As I am writing this article, I am sitting in Jojoe’s restaurant. It has a familiar feeling for me as in 2000, when I returned to Bendigo from bible college, I got my first job at Jojoes delivering pizzas.
It’s also familiar because I like to eat here every now and then. I particularly like returning to my favourites on the menu, today its Pollo Fungi Gnocchi. My mouth is watering with anticipation. I think it is good to have favourite restaurants and favourite dishes. However, I have come to realize, while I’m awaiting my dish, that if you never go to other restaurants, you won’t know what other flavours are out there. We never know if we don’t go!
I wonder if some of us read our bible in a similar fashion to the way I keep going back to my favourite restaurants. Of course, we get great benefit from coming back to familiar and well-known passages, but what of the other passages that are to be found in the bible? If we only stick to our favourites we will miss out on some great truths, essential spiritual nourishments and a greater understanding of the bigger biblical narrative.
In thinking about bible reading today, there are three things that I want to try to emphasis: Volume, Consistency and Depth.
Volume: Getting through a significant volume of the scriptures is a useful thing to do. It helps us understand better the whole of God’s revealed story and better equips us to identify themes, allusions and references from the Old Testament when they present themselves in the New Testament.
Consistency: By being consistent in our bible reading we help forge patterns that help protect our reading from general ups and downs in our emotional state. When we are feeling flat, we may not be bothered with our bible reading and yet this is exactly the time when we need God’s help in the scriptures the most. Consistency will keep us in the word through good and bad times.
Depth: This could be extrapolated to mean many things but my intention here is narrow. I mean that when we read the scriptures and something stands out to us, for us to not just keep reading and forget about it. But rather to take the time to pray and to think deeply about what has stood out to you. At times this “depth” may interrupt your “volume” and that is ok. Once you have paused for “depth” go back to “volume”.
You may be aware, that there are some helpful resources designed to get us beyond our current repertoire with our biblical reading.
1. Lectionary – This cycles through daily bible readings over a 3 year period. (You don’t quite read the whole bible in 3 years but you get a fair chunk of it)
2. A Chronological Bible – This helps you read the bible more like the Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings. Essentially it lines the bible passages up in sequential order so that it is easier to follow the storyline of the bible.
3. Daily Devotionals – Granted devotionals generally take you through less bible reading, they do, however, act like a bit of a tour guide for the passages that they take you to. And often, they can take you to passages that you may not have noticed or understood on your own.
4. A Reading Plan – These can be helpful to keep you on track to consistently get through large volumes of the bible. Often, they can help you read the whole bible in a year or two (depending on the pace you choose to set). Friends, keep or start reading your bible. The food in there is gourmet food for our souls.
Trev Bell is Associate Minister at Holy Trinity Bendigo