Reading the Whole Bible
Reflections on Reading the Bible 10 times in 18 months
Well, I have not quite read the Bible for the tenth time, nor has it been 18 months since I started; but, Lord willing, I will finish the Bible for the 10th time in 18 months in early July. I spent some time this morning (Wed May 19) reflecting on what has been revealed to be a very powerful season driven by the practice of reading lots of Scripture—about 20 chapters per day. (Remember: I DO NOT suggest that it is about how many chapters you read. It is about the time spent. If you will give 20 minutes per day—more if you can manage it—you will achieve the purpose: to know what God’s Word says.)
The first thing I can say about this is that it has been Providential. I was led to it before the pandemic, in January of 2020. Molly Huffman gave out a 90 day New Testament reading challenge. I love that kind of challenge; Chad Brooks, Matt Baker and I were all over reading the Bible in 90 days back at The Rock. I started Molly’s challenge and could not stop! But upon reflection, I think the pump was primed by her husband Guy and her father, Scott McCracken, who had what are known as “premium bibles—” the kind of Bible whose paper and binding will last for generations. Proof: I have my great-great grandmother’s Bible, still in excellent shape. Guy said to me one day, “The Word of God is worth investing in.” Yes. Yes! My time and my treasure.
The second thing: this has been habit-changing in a deep and through-going way. It has led to my rearranging a huge chunk of my schedule. I had simply heard too many times from too many people—great and influential pastors, and regular ol’ pastors I personally knew whose ministries I admired: give mornings to God, they said. To prayer, Bible-reading, and study. This time is so strategically important that the legion of distractions and interruptions, while they may be urgent, are not as important as this time. Giving a chunk of the best time of the day, starting it off in such a way is found to be the basis of the effectiveness of many pastors, the well-known and the faithful unknown. I committed to this in August, and yesterday I saw its fruit when I felt the lack of my time with the Lord. 2 days in a row, and at too many intervals in the previous month, I was drawn away from the solitary place. The reasons are not important, and I resent it enough to know I should not rehash it. But I felt it. I knew what I was missing. Praise God, the habit has become embedded.
But in just 2 short days without that precious time I found that I lost focus on Christ and His mission. I was taken away from the real work.
Last night, when I finally came up for air after three days’ grinding, I was reading in Numbers and found a blessing: The Word was so sweet and refreshing, like cool water during a hot work day. And more, I experienced something I wondered about, Isaiah 66:2 and Ezra 9:4, trembling at the Word of God. Its majesty. Its sternness. Its encouragement, correction, rebuke, teaching, warning, and life-ordering power. I could scarcely believe that we are allowed to have such a book, such a word of love from God! After being reminded of the awesomeness of God and His Word, I knew that today was going to have to be a hard reset. I simply could not be pried away from a time where I expected great things from God.
It was a sweet homecoming! You say, pastor, you are being dramatic. Two days off and you are acting like this? What can I say? The depth of rest I found in prayer! That would have been enough for me. As sweet as the communion of prayer is, the Word of God has a special power. Our praying can be weak and distracted. In the Word, however, God speaks. He is there. I finished Numbers, read some Psalms and went to 2 Corinthians for a ministry recharge, and sure enough found it, especially in chapters 1-4. Morehead people, some of you will remember how much I am convinced that 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 is a reference to Gideon. That hit me harder this morning when I realized that feeling small and insignificant and not up to the task is no barrier to God!
The third thing is in some ways surprising to me. I find that I crave the Word of God more. It is not that I know more Scripture—a dangerous thing, because you are called to obey what you know. It’s not that I have more material for sermons. It is about meeting God there.
It bears repeating: I am not suggesting everyone can or should read 20 chapters a day. I do it because I am a fast reader, and because I kinda do relish that it is the pace John Wesley’s grandfather read Scripture at, as there is hardly a better pastor to imitate than Samuel Annesley! Start where you can. Build up to 20 minutes or more a day. Your brain will kick into “story mode,” where it realizes, “ok, we are paying attention to this.” And your retention and comprehension will soar. You can’t say I’m wrong if you haven’t tried it!