Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bible Reading: Part 1

I have never set a New Year's resolution in my life.  But, the month of January always provokes thoughts about my Bible study due to the preponderance of advice on related resolutions at this time.  So, in light of a friend asking me for advice last month, I thought I would share what I have done in the past as well as some new things I'm trying right now:
  • Read the Bible straight through:  When I was young my mom required me to read from my "easy reader" Bible story book every morning.  When I was a little older I remember reading from a children's translation, and then around the ages of 10-12 I graduated to reading the NIV.  Until I was about 13 or 14 my reading consisted of assignments from mom and sporadic independent reading.  But, hitting my teenage years I realized I had never read it straight through.  The original goal to finish within a year stretched to 3 years.  At times I read from the Amplified Version, at times from the NKJV, but always sequentially.  I didn't use a reading plan, I didn't read from different sections or testaments at the same time, I just read straight through and I finished it.
  • Use the freedom gained by wisdom: I've not read straight through the Scriptures or followed a reading plan since then.  I would guess, however that I've read every book in the Bible at least 3-4 times since then.  Some books I've probably read at least 5-10 times.  Because I felt I had a good overview, I decided to enjoy the freedom to try different strategies and ideas in my Bible study.  If you know the story of Genesis and Matthew, don't feel bound to start there every year.
  • Let your life and the Holy Spirit tell you where to read: Most of the time I've simply read from the following: the book God lays on my heart, the book my pastor is currently preaching through, and/or the book another pastor is preaching through whose sermon series I'm listening to online.  Sometimes that means I'm reading in 3-5 books at a time.  Sometimes I might not finish a book.  There might be one or two chapters I stay in for a week.  Feeling inspired to read one book many times leads to reading another one.
  • Create a smaller goal or chunk:  Examples: the Gospels, the Pentateuch, the Books of Wisdom,  the New Testament Epistles, the minor prophets, Isaiah, etc...  Once you finish a small goal choose another chunk of Scripture to read.  I get much more reading done creating small goals like this then starting in Genesis and Matthew with the goal to read the whole Bible.  I've always abandoned typical reading plans several books into it because the goal is so large and I get bored easily wanting to explore other sections of Scripture.  So, I explore, and I've chosen to not feel guilty about it.  
  • Read a book backwards: A problem I have with the books of Genesis, Matthew, Psalms, and Proverbs is that I've read them so many times I feel like I'm reading the same thing over again when I start them.  So, last year I decided to read the Psalms backwards.  Yes, I started with Psalm 150 and worked by way back meditating and journaling through them.  It ended up taking me a whole year, but I stuck with it because the perspective was fresh.
  • Whose stories do you love? For me it's Jacob's, David's, and Paul's stories.    Every so often I'll start in the middle of of Genesis or 1 Samuel to read Jacob's or David's story.  Usually though, I don't want to stop with their deaths and keep reading on, sometimes for several more books.  One time I decided to read Paul's story in Acts, then all the epistles he wrote.  Once I finished that I did the same thing with the gospel according to John and the letters written by him.  I've thought about doing the same with the gospel according to Mark and the letters written by Peter.
  • Read a book several times: You don't have to feel satisfied reading a book once and then moving on.  Most of the time, that's what we will do, but sometimes the Spirit wants us to dig deeper.  One year the book the Philippians helped me to get through some difficult times.  I read it over and over again throughout the year.  After reading it several times, one topic I fixated on was serving others.  That created a scavenger hunt in my other NT reading to learn what Scripture had to say about the topic.  This resulted in reading certain chapters in Romans, Colossians, James and other books many times as well.  My pastor has been preaching through many of the minor prophets.  Because these are very short books, some times I'll read a book 2-4 times within a week following a sermon on it.
  • Learn to use a concordance: I can't not remember having Strong's Concordance on the shelf.  It rivaled with the World Book Dictionary and the city phone book in massiveness.  At a young age my mom taught me how to look up words and use the number system.  I don't haul it to my desk anymore, but I do use the Blue Letter Bible.  Is there a topic you're struggling with or curious about?  Is there a verse or a word you don't quite understand?  The concordance is your friend.  I also love the Blue Letter Bible for the ease in comparing translations, looking at commentaries, maps, and more.
  • Find someone to teach (so that you may learn): While I've never been consistent with this, I've enjoyed teaching selected chapters with my brother.  He would read the chapter straight through out loud, then I would teach, "talk through" the passage verse by verse based on my limited knowledge.  But, while I thought I was "teaching,"  I usually ended up learning because of the questions, rabbit trails, different perspectives, and insights that my brother voiced.
  • Journal: Copy scriptures that stand out to, write down questions, journal current struggles, compose prayers, record what you read that day, or summarize a story.  Whatever you do, write as you're reading!
  • Listen to sermons: Sermons that get me pumped up and curious about the Bible keep me inspired to continue searching and seeking.
  • Listen to music that quiets your soul: I love listening to many CCM, pop, oldies, and classical artists, but not every song on my playlists is going to help me be still.  Find quiet, Scripture infused hymns, psalms, CCM, and classical pieces that help you focus.  I rarely actually listen to music while doing Bible study, but often singing a few psalms or hymns by myself helps me to zone in.  I've also noticed that the more calming music I listen to the rest of the time, the more eager I am to feast from the table.
  • Read other books that make you seek:  Click here for a list of books that have helped me re-focus and seek the Word.
  • Be hungry:  I've found that the key to the Bible being my living bread is to be hungry for it. If I'm hungry for it, I'll find someway to get into it and read it. If I'm constantly surrounded by busyness, idols, distractions, or sin, I'm stuffing myself with junk food and the best Bible reading strategy won't make me feel hungry for Scripture. For me junk food is things such as too much fb/blogs/pinterest/youtube, thinking sorry thoughts about myself, and spending more time by myself than helping people. Yours might look very different, but we all have idols that must be fought.

1 comment:

Rebecca Ann said...

Ana your thoughts on how to study the Bible were very encouraging and gave me some new ways to read it! I know I don't comment much, but I am always encouraged by your posts. Thanks for pointing to Christ our Savior the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Its refreshing.

Love you dear friend!