Friday, January 3, 2014

Reading the Bible

This month we're about all things reading related here at the blog and for a lot of us January marks the start of a year-long reading project, that of reading through the Bible. I'm thinking Genesis 1 is probably the most read chapter of the Bible, what with so many of us starting the new year with a new plan!

A simple Google search would no doubt turn up hundreds of options for Bible reading plans. There are bookmarks to print and email reminders to sign up for. There are canonical plans and chronological plans and one year plans and two year plans and New Testament only plans and plans with daily readings from the Pentateuch and the Prophets and Wisdom literature and the gospels. Truly the options are endless!

As are the opinions on the best approach. Get a good study Bible, don't use a study Bible. Engage commentaries, read without any commentary. Read voraciously and voluminously, meditate and marinate in only one or two books across the calendar year.

It's all rather confusing.

In choosing a particular approach for our personal reading, we need to take care to remember the goal: knowing God by knowing His Word. We are to be people of the Word, yes and amen. Whether we read ten chapters a day or ten chapters a month, what's important is that we are reading to know, that knowledge fueling a greater love and devotion to our Lord. For some of us, this will mean taking a slower, more meditative pace. Others of us will read with a broader perspective.

I subscribe to the latter approach. I view my Bible reading as more devotional than studious. Because I teach Bible study and I have the privilege of hearing God's Word preached expositionally and in great depth week after week at my church, I am graciously afforded opportunity for deeper Bible study. Thus my aim in my Bible reading is twofold: I read for increased familiarity of the text and I read to see the big picture, the single storyline of the Bible, God redeeming a people for Himself and His glory. This year I am using the ESV Study Bible plan comprised of four readings from four parts of the Bible.

Whenever one speaks of plans and such there is usually a caution against legalism. Beware those checkmarks, the warning goes, you don't want to be legalistic! Let's be clear: having a plan is not legalism. Being organized or disciplined is not legalism either. Legalism ties the performance with God's favor. We have vast resources at our disposal; I mean, really, we can read our Bibles on our phones for goodness' sake! It is wisdom, not legalism, that takes advantage of a systematic approach to seeking God by reading His Word. Legalism tells us we are somehow better or more blessed for the checking off; wisdom knows the usefulness of the discipline. Let's be wise.

One final word about Bible reading and having a plan: you are not a slave to your plan. By that I mean that if the particular plan you choose is too much (or too little) then by all means adjust both your expectations and your methods! The goal is not the plan; the goal is reading the Word. Along those lines, there is nothing magical about January 1. Haven't started yet? Begin today! There is nothing magical about beginning in Genesis either. You are free to start in Matthew or Romans or Psalms.

I have found reading the Bible through in a year to be challenging but rewarding. Grasping the big picture of the Bible as a whole is both awe inspiring and humbling. Our God is working through history and we are part of His glorious plan! I hope that you too will be encouraged and challenged as you determine to devote yourself to the reading of His Word. His Word is living and active and will accomplish His purposes, yes and amen!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Lisa!
    This is so encouraging and it made me laugh.
    I agree with you all the way, it was also good to read as a reminder: "One final word about Bible reading and having a plan: you are not a slave to your plan." So true!!! Like you said, the most important is knowing God by knowing His Word.
    Thank you