Reading the Bible for the 16th time since Jan 2020
I have started my 16th read of Scripture since Jan 2020. I have lost a couple months somewhere in that time due to missing some reading here and there, which underscores an important point: like unceasing prayer, it is not as much about ALWAYS doing it as it is about not STOPPING. You pick up and go on.
To recap, I have settled on 20 chapters a day as a very regular habit. That is a lot, and it sounds daunting and you say no way can you do that. That could be true. Chances are, though, you have not tried. And as I have been at pains to tell people, it is not about how many chapters you read as it is about how much time you spend reading Scripture. If you were to work towards spending 45 minutes a day reading Scripture, you will be blessed by how much you retain! Reading the Bible slowly and deliberately has its place—I do that, too—but the problem is 3 chapters a day to read the Bible in a year makes it hard to remember what is happening. If you read your favorite novel at the pace we are taught to read Scripture, you would stop because you would lose track of characters and the plot. You might even… quit reading it!
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How come we don’t watch movies in 5 minute bits each day?
How come if we tape a sporting event, we don’t watch it in small increments here and there?
I completely understand that we want to treat the Bible with the reverence it deserves. 20 chapters a day for me, or 30 or 45 minutes a day for you is not Bible study or devotional reading. It is meant to get us familiar with the Bible. To get us from beginning to end in ways that allow us to see that it is one grand narrative, not small sections. The whole thing holds together.
I settled on 20 chapters a day for a few reasons.
My first read-through was 18 days. I could do it again, but it is a pretty hard race, maybe if I had a break or something I would do it again. I then tried 30 days. Doable, but is hard to sustain. 20 chapters a day is reading the Bible in under 60 days. It was the pace John Wesley’s maternal grandfather, the great Puritan pastor, Samuel Annesley, kept up for 60 years. Admittedly, I am a fast reader; I can do this pace. It is challenging, not impossible for me. So, as I say to people, you do not have to do what I do. Find your pace. Remember: it is more about the time spent reading than it is the number of chapters you read!
Why? Because after about 15 minutes of reading, your brain realizes, “Ah, we are paying real attention to this.” Under 15 minutes, your brain doesn’t pay as close attention. But past 15 minutes, your brain goes back through what you already read, and puts it together with what you will be reading until you stop. It knows that what it was only loosely paying attention to is now very important. You will retain what you read after those 15 minutes much more than if you stop and pick up for another 5 or 10 minutes tomorrow.
Here is what I am thrilled about, starting my 16th read-thru, and it kind of comes because of Vacation Bible School. We were learning about the story of Joseph in Genesis, and Genesis is where I will start my Bible read-thru. I realized I will once again be surrounded by the words of truth that teach me that God knows me and loves me; that He will provide for me; that in His wisdom, He has commanded what I ought and ought not do—such is the great work of the Old Testament living in my heart, and in the New Testament, it is thoroughly made real in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.