Friday, 28 December 2012
It's that time of the year again, the house is slowly being restored to order after everyone came over, you've looked up where you can recycle your christmas tree, and you're debating what to do for new years eve. It's also when you start thinking about how you don't really do new years resolutions, but you might actually get round to doing that one thing you've always thought about doing this year. And one of those things might be reading the Bible all the way through.
Justin Taylor has a list of BIble reading plans if you want to read through the Bible in a year or two. These are great if they work for you, but a year's a long time and it's very easy to lose motivation, concentration, and your place and so get behind on your reading and give up. One attempted solution to this problem seems to be reading the Bible over longer periods, so doing it over two years instead of one. But that seems to compound the problem, because it treats reading the Bible like a problem that needs to be solved; you give it a further away deadline and smaller tasks.
Instead, here's a suggestion, why not try to read the Bible through as a book at a much faster rate? If you read about ten chapters a day you get through the Bible around three times a year. "Yes, but that's crazy!" I hear you cry. Well, not particularly. It's something we tried last year as part of our church (an idea that isn't original to us) and was surprisingly easy and incredibly helpful. Dave Bish has written about it similarly here. It may seem like a lot, but in reality it isn't. You read about 9-10 chapters a day (more in Psalms as they're short). If you listen to this out-loud in the ESV version it takes an average of 37 minutes, though you'd probably read that much in 25-30 minutes if you're an average reader. A friend of mine has put together a flexible reading plan (pdf, if you read two of these sections a day that's 120 days) to help you do it, as well as a website so you can read together communally (a bunch from our church and elsewhere are starting February 3rd).
Reasons Why This Is A Good Idea
It's a great way of reading the Bible, because you start to read through it like a book, and so you absorb it like you would a book. You start to see the large arcs of scripture. You get an idea of how Isaiah and Ezekiel flow and see how the different books of the Psalms have different themes. You absorb scripture and it starts to come into your mind more and more frequently. And as you become more familiar with it you see the same patterns appearing again and again in different parts of scripture and you see those patterns appearing in your life, and so become better at understanding and applying the Bible.
I Have Objections!
But I won't take any of it in! Maybe! But then we've all read one verse and not taken any of it in. You won't take all ten chapters a day in, but you'll get the scope and vision for the book. It is good to dwell over and memorise scripture, but it's also good to read through in large amounts. Often though, we read it through slowly enough that we don't get through much of it, but not so slowly that we meditate on it properly. Partly this is a heart problem; we read the Bible because we feel have to, instead of reading it because we delight to. God promises though, that as we consume his word, he'll feed us through it, so partly the solution to the problem of not wanting to read the Bible is fill ourselves with it.
But I don't have time to read this much a day! That's probably not true. The average commute is around 45 minutes in the UK. We probably spend a similar amount of time at work waiting for meetings to start, e-mails to arrive, or on hold with HR. If we're at home we've probably got time when the kids are watching CBeebies, or you're waiting up till the washing machine's done so you can go to bed. Not all of us, but most of us probably have a spare forty minutes of time a day. And that's just spare time. You alone know how much time you spend doing things that you actually don't need to do nor really enjoy, things like watching the next thing on TV because you can't be bothered to move or reading those blogs that you don't really care about. And that's before you think about things you like to do, but don't need to and could choose not to do. You make time for what's important and what you enjoy. It may take giving up something else, but you could find 37 minutes in a day if you wished to. And what a blessing it is when you do!
But I'll probably give up and lose track of where I am! So what? If you take twice as long to read the bible through in 120 days you've still read it in 240 days! And if you take three times as long you've still read in through in under a year! Brilliant! It helps doing it communally so you can encourage each other and talk about particular scripture with each other, and it helps to get some bookmarks, but to be honest, the faster you read it, the harder it is to lose your place. When we read it in 120 last year as a church, I think most us finished a week or so after the deadline. So it was the bible in 134 days. That's okay. As a friend says, you're not reading the bible to show how great you are, but to see how great God is.
But my young people could never do this! You're joking right? You'll have young people applying for university and sitting exams in ten different subjects. They can probably read well enough. Even those who can't can listen to it. And most of them have the time as well. They'll love it.