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Thursday, April 25, 2013

It's Not Too Late to Join the Bible Reading Group!

Well, the PBF bible reading group is approximately two months into our six-month trip through the bible. Having gone a little ways down the road, I thought it would be good to give you an update and to encourage you that its not too late to join us.

There seems to be three common reasons for the difficulty that people have with reading through the bible on a regular basis.  First, many people do not spend significant time in the Word because of a lack of accountability.  Without someone coming alongside us to enjoy the journey with us, it is all too easy to let life crowd the bible out of our schedules.  We need help to stay on track.  

Second, many of us do not function well with a lack of structure.  When exhorted to read the bible, many people have no idea where to start.  We end up treating the bible like a Ouija board, randomly landing on a few verses for the day, understanding nothing of the context and taking no meaningful truth with us into the day.  Said another way, many people do not spend time in the Word because they do not have a user-friendly plan for reading. 

Third, without someone to help us understand the overall storyline, many of us struggle to make sense of the bible, which makes reading it a rote drudgery. For some, the bible has always been a confusing jumble of many different types of literature with no overarching trajectory from beginning to the end. For this reason, when we do read, we gravitate toward those books that are easiest for us to understand, perhaps the Gospels or Proverbs. However, after reading nothing but these books for an extended period, we become bored and stop reading altogether.

I believe that the PBF reading group for the most part has removed these three obstacles to successful, habitual, broad reading of Scripture.  First, the group has provided an automatic mechanism for accountability in that the participants know that every other Saturday morning the group will be discussing a specific portion of Scripture.  This serves as a soft nudge to stay on schedule. Additionally, each member is encouraged to “buddy up” with another member for the purpose of regular encouragement and accountability during the two-week period between each meeting. Going two weeks without any interaction with another reader could be a recipe for falling behind and eventually giving up. Having someone to interact with has been a great blessing for us on the journey so far.  Overall, the knowledge that we are all traveling the same road and counting on each other for strength and encouragement has motivated us to stay the course.  

A second way that this group has overcome typical obstacles to successful bible reading is through the structure of the reading plan. No one ever gets out of bed in the morning without a clue what to read. For six months, none of us will have to worry about that. It may seem ludicrous, but the elimination of that one question represents the removal of a major barrier to spending regular time in the Word. 

The reading group has eliminated a third obstacle to bible reading by both reading at an accelerated pace and by using a reading companion, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment.  With a typical “read through the bible in a year” plan, the pace is too slow to make some of the biblical theological connections necessary to make sense of the storyline of Scripture.  Reading a larger portion of text each day has helped us to maintain an eye on the forest while still noticing the trees. Additionally, the use of a good biblical theology text has been an invaluable assistance to us, many of whom have ever read the bible from a biblical theological perspective.  We are all reading with new eyes, seeing repeated pictures of the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, repeated demonstrations of the gender struggle created by the Fall, and repeated displays of God’s judgment and mercy side-by-side, all pointing toward the coming of Christ.  These daily discoveries have led to an unexpected result.  Rather than struggling to keep up with the reading schedule, many participants are finding themselves reading ahead after getting caught up in the storyline.  Those who previously found Leviticus and Numbers to be the most difficult reading in Scripture actually enjoyed these books as they recognized the richness they hold from a biblical theological perspective.  

So let me encourage you that it is not too late to join us.  You don’t have to catch up; simply jump in on the reading for today (the reading plan can be found here).  And don’t worry about being condemned if you don’t finish the reading for any given week.  The group is a no-condemnation zone.  You won't be hassled; you’ll only be encouraged to keep going!  It may be just the thing you need to get you back into God’s Word on a regular basis.  Our next meeting is Saturday, May 4th at 7:30a at the church.  Hope to see you there!

Posted by Greg Birdwell

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