Tag Archives: Bible reading

Piper: No Desire to Read the Bible?

I’ve learned a lot from this book so far, as I usually do from John Piper.  This excerpt here is the best part I’ve read so far.  It touches on something I’ve experienced and I imagine you have too.  He’s discussing the prayer of the psalmist in Psalm 119:36, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.”

Over the years in my pastoral ministry, many people have complained to me that they do not have motivation to read the Bible.  They have a sense of duty that they should, but the desire is not there.  It is remarkable how many of those people feel that the absence of the desire is the last nail in the coffin of joyful meditation on God’s word.

When I ask them to describe to me what they are doing about it, they look at me as if I had misunderstood the problem.  What can you do about the absence of desire, they wonder.  “It’s not a matter of doing.  It’s a matter of feeling,” they protest.  The problem with this response is that these folks have not just lost desire for God’s word, but they have lost sight of the sovereign power of God, who gives that desire.  They are acting like practical atheists.  They have adopted a kind of fatalism that ignores the way the psalmist prays.

Evidently, the psalmist too felt this terrible tendency to drift away from the word of God.  Evidently, he too knew the cooling of desire and the tendency of his heart to incline more to other things — especially money.  Otherwise why would he have cried out, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.“?  He is pleading with God to give him desire for the word.  He knows that ultimately God is sovereign over the desires of the heart.  So he calls on God to cause what he cannot make happen on his own.  This is the answer to fatalism.  This is the answer to acting like an atheist — as if there were no God who rules the heart, and can restore what we have lost.  (p.255)

A little further on, Piper speaks about how to go about this:

Don’t wait until you have lost the desire before you start praying for this desire.  If the desire is present, give thanks and ask him to preserve it and intensify it.  If you sense that it is cooling, plead that he would kindle it.  And if it is gone, and you do not feel any desire to pray, do what you can.  Repent.  Tell him you are sorry that your desire for his word is dead.  Tell him just how you feel.  He knows already.  And ask him — this is possible without hypocrisy because of the “imperishable seed” (1 Pet. 1:23) that remains in his children — ask him to give you the desire that right now you can barely even muster the will to ask for.  He is merciful.  (p.256)

By the way, you can download this book for free right here.


Odontophobic Life Lessons

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Though his name has long escaped me, I will never forget his rage.  We had just moved back to Edmonton after three years in the Canadian north.  My mom was looking for a family dentist and a relative recommended this fellow in a downtown office tower.  Perhaps he developed his drinking problem prior to the recommendation — that’s the only explanation that makes any sense to me.  He was the angriest dentist I’ve ever encountered.  His patience for children was non-existent.  Once the door was closed and I was cut off from my mother, my mouth was supposed to open wide and when it didn’t open wide enough, his mouth opened wide with the most foul cursing I’d ever heard.  It was all directed at me.  Thankfully, Mom only took us there a couple of times — but those times were enough to forever put the fear of dentistry (odontophobia) in my blood.

Our next dentist was a gentle man, far kinder.  However, his dental hygienist was another story.  I called her “Carol the Butcher.”  There was a butcher shop next door and I was quite convinced she went back and forth.  Thanks both to Dr. Drunk and Carol the Butcher, I’ve always had a great deal of anxiety in the dentist’s office.  It can be hard to get past traumatic childhood experiences.  As a result, I’ve always hated going to the dentist:  the blood, the pain, the way my body seizes up in the chair.  I come away sore and worn right out.

Eventually it dawned on me that I could minimize some of my trouble through regular dental hygiene.  Other, more friendly, dental hygienists down the track taught me some helpful disciplines.  I learned that regular brushing with a soft toothbrush was a key.  I couldn’t really floss because I have sensitive gums (and I’m a bit clumsy), but a hygienist recommended some soft inter-dental brushes that could help in cleaning between my teeth.  Regularly using these would make my visits to the dentist a bit less traumatic.  As I developed better habits in dental hygiene (with some helpful tips), I was experiencing far less grief in the dental chair.

So much of our grief in life can be alleviated through developing good habits.  Sometimes we just need to be taught.  At other times, we need to become teachable and it can take some time.  This is true when it comes to dental hygiene, but also when it comes to spiritual hygiene.  I’ve learned that developing good spiritual habits or disciplines is just as valuable to our spiritual health as good habits are to our dental hygiene.  When you ignore your spiritual hygiene, you oftentimes bring grief on yourself.  For example, if you think that you can be spiritually healthy while seldom going to church to be under the Word, you’re just deceiving yourself.  It’d be like thinking that you’re going to have healthy teeth while seldom brushing.  Or if you think that you can be spiritually sound without reading and studying the Bible for yourself on a regular basis, you’re in a dream-world.  It’d be like thinking that your next dental visit will go fine without you having regularly flossed, or using something like an inter-dental brush.  Good hygiene is essential to good health — and it always requires effort and discipline.

My lowest points, spiritually speaking, have always come when I’ve been neglecting discipline in my spiritual life, especially the reading and study of God’s Word.  I will always be thankful for an elder who challenged me on this point about five years ago.  You may think it odd for a pastor to admit this.  It’s true that I’m always busy with the Bible, but usually I’m busy with it for the benefit of others.  Yes, I’ve always gotten some benefit from it too.  But this elder challenged me to be busy with Scripture on a daily basis for my own benefit.  He said, “Have you ever tried reading through the Bible in a year?”  I hadn’t up to that point, but he really got me thinking.  I was getting into good habits for my dental health, but what about good habits for my spiritual health?  And which is more important?  The Lord worked through that elder to introduce me to the habit of reading Scripture every day, two or three chapters, for my own benefit.  Good dental hygienists introduced me to good habits for my teeth; a good elder introduced me to a good habit for my soul.  For both, I’m forever grateful.

Looking for a Bible reading plan to start on a good habit for your spiritual health?  Here’s a place to start.


Do you have a plan for 2015?

Open Bible

The first congregation of Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was in a Welsh town called Sandfields.   In his biography of Lloyd-Jones, Iain Murray relates how the pastor made efforts to get his congregation into the Word of God on a daily basis.  It was his conviction that every pastor should go through the complete Bible in one year — “That should be the very minimum of the preacher’s Bible reading.”  But he also believed that such a discipline of Bible reading would be beneficial for all church members.  Initially, the Doctor developed his own Bible-reading plan which would take the congregation through the entire Bible in one year.  However, eventually he discovered the reading plan developed by Robert Murray M’Cheyne and, for the rest of his life, this was the plan he used personally and that he recommended to parishioners.

Thanks to one of my elders, I have become convinced that every Christian should have a plan for disciplined regular reading of the Scriptures.  I have been practicing it now for three years and the blessings have been enormous.  For 2015, I plan to continue this practice using the reading plan recommended by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and used with great profit by many.  You can find Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s original plan online here.  (Over here is a better format for printing).  The original plan includes some helpful notes from M’Cheyne about the practice of daily Bible reading, including the dangers and advantages.  M’Cheyne’s plan knits together family Bible reading and individual Bible reading and you could do it that way.  I’m going to be taking a different approach — I’ll be using the family Bible reading in the morning and the individual Bible reading in the evening.  With M’Cheyne’s plan, in the span of a year you go through the entire Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice.

Every year this topic gets raised on blogs and social media.  Every year the objections get trotted out.  My answer:  why not just try it?  It doesn’t have to be M’Cheyne’s plan, it could be any one of a variety of plans (see here for some links).  It could be a one-year, a two-year, or even a three-year plan.  But if the Word of God is precious to us, and if we believe that reading it will enrich our faith, then shouldn’t we have some type of plan in place to help us stay on track?  And what if you do fall behind?  Sometimes events conspire against the best made plans for Bible reading.  If you haven’t fallen too far behind, do some catch up on the Lord’s Day — that’s a great time for some extra Bible reading.  If you’ve fallen really far behind, just carry on with the plan and don’t stress about it.

If you don’t already, let me encourage you to take up this practice as of January 1, 2015 — it will not always be easy, but ultimately you will not regret it!


A Good Plan for 2013

Well, here we are at the end of 2012.  Many people are making plans for the new year — they’ve got hopes and dreams, things they want to accomplish.  Can I make a small proposal to my Christian brothers and sisters?  If you don’t do it already, take up a plan to read through the entire Bible in the new year.  Eric Young has a number of links to help you pick one.   While we’re on this topic, I have a confession to make.  This past year, 2012, was the first year in my life that I read systematically through the entire Bible.  Yes, I’m a pastor.  Yes, I work with the Word of God almost every day.  But many times I feel like my knowledge of the Bible is novice-level at best.  At our home visit in 2011, our elders encouraged our family to read through the Bible in one year (yes, we’ve got great elders!).  I took that encouragement to heart and followed through.  I used the ESV Through the Bible in a Year reading plan.  I sometimes skipped a day for whatever reason, but then caught up the day following.  But I can assure you that taking this up has been a huge blessing to me, my walk with the Lord, and my ministry.  I’m definitely doing it again for 2013 and God willing, every year to come.  Let me encourage you today to consider doing the same, if you’re not already.  You will not regret it!