In Part 1 of this series, we talked about three common mistakes I have made when reading the Bible and how my relationship with God benefitted when I corrected those things. The first mistake I made was approaching Scripture with a lens for myself instead of a lens for God.
The main thing that helped me shift my perspective was asking myself five questions every time I read scripture. I discussed those in Part 2 of this series. In this third and final installment, I’ll share how I put all this information together with a plan that helped me succeed at not only completing my first read through the Bible but loving the process as well.
You’re Not Alone
Whether you’re brand new to the Bible or you grew up in the second pew, reading Scripture can at times seem confusing or feel boring. Understanding it properly often requires reading it thoroughly (and even repeatedly), but who wants to read something they don’t understand? My earliest memory is my mom teaching me John 3:16, but I spent much of my life feeling alienated from the Scripture I professed to believe. When I attempted to read through the Bible on my own, I’d often close it thinking, “What did I just read?” If you’ve ever felt that way, you’re not alone!
Most people who struggle try to stick to the Psalms and Proverbs, because those make sense to them. Or maybe they flip around in their Bible and try to find something relatable, but then they hit something confusing or off-putting, and they can't seem to make sense of how it all fits together. Maybe they decide to start a Bible reading plan—usually at the beginning of a year when they're working on New Year’s resolutions. They launch out with ambition and zeal on January 1, but they begin to lose interest in a few weeks, and by mid-February they’ve fallen off the wagon.
This was me too! I’d read through Genesis 15 times, but there was a big gap until Psalms and Proverbs, then another big gap until the Gospels. I’d occasionally drop in on the “love” chapter in 1 Corinthians, but that was the extent of my Bible interaction. I was on track to be a Genesis scholar.
Some people are so perplexed by Scripture that they leave their Bible on the shelf and use a daily devotional instead. They figure, “Obviously I’m not capable of hearing from God first-hand through Scripture, so I’ll just hear from him second-hand.” Don’t get me wrong—devotionals can be a great supplement, but too many of the ones we’re consuming today worship at the altar of self.
Maybe you’ve tried it all and you wonder if you’ll ever love reading an actual Bible or if you’ll always feel intimidated by it? Are you tired of losing steam after six weeks? In this final installment, I want to tell you about what finally worked for me, and I want to invite you to join me in it.
Finding the Tools & Seeing the Storyline
If you’ve been trying to make your way through Scripture—if you’ve wanted to read it all, or even just wanted to want to read it all, but don’t know if you have the tools, I want to hand you those tools along the way. I want to help you overcome the obstacles you encounter so that you begin to recognize yourself as a child of God who knows him and is in an active, intimate relationship with him.
You don’t need a special Bible. You don’t need to go to seminary. If you’re anything like me, what you need is to read it—all of it—and see what God has to say about himself in the story he’s telling. It has a plot and a timeline and a lot of fascinating characters with names that are challenging to pronounce.
One thing that makes this story feel unnecessarily difficult is that it’s rarely laid out in the order it happened. In most Bibles, it’s assembled in sections: books of the law, wisdom literature, prophecy, historical narrative gospels, letters, etc. What helped me tremendously in understanding the story of God was reading it in chronological order—that is, not front-to-back.
There were sections of the story I thought I knew well, but they came alive when I read them in the greater context. For instance, I read about how David patiently waited for God to position him on the throne—for more than a decade! Then the plan took me to the psalms of faith and humility he wrote as he waited. I held him in such high esteem that I was crushed when mere chapters later, he committed crimes that marked him for life. Then I went back to the Psalms to read his song of repentance over those very sins. The chronological plan had me flipping pages back and forth, but I had never been so engaged in what God was communicating through it all. I finally saw how it all fit together!
The Bible Recap Podcast
I’ve read through the same chronological plan for several years now, and I want to walk through the process with you too! I’ve created a short daily podcast called The Bible Recap which follows the 1-year chronological Bible reading plan. If you decide to join us, here’s what that could look like: You’ll spend about 12 minutes each day reading or listening to that day’s chapters in the Bible, then you’ll open up your podcast app where I’ll spend 7-10 minutes summarizing what we just read and connecting it to the overarching storyline.
I’ll point out things I’ve learned about that particular passage through years of reading and studying it. Since this isn’t my first Genesis to Revelation rodeo, I’ll be able to speak from the vantage point of the whole metanarrative so you can begin to see how it all fits together and understand why things happen the way they do. Not that there won’t still be mystery involved; but overall, I think this tool will be really helpful to you in not just reading Scripture, but loving reading it, because you finally understand it.
You don't need to buy a chronological Bible; you can print out the plan on our website or subscribe to the link of the plan we’re using on the Bible app. You can use your print Bible or read in the app, or you can have the app read it to you. I'll be referencing the English Standard Version, but feel free to read any version you prefer, or change it up. With your Bible reading and my Bible recapping combined, it will take most readers around 20 minutes—that’s only about 1% of your day. I believe you’ll see incredible fruit in the remaining 99% of your day by spending your first 1% in God’s Word.
Finding God in the Story
I want to help you learn how to find and see and know God and his character more than anything else. I don’t care if you never know what year the Temple was built and destroyed and rebuilt and re-destroyed. Those are great details to be aware of, but they will never serve you like the personal knowledge of God. They will never bring you joy or sustain you in trials. They will never draw you in to spend more time with God out of sheer joy and delight.
By the way, I’m not an academic. I didn’t go to seminary, and I’ll only occasionally mention what the original Hebrew might mean, and even then, chances are I’m going to mispronounce it. Overall, my approach in this podcast will be less like a scholarly Bible commentary, and more like an overview and a highlight reel rolled into one. What that means is: I’m less inclined to tell you about archaeological details and more inclined to point to the character of God as revealed in that day’s reading. In fact, each day’s episode ends with my pointing out where I’ve seen God’s attributes on display. I call it my “God Shot”—the picture of God I take away from each day’s reading—and I want you to look for yours each day too! He’s on every page!
Here’s what I’m imagining for you this year: picture yourself being drawn to God and his character instead of feeling alienated by the God of the Old Testament. Imagine understanding the motives behind God’s actions instead of feeling confused or even frustrated by what he does. Picture yourself actually hearing from God in his Word directly and feeling closer and more intimate with him than you ever have before—just because you've committed to spending the first 1% of your day with him. If all you gain from this is one new insight about God, that insight could change the rest of your life and your relationship with him!
This is your year
I believe this is the year you’ll read through the whole Bible and your relationship with God will grow in joy and delight. I believe this is the year you’ll gain freedom in areas where you've struggled, as a result of delighting in God more. And I believe this is the year you’ll learn to hear from God first-hand by reading his Word, instead of being confused or disengaged or only hearing from him second-hand.
Subscribe to the podcast today! We’re re-launching our 1-year Bible reading plan on Jan 1, 2020. In the meantime, we have a few prep episodes posted that will help set you up for success. Don’t wait; jump in now—because we’re going to spend the year getting to know God and his Word (finally!) and I promise you: He's where the joy is!
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