Friday, April 04, 2008

How I Read the Bible

Sorry its been a couple days ... busy in the life!

I wanted to continue on the theme of reading the Bible, giving some testimony to how I currently read and in the past have read. This is personal ... not meant in any way to be formulaic. If something rings true or convicts you, take that up with God. "Follow me as I follow Christ" and all that.

I was raised in a very Bible-reading fellowship, and I began memorizing scripture at a young age. My parents found this very conservative Methodist church that had a private school with tons of homework and a supposed high standard for their students (I was getting in trouble at the public school ... my teacher said it was because I was "bored" ... thanks, by the way). While said Christian school had its issues, I learned a lot about the Bible.

So by the time I more fully dedicated my life to Christ when I was a teenager, getting baptized and the whole nine, I was fairly educated in at least the basic Bible stories and that kind of thing. I was also quite the reader, so that helped (actually, the first thing I read silently to myself was the Bible, during a meeting where I had to be quiet ... my mom asked me, what are you doing? There's no pictures ... I told her I was reading without talking)

For a long time, though, my reading of scripture was haphazard, very spontaneous and sporadic. I might go through a week of reading pretty consistently then months of nothing on my own, outside of public meetings. I wasn't committed to much personal study, but admittedly, I was also fairly uncommitted to change.

At first, as I felt more conviction to read, I read mostly the New Testament (fairly common). I read the NT completely through several times, even all in one week once. I would read the same letters more than once, fully engrossed in the sweeping message of the letter and the individual details within. This was awesome, but it left my knowledge of the OT very deficient.

So I did something that changed it all around. I bought the Bible on CD (this was about 2000, and I didn't have anything so cool as a mp3 player or anything). I started just listening to stuff while working out or running, and when I listened to Leviticus on the way to Savannah, God showed me some awesome stuff about a book I found tedious and boring to read. God was also convicting me about my selfishness in self-entertainment ... He is still dealing with me about that. Books like Ezekiel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and others hit home and God just blew my mind as new revelations poured from these treasures.

This was still spontaneous, but I was devouring more and more, but a statement by an older minister (I think it was Tozer ...) on a sermon struck me. He said he read the Bible three times through a year. I don't know if I had ever read it straight through.

As I said before, part of God's conviction in my life was my general consumption of entertainment related material. I could read eight or nine Robert Jordan Wheel of Time novels (they're like 600-1000 pages long each) and not the whole Bible in the same amount of time? I could sit for hours and read a "fun book" but just read the Bible for a few minutes at a time ... okay, sometimes longer than that ... I was reading scripture in bigger chunks by then. This also challenged my sorry prayer life, but that's off subject here.

I got the Bible on mp3 and put it on my ipod ... now I was cooking. I found a chronological plan online at Yeah, the people look a little TBN, but hey, it was a good plan and I didn't want to spend big noney on a chronological Bible. I was really drawn to a chronological understanding of the Bible -- as a historian, I'm bit on historical context -- the Bible is organized by type and length of book or letter. To read in current order can be confusing. I started reading.

Oh, man, the discipline was difficult. I'd get way ahead, then way behind. We moved back to Atlanta in the middle, and all my discipline was shot. God helpled me, and my stubbornness worked myself back to catching up and finishing a chronological reading of the Bible. My eyes were opened to so many things ... I felt like a kid in the candy store.

Last year, it was my goal to do a chronological reading twice, the whole Bible in six months. I had to read so much at the end of the first year to catch up, I figured I could do it. I finished twice with time to spare, before Elisha was born in December.

This is all over and above other personal Bible studies for blog articles or my books.

Some drawbacks to this discipline:

Chronologically has taught me mountains of truth, but I am actually starting to forget the current order ... Kinda frustrating to know what something says but take a little longer than usual to find it.

The disciple should never get in the way of what God wants you to do. One morning I was listening to what I had to get through that day and God was trying to deal with me about something different. No joke, I turned the volume up to focus more on the Bible while God was talking to me. Once God was kind enough to help me see the idiocy of this, I forgot "the plan" and let Him say what He so lovingly wanted to say and apologized profusely.

The only other drawback is that I feel I have to do a back story everytime I share a scripture ... especially when my lesson gets me blank stares ... I know, it may just be that I'm boring. It's rare because God's general use for speaking in the Body is to encourage or to challenge, so the grace is there to relate what is needed, but sometimes God enjoys a good, "huh?"

I think I'll do three again for another year, if Ican successfully do this one, and I'm still around ... I can see, on the horizon, another type of reading God might be calling me to.

I'll let you know later what that might be.



At 2:46 PM , Anonymous ben said...

britt- thanks for posting about your approach to bible reading - i think it's really interesting to get a glimpse into other people's discipleship and where God has taken them in certain areas. i know these have definitely stirred up things in me and i am looking forward to how He will bring those to fruition over here...


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