Posted by: Philip Rushton | December 30, 2010

Read The Bible For All It’s Worth In 2011

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

New Years Eve is just a day away! With the start of a new year comes the promise of a fresh start. Resolutions are made, people suddenly show up at the gym, and the ads on TV start focusing on useless ab crunch machines and diet pills.

For Christians, the goal of reading through the entire Bible often tops the New Years resolution list. I know it makes my list. In response to this, I thought I would provide a few thoughts on how to approach the process of reading through scripture. While reading through the Bible cover to cover is always a noble undertaking, there are some things we need to consider if we want to get the most out of our reading. So, in no particular order, here are 5 ways to get the most out of the Bible in 2011

1. Take Time to Reflect on Scripture
It is not helpful to plow through scripture without taking time to listen to what God is saying. When you read scripture start by asking God to speak through the text. Read 3-4 chapters at a time and make note of a passage that jumps out at you. At the end of your reading go back to the smaller section and spend time reflecting on it. I recommend keeping a journal to make notes about what you are learning. This helps to process what you are reading and learning.

2. Think in Terms of Books not Chapters.
We run into problems with interpreting scripture when we take things out of context. While some reading plans have you read one chapter out of 3-4 books a day, I think it is better to read one book at a time. This helps us focus our attention and understand passages in context. Reading 3 chapters a day will get you through the Bible in a year. The only exception to this would be the psalms. I recommend reading a psalm a day along with the other 3 chapters you are reading. The psalms function as individual units and are most helpful when they are incorporated into daily prayers.

3. Use Secondary Sources
Reading through the Bible in a year is not helpful if we do not understand what we are reading. It is easy to get lost in the details of scripture and so we need some basic hooks to hang things on. I recommend investing in a good study Bible that has introductions to each book, outlines, and detailed notes. Before reading a book of scripture get a sense of the overall structure so that you know where things fit.
Along with a good study Bible I also recommend reading Gordon Fee’s book How To Read the Bible Book By Book, or Encountering the Old Testament / Encountering the New Testament by Bill Arnold and Walter Elwell respectively. These books provide a good overview of each book in the Bible that will help you orient yourself to your reading.

4. Read Scripture in Community
In the New Testament we see that the study of scripture was done in community (see Acts 2:42-46). In fact, before the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, reading was never an individual affair. I always recommend finding a group of people to read through the Bible with and to meet regularly to share what you have been learning. This practice keeps us accountable to accurate interpretation, gives us deeper insights to the text, and allows us to process what we are reading.

5. Don’t Go All or Nothing
A lot of times people start the year strong but then quickly lose focus on reading the Bible. When we get behind in a reading schedule it is easy to get discouraged and to give up. My advice is to not get too caught up on the year long timeline. If you get behind do not give up reading the Bible completely. Instead make sure that you are always able to say what book of the Bible you are reading. You may be going at a slower pace, but continue to work on one book at a time. After all, the goal is not to get the Bible done and over with, the goal is to develop a habit of reading continually.

May you be blessed as you study the word of God this year!

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