In case you didn’t notice on one of my earlier posts, one of my ’08 resolutions is to read through the Bible in 90 days. I know probably a lot of people resolve to read the Bible in one year because they sell those convenient One Year Bibles at your local Christian bookstore. They break down the daily readings with a Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, and a Psalm (or something to that effect). This is supposed to break down the Bible into 365 manageable chunks, therefore making the task of reading such a massive text relatively achievable. But I think that only works for some people. My parents had one of those One Year Bibles when I was growing up and one time I tried to tackle it. It didn’t work. Primarily because I didn’t like the OT/NT/Psalm reading structure. I know books like Leviticus can be a whip to read straight through, and that’s the main reason the One Year Bible folks structured the reading plan like it is. I hated reading a couple of chapters of Isaiah, a chapter of 1 John, and Psalm 45 side-by-side like that. The OCD in me needed things to be in order.
On several other occasions, I decided to read my Bible straight through, as it’s organized. One time I tried to read it on a more chronological track. These usually didn’t work either, mainly because the problem the One Year Bible tried to solve. Some books just got too long and too boring. Lists of names, chronologies, laws. It can get old after a while and if you aren’t focused and disciplined (I certainly wasn’t) you can fall off the wagon real quick.
In one of my classes in college, my professor gave us a simple outline for reading through the New Testament in 30 days. He challenged us of course to follow the reading plan for a month and share our thoughts. I took him up on that challenge and followed the reading plan. It was a really enlightening experience for me. Reading at that velocity really helped me gain some nice perspective on the text. Before, the New Testament wasn’t a huge piece of text, but it wasn’t small either. After reading through it in a month, this volume of holy writing became just within the periphery of my mind’s eye.
So, as I spent some time a couple of months ago reflecting on what goals I wanted to set for myself this year, I looked at myself through the lens of what would make me a better husband and father. Obviously, the big answer there was to follow Christ closer. I needed a tune up in the spiritual disciplines. This meant more reading, more silence, more conversations, and more prayer.
So in setting my reading goals, I remembered a book I ran across at Barnes & Noble a few months ago that contained a 90-day reading plan for the Bible, straight through. I thought and prayed about it, and found the reading outline on the website that promotes the book, and on January 1st, I started. As of tonight, I’m at day 50, a day behind the plan, but that’s because I lost a few steps when I had the flu last week.
I have to say that this is turning out to be a pretty sweet plan. I just started Isaiah and am looking forward to arriving at the New Testament in a few weeks. It’s very similar to what I experienced in the 30-day NT plan. There’s just something about burning through these texts at such a (relatively) high rate. I say relatively because for me, it’s only amounted to about 45 minutes of reading a night, which really isn’t that much.
This plan has really put a lot of things in focus for me regarding this Book. I’m not sure if any of it can be articulated here, but I think it all goes back to reading the Book as it was intended to be written. The Holy Bible is infinite in its resources, teachings, and power, but it’s still written as a story.
The word “story” gets tossed around a lot in spiritual circles these days, and frankly, I find it a little annoying at times. “Emergent” leaders and pastors everywhere are wanting to be “storytellers” and are constantly asking people to share “their story”. Heck, the new Communications Director at our church just changed his title to Storyteller. Honestly, I have no problem with the word “story”, but when passages in the Bible are frequently talked about in terms of “story”, sometimes in absence of biblical interpretation and application—I start feeling the rub. I think it’s become pretty popular and “enlightening” to sit around and talk about these holy passages in terms of story, while flirtatiously neglecting the importance of inerrancy, authorial intent, and pragmatic comprehension. That’s the reformed theology in me preaching.
But just because I get a little cynical whenever I hear the word “story” doesn’t mean the Bible isn’t one. It’s the greatest story ever told! But what makes it so great is it’s holiness and supernatural perfection.
But somehow, as I grew up in the Faith, the Bible became more of a volume of reference more than a story. Sure, I was taught Bible stories as a child, complete with felt-board figurines and pageants. The majority of all of the sermons I’ve heard in my life have been based on a story in the Bible. But I’ve rarely looked at this Book as one overarching story. I’ve long been taught and encouraged to think in these terms, but I’ve never been able to get my arms around it. I’ve long tried, but my mind always defaulted to the “reference volume system” instead. Maybe its the chapter and verse structure. Maybe it’s because of my brief stint in Bible Drill. Maybe it’s because I watched my friend Steele memorize hundreds of verses with flash cards when we were kids. Whatever it is, my mind can’t shake this mentality of viewing the Bible as a sum of smaller parts, rather than one grand tapestry.
Reading the Bible in 3 months is beginning to get me there. I may not get all the way there when I’m done, but I’m thinking of making this an annual discipline for me to make sure I do get there. As I’m following this reading plan, I’m realizing that I’m reading one book, not a collection of chapters and volumes. There’s something about reading about Joseph and Moses in one sitting. Knocking out Psalms in less than a week. Before, if my I could take a snapshot of how my brain viewed the panorama of Scripture, it would be filled with a lot of dark fuzzy spots. I knew where the stories were, but I wouldn’t be able to connect some of the dots. Now, I’m beginning to see things as one seamless arch, beginning to end. Less dark fuzziness. Those dark nooks and crannies are getting dusted out and it feels really nice!
Of course, my secret weapon in this task has been Eugene Peterson’s powerful tool, The Message. This has been the text I’ve been using for my daily reading and I’m just now beginning to understand and appreciate the gift Peterson has given to us in this paraphrase. I’m not sure I could have done this without it and achieved the same effects. Modern language really makes this Story spread like butter and that makes a huge difference when you’re reading at this rate.
So, I’m thinking you should take this thing out for a spin too. The key, like any other discipline, is to be disciplined. I start my reading when Katy puts Caelyn down to bed, so I have that evening ritual to use as a crutch. When Caelyn goes to bed, my brain tells me to go pick up the Book. Hopefully you can figure something out for yourself.
A PDF of the reading plan can be found here, but I also made a Backpack page for the outline for easier reference, so you can feel free to bookmark it for your own use. Give it a try and let me know your thoughts!