Worth the read

Ezekiel 2:8-3:11
“I prefer watching the movie over reading the book,” was my dumb comment. A saint who happened to be a lawyer heard me. Recalling her experience in law school, she asked, “How are you going to make it through seminary? There’ll be days you’ll have to finish entire books.”

That was the day I started reading. I began with the small library the United Methodist Women had at our church. Then I started reading other things. Before long, my wife established a new house rule: Keep your books at the office.

In my walk with God, I’ve learned to pray with greater attention to God’s will. I know the joy of being a servant, of tithing and being with the worshiping community week in and week out. Those practices have deepened my sense of discipleship. But reading has offered the most.

If you’re a reader, you already understand this. How many times have people spoken of entire worlds opening up to them through books? At first, the worlds were difficult for me to see because reading was difficult. I’d get lost in thought as I read and go pages without understanding anything. It was frustrating.

But I kept with it. Now, I don’t struggle nearly as much.

Reading, then, has been a spiritual practice for me. Most of my reading relates to ministry, theology and discipleship. It’s helped form my understandings of faith and church life in many ways.

So, in one sense, I’m encouraging you to read more. Most of us just need practice, and you may need to turn off your phone and TV. At the same time, I want to offer another way of thinking of this.

I’m thinking of reading because of part of Ezekiel’s vision. In chapter three of his writing, he sees a hand stretched out giving him a scroll to eat. There was writing on the front and back. The scroll contained the message the prophet would speak to the people of God. Ezekiel was to eat the scroll.

John had a similar vision in Revelation 10.

Reading and knowing the scrolls’ contents were important for both men. They internalized the messages they were to offer to their people. But remember both men are seeing visions. God initiated both visions for them. For Ezekiel, the heavens opened (Ezekiel 1:1). John says he was “in the Spirit” when he saw his vision (Revelation 1:9).

So, what does that mean for us?

If you read more of the Bible or other theological material, remember our purpose. We aren’t memorizing facts. The true goal isn’t to learn more for knowledge’s sake.  When we submit to the Spirit’s direction, we are growing in our experience of grace. Using reading as a spiritual practice helps us grow in our discipleship. We can learn to be more faithful followers of Jesus as we learn to read and internalize scripture and other thoughtful resources.

Reading may be difficult for you. Keep at it. Here’s something I read John Newton once said: “Read the Scripture, not as an attorney may read a will, but as the heir reads it, as a description and proof of his interest.”

Let the word of God be your “joy and heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:16).

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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