Monday, March 20, 2017

Bible Reading: Micro or Macro?

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Christians disagree about Bible reading. Of course we all agree that a Christian should be reading their Bible every day... but how should they go about doing it?

On the one side, you could cover the entire Bible in a year, reading multiple chapters a day.

On the other side, many believers love to focus on just a small passage daily, really soaking up and meditating on a few verses.


Through high school and most of college, I tended towards the latter. I would read a few verses each day. Then I'd write out what I understood the passage to be teaching, or a few points of application, or maybe just a single verse or phrase that stuck out to me.

My last year of college a professor I deeply respected made an earnest case for reading the entire Bible every year. With as much time as Christians spend on other lesser things, it was the least we could do, he expressed passionately. When we read the entire Bible, we see God's plan of redemption as a whole, and come to better understand all of who God is and what He says.

I was convicted- despite growing up in the church, memorizing hundreds of verses, and reading my Bible daily, there were still whole books of the Bible that I was largely unfamiliar with.

I've been reading the entire Bible every year for 9 years. Lord willing, I will complete it again this year, marking TEN YEARS. Which I can hardly believe! I now have a much better grasp on the flow of the Bible as a whole. Most of the Scriptures feel familiar to me as I read them now.

The beauty is, I'm of course learning more every time. God's Word is timeless. It never grows old, His Spirit is always speaking through it, and finite creatures will never have a total grasp on the infinite.

But lately I have to admit I've been convicted about my lack of meditation and depth of understanding when it comes to smaller portions of texts. Many days to complete my allotted chapters, I read quickly. Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming half way through a passage. Though I usually like to go back and read whatever I zoned out, I confess that I don't always.

In my rush to get through it all, often the intimacy with God that Scripture reading is supposed to foster is missing.

I was rereading Elizabeth Prentiss' classic work Stepping Heavenward the other day, and I couldn't help but notice that several characters highly recommend reading small bits of Scripture daily, taking the time and care to really absorb them.

This is something that I want to change in my own devotional life.

Both micro and macro reading are important. Let's take a look at why.

Macro: Reading Large Sections of Scripture

  • Promotes Biblical Literacy. It used to be that western culture as a whole was very familiar with the Bible. That is no longer the case... sadly, often even in Christian circles. I strongly believe this is why we see so many believers flirting with liberal teachings clearly contradicted in Scripture. 
  • Gives us a Broader Understanding of God's Work in History as a Whole. Many Christians struggle to see continuity between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New. The more you read the Greatest Story as a whole, the better you will see the God who never changes, and how He works in the world. 
  • It's all God's Word. Every Word that God has given to His people is vitally important, and it's a shame to neglect any part of it. Yes, even the tricky books like Leviticus and Zechariah. Trust me- there are still books that I have a harder time appreciating. But I want to make the effort, because God has given them to us for a reason. 

Micro: Reading Smaller Passages for Deeper Meditation and Understanding
  • We're Commanded to Meditate and Store Up God's Word in our Hearts. All over Scripture! This is very difficult to do with more than a chapter at a time.
  • It's an Opportunity for Deeper Communion with God. Scanning larger chunks doesn't allow much time for digging deep and meeting God in a specific text. 
  • Gives us a Deeper Understanding of Particular Passages. While I feel my understanding of the broader themes of Scripture has grown exponentially, there are so many little gems hidden in each book that I haven't had the time or ability to hunt for and uncover. There are also many passages that I find confusing, or am unsure how to interpret- even as I read over them for the tenth year in a row. Understanding takes set-aside time, methodic work, and effort. 

My mom has a pretty good system. She rotates every other year, reading through the entire Bible one year, then going deeper with a smaller focus the next year. My husband takes about two years to work through his yearly plan, and I think this allows him more of that needful time for meditation and understanding.

Where do I go from here?

I intend to finish what I've begun for this year, and read through the entire Bible again. I hate quitting something midway, so I feel committed to it. Will I do it again next year? I don't know yet. As much as I hate to break my decade long streak, if something different would mean deeper,richer growth in my walk with the Lord, I want to be open to that.

Meanwhile, I'm acknowledging that what I'm doing has some drawbacks, and I'd like to take steps to remedy that. Here's my plan:

1. Every morning, I read the Bible to my kids using the plans from my ebook. These are short passages! My friend Rachel pointed out to me that they are perfect for learning to meditate on smaller sections of Scripture. So each morning as I read to the kids, I'm trying to really slow down, reread, and think through the implications of the text. Even after my time with the kids is done and they leave the table to play for the day.

2. Studying a book on the weekends. My current reading plan only requires 5 days a week. I'm trying to finish them on weekdays, then using the weekends to go through the book of Ephesians {using the plan I talked about in A Starting Place for Personal Bible Study}. This isn't perfect, because many weeks I get behind and need the extra days as catch-up. But I have a friend who is studying the same book in the same way, so accountability helps. And my kids are memorizing Ephesians 6 for their homeschool co-op. Another big help!


I'd love to know: how do you approach your time in the Word? What room for growth or improvement do you see? How have you overcome some of the obstacles mentioned?

Also, if you're looking to go deeper in your understanding of the Word, I highly recommend this book

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