It’s Not about Reading to Read

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UnknownReading through your Bible has become a year-end advertisement, resolution, and chore list. I would like to encourage you not to not do it. This may seem like an odd request, but I want to drive past the activity and look at the heart. I don’t want you to grab a plan, make plans, and follow through with those plans so you can say you read through your Bible.

I would rather you simply say, “I’m committed to learning about my Lord and Savior, therefore I need to read my Bible because it is the source of light in this dark world.”

imagesThere you have it. Please do not read through the Bible to read, read the Bible to know and love our Savior better. We read to learn about Him, me, and how I can respond to Him worshipfully. Instead of making reading your goal, make learning about Him your goal. If learning about your Savior is the goal, then it is necessary to turn to the Bible. If learning about Him is a goal, then church, your pastor’s preaching, and Bible Studies become instrumental. [2] Instead of a daily activity, it’s a life’s goal and commitment.

In fact, as you learn, you’ll want to live it out. Now having relationships in the church will be instrumental too. We grow in discernment when we practice what we learn. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb 5:14). There you have it. Want to honor the Lord with your life? Then practice what you learn. images-1In fact, failing to practice what you learn will only produce pride and a puffed up head. “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies” (1 Cor. 8:1).

The author of Hebrews argues maturity comes when we learn about the Lord and practice it. Those serving the church grow to be like Jesus Christ. Honoring the Lord requires knowledge and practice. They go together like a husband and his wife. The two are one flesh. You can’t have one without the other.

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Heb 6:10-12).

Now, I realize this blog preaches to the choir. Amen! I’m grateful for your faithfulness and love for Him. So, now, you want a plan to study in a way that works for your life, yet allows you to study Him? Well, the good news is there are a plethora of Bibles published to direct you, blogs, and plans available to see how others do it. In fact, I have a plan too, detailed below, here (instead of linking to my old post, I decided to just post it here:

I love the concept of reading through the Bible in a year. January is a fun month among the church as we talk among ourselves regarding our reading program. Somewhere around late February and early March the discussions turn sour as the reading program sputters through Leviticus. By April any attempted discussion seems more like a rebuke than a harmless conversation starter. November rolls around and the pages of 2 Kings are still stuck together from the foiling process at the printers. Then in December blog articles and what not start popping up about how you should read through your Bible next year with different plans — some of which will get you to read your Bible three times in the year.

Choosing a Bible reading plan for me is difficult. Many of them seem unnatural because of the way they are designed. They start and stop each day according to chapter therefore requiring me to put down my reading in the middle of a good story. Or they require reading in 15 different parts of the Bible so Joseph gets a coat, while his son pays attention to wisdom crying in the street, and some kid dies during Paul’s preaching and John tells me about 7 bowls — I’m confused . . .

Yet there is value in it, I want to read through the Old Testament two times next year and the NT one time. This may seem odd, but since I preach and teach out of the NT doing studies and reading for counseling I end up reading the NT a couple of times a year regardless of a plan. Also my desire coordinates with an important factor in a reading program: a goal.

Have a goal when developing or using a program.

Reading through the Bible in a year is great but ask one question, “Why?” Is reading for the sake of reading the goal? Do you want to say, “I read through the Bible?” Is your motivating factor posting on Facebook completing 4,594,698 days of Bible reading? What do you benefit by reading your Bible? One of those goals seems noble but it too can easily dissipate into shallowness of the other reasons.

Perhaps the better approach is to set a goal. “Lord I want to know you better.” If our goal is knowing Him better and worshiping Him, then we read our Bible with a greater purpose and it seems likely Leviticus will not stall that purpose.

Think about time and your situation when developing and using a program. 

If your goal is to know God better and you want to study ten chapters a day then okay. But do you have the time to do that seven days a week? I know, you should make time, I get that. But what if you are a mother of three young kids who wake up at 7am and go to bed at 8pm? Those kids are demanding (in a good way) and require attention, dedication, love, TIME and ENERGY. If it takes this mother 10 minutes to read a chapter in the Bible, is almost 2 hours of Bible Study practical and feasible? Should she suffer sleep? Relationship with her husband? Neglect the kids? Probably not.

If she has 30 minutes of time in her day, then perhaps she should pick a program that operates better with 20-30 minutes of reading and prayer time. Look over your average week. Perhaps it would be better to have a five day program?  The point is this, evaluate your time, responsibilities, have a goal to know your Savior better, and commit to a reasonable plan. If it grows and develops and you find more time, GREAT DO IT! But don’t begin a plan only a PhD student can fulfill in the library for 8 hours a day and then feel like you are in sin for failure to complete it because those cute kids need to eat lunch.

Reading the Bible

I am currently developing my own plan where instead of reading a certain amount of chapters a day, I read a story a day. By dividing it up according to storyline it helps me see the flow of thought, the rising action, climax, and falling action. It helps me see the theme the author wants me to see. It keeps the storyline in my mind for one account rather than over a few days. Here is what Genesis looks like for me:

Day 1: Genesis 1-2 Creation

Day 2: Genesis 3-5 The Fall

Day 3: Genesis 6-11 The Flood and Tower of Babel

Day 4: Genesis 12-20 Abraham

Day 5: Genesis 21-26 Isaac

Day 6: 27-36 Jacob

Day 7: 37-50 Joseph.

This will actually take me 9-12 days to complete because two days a week I don’t read. I also read a Psalm [1] a day and study the NT every day. (Remember my goal is to know God better especially through the OT). Day 6 and 7 may actually take me 2 days.

So what about the Law?

Much of Scripture is story. However, not all of it reads like a story. The Lord includes proverbs, laws, sermons, prophecies, and letters. Picking a story line out of those is not as easy. So what do I do when I hit these sections (like Leviticus)? Read fast. I will probably be in Genesis for close to two weeks. I will be in Leviticus for three days maximum. I will read fast and skim the text. I will still make observations but brush by much of the details. If I get hung up there due to interest, then fine, that’s okay. But my reading program is not set to derail due to detailed laws. Before I read the Law I take note of Exodus 19 spelling out the purpose of the Law for Israel. By reading fast it also helps keep the big picture in store. These laws are for Israel to obey so their testimony honors the Lord (Deut 4:6-8).

Regurgitate what you learn

Finally after completing the reading, type out a short paragraph of what you just learned. Write out any observations concerning the story. If you have more questions, do an in depth study. But keep reading. Get the big picture and learn about your God!

If writing isn’t your “thing” then try talking about it to someone. I find a lot of people download content by talking about what they learned. Tell your spouse, a friend, or fellow church member so that it will help you digest what you’ve learned. There are benefits to discussing what we learned.

In summary, reading through the Bible is not about reading the Bible. It is about knowing God better and being a tree firmly planted yielding fruit in its season (see Psalm 1). Before reading remind yourself of your goal. Be committed to your goal. Have a reasonable plan. Reading is the means of obtaining your goal. Pray, pray, and pray. Be practical, be inquisitive, and have fun. Learning about the Lord is exciting! Enjoy it!

[1] Another goal I have is to familiarize myself with the Psalms better, hence the reading one a day. At some point I will try to read through the Psalms in a week to get a sense of the overall thought and composition. But for now, I want to know them better.

Go, read, learn, and love. Feel free to tell me your plan and leave any ideas for me too. What other books are helpful for you? What do you do to help study and learn?

[1] If you are unaware of this exchange add the movie Three Amigos to your 2015 resolutions list.

[2] More on being a learner here.

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Jason Vaughn

About Jason Vaughn

Jason is a graduate of the Master's Seminary and the pastor of Cornerstone Las Vegas, a Grace Advance church plant. He loves Christ, his wife Kyla, sometimes his kids :), the church, missions, people, and coffee. You can also follow him on his personal blog at shepherdthesheep.com.