As a preaching pastor, I am up in front of hundreds of people every Sunday morning, speaking from the Bible. As a result, a number of people have said, over the last year in particular, "How do you know so much about the Bible?"
Let me very quickly say - I don't know nearly as much as I'd like about God's Word. And, there are so very many other men and women who know far more than I. However, I will say that I do know much more about the Bible than I did ten years ago. So, what is my secret? What is my answer to the question?
I have read through the whole Bible, at least once per year, for over the last ten years.
Certainly, it helps that for just about that amount of time, I have the luxury of getting paid not to have a job, and to study and meditate on the Bible in order to feed the people of God at Calvary Community Church.
But I think that my knowledge of the Bible, and of Father, Son, and Spirit as revealed in the Bible, comes from reading the whole thing through, year after year. In this way I keep reading the whole story that God has told. I don't get caught up reading just my favorite bits, or most familiar bits, I read all the bits.
It is at this time of year that I begin thinking about what my plan will be for reading through the whole Bible. How will I consume the Bible in 2014?
For the last few years, I have used our Calvary plan. It has already been handed out at our church the past couple of Sundays, so people could get prepared for the year ahead. But as I looked through the many plans available (compiled wonderfully for us by Justin Taylor over at The Gospel Coalition), none was, frankly, getting me all that excited.
You see, I was feeling like my Bible reading has been, too, well...regimented. Too filled with duty, and lacking joy. And I'd been trying to figure out why.
And then it hit me.
And it was pretty obvious, now that I see it.
I have treated my Bible reading differently than almost all my other reading.
Think about this for a moment with me. When you pick up a novel, maybe your favorite novel, do you come up with a chart, breaking apart all the chapters, putting little boxes next to each one, for how you will get it read? Of course not! That novel is not a series of little bits that you want to slowly work through, piece by piece. You want to read the whole story - you grab hold of the book, open it up, and begin reading. And then, whenever you have a chance, you read as much as you can, for as long as you can. And before you know it, you've completed it.
So why do I, why do we, treat The Book differently than other books? Instead of reading it in bits, why don't we open it up, and read as much as we can for as long as we can, until we're done?
Just as I was thinking about this, along comes a wonderful article from Peter Krol about Bible Reading.
His advice: Read the Bible.
Just go for it. Read all of it. Read the Bible like you would watch the Olympics. Delightfully. Astoundingly. In large doses over a few weeks. As though your hope of world peace depends on it. With an eye to the spectacular drama.
I dare you to read the entire Bible this year, and to read it as fast as you can.
I've done it for three years now, and I plan to keep doing it. My practice has been to drop all recreational reading (fiction, non-fiction, magazines) on January 1, at which point I read nothing but the Bible until I've finished it. My goal is to finish more quickly than I finished the previous year, or by all means to beat the first day of spring. (After that point, I don't set the Bible aside but reinstitute a more measured pace and reintroduce other books into my literary diet.).......
To be clear, the kind of reading I suggest is not mindless but voluminous, and for a season. The Bible expects us to read meditatively (Pss. 1:2, 119:97, etc.), and while meditation may involve a small chunk of text read at a slow pace, it doesn't have to. Just as we can meditate on nibbles, so we can meditate on gobbles.
For example, upon reading Deuteronomy in one or two sittings I'm floored by the absolute necessity but innate impossibility of worshiping Yahweh as the only true God. This theme saturates the entire book, and for months after reading it I'm driven to meditate on both my need for a new heart and also my hope of glory, Christ in me (Col. 1:27).
I love it! And he doesn't stop there. He elucidates on how this has made him happier.
- It helps me grasp the overall story of the Bible.
- It reminds me the Bible is a work of literature.
- It gets me through the difficult parts more easily.
- It heightens my anticipation for the Messiah.
You can read his support for each of those points here, which I highly recommend. For he has me convinced, and I am taking up his challenge. I'm going to make the Bible the main book I'm reading at the beginning of the year, with hopes of completing it before the snow melts in St. Cloud.
Would you join me?