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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Let's read the Bible!

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2Tim 3:16-17)
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psa 119:105)
Most likely we would all agree with these words from Scripture. There is great joy, help, and guidance to be gained from knowing and applying God’s Word.  Yet, for most of us, the Bible remains a big, foggy enigma.  Why is this?  It’s HUGE!  And it is composed of 66 diverse books from numerous genres, all written a long time ago in languages foreign to us.  It just doesn’t read like the books we read for pleasure today.
For many Christians, the Bible is a large, confusing book composed of smaller, confusing books.  Because of its size, most of us never purpose to read the whole thing in a compressed time frame with the whole storyline of Scripture in view.  Instead, we read through it slowly and/or sporadically, which makes it very difficult to get a sense of how everything fits together.  For that reason, there doesn’t seem to be any unity to the various parts.
Can you identify with that?  Is the Bible largely a mystery to you?  Do you desire to gain a broad familiarity with God’s Word, but the task just seems too big?  If we’re all being honest, the vast majority of us are in the same boat. 
What we need is a plan to read through the Bible systematically and quickly, with help to see the unifying theme that runs through the whole thing.  So…
You are invited to join me in doing just that.  Beginning on Saturday, February 23, I will be starting a reading group open to anyone who is interested – man and woman, young and old.  Our objective will be to read through the entire Bible in 180 days.  To help us see a major unifying theme that runs through every book of the Bible, we will also be reading God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: ABiblical Theology, by Dr. James Hamilton.  (I’ve recently read this book. I found it to be an invaluable help in seeing and celebrating the unity of Scripture.)  We will meet every other Saturday at 7:30a at the church to discuss what we’ve read and to offer one another encouragement.  Lord willing, our final meeting will be on Saturday, August 24, when we will celebrate and praise God for His grace in seeing us through.
How will this systematic approach be helpful to you?  First of all, we will not be doing it alone.  It is always easier to do something difficult when others are doing it right alongside you.  Second, we will be doing it relatively quickly, which will make it far easier to see how the pieces fit together and to get a feel for the flow of Scripture.  Third, we will benefit from each other’s observations.  You will observe connections between the various parts of the Bible that others will not, and vice-versa.  As we share and discuss, we will gain a greater appreciation for the unity of Scripture.  Fourth, because we will using God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment as a companion, it will be like reading through Scripture with a godly, world-class scholar sitting next to us, pointing out important landmarks as we go.  Fifth, it’s aggressive.  It will require both commitment and dependence upon the Lord.  I have found that tasks requiring those two things are generally more rewarding and more likely to be completed than those that allow a casual, I-can-do-it-in-my-own-strength approach.
All of that being said, this will be a condemnation-free group.  If you miss a week, if you get behind and have to skip some reading, or if you have to drop out altogether, you will not be condemned.  If you read even one chapter – praise God!  On the other hand, if you really want some firm accountability, let the group know and we will offer that as well. 
You may be wondering how much time it will take you to do the reading each day.  Since everyone reads at different speeds, it’s difficult to say.  But here is a good way to gauge for yourself: the first day’s reading is Gen 1-7.  Since the length of each day’s reading is roughly the same, if you time yourself reading Gen 1-7, you’ll have a pretty good estimate of the amount of time needed each day.  If you read God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment as you go, you’ll most likely only need 2-5 additional minutes each day for that.  It’s going to seem like a lot.  But I’m confident that if we look at how we use our time each day, most of us will be able to find enough time to do the reading.
Give it some thought.  At our first meeting on Saturday, February 23, I will hand out the reading schedule and give a general overview of how we will use our time together.  If over the next three weeks you still haven’t decided, come to that first meeting – it may help you make a decision.  Coming to the meeting certainly doesn’t obligate you to join the group. 
I’m so excited about taking on this adventure!  By God’s grace, at the end of six months, we’ll have a greater understanding of God’s Word, a greater hunger to know it more, and a greater passion to apply it to our lives.  I hope to see you on the 23rd!
Posted by Greg Birdwell

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