Why read the Bible in a year?

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Why read the Bible in a year?

Are you keeping up your New Year’s resolutions still? Many of us have given up by now… after all, it has been a whole 2 weeks. I’m reading through the Bible in a year as a plan put together with some daily devotions by Nicky and Pipa Gumbel. I made it about 5 days in a row before getting behind in the reading and having to catch up. I’m listening to Nicky read the reading for today right now. I also found out that this particular plan does not go through every single verse of the Bible, but only gives an overview. I haven’t checked and I’m not going to… That would take as much work as just reading through the entire Bible, so I’m going to plunge ahead and read through another day’s scriptures.

Mine is a fairly common story. We start off with the familiar wonder of Genesis 1,2, and 3. Day 4 and 5 the blood starts pouring and by the end of the week, the rain is falling and flooding the earth with Noah on a boat trying to save some samples of the gene pool. By the beginning of next week though, moving on to the stories of Abraham, things begin to get weird, and repetitive, and weird. Abraham travels a lot and when he finds himself in a large city, he tells the rulers that his wife Sarai is not his wife at all, but only his sister. It is not long before the king attempts to seduce Sarai, at which God sends a curse upon that kingdom until Abraham’s scheme is found out. The king, glad things did not go any further with Sarai, sends them both out and tells them they were wrong for lying to him. Lesson learned… well almost. A few days later, I could swear I’m reading the same story, only the name of the king has changed. Apparently not lesson learn. This week comes to an end, and Isaac, Abraham’s son is caught doing the exact same thing that his father Abraham did twice. Now I know where the HBO nighttime drama writers got all their material.

At this point we are barely halfway through the first book of the Bible. At this point it does not look like it is going to get better. These Old Testament readings are paired with passages of Hebrew poetry which sometimes sound like goth-emo wailings against some unnamed enemy interspersed with some brief glittering gems of God’s majesty revealed in creation. (Please note, I don’t have anything against Hebrew poetry, I’m just trying to emphasize the spectrum that exists in these biblical examples.) There is also New Testament readings from the Gospels, which starts off with the familiar stories of the birth of Jesus and the beginnings of His ministry. By the time, the violence and family drama starts in Genesis though, the Pharisees come onto the scene in the Gospels, and the war with words begins between Jesus and the Jewish leaders of His day.

Point being: the Bible is one messy book.

Why would you want to read it in a year? I’ve never heard anyone say they had a plan to read all of Shakespeare in a year, or all of the Harry Potter books (although I’m sure the latter has been attempted by many). What is it about the Bible and the span of one year that encourages these kinds of reading plans?

The Lectionary

First of all, there have been collections of Bible readings used by churches for weekly and daily use. Weekly Lectionaries that take you through the whole Bible in the course of about 3 or 4 years and Daily Lectionaries that take you through them in a year. Most Lectionaries include readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Gospels + Acts, and The New Testament Letters. This all came from the Roman Catholic Church originally, so it is nothing new. It was based on their work at having the whole Bible preached and taught regularly and in ways that continued to relate to the seasons of the Christian year (Christmas, Easter, etc.).
Does reading through the Bible in a year make you a better Christian or help you grow more? I don’t know – I’ve never done it. I do know that reading the Bible on a regular basis helps you stay rooted in your faith and closer to God. I also know that it helps if you don’t just read John 3:16 on the way out the door to work every day, but branch out to other passages in the Bible as well. The more of it you read and the more times you read it, the more you will begin to see how one God worked through 66 books, thousands of lives and ten thousand stories that bring us to where we are today. If nothing supernatural happens in your Bible reading, it will at least be like hearing stories about your favorite grandparent and the adventures they had before you were even born. You begin to recognize the God you know and love in the lives of others, and then it begins to open your eyes to see more of God in and around you. Yes, the reading gets weird and messy sometimes, but so do we. So read your Bible and stretch yourself a little more this year than you did last year.

  • What is your favorite part of the Bible to read?
  • How often do you choose to read your Bible?
  • What pulls you away from spending time reading or listening to the Bible?

What should I be reading in 2017?

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If you’ve stumbled across this blog than chances are you have at least a passing interest in reading so I’d like to put in my two cents on how you should spend the limited time you have this year. I successfully finished reading 25 books in 2016, more than half of which were work-related. Several of these I actually read with my ears instead of my eyes. I know what it means to have a limited amount of time to read and the importance of being choosy.

We may have differing interests when it comes to reading, so rather than go into specific topics, let me instead divide up all literature into a few broad categories.

  1. The Classics: Whatever subject you are interested in, there is someone who wrote the first book of its kind. There will also be other books of the category that were game changers, or perhaps discussion changers along the way. These books, referred to as evergreen by publishers, are, or will be considered classics, and it is important to be conversant in this literature… so whatever your topic (sports, history, science fiction, poetry, romance, etc.) be sure to make room in your schedule for reading some of the classics.
  2. Contemporaries: Once you start to get some of the classics under your belt, you will begin to make the discovery that today’s bestsellers are essentially just the next statements in a multigenerational conversation that started with the classics. Some people argue that there is less value in reading these books and sometimes cite Ecclesiastes which says: That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. The problem I have with this is that conversations do change over time as one piece of timeless truth interacts with other pieces of timeless truth in new contexts revealing new inspiration. (The Sadducees may have used this same reasoning for only reading and teaching the first five books of the Bible, neglecting the prophets, and disbelieving in the resurrection.) Indeed, if we want to be super-critical, we could say that everything that happened after the third chapter of Genesis is simply a continuation of the original conversation!
  3. As a third category, which may contain books from both the above categories, it is important to be sure to read from one or two books or kinds of books that you may not agree with. One of the best classes I took was on John Calvin, where we read through his own writing. It was not a required class – on the contrary, Calvin’s theology was not looked upon well in my particular professional circles… but I had decided, if he really was that wrong, I wanted to know why and why he wrote what he did. It was eye opening to gain insight into the motivations of someone who was a part of the overall theological discussion, just listening to understand rather than to get to or prove my position as being right. It challenged me and helped me understand more what, and why I believe the way I do. That said, it is important to be careful in reading these kinds of books so that you are not led astray easily. Take everything with a grain of salt and recognize that there is a larger conversation taking place of which each author is only playing a small part.
  4. Finally, I encourage you to read the Bible. So much of literature finds its base of conversation in the stories and writings found there. There are many “Read the Bible in a year plans”, bible apps for your phone, and many different translations and paraphrases to choose from (with or without study notes). I’ve got my own favorites, but I encourage you to pick one that you can get into yoruself. Whether you read a book a day or a verse a week, I think the important thing is that you get into that conversation because, through the Bible, you will begin and continue to have a conversation, not with distant and dead authors, but with the Living God. This reading will open your eyes and ears to new and old ideas that keep popping up in all the other conversations around you.

So, read a book, take your time, choose wisely, and be sure to include the Bible as part of your mental conversation with the saints and sages of the world.

What are you reading this year?