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Why Personal Devotions Aren’t Enough
Each day began the same way: I would get out of bed, take a shower, and sit down at my desk. I’d place my New American Standard Bible in front of me and open it to where the bright green M’Cheyne’s Bible reading calendar kept my place. I would close my eyes and ask God to illumine the texts I was about to ponder. And then I would begin to read—usually two chapters from the Old Testament and two chapters from the New.
For years this ritual was the high point of my spiritual life. Of course there were missed days. And take it from me: It’s hard to catch up when you’ve missed a day or two of 19th-century Scottish minister Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s calendar. (Knowing this firsthand, a friend of mine created her own irreverent alternative, “A Bible Reading Plan for Slackers and Shirkers,” which you can find online.) There were days when none of the readings seemed particularly edifying or inspiring. Still, this is where I believed I encountered God most fully and immediately. This was the best way to remember God’s love and demonstrate love for him in return.
I also believed God was fully present when I would open the Bible on Sunday mornings. As a growing young Christian, I attended churches whose pastors preached for 40 minutes or more, explaining the biblical texts with radiant joy and scrupulous attention, the way my science teachers had breathlessly described what I was seeing through the telescope pointed at the night sky. At the time, I would have told you that Sunday mornings were extensions of my daily meditations on Scripture. My personal Bible reading was the center of my spiritual life. Following along as my pastor preached was like a rippling ...1