Reading Your Bible in a Year? Some Advice From a Guy Who Has Started It 189 Times and Read Through It …

… 5 times.
Is that why you clicked – to see how many times I have read through the Bible? Well, I’m glad you did, now keep reading.

Blessings to those who have resolved to read their Bible in a year. You are in for a beautiful and difficult 2011. There will be times when you are reading that you think to yourself, “This is amazing. God you are so good.” Then there will be other moments that you think, “This is terrible. Is this really what I believe?” “I have never even heard this before.” “This is why my pastor never preaches out of the Old Testament – Wait this is the New Testament???”

Let me be honest, I’m not sure reading the Bible in a year is always the best idea if you want to learn Scripture. You have heard the expression, “Drinking out of a firehouse.”? It’s hard to appreciate the Scripture’s riches in our 10-20 minute daily readings. However, what everyday plans are good for is the discipline of reading Scripture and that has its own virtues.

So here are a couple of thoughts I’ve picked up over the years. Feel free to add your own.

Quick note here – I have never been one to read the Bible in the morning. For one, I’m not really a morning person. Two, I hate the idea of looking at a clock and thinking I need to get going (“Sorry God, I gotta get the donuts”). I begin my morning in prayer and I feel later in the day allows for more time for study and reflection. So the following suggestions assume that. But do what works for you.

First Time Readers
1. Don’t worry about the days that you miss. I used to use my day off to catch up but I’d like to encourage you to keep moving forward.
2. Don’t worry about creating the ideal conditions. I used to have a whole ritual for my prayer/Scripture times. Coffee/Tea, proper conditions, optimal lighting, and worshipful mood – I never made it through those years.
As odd as it may sound, I used to avoid my readings after a difficult or an anger-filled day. I found it hypocritical if my thoughts and actions were unChristian throughout the day and then sat down to pray and read. Further, I felt bad that I wasn’t in the mood to “be spiritual”. Later I realized, that there would be few days that I felt at my spiritual optimum and that simply beginning my time with confession and a request for an open heart was an appropriate start (and maybe all that God wanted from me).
3. Consider switching translations as you go along. It’s ok, God won’t mind. You may find the new voice to be helpful, especially during the days you are struggling. Even better, consider using a Bible without the chapter-verse breaks like from the Books of the Bible Series. Also take advantage of the digital Bibles like YouVersion (they have their own reading plan that you can read on your computer, iPhone, etc.
4. Enjoy the silence. It’s tempting to finish the required reading and jump up to brush your teeth but one of the best disciplines of spiritual formation is to simply sit in silence. Mind you I didn’t say prayer, but silence. Sometimes the Lord speaks to us in these times.
5. Spend some time in prayer (and do so throughout your day).  Whether it be after the time of silence or whenever, spend adequate time in prayer. Among many blessings, it opens the Scriptures and allows for communion with the Lord.

Second, Third, Several Time Readers
1. See above. Did you skip the first time reader part? What because you have already read through once, you got it all figured out. It’s a good thing you’ve resolved to read the Bible again, your pride is out of control :)
2. Realize the importance that Scripture-reading is an important aspect of discipleship, not the only. So, spend adequate time in prayer, meditation, fasting, etc.
3. Consider NOT reading the books in order from front to back. I’m telling you Genesis looks different in June than in January.
4. Read along with a commentary or some other type of resource – there are more than 189 to pick from.
5. Use the cross-reference features.
6. Use a notebook to highlight what you’re thinking, what’s new to you and the helpful thoughts form the commentaries, as well as your own insights (some of them will be heretical, some of them will be brilliant).
7. Consider reading with a group. Shouldn’t be too hard to round up some people. Anyone want to read with me?

My New Year’s Resolutions, Perspective and Prayer

I made a sarcastic post a couple days ago and being a believer of resolutions, I thought I should offer a more honest one.

Like all good people, I want to be a better husband, dad, son, brother, son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, friend, pastor and Jersey driver.

Indeed I want to pray more, read more Scripture, read more on youth ministry, church work, theology, various Christian genres and may even read a novel this year (like the Marcus Borg one, not the Twilight one). I want to think more logically, allow for more mystery and have grow to have a child-like heart that is amazed at the work of God.

Like all people, I want to be more productive, better organized, improve correspondence between close friends and distant ones.

These are all broad and but hardly measurable so here are a few of my specific new resolutions.  Feel free to share your own.

In honesty, I will be committing to Devotional Reading this year. I am not interested in actually completing a devotional but more of the practice of reading them. In my opinion, certain devotionals get repetitious after a while (like My Utmost for His Highest – which I used to read as if it were a fifth gospel). Over the years, I have acquired roughly 800 devotionals so I cannot blame my lack of options for any failure.

Spend MORE TIME on Facebook and be more intentional about social media. Undoubtedly, our youth ministry has only been served by connecting on mediums like Facebook and Twitter. Initially I thought of creating a number of people that I should connect with per week but I felt that was too objectifying and thought it was counter-productive to consider someone part of my “5” or “25”. So, although I want something measurable, it seems there are other ways to measure something than by using numbers. We’ll see.

Work on the Theology Pub Gathering. I have been talking about this for too long …

Back to some more sarcastic ones so I don’t lose my cred.
I need to drink more coffee so I can stay on top of all of this and need to get more rest. I want to eat better, exercise, and consume products and services more consciously.
Go to more Yankees games.
Take out a second mortgage on my church-given parsonage so I can afford the parking.
Watch more Fox News – Who is this Bob O’Reilly, Glenn Heck, and John Hannity that all these old people are talking about?

And back to a semblance of a conclusion.
There are a few others that I have not mentioned but they either sound vain or awkward when posted online but the Lord knows my heart.  I do enjoy making resolutions because as I mentioned before, we ought to never forfeit an opportunity to better our lives. But one of the blessings of the week was the realization that though not perfect, we enjoyed so much of 2010. Certainly, there were moments and trials that I would have preferred to have gone without (and I realize you can enjoy the goodness of something when you remember the pain of certain times and the character and perseverance that is gained in trials) but it all in all, it was a great year.

In many ways, I hope this year is similar to last but my prayer is to become a more faithful person in what God has called me to be and to do – Amen. May you be blessed with grace and strength in 2011.