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Reading the Bible


Today I completed reading the Bible through for the year. Reading the entire Bible through each year has been a practice I’ve been committed to since I entered the ministry in January, 1984. Granted, I’ve often wrestled with the question as to whether or not I do this out of rote legalism. But as a pastor-teacher, I have come to the conclusion that if my life’s work is centered on communicating the Scriptures, I should be committed to reading the written word systematically.

There’s nothing special about my particular discipline. Each day I read five chapters from the Old Testament and two chapters from the New Testament. I have read straight through from Genesis to Revelation, but have come to appreciate the variety of reading the Old and New Testaments simultaneously. I also read one chapter of Psalms per day, which allows me to read the book a little more than twice per year. Finally, I read the chapter from Proverbs that corresponds with the day. For example, today is July 30, so I read Proverbs 30. I read this book of wisdom 12 times per year. Over time I’ve read the Bible through in the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New American Standard Version, the New International Version, and my present personal favorite, the New Living Translation.

When I read the Bible, I read for the sake of reading it and listening for my own spiritual formation. That is, I don’t read for sermon ideas or teaching material. I would not call my reading Bible study. I do that as a part of the multiple preparations I do each week. My posture toward the Bible when I read is to read it for my own sake. As I read I have a pen and a journal which allows me to personally interact with the words I read on a given day.

Reading the Bible through each year always provides several blessings that are beneficial. The practice reminds me that all of the words of the Bible are important. My personal preference would not be to read Leviticus or the genealogies of Chronicles. But those chapters and verses are there for a reason.

Another blessing is the blessing of balance. Reading the Bible through keeps me from parking on theological hobby horses or camping on texts that might cause me to go to seed on a particular doctrine. Like you, I know people who have become single issue Christians, focusing on things like end times prophecy or election. In Acts 20:27, Paul speaks of declaring “the whole counsel of God.” Reading the Bible through helps me become God centered and not self-serving in the treatment of the Bible.

As I read I’m always blessed by the fact that even having read the Bible through 25 times, I still learn something new about God with each reading that draws me closer to him. Though the words are the same as last year, each reading makes my relationship with God richer and fuller. I don’t want to get so caught up in reading about people, places, and history that I miss God!

The final way reading the Bible through has blessed me is that the discipline helps me to understand the big picture. My personal conviction is that the Bible is a unified book. There are many inter-related texts. The Old Testament points to the New, and the New Testament reflects the Old. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old while the apostles shed light on Jesus, to name a few examples. The Bible is one story. To neglect reading the entire story is like renting a DVD and randomly choosing scenes to watch.

If you’ve not read the Bible through in a year, I commend the discipline to you. Just don’t become a Pharisee in the process. And remember, the point is to know God.

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