Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Most Important Book I Read in 2012

Van Gogh ~ Still Life with Open Bible (1885)

It goes without saying that the Bible is the most important book any Christian can read. I have failed for many years, however, in giving God's Word the attention it deserves. I could have given you lots of typical, maybe even legitimate, excuses, but the fact remained that it was not a priority for me. I tried the Robert Murray M'Cheyne plan along with the devotions in For the Love of God, Volume 1 by D. A. Carson a few years ago. That year I even kept up (or kept catching up) with the schedule through early October, but ultimately I fell so far behind that I gave up. And that seems to be the problem with most calendar based Bible reading plans for me. Inevitably, I will miss a day here or there, and one day turns into two, and pretty soon I'm a week or more behind. I keep thinking I'll be able to catch up, but instead I just quit.

So this year, I had a non-scheduled Bible reading plan. My goal was to read 3 chapters of the Old Testament and 2 chapters of the New Testament each day, but if I missed a day or two or ten, I wasn't behind schedule since this plan wasn't tied to the calendar. I just picked up where I had left off and kept reading, reading extra if possible, but most importantly, continuing to read no matter how sporadic it was. Interestingly, though I find it very tedious to read some books on my Kindle, I really like reading my Bible on the Kindle. It's easy to mark passages, easy to bookmark my place, and it was actually helpful (as in not discouraging) to have no easy way to look ahead to see how much I "had" to read that day.

This non-plan was a great plan for me! I finished the New Testament in early summer, and ideally it would have been nice to read it again in the second half of the year. But I knew I had enough of the Old Testament still to read that I needed to focus there in order to finish in a year. So I tried to read 4 chapters of whichever historic or prophetic book I was in and 2 Psalms each day. I finished the Psalms around Thanksgiving and read a chapter or two of Proverbs during December. I had to squeeze in the Minor Prophets between Christmas and New Years, but with fewer activities that week, I finished Proverbs 31, Zechariah, and Malachi on New Year's Eve. Praise the Lord for His grace to persevere in His Word!

Now that I have once again read the Bible in a year, however, I think I agree with my college professor William Varner, who recently commented, "I applaud all those who read through the whole Bible in a year or 2-3 times a year, but I have found that it is not as important that I go through the Bible as that the Bible goes through me. So slower is better." With that in mind, my plan for the coming year is not as ambitious. I'd like to read the New Testament through at least once - twice would be better - so I will again try to read 2 chapters of the New Testament a day. I was surprised this past year at how difficult I found parts of the Old Testament, especially the prophetic books, and I found Isaiah to be one of the most mysterious. In and around all the familiar verses that speak of the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, and God's promises of His sovereign care, there were many passages that I read, but without understanding. So I'm planning to spend some quality time with Isaiah, Calvin, and Matthew Henry this year to see if I can better grasp its truths.


Slow Reader said...

For me, it's much more fulfilling to "live" in a book or passage of the Bible than to "get through" it. I find I need to consider where else I've read a similar thought, or how this passage comments on another. It has made Bible reading so much more exciting.

I wonder where the idea came from that we should read through in a year. What if the Bible were twice as long? Does pure reading match study?

Of course, there is virtue in knowing all of it, keeping all of it in mind as we go. My problem is I want to make notes and cross reference, and that takes time. And, as you know, I am Slowreader. :)

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Congratulations! I read the Bible in 180 days (was actually shooting for 90!) bak in 2010, and that's the only time I've made it through. I admit that my attention to God's Aord has been woeful lately. I like your approach, though, and I agree that it's better to do it thoughtfully and deliberately than in a rush. However, I do think the schedule I followed back in 2010 (or tried to follow ;-) ) helped me to do it and prove to myself that I can.

Please excuse the typos. I'm on my iPad and the autocorrect feature is working overtime (but not well, huh?), and it is very difficult to go back and correct my errors.