Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bible Reading-Yes You Can!

The checkmarks have just about filled the page on the “Read through the Bible in a year” reading plan.  I have two more boxes to check and then, I will have successfully completed another read through the entire Bible.

So, I need to print out another copy and decide which Bible I’m going to use this coming year.  When I first started doing this oh some 20 odd years ago, the NIV Bible was the “big hit” translation to use.  I did use it for many years and anyone who has borrowed that particular Bible during Sunday School class has seen all of my highlights and underlines and notes from over the years.  Then came the Amplified Bible because it was supposed to more clearly explain certain words.  I used it until it literally split in two.  It still sits on the shelf, notes and all, proud but worn!

Some years, instead of doing a formal read through, I might do an in-depth word study (find all of the verses that use the word joy for example), or focus on particular books in the Bible (Psalms or Proverbs for example) or do a study on Fruits of the Spirit.  But at the beginning of 2011 I decided that I really needed to do a formal read through again and I wanted to make it fun!  I wasn’t so focused on gaining insight as I was in discovering the joy of reading through the Bible again.  I have no idea how long Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” Bible paraphrase had been sitting on my shelf, but it’s been quite a few years.  It was time to pull it off the shelf and use it!  What a joy, what a pleasure it has been, reading through the Bible this year!

Yes, it is not an exact translation and Mr. Peterson is quick to point that out.  But it is a readable and relatable translation and I did gain new insights this year, simply from reading.  I found myself reading these historical stories and finding similarities to what is going on in the world today.  The names and places may be different, but the pain and anguish, the joy and celebration are still the same!  Thousands of years separate us from the writers and yet, they could be writing about current events today.  If anything, it demonstrates just how truly inspired the text is to be able to bridge generations!

So, now I have to decide which translation to use for 2012 and I think instead of buying the latest and greatest, I am going to use one that has been out for awhile-The Wesley Study Bible.  I used it while I was doing Disciple Bible Study and I really like the notes that are found throughout the entire Bible.   I hope that it strengthens my understanding of “the Wesleyan tradition” and the basic tenets of the Methodist faith.  There was a part of me that thought about just doing a word study instead this year but I like the purposeful goal of reading the good book again!  It’s easy to slip out of the habit of reading daily when you are not following an exact plan!

So for those of you who are considering the goal of reading through the Bible in a year, let me encourage you to do so.  It is worth the effort!  Here are some tips for making it through successfully:

-Pick a translation that you are going to be comfortable reading.  If you get frustrated by the words, then you are going to feel like you are just not capable enough to understand it and you are more likely to quit.  If this is your first time pick a translation like the NIV or NRSV or The Message-something that speaks in the current language of today.

-Pick a reading plan that will work for you.  The plan that I have used does not start you at the beginning and work it’s way through the end.  If it did, I’d be done by March because Leviticus and Numbers drive me nuts-all the rules and regulations and bean counting!  For some people, starting at Genesis in January and reading through to Revelation in December works for them.  The reading plan I use gives me variety throughout the week.  Epistles, Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, Gospels.  I like the variety!  Keeps things interesting!

-If you fall behind, don’t worry about it!  Simply catch up when you can!  Life happens and sometimes you will get behind in daily Bible Reading!  It’s okay!  Don’t quit-simply read a little extra when you have the time because you will catch up!

-Don’t be afraid to highlight, underline and write notes in the margins.  This is your personal textbook for life and it is worth keeping track of your thoughts and insights.  If you prefer to keep your Bible pristine then keep a journal.  Either way, keep track of your thoughts and feelings in some form.

-If reading through the Bible in a year seems too daunting, then decide to start somewhere.  Read a Psalm a day.  Read a Proverb a day.  Read the Gospels.  Make the decision to read your Bible!  The only way that you are going to get comfortable with reading the Bible is to start!  The more comfortable you become with reading the Bible the more confident you will become in your ability to do so!

-If you have a question, find someone to ask.  Someone that you can trust, and feel comfortable talking to and who is spiritually mature.  You’re going to have questions!  That’s good!

-Do you have a long commute to work?  How about getting an audio copy of the Bible to pop in while you are driving?  Why not use the time for learning?

Make becoming familiar with your Bible a goal for 2012.  There is a specific reason behind this idea.  There are a lot of very public figures out there “preaching the gospel” and sometimes it can be really tough to separate the wheat from the chaff.  They can and do put a spin on things.  They are not always accurate or correct.  It is much easier to assess the validity of their statements if you are familiar with your Bible in the first place!  It is very easy to take a verse of scripture out of the Bible, out of context and use it to justify a position.  The more familiar you are with scripture the easier it is to spot such attempts.

Is reading through the Bible in a year easy?  No.  Is it worth the effort?  Yes!  Trust me, you will be blessed by the effort!

And thank you, Mr. Peterson, for helping me find the joy in reading, once again!

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