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Non-legalistic Ways to Read the Bible Consistentlyby Duane mabee on July 25, 2019
A couple of years ago, I became convicted of my need to read the Bible more than I do – for my own spiritual growth, not just for sermon and teaching preparations. But I knew that if I tried one of the fixed reading programs, I was likely to give up before long. I have never done well with any of the “read the Bible in a year” programs. I don’t deal well with how they skip around the Bible. I fall behind and feel guilty. It’s too many chapters each day. Name the reason, I’ve probably used it.
This time I decided to take a much less rigid approach. The plan I came up with is to read 5 chapters at least 4 days a week. Psalm 119 counts as five chapters, just in case you’re wondering. Most weeks I read 5 or 6 days of the week, but I target 4 so that I don’t get legalistic about it. Some days, I read more than 5 chapters. I always read straight through a book of the Bible, but I don’t usually read the books in order. I move back and forth between the New Testament and the Old. That way I’m not stuck in the judgments of the Old Testament prophets for long stretches at a time. This less rigid approach keeps me engaged, and I often get through the entire Bible in less than a year.
I vary the pattern from time to time. For example, I just finished reading straight through the Chronological Bible. Right now, I’m reading through the New Testament books in the order of the dates they were written. Using different patterns keeps my mind engaged and helps me see the Scriptures from different angles. I also read a different translation from the one I usually preach and teach from. That helps me keep my reading for personal growth separated from my sermon preparation and it helps me get a richer understanding of the Bible.
Rather than read for speed, that is, just to get through a specific number of chapters per day, I find it more meaningful to read for relationship. As I read, I try to have an ongoing dialogue with God about what I’m reading and how He wants to apply it to my life. When I read for speed, I often walk away from my reading time unable to remember what I read. The goal isn’t to get through the Bible. It is to get the Bible into me and adjust every area of my life to it.
I don’t tell you these things so that you can be impressed with me. That wouldn’t help you any way. These are just ideas you might want to try to increase your ability to read the Bible and stay engaged. They might spark ideas I haven’t thought of. The goal is to lessen the legalism while getting us more into God’s Word, so that He can use it in our lives to make us more like Jesus. No guilt trips. Just encouragement.