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Showing posts with label #Read. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Read. Show all posts

31 December 2018

Why you’re not gonna read the bible in a year.

Well you’re not. Let’s be upfront about that. It’s because you’re doing it wrong.

January’s coming, and with it come a lot of new resolutions, many of which you’re probably gonna break; I already discussed why.

Among them will likely be a resolution to read the bible. The whole bible; not just your favorite bits. So you’ll grab one of the popular reading plans and get started. And won’t finish. You’ll peter out around March. Maybe sooner.

No I’m not just saying this out of pessimism. Nor lack of confidence in your ability to be self-disciplined. I’ve known plenty of Christians with plenty of self-control, yet for the life of ’em they can’t manage to get through the bible. It really frustrates them.

I know why, of course: They’re doing it wrong.

How do you read a book? Well, we first gotta assume you read for enjoyment. Many don’t. Therefore they’re already not gonna enjoy reading bible, ’cause they don’t enjoy reading anything. Their reading-comprehension skills aren’t gonna be all that great either. Reading-retention skills are also gonna be lousy.

Reading the bible has been known to be a wonderful way of getting people into the practice of reading for enjoyment. Zealous new believers will pick up a bible, find they can’t put it down, whip right through it… and soon after, seek something else to read. Reading the bible turned them into readers! But if the first thing you introduce these newbies to is a bible-reading plan, it’ll suck all the fun out of reading, and good luck getting them to realize reading can be fun.

Because the way bible-reading plans are structured, they are poison to reading comprehension. To reading retention. To natural pacing. To context. To enjoyment! They turn what should be informative and inspiring, into a chore. And people hate chores, and are happy to find excuses to get out of ’em. “Whoops, missed two readings. Oh well; guess I’ll start over again next January.” Then they don’t.

Bible-reading plans begin by making two massive mistakes:

  • They last a year.
  • They chop up the bible into 365 segments. (Or 366 in leap years, or 313 if they let you take Saturdays off.)

These are design features of the yearlong reading plan. And they are the very things which make the plans terrible.

05 September 2017

“Devotions”: Times we especially focus on God.

And hopefully pray. Don’t forget to pray!

DEVOTIONS /di'voʊ.ʃənz/ n. Prayers, religious observances, or worship.
[Devotional /di'voʊ.ʃən.əl/ adj.]

It’s a really good idea for Christians to block off several minutes of time, every single day, solely for the purpose of connecting with God. A little bible, a little prayer, a little meditation or contemplation. Something which helps us focus our lives on God.

’Cause life is busy. Or it’s not really, but we just suck at time management, so we never make the time for God. You know how there are certain friends and family members you just never hear from?—they’re either way too busy, or time with you frankly isn’t one of their priorities? Well, for a lot of Christians, we’re in danger of having that kind of relationship with God. One where we sorta take him for granted in our lives, but when’s the last time we really sat down with him and talked?

So, devotional time.

Part of your average Christian’s struggle with devotions, comes from the fact they really don’t know what to do with themselves during this time. What should we pray? What should we read, and meditate on?

That was my struggle as a teenager and young adult: Nobody had properly taught me how to have my own devotional time. They talked about having one. “I sit down with my coffee and my bible, and read, and pray, and have my quiet time.” Okay; what d’you read? How many chapters?—or do you read a paragraph and spend the rest of the time meditating on it? What d’you pray?—and how do you pray for 15-minute stretches when you only have two minutes’ worth of material?

Whenever I was at youth functions, the youth pastors would lead the devotional times. But I’m gonna be blunt: Those weren’t proper devotional times. Those were mini-lectures disguised as worship. Pastor’d discuss the dumb things we kids did, or might do, and how we oughta think about such things, and lead us to pray, “Lord Jesus, help me behave like the pastor was talking about,” even if deep down we didn’t really care.

Some of the adults I knew were dependent on devotional books and magazines. (“Devotionals,” for short.) One of the more popular devotional magazines at my church was Our Daily Bread. I still know plenty of folks who make a point of reading through Oswald Chambers’ 365-day devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, every year. I own a few devotional books: Brief writings by clever Christian authors, arranged in 365 clips for my convenience, with a bible passage to read for edification, and a brief prayer in case I can’t think of anything to tell God.

I get why people use the canned material: They don’t know where to start. The problem? That’s not your relationship with God. That’s you reading about Oswald Chambers’s relationship with God; or about the relationship of whoever wrote the devotional you’re using this year. Praying their prayers instead of your own. Meditating on their ideas instead of the scriptures. Yeah, some of ’em have good ideas, but still: Ever call up a friend on the phone, then read somebody else’s letters to them? It’s kinda like that.

No, I’m not saying ditch the devotional books. Keep ’em if you like ’em. But don’t confuse them for proper devotions. It’s gotta consist of you and the Holy Spirit. Any facilitators have gotta be temporary, there till you get the hang of doing this on your own.

08 February 2016

Read the bible over Lent.

Got a spare 40 days? Do your bible.

Lent is the 40 days before Easter, during which time some of us Christians do a little fasting or other forms of self-deprivation, and meditate about what Jesus suffered on our behalf. And of course others of us contemplate nothing, but fast anyway ’cause it’s tradition. And of course still others (namely the Evangelicals I know) contemplate nothing, fast nothing, and feel smug because our religious customs don’t obligate us to do a thing.

True, Lent is voluntary. It comes from Christian tradition, not the bible. Same as every church activity, you can opt in, or opt out. You can deprive yourself of a lot of things, or just a few things. You can adopt lots of religious practices during this time, or not.

But if you’re gonna adopt a practice, why not read the bible? The whole bible? ’Cause you can. You can do it within a month, so there’s certainly no reason it can’t be done in a time-period with 10 extra days.

So if you’re giving something up for Lent, like television, there y’go: You can easily take the time you’d spend watching the boob tube, and read the scriptures. And have time left over. Easy-peasy.

And if you’re giving up nothing for Lent, ’cause self-deprivation isn’t your thing—like so many Americans, gluttony is—you can still carve out a bit of time each day to read some bible, and make up for the fact you didn’t read the whole thing back in January. Or that you started, but dropped the ball. Or that you’re doing the six-month or year-long bible track, and dropped the ball on that. Either way, it’s catchup time.

So there’s your Lenten challenge: Read your bible. You know you oughta.

20 January 2016

TXAB’s bible-reading plan.

Oughta get you through the bible in whatever order works for you.

When I read through the bible, I read each of the books, but in no particular order. Usually I go with whatever book I feel like reading most. Followed by whatever book I feel like reading next. And so on, and so on, till I finish.

Most people read the bible the very same way. Except they don’t keep track of what they read, and what they haven’t. Fr’instance a person (we’ll call her Apolonia) decides she wants to read John, ’cause it’s her favorite. Then she reads James, ’cause her pastor’s preaching a series on it. Then Philippians, ’cause her bible study is going through it. Then she reads Romans, ’cause somebody told her she really oughta. Then Genesis, because she feels she really oughta. Then somebody says something profound from Romans, so she decides to reread that book again. And then Genesis again. She’ll bounce all over the bible, which is fine; but she’ll skip books, which isn’t so good.

Well, here’s how to avoid skipping books: A checklist.

If you click on it, you’ll get a high-resolution version which you can print out. So if Apolonia had this checklist, she could read any chapter of the bible at any time, then check it off and know how much she still has to slog through read.

28 December 2015

Read the bible in a month. Yes, seriously. A month.

Are you ready to read a buttload of bible this January?

January’s coming. With it, a lot of people make new-year resolutions. “This year’s gonna be different, ’cause this year I’m gonna do [bucket-list item].” Some of these goals are realistic. Some not.

One of the more common goals Christians have is to read through the entire bible, Genesis to maps. (That’s an old Protestant joke. ’Cause a lot of study bibles include maps in the back. Okay, it’s less amusing when I explain it.) We should read the whole bible. So Christians get on some kind of bible-reading program to make sure we methodically go through every book, chapter, and verse. ’Cause when we don’t, we wind up reading only the familiar bits, over and over and over again——and miss a lot of parts we should read. The reason so many Christians misinterpret the New Testament is because they know so very little of its Old Testament context. Every time I quote just a little bit of the Law to explain Jesus’s teachings, way too many people respond, “I’ve never heard that before.” Sadly, I know exactly what they’re talking about.

Yet for some looney reason Christians tend to go with the bible-in-a-year reading program. My brother’s church, fr’instance. Every January they reboot it. Every day you’re to read two or three chapters from the Old Testament history and Prophets, a chapter or two from the New Testament, and a psalm or some other Old Testament poetry. Follow the program and in a year—a year!—you’ll have read the bible.

Okay, the bible is a big thick book collection. But come on. It’s not so thick it takes a year to go through.

The year-long program makes the bible sound like this huge, insurmountable mountain to climb. It’s no such thing. Why, you can read it in a month. And no, I’m not kidding. A month. Only takes me three weeks.

There are other bible-reading programs which read the bible in three months. That’s more reasonable; you could read the bible four times (or read four different translations) in a year. There are likewise six-month programs for those who struggle with reading, or reading comprehension. But when we’re talking about taking a whole year to read the bible, this sort of pace presents drawbacks. Seriously. And not just ’cause it makes the bible sound like such a massive volume.

15 September 2015

Must we read the bible every day?

’Cause some of us just aren’t into reading.

Just about every Christian teacher—myself included—tell Christians they gotta read the bible. ’Cause they gotta. We all do.

We live in a biblically-illiterate culture, folks. Bible references are like that old children’s game of “telephone”: One kid whispers a message to another kid, who whispers it to a second, who whispers it to a third, and so on round the room… till it gets back to the first kid, who discovers the message changed an awful lot in transmission. Our culture has done the very same thing with bible quotes.

  • “Loving money is the root of all sorts of evil” 1Ti 6.10 became “Money is the root of all evil.”
  • “Don’t judge lest you be judged with the measure you measure others” Mt 7.1-3 got shortened to “Don’t judge,” and drops the real lesson, about inconsistency.
  • “The lion will lie down with the lamb” is the over-shortened version of Isaiah 11.6, where a wolf and lamb, leopard and goat, and lion and calf respectively live together in sin. Wait, not in sin. It’s a metaphor for peace, although vegans have their own ideas.
  • “Pride goes before a fall” is the short version of “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Pr 16.18 Parallel ideas, so at least it wasn’t bent into the wrong idea.
  • “The eyes are the windows to the soul” resembles Jesus’s teaching that the eye is the lamp of the body, Mt 6.22, Lk 11.34 but likely come from someone other than Jesus, and got mixed up with his teaching.
  • “Spare the rod, spoil the child” isn’t even in there, although disciplining your kids and giving them a paddling when necessary is. Pr 13.24, 22.15, 23.13-14, 29.15 As is the instruction to be merciful like our Father, Lk 6.36 so it would appear we should spare the rod, lest we frustrate our kids with our lack of compassion. Cl 3.21

Then there are “bible quotes” which aren’t from the bible at all.