FIRST-PERSON: Reading the Bible, every year
O'FALLON, Ill. (BP) -- Few practices have blessed my life and ministry as greatly as reading the entire Bible at least once each year. Of course, as a pastor, there are some advantages. If I am quietly reading the Bible at church, for example, people say, "Don't bother Pastor Doug!"
If, however, you are in bivocational ministry (God bless you and may your tribe increase!) or your ministry is not part of your vocation (How thankful I am for your willingness to serve faithfully as a volunteer!), you probably won't have that advantage.
One other caveat. If you haven't read through the New Testament (NT) fully, start there. Read it all the way through several times before going to the more daunting reading of the entire Old Testament. I have sometimes used a reading plan to read the NT in one month; various 30-day plans can be found online. After several times through the NT, you are ready to read the entire 66 books of the Bible.
Here are some of the reasons I read through the entire Bible each year.
1. I see the big picture of God's story more clearly. It takes several times through the Bible to begin to put all the pieces together. There are so many names and places and stories, so it takes several times through to begin to see how they all fit. Each time through can provide more clarity.
2. God uses unexpected passages in unexpected ways to speak truth into my heart. I read about Jabez, for example, as I worked my way through the chronology of 1 Chronicles. His story was good for my soul. Reading the book of Job many times has deepened my faith in God's goodness even when I can't understand my circumstances.
3. It stretches my understanding and deepens my faith. I read things I would not normally read and learn things I would not normally learn. Instead of just reading the parts of the Bible that make me comfortable, I am forced to deal with important subjects like judgment and sin.
4. It enriches my preaching and teaching. I deal with sections of the Bible I might otherwise ignore, and I understand context better by broad reading, helping me do systematic theology. It allows me to better connect the stories of the Bible and to see the various perspectives of the human authors as they are guided by the Holy Spirit.
5. It keeps me from error. If I only read about the love of God and not the holiness of God, I don't fully see God's nature. God is both loving and holy, and both are revealed in Scripture. Broad reading of the Word keeps me from cultural and personal bias and helps me see the whole truth. It aids in avoiding mistakes that come from knowing only partial truth or not knowing the truth at all.
6. It leads me to deeper reflection and focus. Focusing on a single verse does not always lead to bulk reading, but bulk reading of the Word has always led me to focus on a single verse. I underline verses that speak to me as I go, and this has led me to reflect, consider and memorize.
7. It reminds me of the value of other spiritual disciplines. Having benefited from the discipline of Bible reading, I see the value of discipline in my prayer life. I love connecting my reading of the Word to a prayer time. This reading discipline also helps me to consider discipline in other areas like evangelism and relationships and fasting.
These are just a few reasons to read the entire Bible for yourself. Don't feel as though you must read the 66 books in order. I usually skip back and forth between the Old and New Testaments and rarely read them in order. There are many ways that you might find most beneficial for yourself. Just begin reading.
How about starting through the New Testament today?