THE B-I-B-L-E.

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For the past thirteen months, I’ve been reading through the entire Bible, cover to cover. This morning, I finished! It’s been a thrilling, challenging, amazing adventure that has forever changed my relationship with God. In this post, I’m sharing about what God has taught me on this journey.

1.

If you read the Bible, you will know God more. Period. The Bible is the word of God, and when you want to know someone, you let them talk to you. You listen. You make time to communicate. That’s what the Bible is. It’s listening to God speak to you.

It’s honestly difficult to describe how much better I’ve gotten to know God through this experience. I’ve never understood His bigness, His essence, what it means that He is God, this clearly. I’ve never seen Jesus this fully. I’ve never experienced Holy Spirit this closely. And the cool thing is, the more you get to know Him, the more there is to know.

I heard a pastor this fall put it this way (paraphrased): So many of us want to see God and hear His voice. Reading the Bible is how to do that. We don’t realize that we have what we so desperately want, sitting right there on our bookshelf.

2.

Reading the Bible requires discipline, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no magical formula, at least not that I’ve found, to make yourself excited to read genealogies at six in the morning. I’ll be the first to tell you there were days I snoozed the alarm and squeezed in my Bible time later in the day, or forsook it altogether. I won’t pretend that I’ve jumped for joy opening my Bible every morning, craving the message of Obadiah. Some days, I’ve only read the day’s passage out of habit and my motivation to finish this goal. Other days, I haven’t read it at all.

Reading the Bible is deepening your relationship with God, and relationships aren’t always rainbows and cupcakes. Relationships require work. It’s not wrong to not feel like reading the Bible. The proper response to God’s word is certainly awe, but this response takes practice and time to occur naturally.

The best way to get a good attitude about reading the Bible is to read the Bible. If you make it a habit to explore God’s word, you realize how amazing it is. Over time, that cultivates a deeper sort of excitement: one that lasts.

I feel like people talk smack about reading the Bible as a habit, but I’d like to counter that. When you make reading the Bible a habit, you’re telling God: what You have to say is more important than what I’m feeling in the moment. What You have to say is so important that I’m regularly carving out time to listen to You. I want to make Your word part of the fabric of my life. I want to put in the work to hear You and see You. I want to need Your word every day. Doesn’t that sound a little more like awe than hoping for fireworks every time we turn the page? Don’t despise the discipline; glory can be found in the hard work, too.

3.

Start with what’s clear, then move on to what’s not. The last book in the Bible is Revelation, arguably the least clear book in the entire thing. But through this lens of focusing on what I understand, I was able to find some pretty cool, fairly obvious truths: God will be worshiped eternally. He is victorious and will reign forever. All that stuff about the dragon (y’all, there is a dragon in the Bible!) is certainly important—after all, it’s in the Bible—but it’s not clear yet. I can trust God to help me understand what He wants me to know when He wants me to know it. God is endlessly revealing His mystery, and it’s easy to get bogged down in what we don’t comprehend. Instead, I’ve started to come back to the essentials again and again: God loves me. Jesus died for me. Holy Spirit lives inside me. The details are important, but they aren’t worth forgetting the core of God’s word.

4.

The Old Testament gets a bad rap. I went into it expecting to find God harsh, even mean, because Jesus hasn’t arrived on the scene yet. What I found instead?

A consistently sinful people, loved by a consistently faithful God.

The Old Testament chronicles the failures of God’s people. Time after time, they fall short of holiness and righteousness. They worship idols a lot. They stubbornly ignore prophets. Their family drama showcases hatred, bitterness, and jealousy.

Isn’t it amazing that God’s response is never permanent abandonment? How good must God be to still want these people? He disciplines them so they will turn to Him. He’s not being mean; He’s being loving. He chooses people who choose everything but Him. His voice, through the prophets, tells of His hope for the future: “They will be My people, and I will be their God” (Jeremiah 32:38). He longs for a right relationship with His people, even when they don’t want it back.

The story of modern Christians is so evident throughout the Old Testament. We are still a consistently sinful people, loved by a consistently faithful God. God isn’t different in the Old Testament, because He never changes. The story changes, though, when you get to the Jesus part. And man, I am so much more grateful for the Gospel now.

5.

When you read the Bible, celebrate little victories. The Bible is a big book. Maybe you’re inspired to read it cover to cover now. Maybe every January 1 you start a “Bible in a year” reading plan and give up by February. You look at that big book, and it seems daunting. Impossible.

But I’m a big believer in little victories. I didn’t finish the Bible by waiting for a year to celebrate God’s work in me. I rejoiced when I finished a book, or a week. Honestly, I wish I had celebrated even smaller wins. I wish that I had finished every day of reading not just thankful for God’s word, but also thankful for what He had done to bring me to the point of waking up and reading Obadiah.

Every time you read a Bible verse, that’s evidence of God’s faithfulness to you. Don’t forget to thank Him for that. Not in a “thank You for helping me find the earring I lost” way, though I don’t want to discredit that kind of gratitude. Thank Him for orchestrating your life so that you can read an easily accessible Bible. Thank Him for calling you to know Him more fully. Thank Him for stirring your heart to read His word. Thank Him for propelling you through whatever you read and speaking to you the whole time.

Don’t the little victories seem like kind of a big deal now?


One last thing: The Bible is seriously so amazing, but it’s not God. It’s His word, alive and powerful and true. It’s one of His avenues for helping His people get to know Him. He reveals His mystery through those pages, and that’s so cool. But the word of God is only powerful because He is powerful. It’s only good because He is good. And even this holy, sacred book of His word to humankind—it pales in comparison to the Author.

 

WORDS THAT STICK: I.

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I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait… but you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

This quote from Mere Christianity describes the process of finding a church family after becoming a Christian, but I definitely think it can apply to waiting in other senses, too. One thing I’ve learned about college is that the whole thing can honestly be described as waiting. Waiting for the semester to be over. Waiting for spring break. Waiting for summer. Waiting to graduate. Waiting to get a job. Waiting to move out of the dorm and into an apartment. Waiting for your #ringbyspring. Waiting for whatever is next.

This quote struck me as convicting and inspiring, all at once. The first half: “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.” There’s always a reason for not-yet‘s. God has so much goodness for me here and now if I’ll just look up to Him instead of constantly looking ahead. I can get excited about what’s next while also passionately staying rooted in the present. I don’t want to miss what He has for me today. I trust the process He’s got me in and the end results of it. I trust His goodness not only at the end of my waiting, but in the middle of it, too.

The second half: “You must regard it as waiting, not camping. You must keep on praying for light.” To me, this means continuing to move forward and make progress. Ultimately, what are we waiting for most? Heaven. We can’t forget that this world is only temporary. We must have an eternal mindset and heavenly focus. That’s the difference between waiting and camping: While we wait, we keep going. We don’t sit idly. We let God work in and through us to bring heaven to earth, instead of resigning ourselves to laziness and the idea that we’re simply stuck in a broken world.

Camping is what most of us think of when we think of waiting, but C.S. Lewis presents a different idea: active waiting. Like active listening, it starts with attitude. We don’t sit around. We try. We keep on praying for light. We expect God to move and work. We’re patient with His timing. We trust that He has our best interest. We have faith in His ways. We put our hope in Him. We seek Him here and now. We find joy in each moment He has given us today. It’s a balance of patiently looking forward and digging into the present.

The external outcome is the same after any type of listening and waiting. You’ve listened, and you’ve waited. But waiting well matters so much internally. It reflects faith. I want to be the kind of girl whose faith leads her to wait well, knowing God will not disappoint in the future and God will work miracles in the present.

To my companions in the waiting, whatever you’re waiting for: You are not alone, and this time is not without purpose. Don’t camp out. Why don’t we wait well, together?

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18

WILD.

Version 2

A while ago, my suitemate and I volunteered with Auburn’s big day of service. We went to an older lady’s house and helped her out. One of our tasks was to remove as much overgrowth as we could from the fence surrounding her backyard.

It took about 30 seconds for us to see that we’d just undertaken an enormous and impossible challenge. This overgrowth was everywhere: between her fence and the neighbor’s, behind her fence in a jungle, wrapped around the fence in tight coils, encroaching into the backyard. There were plants of all shapes and sizes, and most of them were prickly (like the you-thought-this-job-was-tough-I’ll-make-it-tougher barbed wire on the fence). Time constraints weren’t the issue; this overgrowth was so big and overwhelming that it seemed quite permanent.

As we worked, I was struck by how these vines and wild plants had completely taken over. They weren’t just rooted in the ground, easy to cut down and take away. They had wrapped around the fence in the most complex, intricate ways. Many of them had sprouted little tendrils that wrapped even tighter around each other. We encountered the same conundrum that Greek heroes encountered with the Hydra and Dwight on The Office encountered with the red wire: Once you start to hack away at a problem, it seems like it’s getting bigger and more difficult. That was what these vines were like. All our efforts to remove them just showcased their unwillingness to be removed.

Our work reminded me of a chapter I’d just read in Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. My small group had discussed “Chapter Three: God of the Wild” just that week. I’d been so touched by this chapter that I had started blabbing out my heart to them, these girls I’d only known for two months. Chapter Three addresses a splendid duality beyond comprehension: God is wild in power and wild in love. God is big, full, complete, in control, and so glorious; He is also compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and caring in the details.

He is wild because He is consecrated and set apart and worthy of our absolute adoration and praise. But what makes Him most wild is that these things do not separate us from His love or protection… Our Father isn’t just holy beyond all other things and worthy of our holy fear; He is also wildly loving toward us (page 69).

I saw those vines wrapped around every nook and cranny of the fence and started to see more clearly: That’s it. That’s the way God’s love is wrapped around every part of me.

Sometimes, it’s easier for me to focus on the first part of God’s wildness and forget the second. It can be easier to praise God for His power, His might, His glory, how God He is and how small I am in comparison. This feels like honest worship, like humility, and to some extent, it is. But true humility doesn’t make you feel like God is so holy that He must be mad at you for your failures; true humility is found in the arms of the Father who will always welcome you home no matter how many times you’ve failed. It’s shame, not humility, that makes us want to run from God; it’s humility that pushes us deeper into His unfailing, grace-giving, all-covering, holy, forgiving love. When I think He’s such a powerful, perfect King that He couldn’t possibly love a sinner like me, I’m actually not recognizing Him for who He is; when I thank Him for His amazing amazing amazing love, then I am humble in truth. God is love, according to 1 John 4:8. If we treat our sin like it’s too big for Him to love, that’s not humility; it’s ignoring His character and missing out on another reason to praise Him.

His love isn’t small. It’s not tame. It’s not powerless. It is absolutely wild. It is wrapped around every piece of every person like those vines were wrapped around that fence. He loves not because of anything we do, but because it’s in His very nature. We exist by breathing; God exists by loving. It’s who He is and what He does, tied together in one. If God is big and powerful and holy, then it follows that His love must be, too.

That is wild. Not to view God as so perfect and amazing that He’s probably mad at us and disappointed in us, but to view God as so perfect and amazing that He loves us in a perfect, amazing way. That is wild. That is walking in freedom from shame. That is embracing grace. That is true living. That is worth and value we cannot find on this earth. That’s God: totally, completely, brilliantly, graciously, wildly in love with us. And all this wildness just makes Him even more glorious and worthy of praise.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:16-19

HIYA.

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Hiya, and welcome to haleytodd.com!

I am so excited to be launching this space! This site will be the new home for my writing. It’s clean, fresh, and fun, and I can’t wait for God to fill it with words. Thanks for checking it out!

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