How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013
by Matt Smethurst
When it comes to daily (or not-so-daily) Bible reading, January 1 can be a welcome arrival. A new year signals a new start. You’re motivated to freshly commit to what you know is of indispensable importance: the Word of God.
Yet this isn’t the first time you’ve felt this way. You were entertaining pretty similar thoughts 365 days ago. And 365 days before that. And 365 days . . . you know how it goes.
So what’s going to make 2013 different? What, under God, will keep you plodding along in April this year when staying power has generally vanished in Aprils of yore? From one stumbling pilgrim to another, here are five suggestions for what not to do in 2013.
1. Don’t Overextend
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!"
This hackneyed high school yearbook quote is bad advice for most things, Bible reading plans not excepted. If you shoot for and miss the "moon" of six chapters a day, you won’t quietly land among the "stars" of three. You’ll just be lost in space.
It’s better to read one chapter a day, every day, than four a day, every now and then. Moreover, the value of meditation cannot be overstressed. Meditation isn’t spiritualized daydreaming; it’s riveted reflection on revelation. Read less, if you must, to meditate more. It’s easy to encounter a torrent of God’s truth, but without absorption—and application—you will be little better for the experience.
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As Thomas White once said, "It is better to hear one sermon only and meditate on that, than to hear two sermons and meditate on neither." I think that’s pretty sage advice for Scripture reading, too.
2. Don’t Do It Alone
When it comes to Bible reading consistency, a solo sport mentality can be lethal. Surely that’s why many run out of gas; they feel like they’re running alone. To forestall the dangers of isolation, then, invite one or two others to join you in 2013. Set goals, make a commitment, and hold one another accountable. Turn your personal Scripture reading into a team effort, a community project.
A daily devotional, too, can function as a helpful companion and guide. D. A. Carson’s For the Love of God (Volume 1; Volume 2) and Nancy Guthrie’s Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament are two excellent options.
3. Don’t Just Do It Whenever
Every morning we awaken to a fresh deluge of information. We’ve now reached the point where, I’ve heard it said, an average weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than Jonathan Edwards encountered in his entire lifetime. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure makes me think…
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