Saturday, January 03, 2009

More about Bible reading

I started making a comment on this meta under my post at Pyro. Then I realized it was getting so long, it might warrant a post of its own. And so....

A couple of things:

Some of the comments actually do seem to go in the direction of, "__ chapters?? That's nothing! A real Christian would read at least __ chapters!"

I don't for a minute think that's the intent, but here are a few clarifiers:

First, any number can be rubbished and upped by some factor.

Second, some commenters seem to think I'm setting a minimum. But if you read the whole post, you'll note I'm not sticking to that minimum, myself. It's just a minimum... to get through the Bible in a year.

Third, I'm not suggesting that's all the Bible-reading I'll do! Hel-lo, it's a minimum!

Fourth, some of the comments come from the opposite direction of my own thinking. They seem to feel I'm taking huge-Bible-readers and telling them to slow down.

By contrast, I'm looking at a professing-church-full of undisciplined Bible readers, many of whom have NO plan, TOO many of whom have never actually read the whole Bible through even once.

Many of them would find M'Cheyne overwhelming, and would quit after the first busy day. Any honest person would have to admit, it's a bear to catch up on M'Cheyne! To them, I'm saying, "Read at this rate, and you'd get through the Bible in a year."

Fifth and finally, I'm not sure the goal is to see how fast you can blaze through the Bible. Is it? I don't doubt that, if you can read quickly and attentively, you will see certain themes and developments more like the writers meant you to. But you'll miss a lot, too. You do know the phrase "Whirlwind tour," right? And the pluses and minuses of such an approach?

So let's keep in mind a few minimums:
  1. The only really bad Bible reading plan is to plan not to read it. Bad plan. Bad plan!
  2. Second-worst is no plan at all.
  3. The plan you pick should be both doable and challenging. A verse a day is just silly. A book a day is probably too much... well, unless it's Jude, 3 John or Obadiah.
  4. If your last-year's plan was quick, then maybe do a slower one this year. If you were reading 4-7+ chapters from various books, consider mine of 3-minimum through mainly single books, for this year. (That's why I'm doing what I'm doing, BTW; I've probably read through the Bible dozens of times on various plans over the last 35+ years.)
  5. The most important thing is to do it. I just don't see the value in picking a marvelous plan I'll never do. Pick a doable/challenging plan, and do it, by God's grace.


Kaffinator said...

Well said Dan. 2009 will be my first year reading through the entire Bible. I'm using Wayne Cordiero's plan which goes through OT once and NT twice. 20 minutes to read OT and NT, 20 minutes to pray/reflect/journal.

Is it my favorite plan? No. I'm sure I could tick off 5 reasons why I don't like it. But a) as you noted, it's better than no plan and b) it's what the leaders in my church are recommending right now. That should be enough for me.

DJP said...

Yep. I'm minded of the story of the person who criticized the pastor's way of evangelizing: "Mr. ____, I do not approve of your methods."

"Well then, tell me yours."

"Why -- I have none."

"Mm. I like mine better."

Strong Tower said...

"The most important thing is to do it. I just don't see the value in picking a marvelous plan I'll never do. Pick a doable/challenging plan, and do it, by God's grace."

I hope you didn't take what I said to Sola as over throwing anything you said at Pyro, or here. "The most important thing," I summed up in my bathroom example. Simply put, there is a discipline that is necessary and preparatory that makes common use more functional and enjoyable. The problem for many of us is that we enjoy the use of the facilities without the necessary requisite keeping of them.

My "non-plan" is not really, as I explained. It is adapted to what I can do best. That is not without discipline. I struggle with keeping the facilities clean routinely. There are things I like to do more. Without the first though, I will find that the second will suffer the bad effects of the neglect of the first.

One of the things we all fight against when it comes to self-discipline is that fact that we are our own boss. It is far easier to do what we should when there is an authority greater than ourselves. Developing a love for the things we would rather neglect is essential. If love rules as the reason, then discipline that otherwise is without force will find itself submitted to the oversight of love. Some people love to clean bathrooms, they are in my estimation sick people. It's just unnatural. Why daily discipline in reading the Word becomes like cleaning toilets, I don't know. I do know that doing it is a form of self-love, though it may seems unpleasant. And beside that, there are others who benefit from it. Kind of like, "Everyone should work so that they have to give to others." What we do will have consequences beyond any benefit we might enjoy ourselves.

My son is fond of saying, "I am gonna be X." When I explain how one becomes X, his desires change to Y. And I have to explain how one gets to Y. As I watch him mature I am seeing that he is getting it: to be X, one must love to do a-w. That remains the same for any discipline, at any age.

The speedo part had to do with a fundamental typically found in study methods. My Luther example didn't exempt a disciplined devotional study. I put him forth in a way as you did M'Cheyne. There is no way that I could keep up with the pace that you or many other scholars both read Scripture and other works that supplement understanding. So when I am asked how I study, my eclectic answer is all that I can give. And while it may appear to be without method and shear madness, I know myself, and I am crazy about that stuff.

JD said: "I'm not sure speed is of the essence." And I agree. Again, Luther did not make that the end-all. It is just one of the things I think need to be done and not to the neglect of a daily reading w/study. I am like JD in the sense that when I begin to read and meditate it leads me to areas that I then dedicate to further inquiry. For many though, a programmed daily exercise will be the beginning and the end and an excuse to go no further. I would that they read, though, than do nothing at all.

Many, I think, approach Scripture like they do marriage. The initial courting relationship is filled with energetic motions toward the object of affection and the honeymoon tends to be the pinnacle. It is not. It is more like a low foot hill; the trek to the mountain top has just begun. What was emotion driven achievement becomes a real process of loving and caretaking when the fog clears and the real perspective comes into view. We like the benefits of marriage, but the reality is, we often forget to employ the things we did at first to get there. Not all marriages are alike because the skills and personalities of the individuals are all different. Still, some plan, some work, routinely expressed that is like that first work must accompany what is for us a life long vocation. The way we got to the top of the foot hill, will, for the length of the journey, be the same way we approach the peak, by climbing. But, then in climbing that first hill, we loved doing it.

In all I think that we agree. The worst plan second to avoidance is no plan, and shopping for the right fit is part of the discipline necessary. What makes us unique is to be figured in and sometimes that will be what we contrive ourselves from the resources that are native to us.

SolaMommy said...

I'm just trying to figure out how to pronounce "M'Cheyne"...

DJP said...

I've always just said it like "McCheyne," but without the first "c." But the british fellow who reads Spurgeon's autobiograph on audiobook pronounces it "Emmshayne."

Strong Tower said...

I thought it was m' cheyenne. But then I'm prejudiced.

Dana~Are We There Yet? said...

A lifelong adherent to the "no plan" plan, I'm at once determined to find and follow a plan, and afraid of it. I'm a homeschooling mom of 5 with a newborn, so time is an issue. I'm a homeschooling mom of 5 with a newborn, so I MUST do it.

John said...


I've used the "at least three chapters a day through a single book" plan for several years, and it works well. As you noted in your Pyro post, three a day won't quite get you there, so some say three a day and five on Sunday.


beachbirdie said...

I'm using It is a simple check-off chart offering a couple of different options to read faster through the year if you want. Very nice plan for people like us who live with erratic schedules.

I can't help but reflect back on the pastor who finally got me into reading the Bible regularly. He came to our church as interim pastor when our senior pastor had to leave the pulpit. Long, sad story there (sigh).

One New Year, Dr. Anderson challenged the church to join him in reading through the Bible in a year. He made a simple schedule (produced by Walk Through the Bible) available to the congregation, and had us sign up on a sheet if we were joining the challenge.

Around the time we got into Leviticus, knowing we would be discouraged by all the repetition and detail, he wrote a letter to those of us who signed up to read.

In that letter he acknowledged the difficulty of reading less-than- inspiring passages but he encouraged us to slog on. He gave us permission to skim lightly through some of this section. This was enough to keep me going and I did finish the Bible for the first time in my life! I was in my late 40s at the time.

Because of that simple letter, I have now a lifetime "habit" (for lack of a better word!).

Hope many more will meet that challenge this year.

SolaMommy said...

I've always just said it like "McCheyne," but without the first "c." But the british fellow who reads Spurgeon's autobiograph on audiobook pronounces it "Emmshayne."

I was thinking it was one of those. I guess it's a "toh-MAY-toh, toh-MAH-toh" kind of thing.

DJP said...

I suppose, but it just seems unlikely. Maybe it irritates the reader, and he's making fun of it in his way. You know, "Right. 'Mc' or 'Mac' isn't good enough for you, so EMMMMMshayne it is."

Like me with hyphenated names. They really irritate me. So if I deal with some hyphenperson, I say, "Okay, so it's LOBELIA SACKVILLE-HYPHEN-BAGGINS, is it?"

One man's protest.

Then there's this guy here who's FIRST name is hyphenated. I don't know what to make of that.

So I just call him "Hyphen-guy." Everyone knows who I mean.