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Several have asked me how I personally read through the Scriptures, and others have commented to me, “I wish I knew the Bible better!” These comments have prompted me to write a brief post on the practical way in which I read the Scriptures for (1) personal devotion and intimate conversation with the living God, and (2) familiarity with God’s character, i.e. how He feels, what He thinks about things in general, how He addresses issues, and when and why He makes certain promises. (Click here for the best Bible-Reading program I've ever stumbled across!)
To the first, let me say that when I take time in the day to have some personal and private conversation with God I do not find it helpful to read random passages of Scripture at all! Some people will pray for awhile and then randomly open the Bible to any particular passage to see what that passage my say to them that day. I don’t advise this as it is prone to ripping certain passages of the text out of context, which easily distorts the true and literal meaning of what God is saying to us.
For example, I was once conversing with a young man who mentioned to me that he was nervous to join the church because he knew that the church would be watching his every move and scolding him every time he made a mistake. A little perplexed by this comment, I pressed the issue further in questioning him. He responded that he had shared his nervousness about joining the church with God in prayer that morning, and then opened his Bible up to Hebrews 12:1 which says, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run the race set before us with endurance.” He had read this passage and come to the conclusion that the entire church would gather around to scrutinize him. Now, I don’t dispute that the church should work to hold her members accountable for living the Christian life, but this text attempts to provide us encouragement from the recounting of the lives of those faithful saints who have gone before us. Hebrews 12:1 follows Hebrews 11, which tells of the great heroes of the faith such as Abraham, Noah, Moses, and the prophets. By selectively reading the scriptures in this way, the young man had missed the point. We are not being micro analyzed by those with whom we are in covenant within the church. We are being cheered on by those great heroes of the faith who have gone before us in the course of human history and now look upon us from the halls of Heaven.
To read passages randomly will distort the meaning of the text. Rather, for having fellowship and conversation with God, I recommend reading through books of the Bible the way a person would read a letter from a loved one. If your spouse wrote you a letter you wouldn’t randomly skip around in the letter looking for meaning. You would read it start to finish in order.
When you read through a book of the Bible, take it slow but steady. Read a chapter a day. Give though to the historical events surrounding the composition of this passage. Think critically about the characters involved. Ask yourself the following questions:
Read your passage with these questions in mind. Take notes, record God’s Word to you in a journal, and listen to Him as He speaks through the Scriptures. Be sure to write down a specific action plan at the end for how you plan to live in obedience to what you have just read from Him. Be sure to thank Him in prayer, and commit to obeying what He says that very day. As you step out in obedience, you will find that He reveals even more of Himself to you.
The second thing I do in my daily time with God is read through all portions of His Word daily. I do this because He speaks in different ways in different portions of His Bible, and He reveals a certain depth of character, thought, and action in every passage. You get to see a different side of God in the Psalms than you do in the book of Numbers. In order to become more intimately acquainted with God’s multifaceted personality, you have to read everything that He says about Himself, and you need to be familiar with how He responds in the many different circumstances recorded in the Bible.
In order to do this, I utilize Professor Grant Horner’s Bible-Reading System. If you click here, you can download it for yourself. I don’t attempt to read through the Bible Chronologically as I tend to get too bogged down in certain parts of the year. Horner’s system has you read ten chapters a day from each of the different literary parts of the Bible. There are ten book marks that, if you follow every day and read one chapter a day from each of those book marks for a total of ten chapters per day, you will read through the entire Bible at least twice a year and certain sections of it more often than that. I have found that there is no better system than this for becoming intimately and deeply familiar with God’s personality, how He thinks, and how He reacts to certain situations.
My quiet time looks like this: I spend a few seconds in prayer, clearing my thoughts and getting focused on God. I ask God to speak to me through His Word. After this, I spend about twenty minutes reading through one chapter of one book of the Bible taking notes, looking for commands and promises, and listening to God speak to me directly and personally through that chapter. I’ll spend another ten minutes writing these thoughts down in my journal. I then spend about an additional hour reading through the ten chapters of the Bible just watching God display Himself to me, seeing how He thinks, what He says, how He responds. All the while, I take notes and write in my journal. Then I’ll spend about twenty minutes praying for my family, praying for the members of my church, and laying my needs before Him and sharing with Him. It takes about two hours start to finish, but it is the best two hours of my day.
So schedule your time accordingly. You can do it too! I know that you are worried that you don’t have two hours, but you do! Try doing one hour in the morning before the day and another hour in the evening. Two hours out of twenty four is nothing! If you give up idol pleasures and tighten up your schedule a bit, you can do it!