Read the Bible!

January 2, 2015 § 2 Comments

Few things are as satisfying as a good story. From the time we incessantly begged, “Just one more before bedtime, pleeeze!” to “I think I can get this next chapter done before I have to get some sleep”—stories have captivated us. Although different people are drawn to different types of writing, the common attraction among all is, I believe, the development of the story itself. It’s what keeps us reading. Heroes in impossible predicaments, sleuths combing through the scenes of “perfect” crimes, thawing of frozen relationships, tripping through the twists and turns of international intrigue—whatever the situation, we both love the story and want to see how it ends.

Why, then, is it that we don’t approach the Bible this way? Isn’t it filled with drama, suspense, intrigue—and even romance? Sure, it is—more than that, it’s all true! But I believe we have a natural apprehension to reading the Bible as a story. There are a number of reasons for this—not the least of which being the suspicion that we aren’t supposed to actually enjoy the Bible but “get something out of it”—as if it were a kind of verbal medicine.

I’m on a mission to change that for as many people as possible. The whole Bible is a story—God’s story—about the creation, fall and redemption of the people of God. The problem is that the Bible, though inspired by God, has been arranged by men, who grouped the books of the Bible by content and genre, not by chronology. Grouping by theme makes sense if you approach Scripture as if it were a spiritual encyclopedia—which may be one of the reasons the Concordance is perhaps the most used portion of modern study Bibles!

If the Bible is indeed a story, it makes more sense to read it just like that—scene by scene, witnessing key character development, and experiencing how the passage of time heightens the increasing drama of God’s unfolding purpose.

But how do read the Bible like a story if it isn’t arranged like a story? Well, thankfully, that question has been answered by the late John W. Kohlenberger, an evangelical scholar who developed a Bible-reading schedule that takes the reader through Scripture chronologically in one year’s time. By God’s providence I came across this schedule as brand-new Christian, and the first time I ever read through the Bible it was by using this format. It is the Bible reading format we have offered at McIlwain for the past 12 years.

It was amazing to me to see the story of God’s promised grace unfolding throughout the history of the Old Testament into its fulfillment in the New. Kohlenberger drops the Psalms into their historical contexts so that you read, for example, David’s Psalms of repentance (32 and 51) as soon as you read the account of his affair with Bathsheba. The reading of Kings and Chronicles is interspersed with the writings of the prophets who were contemporary at the time. The same is true for the book of Acts and Paul’s letters.

More than anything, this Bible-reading schedule will help head-off the near-universal complaint that most readers of traditional schedules give: “I just can’t see how it all relates and I got bogged down in all the details.”

If you have never successfully read through the entire Bible, take this opportunity to make it through the Word this year. Even if you have a Bible-reading program, I want to encourage you to try this particular one this year. If you are interested, contact me at plexirev@gmail.com and I will respond with the schedule. It’s only January 2, so it’s not too late to double up–for now.  Don’t wait too long, though.

Even if this format is not for you—there are all kinds of through-the-Bible plans. Click here for a list of 12 different Bible reading plans, including M’Cheyne’s well-used and loved plan.

Bottom line: read the Word—faithfully, every day and with a prayerful, teachable and expectant heart!  God will bless!

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