Let me start by commending those who have read through the Bible in a year and those who will attempt to do it in the coming year. Seriously, the ‘Bible in One Year’ folks inspire and challenge me. For those who feel led to do it, this discipline has been effective for many people who want to immerse themselves in the Scriptures. I sometimes wish I had the time and the attention span to consistently push through 2 chapters of Judges and 1 chapter of Romans in a day. So for those who will engage all of God’s word this year, I commend you!
There are many reasons why I will not join vast numbers of Christians who take on this task in 2014. Issues like being a slow reader, lacking the time to do it right, and getting lost in the memories of sermons related to each scripture are just a few. But I will comment on just one reason: my philosophical disagreement with reading the Bible in a year.
The main reason I will not read through the entire Bible in a year is that I actually do not think it is the best way to read the Bible. If you have a good two hours to devote to daily study, then reading the Bible through will probably be extremely meaningful for you. But if you are speed-reading it like it is a Harry Potter novel you are trying to finish, you could be missing some important points. The thing that makes the Bible different from every other book in the world is that everything contained in it and everything involved in its delivery to us is valuable to humanity. Obviously, the words matter, but diverse literature within the Bible is also beneficial. The interpretation matters as does the intentions of the authors. The social, political and historical contexts give weight and depth to the theological implications. I am not sure one gets the opportunity to fully appreciate all of this when pushing through 66 books in a year. For me, these things are more important than accomplishing the read in record time.
Reading the Bible regularly, if not daily, is an extremely significant part of a growing journey with Jesus. Ultimately, ‘man cannot live by bread alone’, no matter how thoughtful our excuses. For many of us, reading the entire Bible in a year is not likely or practical. I share this difficulty and have felt a good amount of guilt for not being able to carry out what feels like a reasonable discipline. So what might the rest of us do to embrace the Scriptures in more meaningful way in 2014? Here are three suggestions:
1. Read and meditate on a verse a day. Just because you don’t have time for 2-3 chapters a day doesn’t mean that you have to give up the daily discipline. I would suggest reading and meditating on 1-2 verses each day. It is amazing what 5 intentional minutes could do for your day and your connection with God. There are many ‘verse of the day’ resources out there. The key is taking time to focus and meditate on the scripture. The goal is to allow the Spirit to speak those words into your very being, which probably will demand some quiet and solitude. For those who would like to one day be able to read the entire Bible in a year, this is a great place to start.
2. Memorize a book of the Bible. I have never done this, but have heard great things about this discipline. Deciding to memorize an entire book of the Bible allows the words of God to truly take up residence inside of you. It also allows you to begin to ponder on those passages from memory at random moments of the day versus only thinking about them when they are right in front of you.
3. Study a book of the Bible. I believe this is the best thing a person can do with their devotion time second only to prayer and worship. There is so much value waiting for us in the deeper study of entire books of the Bible. Imagine what might happen to your spiritual journey if you spent 2014 actively studying the book of Romans! The different translations, commentaries from diverse theologians, history of who has used this book and for what purposes; all great resources that are available to us so that we could gain a deeper understanding of the Bible. Personally, I will be studying the Corinthian letters this year. I think you might be surprised at what you would gain from spending a year or half a year in one book of the Bible.
Whether you decide to read the Bible completely in one year or go at it one verse at a time, remember to savor and appreciate it. The Word of God the primary means by which the Holy Spirit tunes our hearts and ears to the voice of God. The advice is relevant, the perspective is enlightening and the spirit behind it all transforms us. The more we understand this ancient text, the more we will smile at the days ahead. Whatever reading or devotion plan you engage in the new year, make the Scriptures a central part of it. Thanks be to God for the Word of God!