I am a huge fan of the YouVersion Bible app for your smart phone. I use mine daily and tell everyone I know to download it.
That said, there is a danger and major weakness to using such Bible apps. It tends to foster an individualistic, me-centered devotional approach. All those helpful, well-meaning personal Bible plans you can choose from have the unfortunate down-side of reinforcing a self-help, therapeutic approach to the Bible and Christian faith. It keeps your life, your problems, your concerns, your goals as the center of your religious devotion.
But the goal of Christian faith, as the old hymn goes, is to “turn your eyes upon Jesus…look full in His wonderful face.”
One antidote to such an individualistic and me-centered approach to Scripture is using the Common Lectionary to guide your Scriptural reading. It invites you to join other believers (all around the world) in reading Scripture together, in community, as we ponder and discuss the same texts together each week.
It also takes your life and concerns out of the center of your universe, and invites you to reorder your life and focus around the events of Jesus’ life. The Common Lectionary is best when coupled with following the Church Year Calendar. The Lectionary anchors our lives in the Sacred Story, and the Church Calendar anchors our lives in Sacred Time.
So, for example, while the world around us is immersed in Olympic fever all February and March Madness in March, people of faith are immersed in the seasons of Epiphany and Lent, where we behold Jesus glory revealed (Epiphany) and join him on his journey to suffering and the cross (Lent).
Go ahead and join your work’s NCAA bracket, but don’t let that eclipse the higher calling to join the worldwide people of God in a 2,000 year old season of penance, self-denial, fasting and prayer. That’s the season we find ourselves in according to Sacred Time.
I’m a little disappointed how many in our church are NOT taking up the challenge to read the lectionary with us this year. It’s just 4 verses each week that can unite us together as a church and anchors our lives within the events of Christ’s life. It can help us break free of a “me and Jesus” spirituality completely foreign to the New Testament. It can unite us with other believers in a shared journey out of our captivity to own concerns and set our eyes back on Jesus’ Kingdom priorities. “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
It’s not too late to jump onboard!
Try this: Save the link below to your ‘favorites’ on your mobile browser. Then open it every morning (and throughout the day) to read that coming Sunday’s scriptures. (We’re just focusing on the scriptures for the coming Sunday.) Reflect upon them daily. Journal through them. Discuss them with fellow believers when you meet for coffee or gather with your Huddle or Lifegroup. Come to worship on Sunday anxious to hear how the pastor’s sermon addresses the texts you’ve been chewing on all week!
By doing so, the Common Lectionary becomes a way of recapturing the ancient practice of the Israelites to whom Moses instructed:
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9).
Yes, and if Moses were living today, he would also say, “And save the link on your smartphone and return to it again and again all week long.”
Note: I know the Common Lectionary is new and a bit scary for many low-church evangelical Christians. May I suggest we “get over it” and give it a try for the good reasons given above. Evangelicals claim to be “Bible people” but often read far less Bible than other traditions (especially in worship!). Often, what we’re actually doing is manipulating and “using” Scripture for our own purposes as we quote little nuggets like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13) or “For I know the plans I have for you…” (Jer. 29:11) while ignoring the larger context that gives that scripture its real meaning. The Common Lectionary focuses on the larger narratives of Scripture, and safeguards against this practice of grabbing isolated self-help “fortune cookie” verses to make us feel better for a moment while missing the deeper demands of Scripture. But that’s another topic for another day …