Many people want to read and study the Bible, but get discouraged when they realize that it can't be done as easily or as simply as one reads a novel. Unlike most plot-driven stories that we're used to reading or seeing, the Bible is character-driven, and the main character isn't always even on screen. The Bible isn't a narrative sequence about a bunch of stuff that happens to people, the Bible is the account of God's continual pursuit of mankind. As such, anyone who reads the Bible with a focus on plot progression is going to get bored and frustrated.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of exciting and profound stories in the Bible, many of which form the foundation of Western art and literature. Reading the stories for entertainment or historical knowledge can be valuable, but that approach misses the actual point of the book, which is revelation. You see, God isn't a tangible being that we can observe and study with our own senses; all we can know of God is what he chooses to reveal to us, and the main instrument of that revelation is his Word, the Bible. The question that should be in the forefront of a Bible reader's mind is, "What is God revealing about himself in this passage?"

Avoiding Evil posts seven quotes from Charles Spurgeon on reading the Bible, and they're all excellent. The most important of those is what I pointed out in the paragraph above: search out what God is doing in each passage of scripture. The other two that are particularly critical in my own study life are application and consistency.

God reveals his nature to us because he wants to make us more like himself. To that end, as we read the Bible and learn about God we need to consider how we can apply that knowledge to our own character. We may read an instance in which God is patient with the rebellious nation of Israel, and we can then learn to be patient with those who hurt us. We may read about Jesus resisting temptation by using scripture, which will inspire us to remember God's Word when we ourselves are tempted. The Bible is a very practical book, because even the parts that don't directly contain instructions are full of revelation about God's character that we can change ourselves to conform to. It isn't easy to be godly, and it can only be accomplished through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, but the first step is to read God's Word.

As for consistency, the Bible should be read every day, without fail. Discouragement comes when we miss a day and feel we need to "catch up" to whatever reading program we've locked ourselves into. Personally, I don't find much value in reading the Bible in a year or using some artificial schedule for my study. In general, I read books of the Bible in their entirety rather than study by topic, but I don't feel any need to read all the books in order (though that can be useful to gain a familiarity with the historical timeline). I don't like schedules because I want to leave room to consider and pray about what God reveals in each passage. Often I'll read a single chapter each day, but sometimes I'll read less if time is pressing or the passage requires serious contemplation. Even if I plan my day so poorly that I only have time to read a single verse, I make myself do it and leave my heart open for God to work. As with medicine and our bodies, taking the Bible in every day can work wonders on our spirits.

If you really do want to read the Bible in a year and need a little help, you can check out the Bible in a Year website and get daily emails with the passage to read. (HT: Janette Stripling and Randy Thomas.) Our Daily Bread is a nice deveotional that I've used in the past, though it's based on topics rather than straight-through reading, and My Utmost for His Highest is good though there isn't enough scripture incorporated into each topic and you'll need to do a bit of searching on your own. Any of these is a good place to start, and starting is the first step towards building this essential spiritual habit into your life.



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