Baby Steps Along The Way
I don't have that one big experience to look back on and say "that is THE moment God changed my life." My spiritual journey has been long and gradual. I grew up in the Church, grew in knowledge of the things of faith and have slowly grown in love of the Lord. Although, looking back on all of the events that led to who I am today, there have been two markers where my growth in faith has been accelerated.
The first marker came in the summer following 8th grade. At the time, I wasn't all that excited about being Catholic. I didn't enjoy CCE/Youth Ministry all that much and was at the age where if you asked my word association with the word "Mass" I would have said "boring". Throughout Junior High, I would attend Mass in the morning but then also attend the non-denominational service in the area where I enjoyed their style of worship and teaching more.
My appreciation for Catholicism and the Mass changed that Summer when I attended a Steubenville Youth Conference in Louisiana with the parish youth group. It was here that I had the first leap in my Catholic faith. I was surrounded by 5000 other young Catholics who got excited about Christ and His Church through a weekend of community, worship, Mass, engaging speakers, and Cajun food! This was the first time that I realized the beauty in the depth of Catholic teaching on the Eucharist, particularly in Mass and Adoration. It was the experience I had encountering Christ in the Eucharist that weekend that helped me to choose to continue life as a Catholic.
Stemming from that weekend, I had a community of fellow young people and adult leaders to help me continue to grow as a man of God. I am so very thankful for the opportunity to have that experience and for the great people who helped me grow in High School. All of the baby steps I took in faith during High School can be traced back to the decision at that Conference to commit to Christ and the Catholic Church.
The Impact of Scriptures on my Life
The second experience that led to accelerated growth in my life with Christ came in the sophomore year of my time in undergrad. I was a campus ministry intern involved in ministry with both Catholics and Protestants. We were a tight nit community of friends that were always together. One of my Protestant friends in the group challenged those of us who were Catholic to commit to reading our Bibles. At the time, I knew Scripture mostly through what I heard in Mass or through hearing people preach but I could probably count on one hand the times I had sat down alone with my Bible and read. I took the challenge seriously and what a year I had! I had more growth in my faith during that first year of reading the Bible daily than any year before or since.
In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says, "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness." In this first year of reading the bible daily, I was consistently showered with the Word of God which helped:
-Teach me the ways of the Lord and show me how I could grow in my relationship with Him.
-It help me to be able to refute untruths when they were presented to me, which happened often that year.
-When the light of the Gospel penetrated my life, it revealed the dark places in my life that needed correcting. Through the Scriptures, prayer and lots and lots of confession, I was able to root out a lot of sin in my life. This training in righteousness through the Scriptures helped me becoming a better man, minister, student, friend and most importantly, disciple of Christ.
My challenge for you today is to take some time to evaluate how much emphasis you place on reading the Scriptures in your daily life. As Catholics, we can find ourselves often in Mass or praying a Rosary but how often are we reading the Scriptures on our own time to facilitate our personal prayer? My favorite line from Vatican II is in "Dei Verbum," which speaks about Divine Revelation and Scripture. "The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord..."(DV 21). Wow! In High School I gave most of my attention to the Eucharist and gave almost no attention to letting the Scriptures mold my life. I challenge you to let the Scriptures change your life through daily reading of the Word of God.
One of my favorite motivational speakers, Zig Ziglar, said that each morning he would wake up and read the paper and his Bible, just so that he would know what both sides are up to. :)
I can attest from personal experience that through taking up this challenge, you WILL grow in your faith as the light of God illumines your heart and mind. It will equip you to be a light in your community.
Helpful Tool to Assist in Consistent Scripture Reading
People are busy and it is often hard to make time to read the Bible. I have made excuses like not having enough time, not knowing where my Bible is, not knowing where to start and just plum forgetting. The thing that has helped me the most to stay consistent in my Scripture reading is the Youversion Bible App. I use it on my phone and iPad and it helps get rid of a lot of my excuses. I know where my Bible is because I always have my phone. I have help knowing what to read because there are GREAT Bible reading plans based on topic that have devotional aspects that I have throughly enjoyed. And my FAVORITE feature is that you can set up push notifications in the app to remind you to read your Bible plan each day at whatever time you set. This has been so helpful for me because even when I get busy, there is a gentle reminder to spend time in the Word.
Another great aspect of the app is that there is a community. You can see what your friends have been reading and vice versa. It is a great way to have some accountability and to see how God is speaking to your friends. If you download the app, add me as a friend :)
How have you seen God work in your heart by reading the Scriptures?
What is your plan to be more consistent in reading the Scriptures?
If you do read consistency, what have you found is the biggest thing that motivates you to continue doing so?
Comment below if you want to join the conversation. Share this with someone you want to join in the challenge with.