3 reasons why reading the Bible feels like a chore

Christian, if reading the Bible isn’t really your thing, can we chat for a minute?

While Christianity isn’t dependent upon our academic inclinations, nor our interest in reading in general—to suggest those who are illiterate, have a learning disability or simply aren’t big readers are excluded from the kingdom of God is ridiculous—all Christians should strive to be students of the Bible.

We are, after all, a people of the Book. We know God’s will, his character, and his promises through the Bible. And so, especially for those of us who have the means and ability to do so, this is a book that should be one we’re always eager to pick up. To read and study carefully to whatever capacity God has given us. To enjoy as though it were our favorite meal…

3 Reasons Behind Our Struggles Reading the Bible

So why is it that reading the Bible seems like such a chore? While there are, no doubt, many reasons, here are three that I’ve seen crop up most frequently in my own life.

1. We don’t prioritize it.

Let’s be honest, this is probably the key reason many of us struggle to read our Bibles. We don’t prioritize it, and choose other books or television instead… While other books and television aren’t bad at all, shouldn’t the Bible be our first priority? I can definitely attest that I’ve had seasons where this has been my problem—and it’s really dangerous because it’s so hard to get out of this trap, and often the approaches we take to doing so can cause even greater harm.

2. We treat it like a project.

This is the second issue, and it’s related to the first. Many of us try to overcome our lackadaisical attitude to the Bible with aggressive reading plans. We want to read the Bible in a year, or ten times in a year, or the New Testament in a month… But that’s like trying to start your car in the dead of winter and immediately jump onto the highway without letting it warm-up. You may move (briefly), but you’ll ruin the engine. But reading the Bible is not a project. Spiritual dullness cannot be defeated by an exertion of willpower.

3. We are in a season of spiritual depression.

Unlike a Barney Stinson’s views on mixtapes and despite what Joel Osteen may tell you, the Christian life is not all rise. Every day is not a Friday. Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of a deep spiritual depression—one that just never seems to lift. Perhaps it comes from a prolonged season of battling against personal sin. Or maybe it’s from trying to remain faithful in difficult circumstances (I have had periods of time where I dreaded even getting up in the morning because of what was happening in my life, so I get it).

Whatever the reason though, in these situations, we cannot find comfort, encouragement, or rest in the place we should find them. And so our weariness can lead to despair, and we struggle to push back the darkness. And as our shame grows, we grow silent, for fear of judging eyes.

What can we do to make reading the Bible not so difficult?

For the first two reasons, the solution begins with repentance. We need to repent of sinful attitudes toward the Bible, whether that is neglecting it or treating it as a project. We need to see our wrong attitudes as wrong. In order to begin to give the Bible its due, we ought to start simple. Read something. Don’t aim to read the Bible in a month. Just try to read a paragraph. Then another. And another. Take the time you need to take.

The third issue needs to be dealt with with a great deal of sensitivity. Those who are in this trap already feel a huge amount of guilt and shame for not being “good enough” as Christians. They don’t need to be told to do more better or try harder because that’s just not going to work. Instead, my challenge to them (as one who has experienced this myself) would be to open up about the struggle, for shame only thrives in secrecy. Tell someone who is close to you what you’re going through. Don’t ask them to fix the problem, but just to pray. And to keep praying. And for you to be praying as well. Admit where you’re at, for God already knows.

Most of all, be patient. This is not something that’s going to be overcome with a few prayers and a coffee cup verse. There will be relapses. There will be setbacks. You may never fully overcome it, but there will be small triumphs along the way (especially if you make if your habit to read the Psalms). Focus on those small wins. Focus on where you have seen God at work in the past, and recount them as David did in his darkest moments. Trust him to overcome this, for he surely will, either in this life or in glory.

Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash

Should we pray imprecatory prayers?

When is it right for Christians to pray imprecatory prayers? Is it right at all?

Imprecatory prayers are effectively a curse. They are prayers calling down God’s judgment upon the enemies of His people. The language is visceral in these prayers, as you can see when you read just a few like Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, and 139. The anger, the frustration, of the one praying is palpable. But these kinds of prayers aren’t mere venting—they are an appeal to God’s power and authority, His sovereign control over all the universe.

You can understand why some Christians would reject praying in this way altogether. It seems in conflict with Jesus’ call for us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. But I don’t believe the full counsel of Scripture supports that. Imprecatory prayers modeled in both the Old and New Testaments (Matthew 23; Galatians 1:8-9; Revelation 6:10). Jesus and the apostles alike prayed in this way. We probably shouldn’t dismiss these sorts of prayers and petitions, then.

Imprecatory Prayers & Honoring God’s Commands

Instead, we can see these as a way to properly follow Scripture’s command to be angry and do not sin. We need to turn to God in our distress, to bring Him our discouragement.

Christians in our context tend to be pretty unbiblical about anger. We want to rush past it, ignore it, minimize it as much as we can. That’s what is happening 99% of the time when anyone quotes Ephesians 4:26, which says, “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Our application is, “Well, I don’t want to sin, so I better get over it.” But the irony of minimizing our anger, minimizing what we are feeling in response to opposition, is that in doing so we are, in fact, giving the devil the opportunity to ensnare us in bitterness.

The safest and healthiest place to direct our anger and frustration is to the Lord. That’s the best way to honor this command. And it’s not like the anger we experience in those situations is a surprise to Him, or shocking in any way. God knows every thought we have, He knows every word we’re tempted to speak before we do.

We cannot shock God. But we can trust Him.

You can say to Him, “Lord, I don’t know what to do with this situation—this is wrong. Don’t let it go unpunished. Don’t ignore it. Do whatever you have to do to make this right.”

We Can Know the Answer

And here’s the good news: we already know the answer. God has already promised that every injustice and every evil that is committed in this world will receive its full and righteous penalty. Nothing will be unaccounted for. Nothing will be ignored. God will deal with it all, no matter how insignificant it may seem

But that doesn’t mean that we’re going to see the answer right away, or even in our lifetimes. There are injustices and evils that, for the time being, the Lord has seen fit to allow to continue. And when we see these, we should be angry about them. But we can take our anger and frustration, we can put it in the hands of the Lord. We can say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen with this, I don’t know why it’s happening at all. But I know that I can trust you to do what is right—so however you’re going to do that, whether now or in the future, make it right.” And in doing so, we can find the will to keep going, to not give up.

So when you experience opposition in your life and ministry, when you are tempted to discouragement and anger and frustration, don’t minimize it. Recognize it for what it is. Bring your discouragement and distress to the Lord. Trust Him with it. Rely on His sovereign power and goodness toward His people.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Introducing aaronarmstrong.co

I started my first writing website back in 2009. I had been a Christian for just shy of four years at the time, and full of all kinds of ideas and opinions. Some of them were even helpful.

When I started, I was just trying to do two things: to learn to write well, and to process what I was reading in the Bible and other books. I was working as a marketing copywriter at a non-profit in Canada. I had no real aspirations to publish, speak, or do anything else. I was just writing, and people started reading.

Eventually, more writing opportunities came. Friendships and partnerships started to form. I got to hang out with some folks at different conferences. I was invited to come to Nashville to be a part of a product launch event. A book came along, followed by another. Then a documentary followed by another. Then a podcast and more books and a video series…

And now, nearly 13 years after I published my first blog post, I’m starting over again.

Why a new website?

So why start over? As my life has changed, I found that having a website that is first and foremost a blog doesn’t make sense. So the blog still remains as part of the site, but the new site is more of a proper home base for everything I do as an author, speaker, podcaster, and whatever else may come along.

So you’ll find all my books together in one easy place. You’ll find an up-to-date bio that includes some of my personal history in the faith (and a couple other things will be added in the near future). For those interested in having me speak at their church or event, a new speaker page is available.

Why are some articles gone?

I spent a significant amount of time this year going through and cleaning up content on the old site. In the end, I removed about 2700 posts. Most of it is material you wouldn’t care about. For the most part, I got rid of posts that were no longer relevant, either because they were time-specific or they relate to individuals I would no longer affirm. A few posts were ones that I’ll revisit and republish at a later time.

What can you expect going forward?

Every week I’ll be posting a new article on the blog. These articles will include reflections on Scripture and ministry, as well as personal and professional updates. A podcast is going to be starting soon as well. Whenever new books are ready for pre-order, you’ll see them highlighted on the home page, of course.

But at the end of the day, here’s what to expect: I’m still writing, and I’m going to keep writing until I have nothing more to say.

Hopefully you will still be reading.

Photo by Jennifer Bonauer on Unsplash

Beginning again, but not from the beginning

It’s been more than five years since I had a first day at work. But here I am: starting my first day at my new job, as a Marketing Director for Thomas Nelson Bibles. And doing the job at my same desk where I worked at my previous job just a week ago.

Starting a new job is a strange experience, especially when doing it remotely. I won’t meet anyone face-to-face, only in a mediated form, through a screen and camera. All the same first-day jitters are there, the imposter complex, everything. It’s a first day at a new company, so I’ve got to give myself grace and expect that I’m going to have a lot of questions and it will take time to get the answers.

As strange as experiencing all this remotely is going to be, and as jittery as I feel, I’m also excited about today. It’s the start of a new chapter for the Armstrongs. It’s not the first time I have changed jobs, obviously, but it is the first time I have as a permanent resident in the United States. Having no legal restrictions, no federally mandated requirements to continue to work for a sponsoring employer, is different for me. It’s like my family is participating more fully in the American Experiment, despite still not yet being citizens.

So today, along with all the first day jitters, with all the big questions about what I don’t know yet, I’m also thankful for this opportunity that I—that we—have. We are beginning again, but we are not at square one. The journey we started when I accepted my previous role at Lifeway is not at its end. It’s just reached the next step. And for that, how can I be anything but thankful?

A personal update

Five years, one month, and 24 days ago, I started the job that changed my life: I began working for Lifeway Christian Resources as the Brand Manager of The Gospel Project.

Since 2016, it’s been one of the most difficult and rewarding professional roles I have held. Every day gave me the opportunity to serve the church as a champion for gospel-centered ministry on an international scale. To write content, to occasionally speak, to produce videos—to work with some of the most brilliant and faithful people you’ve maybe never heard of. All for this one goal: to help people of all ages read and study the Bible with Jesus at its center.

Disruptive, stressful, & joyful

It’s the job that I disrupted my entire life for. And not just mine: my family and friends were all affected. Moving to a new country is one thing. Moving smack dab into the middle of the Bible Belt is something else altogether.

We had to learn a new culture, make all new friends, and find a church to call home. We dealt with constant paperwork from the United States government, had issues with the Canadian government, had one crisis that almost sent us back to Canada early on, all on top of me learning a new job and new work culture. Through all the challenges the organization has gone through in the last few years, with difficult decisions brought about by changes in buying behavior, leadership transitions, and the ongoing effects of this little thing called the COVID-19 pandemic, my job has brought as much joy as it has stress, anxiety, and health issues.

Why? Because, when it comes down to it, it was the place I was supposed to be.

“I’m here until my time is done”

This is my last Friday as an employee of Lifeway.

On Monday, I start a new job with another organization.

When I started at Lifeway, I didn’t know if it would be a forever thing. I don’t believe in making proclamations about such things, saying “I will do this until the day I retire or die.” I prefer to say, “I will do this until the Lord makes it clear that my time is done.”

In all honesty, I hoped it would be the job, the one where I would be through the end. I believe in the value of The Gospel Project. I genuinely believe that, insomuch as there is a right way to study the Bible, this is the way to do so. That reading it with Jesus as the focus is what makes the Bible make sense (and, after all, he certainly seemed to believe it as well). I care about the people I have worked with for the last five years. And although it might sound like bragging, I’m good at my job (really good).

Even so, through a number of different circumstances, the Lord made it clear that my time is done.

So, I am moving on.

Looking forward to the next phase

Monday starts a new phase in my professional and personal life. I’ll be in a job that is significantly more behind the scenes than my work with Lifeway, but still focused on helping people to meaningfully engage with the Bible. I am excited about that.

But what I’m more excited about is the opportunity this provides for me to better serve my family, my church, and the broader church. The change has some positive benefits for my family (reestablishing some rhythms and boundaries between work and home). There are new ministry opportunities in my local church that I can invest in. And I’m starting to have things I want to write about again.

Making the choice to leave wasn’t easy, but it seems to be the right one.

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

44,444 words and 4 months

Back in 2015, while I still lived in Canada, I began working on a blog series for For the Church reflecting on my first 10 years as a Christian, and what I wish I’d known then. While at an event in Nashville in May of that year, Jared Wilson were talking about the series. He said five words that stuck with me: “This should be a book.”

I started noodling with it, working on a rough proposal, figuring out the outline, and playing with rough content for certain chapters. Then, I got my job with Lifeway. Suddenly, it was 2020, and I still had more or less the same amount of work on it as I did back in 2015: a handful of notes, a couple of sample chapters, and a work-in-progress proposal.

“It’s now or never, I thought.” So I talked to Dave Schroeder about it. He and I had talked about it on and off for ages (because that’s what we do). Knowing Dave, I was certain he’d give me the straight goods: if this was better off just staying a blog series, cool. If it had legs to be something more, even better. He felt it was the latter, and we got to work polishing the proposal, filling in some gaps, and then starting to make inquiries. The summer turned to fall turned to winter. 2020 passed and 2021 took its place. And as winter turned to spring, and the book found a home with Lexham Press, along with a tentative release window: Spring 2022.

4 months and 44,444 words later, the project that began as a reflection on what I wish I’d known as a new Christian is now in the hands of my editor.

There is still so much more to do, as it’s technically the first finished draft. And there will be a lot more to say in the future, including what we are actually calling this thing.

But for now, an open tab in my brain is closed for the first time in six years. And it feels really good.

Prime Day Deals I Like (and Use)

I’ve been a bit lax on updating the blog of late, largely because of work constraints and writing five books in four years. But even so, I wanted to actually share some things that I thought were pretty rad that I’ve seen in Amazon’s Prime Day sale. Although I went looking for different options for resources to help you grow in your faith, there really weren’t any to speak of. So, this list is entirely comprised of items I like (and, with rare exception, own and use).

Amazon Echo Devices

Since we moved into the house at the end of December, we’ve been slowly embracing the “smart home” experience. Just about everything is wifi enabled, which is great but also weird (more on that another time). I also inherited a love of good audio systems from my dad, but since I’m not going to go the vinyl route, I need to look at good options for sound quality, especially if I’m going to stick with digital audio. I’ve got an Echo Dot that came with the house in the kitchen, which sounds about as good as a mono speaker can (which is to say, it’s fine). I recently bought the full-sized Echo (4th Gen) in my office and it’s great. Considering its size and price, I’ve been really impressed with the sound quality—so much so that I just bought a second one, along with an Echo Studio to try out.

Home Networking

Before we moved into the house, I also upgraded our home network to a mesh system. The one I went with, after watching far too many review and comparison videos, was the Eero 6 system. It’s reliable, secure and easily expandable.

Appliances for Healthier Eating

Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook know that I’ve been lost a lot of weight recently. To help with that, there are some tools that I have in the house that are super-helpful. One is my smoothie blender, which I use just about every day to make my breakfast. The other is my air fryer, which has been lovely. Super-easy to use, and the food I make in it consistently turns out great. The exact appliances I have aren’t on sale, but these ones are pretty great:

There are, of course, lots of other items in every major category, but these are a few of the ones available I use on a regular basis. You can see all the deals that are still available here.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase through them. This helps me pay for the fees associated with the blog. Thanks!

The Trial Separation

Dave and Aaron have to have a talk. It’s a hard talk, but it’s a good one. Feel the randomness as we discuss:

  • The realities of our lives right now
  • If Grease 2 is the best sequel of all time (and why does Dave think the answer is yes)
  • The best horror writers (since we don’t read those books)
  • A Stranger Things and Lonesome Dove connection
  • Introducing kids to Nicolas Cage

A few of the books we mentioned

Sitting at the Top of the Christian Publishing World

Our friend Mary Wiley joins us this week for a chat about publishing, writing theology books for kids, why we need more books like Gentle and Lowly, and the time a group of people lost their minds when Dave told them about a little book she wrote.

A few of the books mentioned on today’s episode