This blog is for any reader who wants to get to know God better. Why not take this season of isolation as a Godsend—as a chance to spend time with him? Through bold Bible reading?
On Monday I met with Greg by video connection. He’s pastor of Harvest Community Church, near my home. He had just finished reading the Bible in a little over three months. As we talked about the reading experience he said it really took off after he started listening to an audio Bible while he had his print-Bible open in front of him. He adjusted the default slow-speed Bible voice to normal talking speed and underlined verses in his text as he listened.
Reading the entire Bible without a break takes about 75 hours. Much less than a week. And with sleep, about a week—as Philip Yancey once reported. And I know a pair of young teens who read it in a month. On two occasions I’ve done it in six weeks.
It’s not hard once we get the rhythm. Reading individual Bible books in a sitting, for instance, is the best way to track with them. And I find that reading for 30-35 minutes each morning gets me through the entire Bible in about four months—or three times each year. It never gets old.
Why do it?
To be with God—and to grow in faith. As the apostle Paul wrote, faith only comes by hearing the word of God. And as Jesus told his followers twice on the first Easter, the Bible—he referred to the whole Old Testament—is about him: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Treat this as Christ’s invitation to see what he was referring to. And the New Testament is also all about Jesus—including stories about his community of followers—that grew out of his brief time on earth.
The Bible also promises that God pours out his love by the Spirit in his followers (Romans 5:5). So, as we read the Bible we have the Spirit’s tangible ‘voice’ who affirms God’s love. He, after all, both moved Bible writers in what they wrote (2 Tim. 3:16 & 2 Pet. 1:21) and is present in our own reading experience today as Paul promised in 1 Corinthians 2.
Yet it’s not an easy read! Here’s one big reason why. It’s a love story that goes bad from the start. God reveals himself as One who exists eternally as Father, Son, and Spirit. Or, as one writer put it, in the unity of Lover, Beloved, and Love. And the Father’s goal is to find a bride for his Son by creating relational communion with creatures made in his own relational image.
That’s us! But love can’t be imposed. It lives through wooing and response. Yet God’s bond with the first couple was broken when an alternative love, self-love, took over. So, the entire Bible is devoted to restoring our broken relationship. It’s a book about a jilted lover, God, and his effort to restore his broken marriage. See, for instance, Jeremiah 31:31-34 on this. Or all of Hosea.
In Bible reading, then, our false expectations are a problem. The Bible doesn’t make us the stars. Instead it treats us as rascals who deserted our divine lover in search of new thrills. So, as Jesus said in launching his ministry, “repent!” Dismiss a self-focused gaze—as in, “what do I get out of this?”—and look beyond: “Jesus, show me your face!”
This shift of ambition is where reading starts to come alive. It’s where we start to see how much human selfishness—“whoredom”—dominates the Bible, and how God persists in finding those in the human race who he knows will respond to the Son’s beauty (see Psalm 2). And as we realize he’s actually wooing us, wanting us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” the Bible begins to come alive!
If you have any time why not take up this invitation?
Ask the Lord to open the eyes of your heart, to give you ears to hear, and an appetite to taste and see his goodness. I promise you, simply shift your heart-gaze, start reading, and this time of crisis will turn into a life-changing gift.