I read the bible all the way through a few years ago and decided that it would be a great idea for 2009. Last night I pulled my "One Year Chronological Bible" off the shelf and set it out so that I could promptly start on January 1st. And while I was excited at the thought of reading it again, I felt a familiar hesitation as well. Sure, I could read through it again, but how much was I going to get out of it. Here's a point where I'm sure God wouldn't mind a little selfish thought passing through my head. So, I hopped on the computer in search of alternative bible-reading programs, and when I came across this one the author had some of the same reservations about traditional bible-reading programs that I did. And it would be impossible to do this program and not get something out of it.
Here’s how The World’s Best Bible-Reading Program works:
1. Find a quiet, undisturbed place to read. Start in the New Testament since the New Covenant is necessary for perspective on the Old Testament. Might as well begin with Matthew.
2. Read through one entire book in a single sitting. Obviously, the first five books of the NT are going to require some time. But do it. (You’re eternal. Live like it!) These books are whole units and are meant to be read as such. We need to experience their coherence. Trust me; the Holy Spirit will bring the entirety of the book to your mind in the future in a way you’ve never experienced before.
3. When you’ve read the book once, don’t move on! Read through it again. For the first five books, if you must break them into chunks, go with five or six chapters—whatever maintains the arc of the narrative.
4. Re-read that one book. Note the way the narrative and themes flow. Commit those stories and themes to memory. Note where they exist in the book.
5. Re-read that one book. Pay special attention to the way the Lord is portrayed.
6. Re-read that one book. Examine the relational aspects of the book, God to Man, Man to Man, Man to God.
7. Re-read that one book. Note the Lord’s redeeming and salvific acts within the greater arc of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. (This first pass through the NT assumes you have a modicum of OT understanding. After reading the OT through, the second pass through the NT will clarify things further.)
8. Re-read that one book. This time around, note all the Lord’s commands and how we’re told to practice them. Consider how they might work practically in your daily activities.
(By this point, you’ve read the same book seven times. Depending on the length of the book, it may have taken seven days or seven weeks. It doesn’t matter. This is about changing your life and relationship with Christ. This is about sixty years of discipleship. It’s not about getting through the Bible in a certain length of time.)
Now comes the hard (and controversial) part…
9. Take everything you’ve learned in this book and put it into practice. Take a month (*see comments below) to do nothing but concertedly meditate on what you’ve just read by making it real in your own life. It might mean that the only Bible you read this month are the parts of this one book that you still aren’t getting and must re-read. Doesn’t matter—do it. (If you absolutely have to read something every day that isn’t part of this program, consider a few Psalms or a cycle of Proverbs. They’re the most suited to broken-up reading patterns since they are collections of wisdom and less unified than a book like Romans.)
10. After your month, take stock of all that you’ve learned by reading and practice. Make a mental assessment of the themes of the book and how they apply to your discipleship. If you’re confident you’ve read and practiced this book, move on to the next one. Once the NT is finished, move onto the OT. (I realize some of the OT books are daunting in length for a single read-through. Make a concerted effort to read them in one sitting. Failing this, some of the OT books are narrative, which allows for breaks in the story. Psalms and Proverbs are easily segmented, as noted above. All prophets must be read in one sitting the first time through. A book as enormous as Isaiah is hard to partition, so consider reading it on a weekend day.)
Repeat these ten steps for the rest of your life.WHEW! Not for the faint of heart, that's for sure! But I know that this is what I've been looking for. And better yet... why wait a two weeks, there's no timeline. I'm not naive to believe that I won't fall off the wagon a time or two (or three, or four, or twenty even), but I really am excited about this approach to reading the bible.
Here's where you come in. I do so much better when I'm accountable to people. So, the next time you see me, ask me how it's going. Next month, ask me what chapter I'm on. Next summer ask me what I've learned. Next year, tell me if it's changed me. Next time you think of me during your prayer time, ask God to keep me focused and to help me follow through.