During Christmas of 2016, I pondered on what I wanted the following year to look like. In January of 2017, I decided to read the whole Bible in chronological order. I did so with no desire to accomplish the goal by a certain deadline. Instead, I wanted to take my time, read slowly and seek to learn. I wanted to see and understand the overarching theme of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation.
Because the events aren’t always recorded in the order the books are printed, I looked for and downloaded this reading plan that specified the chronological order of the events, in order to know what passages to read. Eighteen months later, as of my writing this post, I’m currently in the last chapters of the gospels and about to start Acts. Whether you read the Bible one book at a time, or chronologically, it is the most worthwhile investment of your time and effort you will ever make.
With these words, I want to share my personal reasons for reading the Bible, and in doing so, make a case for the importance of Bible literacy. If you are a believer, simply put, reading it is a lifeline. You can’t afford to do without. Hard days will feel harder, and joyful ones will seem like not enough or go unnoticed altogether. We need eyes to see what we can’t see on our own.
If you are a curious seeker, it is a place to get to know the Person behind Christianity. Because Christianity is not simply a set of beliefs. It is a Person Whose life and words hold the truth and meaning you are looking for.
But first, quickly, two reasons for not reading:
-I don’t read it to be a good Christian, there is no such thing. Jesus came for the sick not the healthy. If you identify yourself as a Christian, you are (or should be) aware of how not good you are.
-I don’t read it to be religious. That sounds exhausting and for sure not sustainable in time.
Why read the Bible? And why I read it.
Over the past year and a half, the soundest investment of my time and effort has been cultivating the habit of reading the Bible regularly. To view it as vital a habit as breakfast. Sure, we can go without it, but over an extended period, it will show in our health and concentration. And we can all agree that while a sit down hearty breakfast is ideal, a granola bar on the go or something similar, is still preferable to nothing at all. It is no different for our soul.
So, I will try to have time to connect with God’s word every day. On busy days it may look like a paragraph or two instead of one or two chapters. Every now and then it may be listening to the audio on the metro while running late for a meeting. But the “granola bar” is still better than skipping this vital lifeline altogether.
1)To learn God’s heart and what’s important to Him.
I read it because I want to know God better, what is important to Him, His heart and character. I do not have a natural bend towards those things, so I read it to wrestle and study and savour what it says. To learn and let it simmer deep, one story and book at a time.
2) To let it change me.
Jen Wilkin wrote there is no self-knowledge outside of knowing God. I don’t want to fall prey believing my own faulty narratives or this noisy world’s. For that, I need to know my Maker. What He says about me matters. But it starts with getting to know Him first.
We can’t change ourselves. This is a blessing because in our insufficiency we find He is able. After all, it’s in our weakness that His power is made perfect. Those things we so much want to emulate and give our children, spouse, or neighbour; patience, love, kindness, etc., are fruits of the Spirit. Not ours to bloom, but His. Our time in the Word makes the heart and mind fertile soil.
3) Vision determines direction. What we put our focus is what we will walk toward.
This life we have is a gift, and it is short and precious. While I am here, I want to be savvy with my investments of time, talents, and attention. I have a plethora of good intentions. I have plenty of dreams and aspirations. But all these need direction and wisdom I do not possess. Moreover, I want to put them in a place where I am not looking up at them for validation or identity, and I know that’s easier said than done in my case. Instead, I need a vision of Christ high and lifted up.
Because there are so many things I want to do, and I have a limited amount of time on this earth, I don’t want to go through life in relentless pursuit feeling I am running out of time and always wanting more of something that does not satisfy. I’ve been there, and the results were detrimental. Rather, I want to tend to the opportunities at hand, from a place of peace, secure with my identity firmly rooted on the Rock of Ages, whose validation of my personhood is provided through His sacrifice on the cross.
You don’t need to read it chronologically. Doing so simply provided a plan for me to follow. I chose it because I wanted to get an appreciation for the whole picture. But prior to this, I picked a book from either the Old or the New Testament and studied it one chapter at a time. A tool that has been pivotal in my approach to Scripture is the book Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. Other than the Bible itself, if you read only one book this year, make it that one. I was blessed to be part of a church community that intentionally sought out women to read and discuss this book together. It forever changed how I read the Bible.
Lastly, a word of encouragement. The Bible is a living breathing Word, written intentionally about God, for you. As we seek to sincerely interact with it, we will find in those pages Truth that sets free and gives life in a way that is otherworldly and changes you from within. Nothing will minister to you more than witnessing your own heart change in the hands of a God that is beckoning and responding, doing things inside you that begin to show on the outside through no doing of your own.