

Dust off that Book

. . . He leads me beside still waters. (Psalm 23:2)

Last year a group of nine Canadian Bible agencies engaged world-class market research company, Angus Reid Strategies, to undertake the Canadian Bible Engagement Study (CEBS). More than 4,500 people across Canada were interviewed and the results revealed that most Canadians are not reading the Bible and not interested in reading it.

Specifically, about one in seven Canadian Christians, or 14%, read the Bible at least once a week, but the majority of Canadians, including those who call themselves Christian, seldom or never read it. Perhaps the reasons are that only 18% strongly agree the Bible is the Word of God (compared to 35% in 1996) and only one in four Christians (23%) strongly agree that the Bible is relevant to modern life.

I’ve not done a formal survey, but it seems that many Christians are strung out, too busy, and thrown into a panic at every threat to their comfort. Like sheep, they are in need of still waters but instead trying to find refreshment in the fast lane of life. They expect or desire rest without realizing that there is no rest apart from the peace that God gives to those who rest in Him.

Our church is doing a series called “Making Choices.” Last week’s bulletin says the sermon today will be called, “The Choice to Rest.” It is a timely topic for all Christians, but I’m amazed again at God’s timing. Here are today’s verses from my devotional booklet.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:22–26)

Waiting can mean asking God for something and then waiting for the answer, but it can also mean sitting quietly in His presence, talking with Him and listening to Him. This means turning off the television, unplugging the ear buds, opening the Bible, and waiting on God with my full attention.

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love. (Psalm 59:16–17)

Yesterday I was thinking about God’s faithfulness. When I first became a Christian, my sister told me to read the Bible until something jumped out at me, then write down the Scripture portion and the thoughts God put in my head. Since that time more than forty years ago, I cannot remember any days where I did not hear God speak. There were likely some, but the overwhelming reality of God’s faithfulness is evidence of His “steadfast love in the morning.” Hearing from Him is an astonishing blessing to my heart. I could not survive even the ho-hum of my life without Him, never mind make it in the whirlwind world that pressures other peoples. How do they survive without waiting on God and resting in Him?  

My advice for those Christians in the percentage that seldom or never read the Bible is the same as the advice of the psalmist and the example of Jesus . . . “But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.” (Psalm 88:13)  . . .  And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

It is only in reading and listening that anyone can make the connection between today’s life and the Words of the Lord in that old book. It is by resting in the Lord and hearing from Him that our hearts are calm, and like sheep we are fed in lush pastures beside still waters. We should never allow life to push aside our quiet time with God or cause our Bibles to become dusty.

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