Not a Character Test!

Maybe for 2017 you are embarking on a quest to read through all or part of the Bible in a year. Congratulations! Starting something this important and this personal is a very big deal. It is my honor to share the journey with you. With this in mind, here are two thoughts that may be helpful…

  1. First and foremost, do not view your commitment to read the Bible every day as a character test. You will undoubtedly run into snags. There are times when you may get days or even weeks behind. If you get frustrated enough to quit, you’ll have more than one problem on your hands. You don’t want to make access to God a function of your personal character. It’s not about whether or not you can keep a promise. Rather, it’s about being irresistibly drawn to find something. You are reading because you need to; you can’t keep wading through this life being so spiritually clueless. Or you must get to God, the real God, now in your life. No more waiting. Make sure that you don’t paint a picture of yourself as a good little Bible reader. Whenever someone compliments me on my Bible reading by saying something like, “It must be so great to be so disciplined,” then I know that he or she does not get it. It was more desperation than discipline that got me through the weeds of Leviticus my first year of reading the entire Bible. I had to know what it said. I had to know why it mattered. I had to stop relying on the testimony of others. Reading Scripture is a type of holy rebellion against societal norms. No longer will you tolerate holding a derived faith. You can’t live on the profession of others. When you face death, a few short seasons from now, you want to be sure that you are sure. You want to know that you didn’t miss something important. Eternity hangs in the balance.
  2. There are many different approaches to reading Scripture. You may have to search for a while to find one that works for you. We distribute Our Daily Bread at our church and it contains a plan for reading through the Bible in a year and this is what I follow and have been following for decades. We distribute printed copies, but the online version (linked above and here again) is very useful. Shannon, my wife, uses it. By the way, she just finished reading through the entire Bible in one year for 2016 and for 2017 will be reading just the New Testament using something called the 5x5x5 plan. I found this plan for her here. This neat Ligonier article offers a bunch of plans and a doorway to many, many great resources… including the big, hairy, heavy study Bible I told you about yesterday, which, by the way, I’m really tempted to use in 2017. Am I a glutton for punishment? It doesn’t mean you have to be. I run every day and haven’t missed one, single day since May 22, 2000, even with 9/11, deployments, cruises, and international travel to places like Nigeria, Ukraine, and Antarctica. For 40+ days in a row last summer I took the Cold Shower Therapy challenge (here’s a link to the app) and took 5-minute ice cold showers day after day. I’m not as disciplined as I would like to be, but these are what outsiders might see as extreme attempts at becoming so. Maybe, but I don’t think so. My daily habits help me accept my character flaws more than they obliterate them. They also test my family’s patience! The point is this: I am not your pace setter and you are not mine. Integrity and conscience are only genuine when they come from within. Your Bible reading plan is yours alone, and your Bible reading goals are all that matter. Leighton Ford is famous for saying something like this: “Jesus is the only way or path to God, but there are many, many paths to Jesus.” We all want to read the Bible more and we hope to have this reading influence every aspect of our lives and relationships. How we get there may differ greatly. I need boxes to check and lots of extrinsic reinforcement because my overly -creative, non-diagnosed ADHD mind is committed to flights of fancy that lead to endless idleness. My box-checking on personal items is personal and meaningful. For many other people it would not be; it would be constrictive and toxically religious. Maybe you don’t want to need to check a box. Then don’t. You’ll figure out what works for you and you’ll learn to be flexible… because everything changes. Don’t be frustrated by the process of discovery that you have undertaken. The Bible can sometimes feel like the hard floor we land on when we fall. This is because our approach to it will always expose our need for the redemption that it alone describes and offers.

Let me, again, congratulate you and offer you my utmost support in your Bible reading adventures! Be sure to write to me about your plans! Let’s pray for each other and for the year we are starting together!

PS – One more thing that may be helpful. On the ESV site as well as on Bible Gateway, you can have the Bible read to you while you follow along. (On an iPhone or equivalent devise, the most popular of these sites/apps is YouVersion.) I have done this for some of my years of reading through the Bible and have found it very helpful, especially when I needed the early morning support for my attention span. Sometimes you can even get a narrator with a cool British accent.

3 Replies to “Not a Character Test!”

  1. Hi Pastor John, Happy New Year. I read the NKJ Bible. It has a reading through the Bible in a year.I like it. It starts in old testament, Psalm, proverbs and New Testament. It is daily reading. I haven’t made it through a year yet??? But I did start reading Zechariah and I don’t think I ever read that, so now I am reading that, not understanding it, though. I’ll read it and write my questions down for you. Are you really running in a few days?

  2. Thanks so much for the freedom and clarification, especially for those who tend to beat up on themselves about lots of things, but then some of us have a lot to beat up on ourselves about or at least we think we do.

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