Too Much Reading!
What If I Miss A Day … or Three?
But I Don't Understand!
Why Should I Journal?
Which Bible Translation Should I Use?
What's Wrong With Using Other Books for My Devotions?
Why Is It So Important to Do Devotions Every Day?
But What If I Just Don't Have the Time?
Some Passages Are Difficult to Understand. What If I Only Understand Ten Percent?
I've Heard That the King James Version Is the Only Anointed English Translation of the Bible. Is This True?
What If I Miss a Day or Two?
How Long Does the Journaling Time Take?
If It's a Large Group, Not Everyone Will Have Time to Share. What Do We Do Then?
I've Usually Done My Devotions Alone. Shouldn't This Be a Private Time Between Just Me and the Lord?
I've Tried to Get My Pastor to Buy Into the Life Journal, but He Says He Has His Own Plan. I Get So Frustrated. What Should I do?
Can We Take the Life Journal and Change It?
Where Can We Obtain Life Journals?
What If I Don't Have the Money to Buy a Life Journal?
If I Cannot Get a Life Journal, Where Do I Begin?
What If Someone Shares His or Her Journal and It's Theologically in "Outer Space"?
Too Much Reading! Some people might feel, in following the Life Journal reading program, that there are just too many chapters to cover. For those who are unaccustomed to reading, it may appear to be true.
Here are three ways to resolve that perceived problem:
1. Read just half of what is presented. (It may still be twice as much as we've ever read!) Begin with the New Testament reading only. Or just the Old Testament.
2. Use the First Steps Journal reading program. It offers a decreased amount of reading without losing the flow.
3. Read until the Holy Spirit reveals a gem of wisdom. As you read, you will come upon a verse that stands out. Stop there. Journal on that verse. It will contain an amount of wisdom you will need for something you will be facing soon.
What If I Miss A Day … or Three? There will be times that you will miss a day (or a few days) of reading. You are fearful of beginning again because you will have to "catch up!"
Don't try to catch up. Start on today's reading. Whatever day it is, start there. Don't try to rewind the tape and catch up all the days you missed. That will discourage anybody! Start with today. Don't worry. You'll come around to it next year. Or if I have a day off, I will go back and read one or two that I missed. But don't get discouraged. Get back on the bus and discover what God has for you today!
But I Don't Understand! Some people say to me, "What if I don't understand 90% of what I am reading?" Then don't journal on the 90% you don't understand. Journal on the 10% you do! Begin there. If you toss the Bible out with the bathwater, your understanding will actually decrease. But if you will be faithful to journal on what you do understand, God will reveal more to you next time around.
Be faithful with what God shows you. This year, you may understand 10%, and if you are faithful to journal and apply that, next year, you will understand 30%. Then the next year, 50%, and then 90% the following year! Stay faithful and don't let our lack of understanding decide how we will live our life. Choose the best for your life. It will last you the long haul!
"Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." –Luke 10:40-42
Why Should I Journal? Some people say, "Wayne, I read the Bible, but I don't journal. Should I journal?"
Well, partly because in the book of Deuteronomy, God required Israel's kings to write out all of His Word in their own handwriting, then read, every day, what they had written. He mandated this practice, He says, so that the hearts of the kings might not be lifted up above their fellowman and would not become prideful.
If God made this a daily requirement of Israel's kings, then I think it's not too much to ask of the King's kids. Regular, prayerful time in the Bible keeps our hearts from straying.
How about other reasons? For one thing, journaling will help you when the tests come—and they will.
Also, as a communicator, I counsel people to journal because I know that the more you learn to write, the better your communication will be. You become better able to take tangled thoughts and articulate them. You develop the ability to compose your feelings and ideas in an effective and powerful way. When you're called upon to stand and speak, you'll be able to communicate more effectively because you've learned to write.
Sir Francis Bacon once said, "Reading maketh a full man; conference maketh a ready man; and writing maketh an exact man." Today, we'd say that writing makes us more precise thinkers.
As you write, you become a wordsmith: "Hmm, this adjective doesn't work; this adverb is better; this turn of a phrase is better." Writing teaches you to do it on the fly. One practical serendipity is that one day, when you begin to speak extemporaneously, you'll also start to wordsmith on the fly. You'll say in your head, This phrase works better than that, and this is better than the other. In nanoseconds, you're wordsmithing. The regular practice of journaling will be a tremendous help in developing your communication skills.
Which Bible Translation Should I Use? I don't make much fuss over the particular translation someone uses. I just want him or her to regularly use it! Of course, you don't want one that calls itself The New World Translation—that's a faulty version created by a cult. Only make sure that you have a translation you can understand.
You'll find a number of good paraphrases—The Living Bible, The Message, or Good News for Modern Man—renderings that seek to take the Bible's message and translate it into English idea for idea (rather than word for word).
The late Ken Taylor created The Living Bible when he wanted a version his grandchildren could understand. At that time there were very few English translations available. Taylor's work was like a breath of fresh air. A newer translation called the New Living Translation builds on and fine-tunes his work. I think it's excellent.
Other versions try to translate more word for word than idea for idea: some of the popular ones include the New American Standard Bible, the King James Version, and the New King James Version. Somewhere in the middle is a translation like the New International Version (which has been the top-selling English Bible for many years). The NIV reads at about an eighth-grade level, using vocabulary, phraseology, grammar, and syntax most Americans can easily understand.
Choose whichever translation fits best for you. Whatever you choose, get to know this book! Get to know it with all your heart. Choose to regularly sit at the Lord's feet and listen to His Word.
What's Wrong With Using Other Books for My Devotions? Some people say to me, "I do my daily devotions, but I read My Utmost for His Highest or Our Daily Bread. What's wrong with using books like these? Aren't they based on the Bible?"
To that I say, "There is only one book in the universe God promised to inspire; it's not by J. Oswald Chambers, and I'll bet Chambers himself wouldn't find any argument with that statement! The only book the Lord has pledged to inspire is the one that Paul, in Ephesians 6, calls the sword of the Spirit.
Of course, this is not an either/or thing—it's a both/and! But first and foremost, you need to go directly to the Word itself for God-breathed instruction. That's what inspiration means: "God-breathed."
The Bible has stood the test of time. Other volumes may be classics that remain popular for a hundred years or even a thousand. The Bible has endured from the start, and its end will never come. We simply have to get back to the Bible.
Why Is It So Important to Do Devotions Every Day? Let's change the question a bit. What if God traded out our eyes for His? What if, by divine dispensation, we were allowed to see things through His eyes … to see, not as man sees, but as He sees? What if we were granted a momentary metamorphosis and saw people's true, spiritual condition? Would we be heartbroken or heart-lifted at what we saw? Sad or surprised? In anguish or in awe?
What if we could see, not how we look to one another, but how we look to God? What would happen if we could pray, in faith, a prayer like that of Elisha regarding his servant?
"O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the Lord opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
What would the people in your church look like if they snacked on meager food morsels during the week and ate only one good meal on the weekend? You know the answer, don't you? You'd find yourself surrounded by emaciated, gaunt people in desperate need of nutrition.
And how would these undernourished believers fare against a demonic adversary? Can you imagine how this army would look? You'd see threadbare skeletons with hollow cheeks and sunken eye-sockets, lined up like phantoms. Weakened by famine, that shriveled militia could barely stand at attention; each would struggle to find the strength to keep his or her bony frame upright.
Could this "army" conquer an opposing force?
No way. No earthly general would send them out to fight.
Well, then, how about the army of the Lord? What of those who gather on Sunday mornings? Are they spiritually nourished to fight the battles ahead? Considering what most members of God's army subsist on—an occasional tidy snack from a devotional book and perhaps an average-sized meal on Sundays to satiate conscience—you'd have to conclude that God's fighting force has some serious training to do.
Have you ever wondered why marriages seemingly crumble overnight, and—out of the blue—Christians leaders fall to luring temptations?
The truth is, no marriage instantly disintegrates, and no one suddenly falls away from Christ. For that matter, no one dies from an eating disorder after missing a day or two of meals.
It could better be described as a slow decline—gradual spiritual starvation, barely even discernible to the outside observer. The malnourishment of God's sons and daughters happens over time, as they eat less and less. Then, in their weakness, they do something that shocks everyone, finally revealing what was really going on in their spiritual lives.
Did you know that more than 80 percent of those who call themselves Christians read their Bibles only once a week? And that's usually on Sundays, at church. They come to church to get their spiritual fill, and then snack on devotional tidbits for the rest of the week (if even that).
I wish for just one day God would change the way our eyes work, so we would see ourselves spiritually. We'd see most American churches filled with skeletal, hollow-eyed saints, looking as if a gust of wind would blow them away like tumbleweeds.
Which is why, when some new trend floods America and pushes our nation further away from God, further away from our spiritual roots, the church is unable to withstand the tide. We simply don't have the strength.
So what's the solution?
As I mentioned earlier, the American Journal of Medicine recently published a highly revealing conclusion: The health of twenty-first-century America will no longer be determined by what people can get doctors to do for them but by what doctors can get people to do for themselves.
Do you see how this prescription applies equally to the church? If we eat only once a week, it's no wonder the church is weak and struggling. But daily fresh bread can change all of that. Regularly dining on fresh bread makes for a stalwart, strong, developed army—the only kind of force that will always make a difference in this world.
But What If I Just Don't Have the Time? Sometimes even though we know reading the Bible is important, we don't think we have the time to do it regularly. So many things are happening in our lives—we are just too busy! We'd like to feast on God's Word, but when will we have the time?
Here's what I say to that: "We will always have time for the things we see as important and enjoyable."
If we think golf is important, we find time to play. We might feel listless and tired on Sunday morning, in no mood to attend a boring church service—but if a friend invites us to try out a new course, we'll find the energy.
Because we always have time for the things we enjoy and consider important, what does it say to us if we claim we simply can't find forty minutes a day to spend alone with God?
Some Passages Are Difficult to Understand. What If I Only Understand Ten Percent? You're not alone in this. Peter understood exactly what you're going through. Listen to these words:
This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him—speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand.
I love that. If Peter had a tough time, we certainly don't need to be wound up about not comprehending everything. However, we don't end there. I mentioned this earlier in the book: If you don't understand 90 percent, then don't get tied up about what you may be "missing" this time around. Journal on the 10 percent you do understand.
Be faithful with what God reveals to you. When you are, next time around, you will understand 20 percent … then 40 percent … then 60 percent. Obeying what you do understand is crucial to receiving future revelation. If I don't apply the truths I do understand, why should the Lord reveal to me truths I don't yet understand?
And here's a great prayer for when you begin reading the Scriptures. David taught me this one, and the same is offered to you.
Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law.
I've Heard That the King James Version Is the Only Anointed English Translation of the Bible. Is This True? No. There are many wonderful versions and paraphrases of the Bible. (See also under Question 2.) In broad terms, a version has been translated, word for word, from the Bible's original languages. A paraphrase is taken from a version and is presented "idea for idea."
Among the various versions, the New International is very well-loved. Most people read at around an eight-grade level. The relatively easy to understand NIV has positioned itself into that category. The New King James Version is listed at a ninth-grade level, and the New American Standard Version is rendered at an eleventh-grade level. These are more accurate on the verb tenses but sometimes a bit harder to read.
The King James is rated at a twelfth-grade level. It was not in print until 1611, and Paul the apostle was beheaded in Rome around AD 66, so obviously he didn't use it. He also didn't read English but rather Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.
Among the paraphrases, several are excellent, including The Message and Good News for Modern Man. As you begin, you may find one more suitable to your style than another. A brand-new believer may settle on a paraphrase at first, then move to a translation later.
Regardless, the bottom line is that you read the Bible!
What If I Miss a Day or Two? Do not be discouraged! When you get back to your schedule, begin with the present day's reading. Do not go back to where you left off and attempt to motor your way back. Start with today's reading and hear what God is saying to you. Then, should you have some extra time, go back and revisit the days you missed. If it's several weeks, I suggest you simply pick up with today's reading and, next year, you'll go back over the territory you missed.
Refuse condemnation. Reject discouragement and guilt. We're all growing and developing godly habits. Don't induce fault, remorse, or a sense of failure into your discipline.
How Long Does the Journaling Time Take? We have implemented a 20/20/20 method. That's twenty minutes for reading, followed by twenty minutes for journaling, and then, in a group setting, twenty minutes to share together what we've written in our journals. The whole life group takes, on the average, one hour. If you're doing devotions alone, this same equation works, except for the sharing portion. Then you can complete your devotions in forty minutes.
If It's a Large Group, Not Everyone Will Have Time to Share. What Do We Do Then? Some of my groups have included up to forty people. In fact, I've had some up to two hundred. A larger gathering is not a problem.
After our twenty minutes of reading and twenty minutes of journaling, I have the group break into smaller clusters of threes or fours, and they read their journals to one another. Then when we've concluded, I may read mine and give commentary on it. Or I'll ask the group to volunteer someone to share insights. You'll always have eager and willing friends to volunteer one another!
I've Usually Done My Devotions Alone. Shouldn't This Be a Private Time Between Just Me and the Lord? Remember, I'm not suggesting a type of classic Bible study group where one person teaches and everybody listens to his or her stories and commentary.
In the life group, for your first forty minutes, no one talks! The Holy Spirit is mentoring you. You're alone with Him even though there are others around you. Each person is "shut in" with the Lord.
The final twenty minutes, though, is also for listening and learning. So many times I've had moments of revelation through someone else's journal entry. So often I've come away richer for having been with others who are hearing from God. I've never felt intruded upon as I've sat in my "secret place" with the Most High.
I've Tried to Get My Pastor to Buy Into the Life Journal, but He Says He Has His Own Plan. I Get So Frustrated. What Should I do? No one method is the right one or the only one. Although I've taken twenty years to simplify, test, and improve our devotions, this is still by no means the only way. My suggestion is that you start with you and a few others with whom you'd like to meet. Enjoy it, savor it, and watch how God uses it to transform your life. Let the Spirit increase it to include more and more people. But start deep, not fast.
Can We Take the Life Journal and Change It? The Life Journal is copyrighted and may not be changed, but you can have custom journals printed for your church with permission (see Question 14, below). The Bible-Reading Program is designed to help you read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice each year. We ask churches to use it but not change it or tout it as a devotional requirement.
Of course you may make any reading plan you like, but this one was designed so that even if people from different churches or denominations gather, they'll all be on the same page and be reading the same passages. This is for the sake of unity and fellowship, camaraderie, and solidarity. If each church develops its own, then only the people from that congregation will be able to read together. I had one life group in which people from five different churches gathered. We all had such a fantastic time in the Word and in fellowship!
Where Can We Obtain Life Journals? You may order them from our LifeJournal.cc shop.
What If I Don't Have the Money to Buy a Life Journal? We don't have a problem with spending money. We do it every day. We spend the equivalent of a journal for one meal in a fast-food restaurant.
Investing in your growth in Christ is the greatest investment you can make. When you think about it, many of us spend more on an evening movie ticket than we do on what may bring eternal dividends! Don't get duped by the myth that something like spiritual growth should cost you nothing.
I can hear my friend David calling from the other room. He's reminding us of his words to Ornan: "I will not take what is yours … or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing."
The person who doesn't buy a journal in order to save money is like a person who unplugs the clock to save time.
Learn to invest in your personal growth with Christ. There is no higher venture.
If I Cannot Get a Life Journal, Where Do I Begin? One suggestion is to purchase a notebook and set it up like a Life Journal. Leave the first page for your table of contents and the second for a prayer list. Then begin numbering your daily pages from the third page.
For headings, have your table of contents include "Date," "Scripture," "Title," and "Page" across the top. You could also copy the reading schedule from a Life Journal and tape it into your journal. When you've completed these steps, you're ready to go!
What If Someone Shares His or Her Journal and It's Theologically in "Outer Space"? Do not fear. This gives you a great opportunity to practice your people skills by showing graciousness in leadership. Paul reminds us of this:
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
As Christians, we need open forums to discuss differing perspectives, and some of those perspectives may be very differing! Discuss them and reason together. The Holy Spirit will be there to help, and should you end up in an argument, take it before someone who may be more advanced in wisdom, and/or take them to research it. In the end, you'll all be wiser and more knowledgeable.
However, remember to resolve the issue without forfeiting relationships. Never exchange a healthy friendship for a "win" in an apologetic battle. It isn't worth it. The body of Christ is replete with unresolved theological battles: for instance, "Once Saved, Always Saved," the "Prosperity Gospel," and the timing of various eschatological events.
Yet we are nevertheless the body of Christ, and we can move forward without drawing lines in the sand and taking our firing pins off safety.