Before I became a Christian I used to be a smoker. I was a real 20-a-day smoker, but for all the 20 years that I did, I probably spent about 10-15 of those years trying to give up. I tried cold turkey, gradual reduction, patches, gum, medication, acupuncture and hypnosis. Most of them several times. The main thing was that I kept trying different things, and I didn’t give up giving up.
The next time I experienced something of this repeated “failure” was quiet time. I tried different devotional books, a Bible verse a day, Bible reading apps – nothing seemed to stick. If I only read a Bible verse, it was good, but just not enough to sink in and create any real space for God to do work in me. Some devotional books were a bit lame and I gave up. Some were really good but I couldn’t seem to do it every day and after missing a few days would also give up. I’d do the Bible-in-one-year on an app but end up skim reading a lot of it by scrolling too fast.
But I’ve always known that reading the Bible in its totality is a wise and good thing to do. It increases fluency, provides repeated insights into the whole story arc of the Bible and who God is. It is where God communicates with us. And while we need Bible preachers and teachers to help us interpret and understand it, we also need to know what God is saying to us. Martin Luther said that “as long as I have God’s word, I know that I am walking in his way.”
The year before last, there was an online Bible reading challenge – reading the whole thing in 90 days (3 months). It was a mammoth task and took over an hour a day of reading. What it showed me though was that reading it in a year was too little for me (ie skim reading on an app), but that reading it in 3 months was too much. I decided to try it in 6 months.
Initially I found a Bible-in-1-year reading plan and read two on the list per day. I still found I was skim reading a bit though so I introduced an auditory element. I subscribed to Dwell Bible app and in their The Straight Through Plan (which is from Genesis to Revelation in 1 year), I do 2 days in one sitting and read while I listen which keeps me focused and stops me skim reading. Some of the voices are set at quite a slow pace so I increase the speed a notch or two so I hear the voice at the same pace that I am reading.
This way, I am reading for about 20-25 minutes per day which is really manageable. I listen with a highlighter and pen so I can note anything that strikes me or that I want to check. Below is a pic of when I was in Numbers and I wanted to write notes about where the different tribes came from.
What I have also found is that each time I read through the Bible I enjoy it more. I notice more things, I want to skim read less, I see different things, it raises different questions that I want answered. Charles Spurgeon once said that “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture: the book widens and deepens with our years.” This is so true.
As my Bible fluency reading has become more and more enjoyable, I have wanted to add to it with more in depth work in different books. This mainly came about because, while in one book of the Old Testament, I realised that I didn’t really understand what I was reading. I mean I could understand it, but I couldn’t appreciate what it was saying. The allusions were lost on me. I wanted to know more. I felt like I was reading it blind – and missing what God wanted me to know.
So while I’m reading through, I also now pick a book to work through in more detail. I use one of two devotional tools, both from The Good Book Company (and no this is not a paid placement – they are just the best tools I’ve found!). The first is their explore series. They do daily devotional ones which is a mix or by book of the Bible. I use the app which is free and then you can buy the book devotions for a few dollars each. I’ve found them easy to work through and really insightful.
The second tool I use is The Good Book Company’s “For You” series. These are easy to read commentaries but short and engaging – and deeply insightful. Each chapter is set out in 2 parts and I have found that each part takes me about 30 minutes, so perfect for some devotional time. I read the Bible passage that part is dealing with, then read the chapter and highlight things I have learned. Then I read the Bible passage again and add notes with my observations and learnings (which is usually a lot!!).
These For You books have opened doors on some of the Bible books I was feeling frustrated with. So then when I come to them in my fluency reading, I truly feel like I am gaining better insights.
I love the Bible. It makes me feel like I’m swimming in a warm calm ocean on a sunny day. These tools are only enhancing that feeling. It brings me into daily contact with God. It creates the space to ponder him and his great works. It allows time and quietness for him to do his work in me. It makes me love his word more and more. And I thank him for that wondrous gift.
“The more you read the Bible; and the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished with it.” (Charles Spurgeon)