Think of your favorite book, the one you read in one sitting because you just couldn’t bear to put it down. The Hobbit? One of the Harry Potter books? A best seller by John Grisham or Clive Cussler? I bet it wasn’t the Bible.
We agree that the Bible is important reading, but is it exciting? Once you know that Noah survives the flood, that David confesses his sin regarding Uriah and Bathsheba, and that Jesus rises from the dead, you’ve got to admit that the Bible just isn’t that suspenseful. In fact, reading it often feels like hard work.
So, we tend to find reasons not to read our Bibles. And that means we don’t know what it says.
Our church decided to make a “man on the street” video a few years ago. A film crew headed downtown to ask random pedestrians if they could name ten different brands of beer. Most people didn’t even hesitate as they quickly listed at least that many. Then the same people were asked to recall the Ten Commandments. Hardly anyone got past three. (This is harder than you might think, even out of order. I got to seven and got stuck.)
When the Ten Commandments proved to be too much a challenge, the guy with the mike asked people to name the four Gospels. Most folks couldn’t do that either. In fact, they weren’t even sure who built the ark.
The next Sunday the video was shown at church. Of course, the congregation laughed as the victims squirmed in front of the camera. But as I snickered along with the rest, I secretly wondered how much better I could do if I was put on the spot like that.
Both Pete and I are compulsive readers. We always seem to have at least one book open on the nightstand. Yet, it was hard to spend time reading the Bible. We already knew how the stories ended. Reading through all the laws and rituals can put even a caffeine addict to sleep. Paul’s sentences are convoluted and his logic is often hard to follow. (Even Peter thought so; check out 2 Peter 3:15-16!)
Many years ago, Pete proposed we begin making the Bible a priority by disciplining ourselves—neither of us would read anything else until we read the Bible each morning. No newspapers. No cereal boxes. No email. Definitely not the novel that kept me up late last night.
At first it was hard, but over the years that commitment has turned out to be a wonderful blessing. Every day I read until God speaks to me through His word. Some days it’s one verse, while other mornings I plow through several chapters. Eventually, something I read jumps out at me as being pertinent for that moment. At that point, I usually spend some time discussing the topic with God in prayer.
I know that God can speak in lots of ways, but the Bible was written specifically for this purpose. In that, it’s unique. Harry Potter might be a great story, even a Christian parable, but it isn’t the inspired word of God. When I read the Bible, the Holy Spirit is speaking to me.
When we made this decision to read God’s word first each day, I had just gotten a new Bible, so I started at Genesis 1:1 and just kept going. When I finally finished Revelation, (it took me two years), I flipped back to the start again. I find it helpful to mark up my Bible as I read, but eventually I ran out of space for my notes. The next time I found myself back at “In the beginning…” I bought a different translation (with wider margins).
I’m not legalistic about this. There are mornings when we have to make an early run to the airport, or I leave well before dawn to get the first light for a photo shoot. Sometimes, my Bible reading has to wait.
Other times, God directs me to a specific passage that’s different from where I’ve been reading. No problem. It’s nice to take a break now and then, especially if I’m wading through Leviticus or Numbers.
Pete and I have found this a practical guideline that has helped us over the years, and I wanted to share it with you. You may have your own way of approaching Scripture reading that keeps you hungry for God’s word. I’d love if you could share it here.