I challenge you!

Since 2012 I've been reading through the Bible every year, and I've found it to be one of the greatest spiritual disciplines.

One of the great joys of this discipline is that each year begins and ends with the Tree of Life. The first man and first woman were locked out of the Garden of Eden before they could eat from it and live forever in their fallen state. At the end we see that, if we choose to be with Him for eternity, the Lord invites us to partake of the Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem.

When I was in my teens I read through the whole Bible. It was a stupendous experience, but I didn't repeat it until I married Joyce. One of her early disciplers laminated a reading plan that she continues to use from year to year, though this year she's reading through the One Year Pray for America Bible. For the first seven years of our marriage I read through the whole Bible year after year. Out of that process I wrote my plays The Revelation and The Acts. My knowledge of scripture was better than ever, and it drew me closer to the Lord.

Then my schedule got busy. My reading plan fell by the wayside. I was reading most days, but I was just dipping in here and there. That was beneficial, but in 2012 I committed to reading through the full Bible again, and the difference is night and day! I haven't missed a year since then, and I highly recommend it.

In fact I challenge you!

I have friends reading my posts who are atheists. I even challenge you to read through the whole Bible in the coming year. There is a long list of atheists that found the Love of the Lord at least in part through scripture reading: C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Franz Mohr (the piano tuner for Horowitz), and personal friends of ours. 

Even if you've been a Christian for years I recommend reading through the whole Bible every year. There's so much false teaching out there some of it can sound great if you're not grounded in the Word of God. 

As you read you may run into things that don't make sense. Though we can draw principles for ourselves from most passages of Scripture they were all written for people who lived when it was written. For instance in John 10:27 Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." I was honored to take an evangelism class from Dr. J. Christy Wilson when I attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He told how, when he was a missionary to Afghanistan, he happened upon a group of shepherds. Their sheep were all mixed together, but when one of them would call to them, his sheep would separate themselves out from the others and follow that shepherd. Thinking it was a certain command that had brought the desired effect, Dr. Wilson approached one of the shepherds and asked if he could try it. The shepherd laughed at him, and said, "They don't know your voice." 

Grab a good commentary, and it will help these passages come to life and make sense. Reading the Bible for All It's Worth, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, and the IVP Bible Background Commentary for Old and New Testaments are all great resources. 

Also, trust that God is loving and wants the best for his children, even when we who are not omniscient don't understand everything. Joyce shared a teaching in which she told how a passage troubled her every year until one year it made sense. She also spends some time talking about the power of reading scripture through every year.

Now you need a reading plan. I suggest YouVersion. You can read on your computer, smartphone and/or tablet, and it keeps track in the cloud. One of the ways I was able to stay on track... Okay, it's confession time: When I restarted my annual Bible reading discipline I didn't actually get all the way through in 2012. I started in October of 2011. There's a "catch up" button that adjusts your start and finish days so that you don't have to find where you are on the calendar if you get off pace. It just sets the next reading at the current day. ...Now, for the way I've been able to stay on track to finish by New Year's: My friend, Max McLean. The NIV version has a button you can click and Max reads the passage to you on your device. So you can stay on top of your reading plan while you're doing dishes, folding laundry, commuting, exercising, etc. Many versions have a reader, and it's free. 

YouVersion has 50 different reading plans just for reading through the whole Bible. They have a number of others that are shorter, if you want to start there. I sometimes enjoy the Chronological plan which allows you to read in the order it was written (as much as is known). So while reading Acts, after Luke tells about Paul in Corinth, it jumps to his letters to the Corinthians. They also have a plan that, like Joyce's laminated plan, mixes Old Testament and New Testament. That would be a great one if you've never read through the Bible before because on genealogy days it will be paired with the stories of their Descendent Jesus. By the way, over the years I've used those long passages of names to remind me of God's faithfulness through family lines, that each individual listed had a unique story, and I've even prayed for their descendants.

Joyce and I performed in the film Indescribablewhich tells how the character I play, Frederick Lehman, finishes his hymn "The Love of God," with a verse based on the Akdamut, written by a rabbi in the Middle Ages. There's a scene in which a modern rabbi explains that every line of the Akdamut ends with the syllable "ta," which is spelled with the last letter (ת, tav) and the first letter (א, aleph) of the Hebrew language. It's an admonition that when one finishes reading the Word of God one should begin again. 

This year Joyce and I are going to read through the C.S. Lewis Bible, using the plan of the Chronological Bible on YouVersion to keep us on track. Join us if you'd like. If you post comments or questions the app will alert us, and we'll respond as soon as we can.  

In 2021 I read through The Bible Project Reading Plan. I've really been blessed by The Bible Project, which illustrates (literally) the truths of Scripture with summaries of Books of the Bible and thematic summaries which trace an idea through the whole of Scripture. At the start of each book or section of a book they have that video precede the reading. On other days it's just the Scripture, except where they include their thematic illustrations. Here are the first two videos, one of each type:


In 2020 I also decided to read through the Book of John throughout the year. In May of 2019 I was in an Off-Broadway production of Revelation, and when I was in that one book day after day it brought understanding and a richness that was profound. Now when I read through Revelation I can hear the songs of the musical even if I'm reading in a different translation. Since John was written by "the disciple Jesus loved," I've always thought John to be the most important book of the Bible. Search for John under reading plans on the YouVersion app. There are a bunch of them.

This post can be found at www.RichDrama.com/BibleReading.

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Rich Swingle said...
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