Practical Helps for Bible-Reading
How can we shift habits from neglecting the Bible to immersing ourselves in it? Here are a few pointers that I've been learning and benefitting from.
1. Choose a time and spot.
Because consistency is imperative to form lasting habits, choosing a regular place and time of day to read is helpful for many people.
My place is nothing special—it's actually just a tiny, out-of-sight corner of carpet. But that tiny piece of carpet behind my bed has become a very real sanctuary, serving to remind me that my time in the Word is set-apart. That recollection decreases my distractions. It may sound strange, but my heart has learned to focus more quickly whenever I walk to the back of my room and disappear behind my bed.
Finding the time to go to the Word is harder and requires more discipline. Mark 1:35 tells us that Jesus would get up early and go to be in solitude when He prayed. There's something to that; I've learned through experience that if reading the Bible isn't the first thing I do in the morning, I somehow never get around to it during the rest of the day. If we intend to make Christ our priority and passion during the day, it only makes sense to begin the morning with Him as well. And who says that once a day is a max requirement? Why not close the day with the Bible as well, to refresh ourselves and reset our minds on eternal things?
2. Pick a reading calendar.
I used to read the Bible haphazardly. One day I'd be in a New Testament mood, and the next day I'd read a random chapter in the Old Testament. Then I'd forget what chapter I'd read last in the New Testament, so I'd just read wherever I opened my Bible. It was an unhelpful practice, because I never saw the whole picture of a certain text—just fragmented pieces. If we want to actually grasp what we're reading, we need to learn the discipline of going chapter-by-chapter through an entire book. That doesn't mean we can't also move around to get something fresh, but a systematic plan is still indispensable to true understanding and growth.
Dwight Moody was urgent about the importance of reading through the Bible consecutively because of his own testimony. In one sermon he told a group of young people, "It is absolutely needful in order that happiness in the Lord may continue, that the Scriptures be regularly read.Especially we should read regularly through the Scriptures, consecutively, and not pick out here and there a chapter. If we do, we remain spiritual dwarfs. I tell you so affectionately. For the first four years after my conversion I made no progress, because I neglected the Bible. But when I regularly read on through the whole ... I directly made progress. Then my peace and joy continued more and more. Now I have been doing this for 47 years. I have read through the whole Bible about 100 times and I always find it fresh when I begin again. Thus my peace and joy have increased more and more."
Isn't that wonderful? When I'm an old woman, I want to be able to give the same testimony Mr. Moody did.
There are many excellent reading calendars that you can find online, all going at varying paces.Revive Our Hearts has links to several reading plans on their site. If you're interested, you can find them here.
3. Keep Christ in sight.
The thing with Bible-reading plans is that they start in the beginning—and the thing with the beginning is that Leviticus and Numbers have quite the reputation for capsizing eager, hopeful readers. Some days I've found myself smack between a list of impossible-to-say-names and an endless sea of architectural details, wondering why any of this is worth my time.
When we come to these difficult spots, especially in the Old Testament, we need to remember what the Bible is and isn't.
It isn't a Book of disconnected, fragmented collection of random stories about God. Though it communicates His matchless love, it isn't a love letter or a romance novel. And it isn't primarily about you and me, though we're a part of the story.
The whole Book—Genesis to Revelation—is about Jesus Christ. It's all one plot, one drama of salvation, and Christ is both the Author and Hero all the way through. The Old Testament points ahead to Him, the gospels reveal Him, and the epistles point back to Him. All of it is designed to stir us to worship and adoration before His holy throne.
Remember the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, when the resurrected Jesus told two disciples how "all" the Scriptures testified about Him? He wasn't exaggerating the truth to make it more spectacular or having a moment of amnesia about the difficult chapters we hit. The links between Christ and certain parts of the Old Testament aren't immediately visible, but they're there. Our task is simply to seek Him until He shows us another glimpse of Himself—even in Leviticus and Numbers.
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