Confession time. I’m a pastor and I struggle to regularly read the Bible. I’ve been wrestling lately with the dissonance between what I say and what I actually live out in my life. Every Sunday I preach from a passage of Scripture and tell others to read it every day. Then the week hits and life happens and the excuses flow. I have a long list of excuses, too. Do you? For the next minute or so, I thought I’d share a few of mine with you, and maybe you’ll find we’ve got some things in common.
I DONT HAVE TIME. This is, without question, my most common excuse. I’m constantly telling myself (and God) that the day’s hours just simply ran out. I mean, does that sound like passionate devotion or what? I love God so much that spending time listening to Him through Scripture gets placed dead last on my priority list and more often than not, has no place on my schedule.
Yet, it’s amazing how much time I have to watch television and surf social media – there’s always time for that. Facebook reports the average American spends 40 minutes per day on its site. This leads me to question whether its that I don’t have enough time, or that I don’t make enough time. It’s always the latter, isn’t it? The solution is simple: let’s reevaluate our priorities and make time for what’s most important.
I ALREADY KNOW WHAT IT HAS TO SAY. I grew up going to church every Sunday (and Wednesday) of my life. The only excuse for not going was being sick. And, by the way, being sick in my house was defined as including vomit or having a triple-digit temperature. If you weren’t sick and you weren’t dressed when it was time to leave, you were going in your underwear. Because of that dedication—which I’m very thankful for—I’d heard every Bible story in the book and had memorized countless verses by the time I was a teenager. David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo, these were stories I could tell forward and backward. I’ll admit though, back then it was more about the Bazooka bubblegum reward than the discipline of hiding God’s Word in my heart. It’s easy for me to think of the Bible as something I’ve mastered. As a pastor, that misguided notion is amplified by Scripture often taking the role of a work-related document for me instead of the Living Word.
Here’s the crazy thing though: do you know how many times I’ve seen the original Star Wars trilogy? I think I can say, honestly, that I’ve seen each of those movies at least once each year for the last 25 years of my life. I know every line, every move and even the name of Luke Skywalker’s uncle and aunt, and yet I never get tired of it. In fact, I notice something new every time I watch them. Yet, for some reason I don’t allow myself to see the grandest adventure ever told in the same way. Maybe it needs to become more about enjoying the parts I do know and keeping an eye out for the bits here and there that I missed before. Or, maybe I need to be okay with knowing what I do, and celebrate that like I do being a “Star Wars nerd.”
I LOVE ME MORE THAN I LOVE GOD. It’s shameful, but it’s the absolute truth. I love my comfort. I love my sleep. I love my shows, music, social events, money, and family time more than I love God. If He truly is the most important thing in my life, wouldn’t deeply knowing the pages all about Him be the highest and most looked-forward-to thing in my life? This is one I never say out loud, but it’s one that’s true. It’s the message underneath the first two excuses I’ve listed.
When I was going to school in Chicago, I would get letters from Heidi (my wife now, girlfriend then). The mailbox door wouldn’t even have shut before I’d torn the envelope open and began pouring over the words inside. It was one of the signs I loved her. My hope is to grow in my love for Jesus to the point where I look forward to the moment I open His letter in the same way.
It’s an incredible thing, the God of the universe getting His thoughts on paper for us to know Him better. Seriously, think about that — it’s an absolutely crazy thing. When I think about it long enough, it makes me scratch my head and open my mouth in awe. And so, I’m finding it more and more difficult to come up with excuses. Let’s get to it.
After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.