Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bible Reading Resolutions

It's that time of year again. We vow that this will be the year we'll stick to a daily Bible-reading plan and read the Good Book cover to cover in 365 days. Our intentions are good, and we usually start off strong - that is, until we hit Numbers and Deuteronomy sometime in February (or March if we've already fallen a few days - or weeks! - behind). By then ... most of us give up and say, "I'll try again next year."

And next year, we try another program and probably find ourselves stalling out once again. What to do? Maybe Ransom Fellowship's Margie Haack, a fellow "shirker and slacker," can offer a solution. In an edition of her Notes from Toad Hall newsletter, she writes:

Until about six years ago, I NEVER made it through the Bible on one of those programs. In summary: I got sick. Traveled. Married. Raised children. The weather was bad. Or beautiful. My aunt had brain surgery. My in-laws dropped by for a day. The taxes were due at midnight, we were eating Chinese take-out, and still trying to figure out Turbo-tax. The engine fell out of the car while I was driving. (That was hard to explain to my husband who sort of believes some of our car repairs are due to my wild driving. Thankfully the Ford Company came to my aid when it recalled that year's Taurus for bad motor mounts.)

So when [my husband] Denis discovered a read-through-the-Bible-plan, which he called "Reading for Biblical Literacy," I was cautious about it. After all, I was a veteran who'd tried everything.

It first came to his attention through Douglas Kelly's book
[If God Already Knows,] Why Pray? The basic plan dates from the time of the Puritans. It was given to him by Venus Brooks, a pastor from the Lumbee Indian tribe. Dr. Kelly writes, "Its special value is that it gives you a varied diet by exposing you to different parts of Scripture each day while providing continuity by causing you to return to the same section on the same day of the week all through the year."

So throughout the year you read the following. On every:
  • Sunday: The books of poetry.
  • Monday: The Pentateuch.
  • Tuesday: O.T. history.
  • Wednesday: O.T. history. (There is a lot of it.)
  • Thursday: O.T. prophets.
  • Friday: N.T. history.
  • Saturday: N.T. epistles.

So while having a fit of resolutions on a January 1st some years ago, I pulled it out, cut down the margins, folded it in half so it would fit in my Bible, and began.

The big difference between this plan and any other I had tried was that it was not tied to any particular date. On any day of the week, say it was Friday, I read the assigned portion and happily checked it off. Fridays were good days and it is true I finished all of them before I finished the Saturdays, but then I simply read wherever I was behind. I was not tempted to cheat, because there were no unsightly gaps. I knew it was going to take me longer than a year. And, after all, what is so inspired about doing it in a year? Nothing. I also liked not having to look up five different references in one day, you could just settle in and read an entire assignment which came from one book. It also had the advantage of giving more context because you read a whole chunk at a time rather than a few verses here and there.

Clearly another advantage in the arrangement was that it helped me see the remarkable unity and interconnections that run through the entire Scripture. On Monday I would be reading about the covenant God made with Abraham and on Saturday Paul would be talking about the very same thing in Romans.

And I figured out at least one thing about Numbers. If God cared enough about all those tribes and clans to count the people and to name them so we could look at them in the year 2002, then it is a certain kind of evidence that God is mindful of every one of his people no matter how anonymous or insignificant we think we are. But the best thing by far was simply checking off a day's portion, not a DATE.

I got through the whole Bible. It only took me a year and six months.

You can find the "Read Through the Bible Program for Shirkers and Slackers" in Margie's Still Winter 2002 edition of her newsletter (a pdf version can be downloaded by clicking here).

This shirker and slacker started the program on January 1 (using my brand-new ESV Reformation Study Bible), and although I haven't stuck to it every day, I'm encouraged by the progress I've made so far. If you decide to give it a try, let me know how you're doing.


At Thursday, January 12, 2006 11:01:00 AM, Blogger Joel said...

Welcome back Mickey. Yes, there are few things as helpful for the Christian as spending time daily in God's word and in prayer. I use the Saint James Daily Devotional Guide for the Christian Year to help me. There are many good tools. Blessings and many happy hours of Bible reading to you in 2006. Joel.


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