"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"

Father God, thank you for the love of the truth you have given me. Please bless me with the wisdom, knowledge and discernment needed to always present the truth in an attitude of grace and love. Use this blog and Northwoods Ministries for your glory. Help us all to read and to study Your Word without preconceived notions, but rather, let scripture interpret scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit. All praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Reading the Bible Through in a Year and Why You Shouldn't

Most evangelical churches these days have programs where you read through the Bible in a year

Some push their congregants to do so every year. This is most unfortunate and not in the best interests of the person, the church, or God. Let me explain, borrowing from an old pastor I heard some years ago:

He worked in the coal mines in the Canadian Rockies as a young man, and he likened reading the Bible through in a year with strip-mining. Strip-mining in coal will yield great amounts of coal, but it will be soft, cheap, and dirty coal that is not worth a great deal. If you want the hard, clean, valuable coal, you have to dig for it.

Here's another analogy from my yet-to-be-published book: If you want to study a lake would you get a speedboat and roar around the lake at breakneck speed? You might; it might give you an idea of how big the lake is but it wouldn't tell you much else about the lake. 

What you really need to do is to get a small boat, some diving gear, some instruments and jump into the lake and start taking measurements of temperature, depth, currents, salinity, acidity, etc. You would try to count the various types and amounts of marine life. You would study  the condition of the bottom, the condition of the marine life, the condition of the water as to pollution. Are you getting my point?

Madame Jeanne Guyon had this all figured out in the 17th century. 

Read this excerpt from A Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer:

Meditative reading is choosing some important practical or speculative truth, always preferring the practical, and proceeding thus: whatever truth you have chosen, read only a small portion of it, endeavoring to taste and digest it, to extract the essence and substance of it, and proceed no farther while any savor or relish remains in the passage: then take up your book again, and proceed as before, seldom reading more than half a page at a time.

It is not the quantity that is read, but the manner of reading, that yields us profit. Those who read fast, reap no more advantage, than a bee would by only skimming over the surface of the flower, instead of waiting to penetrate into it, and extract its sweets. Much reading is rather for scholastic subjects, than divine truths; to receive profit from spiritual books, we must read as I have described; and I am certain that if that method were pursued, we should become gradually adapted to prayer by our reading, and more likely to practise it.

Guyon notes that St. Augustine, one of the great fathers of the faith, practised meditative prayer way back in the late 4th or early 5th century. She states that he blamed himself for not starting it earlier in life.

Is it possible that this skimming through the Bible is responsible for the seeming shallowness of some congregations? Many people simply don't have the time to read the large amounts of scripture needed to get through the Bible in a year, so they either don't, or they read out of obligation and with one eye on the clock. That's no way to learn scripture. 

I'm not saying don't read through the Bible; we need to do that every so many years to keep it in perspective. But there is just no need to rush through it to meet some arbitrary deadline. Read it slowly, savour it, enjoy it, even if it takes you three years to read it cover to cover.

Read it slowly expecting God to reveal something of Himself to you. Read a single verse (in some cases), reread it paying close attention to each word. Is there something there, even a single word that you don't completely understand? Stop! Look it up in a Biblical dictionary. Read commentaries on it. Follow chain links to other scriptures and follow some links to further scriptures from them. Get as much information on it as you can dig up, then sit back and meditate on it. Allow God to bring some clarity to the word or the issue before you move on. 

I like to keep notes on what I've learned, either on paper or in computer files. They can come in very handy when revisiting a particular topic.

That's how to begin to go deep. That's how to begin to understand God, to listen to Him, to be more like Him, to be made perfect and complete so that you might be made one with Him. That's why we are here!