God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Five Tips to Reading the Bible Through in a Year (and an announcement!)

A few years ago I decided to read the Bible through every odd-numbered year. Yesterday I explained why and gave my top five reasons you should read the Bible through in a year, too. Today I want to give you five tips to reading the Bible thorough in a year. Then I have a big announcement.

Tip 1: Read the Bible Through Email (or some way that comes to you every morning).

**Warning: I'm a digital native (born after 1980) and I love technology. Tip 1 will not work if you are someone who does not want to supplement your analog life with digital tools. But read on! You might decide to do it anyway.**

I'm not against paper Bibles (Those things made from dead trees with leather covers, remember? I've had two people ask me what a "paper Bible" is.). I have several paper Bibles and when I preach I read from a paper Bible. However, I do not pick up books to read every day. I have a closet full of paper books that I have not touched in 5-10 years (to my wife's vexation). I'll get around to reading them someday. How many emails do I have unread from 5-10 years ago? None. I read all of my important messages and deleted the rest. Every day. This is what I have learned about myself: if it doesn't come to me, I don't read it. I want to read the Bible through in a year. Unless it comes to me every day (through email) I don't do it.

Here's how to read the Bible though in a year via email:

Go to BibleinaYear.org and sign-up with your email address. There are other ways, simply Google it and you'll see a few other websites that send daily readings through email. But this how I have done it in the past. Keep reading and I'll show you how to choose the type of reading and the translation.

If you do not want to have it delivered to your email, you can go to One Year Bible Online, bookmark it and read it online there as well. Or you can print out a schedule if you're a Luddite.

If you are computer-savvy, here's another tip: If you have trouble reading slowly, highlight the text on the email, copy, go to Spreeder.com, paste the text, and press "spreed!" It will force your eyes to look at one word and will help you read 300+ words a minute. I don't know if I would ever be able to read the Bible in a year without it.


Tip 2: Read the Bible through Chronologically.

This is very important if you plan to understand the entire message of the Gospel (and get through the books of history and the Psalms). The Bible wasn't written chronologically—each book was written independently of the others (except the two books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, obviously). Because of this the books do not line up exactly. 1 Kings repeats much of 2 Samuel. 1-2 Chronicles repeats much of both books of Samuel and Kings. The Psalms were written from the time of Moses until the time of the prophets. Even the prophets make more sense when they are read in the correct time period. Do yourself a favor, read the Bible chronologically. It (literally) makes more sense.

This is another reason a paper Bible doesn't work for me. I don't like flipping through it looking for each passage, especially on days when I am reading from Kings, Chronicles and Psalms. Email systems have all of them laid out for you. It's really nice.


Tip 3: Read the Bible through using a New (to You) Translation, Preferably an Easier-to-Read Version

This one is tricky. Many people are completely attached to their favorite version (mine is the English Standard Version—ESV) and do not want to muddle their memorization of favorite verses by reading from another one. I understand that. I appreciate that. What I wish to encourage is this: reading the Bible in familiar translations will cause to you gloss over passages that could otherwise deepen your understanding of God's Word. It is great for deep reading because you are paying attention. With the daily grind of text (2-4 chapters a day, or 1,200-2,500 words a day), your brain will go to sleep and you will miss important truths. Keep your favorite translation, but read the Bible through once in another version.

Which version should you choose? Let me make a suggestion. An easy-to-read version like The Message. These are meant to be easy-flowing translations that help you read the Bible with ease. When you are reading 2-4 chapters a day, difficult vocabulary, archaic words, and non-standard sentence structure leads to frustration. Frustration leads to quitting. Quitting leads to not reading the Bible through in a year. Reading difficult translations like the King James Version, American Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, and to a certain degree the New King James Version may not be a great decision. I know, modern, easy-to-read translations may not sound like the Bible. But that's the point! Modern, easy-to-read versions want the Bible to come at you from a different angle. I will be reading The Message this year. I love the freshness it brings to familiar stories. In the past I have read The New American Standard Version (Updated) and the ESV. Either one would make an excellent read.


Tip 4: Read with a Purpose or a Question

I realize this often morphs into "read with an agenda," but I trust that you see the difference. I've tried the wide-eyed, clean-slate method and it doesn't work well. Without a purpose-driven plan, I come away with some interesting tidbits about the scripture but I never grasp one, solid truth that profoundly changes the way I see things. That is why I encourage you to read with one purpose or question in mind.

Let me give you one purpose or question to think of as you read:

How does this passage contribute to the Gospel: God is setting all things right?

This will be the question I ponder as I read the scripture during the entire year. Those at the Petaluma Church (AKA the Sonoma Mountain Parkway Church of Christ) where I preach will find this theme familiar. Once the lessons are on our website I'll post a link and let everyone see what I mean by the Gospel being "God is setting all things right."


Tip 5: Read with a Group

Finally, this is the one tip that is most crucial but most overlooked. If you wish to read the Bible through in a year, do it in a group, even if that group is one other person. The first year I read the Bible with my girlfriend, who became my wife during the year. We both made it. The second year I tried it alone and didn’t make it. I have found the simple fact of having someone else reading the Bible with you gives you motivation during those mornings you have 100 other things on your mind. Read different version and compare. Read the same, new version and complain about how it doesn't sound right to each other. Tell the others what you are learning. Hear what other read from God's word. Together.

I have challenged everyone at the Petaluma Church to read the Bible through in a year with me. To help with this, every Sunday's sermon will come from either that week's readings or readings in the past. We are going to make it through the entire Bible together. It's the most ambitious preaching schedule I have ever attempted or have heard another preacher attempt. I'm sure we can make it, but I don't know if we'll enjoy it. Come visit us and see.

Now, for the moment you all have been waiting for:

In 2013 I have decided to go one extra step.

I am going to blog through the scripture in a year.

Every day’s reading will have a blog post. Tomorrow you will see the format, so I will not bore you with the details. I will tell you I plan to have links to both The Message's and the ESV's daily readings. So if you wish to read with me, sign up to the right, add me to your RSS reader, or visit daily to see what I've gotten myself into. I can't promise I'll finish the project, but I'll definitely will give it my best.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow starts the Bible through in a year. Pray for its completion!

Have you read through the Bible in a year? What translation would you recommend? Leave a comment in the section below or on the Sonoma Mountain Parkway Church of Christ Facebook page. See you tomorrow!