My Game Plan For Bible Reading

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Since I talk all the time about reading the Bible, I am asked a lot about my personal game plan for intake of Scripture. I don't think I have ever written or taught about that before so, beholdeth the curtain drawneth back.....

I have five basic practices when it comes to reading the Bible:

1. I buy a new Bible and start with a fresh copy every January 1. This is more of a pastor thing than anything else - I only underline the passages I teach through so if I want to know in a given year what I need to teach on or have recently taught through, I can pull an older copy of the Bible off my shelf and see at a glance. I also beat the heck out of my Bible through the year - it travels with me everywhere, I bend it backwards and probably sweat on it on Sunday mornings, and it generally gets a pretty good daily workout so after twelve months the pages are getting wrinkled and the binding is starting to come loose.

2. I do everything I can to read the Bible every day NO MATTER WHAT. This is not some legalistic deal where I think God will be angry at me or cause me to get a speeding ticket or that the Tar Heels will lose if I skip a day. The deal is that I need that daily reminder that I am a man under Authority AND that I am a man caught up in a much bigger Story than my own. Nothing reminds me of this like daily Bible reading. I need to commune with God AND to enter into the Story of the men and women who have gone ahead of me in the Faith each and every day.

3. I need two kinds of Bible reading - big gulps and small bites.

First, big gulps. I need to be reminded that the Bible is one Story even though it describes events that take place over thousands of years with very different people involved living in some radically different circumstances. But one of the miracles of the Bible is that it all hangs together and so I need to read big swaths of Scripture at a time so that I get the sense of the big picture.

But I also need small bites. I need to spend time with smaller portions of the Bible, reading them slowly and repeatedly and meditatively, letting it all soak in. This is harder for me, which means it is probably more important for me to do.

4. Because I need both big gulps and small bites, I have found that I need to vary my approach to reading the Bible pretty radically. So, I alternate my game plan by calendar year.

One year (i.e. 2010) I'll take the big gulp approach. Did you know that if you read five (5) chapters of the Old Testament and two (2) chapters of the New Testament each day at the end of one year you will have read the Old Testament once and the New Testament TWICE all the way through? Try it!

But the next year, I choose to focus on a smaller portion of Scripture and read it again and again, using the SOAP method, using approaches to scriptural meditation that work for me, and letting the words of one part of the Story soak in and change me.

5. Finally, I remind myself all the time that even though I am reading the Bible the Bible is actually reading me. I am reading for life change - to know God and myself better and to become more like Jesus. I am not trying to gain knowledge so that I will one day be Bible Bingo champion in a retirement home somewhere or trying to dazzle people with my "knowledge". To read the Bible is to be humbled, awed, excited, and reminded of just how big God is and how amazing it is that he lets us play a part in His Story.

That's my game plan for reading the Bible. It might not - probably won't - work exactly for you. But the important thing is that you find what game plan DOES work for you and go for it!

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