It’s winter again today. A couple of weeks ago it was like spring in Indiana; mid-50’s, light breeze, light jacket or long-sleeves. And it’ll happen again too. We’ll go back to spring weather for a while, then back to winter and into the fall and back to spring and winter again; all before Easter.
Though the temperatures don’t seem to submit to our expectations of winter, the sun is reliable in its absence throughout the winter months. It’s hit and miss at midday, but it’s always missing in the mornings and early evenings. I suppose it’s bright enough to see sometime shortly after eight in the morning though dark enough to stumble by dinner-time. The evenings put me to sleep this time of year, but the mornings I fully enjoy.
I prefer the early mornings to any other time of day. It’s not that the flesh is pleased with early alarms – though my spirit is pleased with the assistance in helping selfish desires to submit – but that I find a fuller me at this time of day.
There can be quietness and solitude found at either extreme (after one’s family has gone to bed or prior to their rising), but the quietness of the early morning hours has the benefit of arriving without the baggage and concerns of a day already spent. My mind is by far at its best prior to sloshing through a winter day in Indiana. I find that I’m markedly more apt and creative in my writing, nearly devoid of concerns for the day, and much more attuned to God’s word.
My desire each morning is to have something very near two hours, prior to work, in which to read and study the Bible for an hour and then to read extra-biblical materials and/or write for the remaining forty-five minutes or an hour.
The extra-biblical materials that I read are oftentimes by pastors or theologians but I’m very able to settle in with a history book of some sort and whittle away my time with a regrettable quickness. I try to acquire a few books on whatever topic I engage (the book sales at the public library are a fine source of shamefully cheap books) and this usually lends itself to broadening my interest further as the authors recommend other authors, and the footnotes recommend more.
The bulk of my morning, though, is spent in reading the Bible along with Warren Wiersbe (Christian Book Distributors has his collection of commentaries on the whole Bible, for a birthday present kind of price). I’ve been using these commentaries for a couple of years now and find them extraordinarily beneficial and usable. I’m going cover to cover with them.
While so many commentators can get caught up in the nuances of some particular word and its use over the past three or four thousand years, and others may get caught up in pulling down left-leaning strongholds (not that there’s no place for either of these), Warren Wiersbe seems to mostly get caught up in the Bible. The best part of this must be that he helps me to get caught up in the Bible as well.
There are certainly quotes of various historical figures; contemporary considerations and relations to assist a passage or lighten the mood momentarily. A prime example of the levity to be found is the following quote from Mark Twain: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principle difference between a dog and a man.”
This, to me, is the kind of nugget that by itself makes the pangs of the alarm clock worthwhile. Having these well-placed and brief intermissions lightly scattered throughout what is certainly a very readable, conservative, and thoughtful commentary is of irreplaceable value to me.
These particular commentaries are laid out in such a manner as to remind me to read slowly and repetitively, as well. Going through the book of Jeremiah, for instance, Wiersbe has (as chapter eight in his commentary on Jeremiah) the biblical chapters 25-29 as his text. He then has four main and numbered divisions in his chapter and a few more subdivisions under these – each relating to specific verses.
In encountering this chapter, I read, as suggested, chapters 25-29 of the book of Jeremiah. I then begin reading Wiersbe’s comments. When I come to the first main division and its highlighted text, I read that portion from the Bible for a second time. When I come, then, to the further subdivision; I read that portion for a third time. This ensures that, along with the commentaries, I read the Biblical text of each book of the Bible at least three times. This is a discipline that I’m very thankful that God has brought to my mind.
In his final subdivision on chapter eight; Jeremiah 29:24-32, Wiersbe writes, “What life does to us depends largely on what life finds in us. If we seek the Lord and want His best, then circumstances will build us and prepare us for what He has planned. If we rebel or if we look for quick and easy shortcuts, then circumstances will destroy us and rob us of the future God wants us to enjoy. The same sun that melts the ice also hardens the clay.” The wisdom found in these types of comments is of a sort that can be carried in one’s pocket throughout the day.
I enjoy being walked along through the Bible as I enjoy a slow walk through the woods – by a knowledgeable and able teacher. As I’ve been involved in horticultural pursuits for several years, I no longer need a guide to point out the different species of trees or to call my attention to the different undergrowth or the different soils in the woods. Bible study, though, being a much different and more important pursuit, draws from me an appreciation of the wisdom of one who has walked these trails and can call out the shades that I might not otherwise see. I don’t believe there will come a time in my life that I won’t want to hear others relating their observations. I’ll always appreciate a guide.
At the same time, I appreciate walking through without gathering too much information about the identity of the author. I’m not very interested in one’s political persuasions or their preference for, and irresistible insight into, a fine cup of coffee or their penchant for a particular type of printer paper. I believe the personality of our leaders and teachers should be of the sort that casts all interest toward the cross and Christ. I find this in the Wiersbe commentaries.
I pray very often in these morning hours that God continue to grow my heart and my desire in loving Him and His word. I ask that I’m able to digest very much of the information that I encounter, and that He will allow me to use it to serve Him by serving His people with it. I ask that He will allow me to always grow in my appreciation of these hours.
As I suspect most of mankind is, I too am able, of the flesh, to be distracted by almost anything else. I pray that He will keep me focused, though, and that He will keep me striving for the fullest understanding of what’s before me that He will presently allow. For me, this often involves reading and re-reading a passage a few times because I’ve found my mind wandering somewhere else in the midst of my mission.
It’s no race that we engage in with reading the Bible. If we’re simply moving through our reading at a clip that precludes discipline and understanding; if we’re reading the Bible just to say that we’ve done it, or with expectations of things changing in our lives after a cursory glance between dinner and bed time; we will, indeed, reap what we sow.
If, however, we expect that what we have at our disposal, in the Bible, is the very word of God; a perfectly powerful tool containing truth of our Savior’s will and His ways; then we should treat it as such. We should pray that God will allow us to participate in our Bible reading in such a manner as will allow it, His Word to soak deep down into our bones and into our souls. We should expect it to be able to change us in ways that seem so very unlikely – if only we’ll commit the time.
I heard a preacher some time ago say that in his younger years a pastor had told him that if he would make much out of the Bible; God would make much out of him. I expect this is true. And though I prefer the tranquil mornings of winter with a small lamp on my desk that provides only enough light to read the words before me; I enjoy this same schedule throughout the seasons. I strive to make much of the Bible without regard to the length of the day. I desire that what life finds in me will be the wisdom, and direction, and love, and strength, and glory that God speaks to us of in His Word.
I implore you today; find your time. If you’d like, find the Wiersbe commentaries, make your time consistent, and make much out of the Bible until you’re called home.