NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, January 2nd. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we are so glad you are! Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. So, Nick, did you make any New Year’s resolutions? How’re they going?
EICHER: I make ’em mid-January, actually. Around the holidays, you’re not in your routines. I’m a creature of habit and resolutions need to come in the context of a regular schedule, otherwise—for me, anyway—they’re unrealistic.
So I’m still working on it—exercise, health, reading, spiritual disciplines, family life, those are big categories for resolution fodder…
REICHARD: That’s a long list! Ambitious! I do a short list every year, yes. Go somewhere new. Remain calm no matter what’s going on, whether a crisis or not. You know, practice not living as though my hair is on fire. And this year in particular, gain spiritual weight. I can say that 48 hours in, all’s good! I’m not yet defeated!
EICHER: I like that, it’s memorable. Everybody, including this body, wants to lose weight. But gaining spiritual weight, we could all use that, too, for sure.
And for Christians, that means reading the Bible. It’s a must do. So a common resolution is to read the Bible daily or all the way through by a defined time.
WORLD reporter Jenny Rough shares a personal story of her attempts to read the Bible. She talked with a pastor and a professor who gave helpful tips on making your way through the greatest book in the world:
JENNY ROUGH. REPORTER: The first time I tried to read the Bible, I was 12.
JON SHERBERG: Genesis 1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And earth was formless…
I didn’t make it far. So I started again.
JON SHERBERG: Genesis 1. In the beginning God created…
JON SHERBERG: Genesis 1.
As a small girl in Sunday school, I’d listened in awe to stories about a God who owned the cattle on a thousand hills, named each star in the universe, and numbered the very hairs on my head. I longed for intimacy with Him.
SMITH: Well, it seems obvious to those who are believers that it’s important to read the Bible because that’s the only real concrete communication we have with our creator.
Professor LaGard Smith writes about faith. He says even for those who are unsure of their spiritual beliefs, the Bible is a good place to start.
SMITH: Well, how many options do you have in order to find out what your purpose in life is? I mean, everyone wants to know: Why do I exist? Where did I come from? Where am I going after I die…
Begin at the beginning. Genesis details creation, the fall, and God’s plan to redeem the world.
SMITH: Without Genesis nothing is cohesive in the rest of Scripture because that’s where all the story begins. And the ending doesn’t make any sense without understanding the beginning.
In high school, I got a Bible with a reading track plan. Each chapter, I marked off a little square in pencil. Instead of focusing on the message, I got caught up in accomplishing the daily task. Check. Check. Check.
Knute Larson is a former minister who now coaches pastors. He says duty has a place.
LARSON: I exercise whether I feel like it or not. I read because I know I need this. It’s God’s truth for our lives and it’s meant to be food and nourishment as well as direction…so it’s huge.
So I persisted.
This time I made it to Leviticus. My efforts waned as I slogged through laws about grain tithes and split hoof animals. I switched to the New Testament.
Larson recommends John, but all the gospels are valuable to learn about the life of Christ.
LARSON: See Christ, and to see how He wants us to live and to enjoy His truth and His direction for life. There’s nobody who has such wisdom.
True, but that didn’t prevent me from petering out again.
I wondered about starting in a different place. Proverbs has 31 chapters, one for each day of the month. Or perhaps I could drop into an obscure book, like Nahum? Smith says skipping around can be confusing. That’s one reason he decided to compile The Daily Bible.
The Daily Bible puts the scriptural text in chronological order with narration to set the scene before each passage. For example, Paul’s letters are placed throughout the book of Acts when he actually wrote them.
Smith says when it comes to the Bible, context is critical. .
SMITH: I’m a teacher, and I can’t help but think, you’ve got to lay the foundation for things. Because even when it, the gospels tell us that Jesus is the long-expected Messiah, if we haven’t read the Old Testament we don’t understand what the long-expected Messiah was all about.
Should we read big chunks or chew off tiny bits at a time?
SMITH: My father had an expression, he said, you know, the Bible is like an ocean. There are shallows that anybody can walk in and then there are depths that can’t even be fathomed. So I think there is a time to walk along the beach and see the ocean and, you know, walk in the shallows. But there’s another time to get out and go deep.
Smith says regardless of your approach, just plow through.
SMITH: Get through the Bible one time at least, from cover-to-cover. I mean, that’s huge for most people.
Ezekiel intimidated me. To avoid getting bogged down in difficult parts, read for an overview of the central message.
SMITH: Any adult person, I think, can work their way through the Bible. Even the harder parts, the more mysterious parts.
There is nothing wrong with devotionals or commentaries to help. But, well, here’s Larson again:
LARSON: I always urge people at least read the Bible. Don’t just read a devotional book and skip the reading [laughs].
By 30, my busy professional life as a lawyer left little time to read. A move East made me homesick. I tried to flee back West. Then I had a miscarriage and learned I couldn’t have children. One day I saw my Bible on a bookshelf gathering dust. I flipped it open to Luke:
AUDIO BIBLE: There was in the days of Herod a certain priest named Zacharias and his wife was Elisabeth. They had no child because that Elisabeth was barren.
I read Jonah too. God had commanded him to go East, but he bolted West.
AUDIO BIBLE: Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah … saying: “Arise, go to Nineveh” … but Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish.
Sounded familiar. Smith says that’ll happen—the Bible’s stories match our own and guide us through life’s struggles.
SMITH: It can kind of take you by the hand and say, I know where you are. Let me show you other people who have been there and how they interacted with God.
This time, the words of the Bible took root. Suddenly, I couldn’t stop reading it. Desire replaced duty.
LARSON: When you understand why God said this, and how it’s meant to point to His Son who is so full of grace and truth, then you read to see His Son and to learn how Christ, the Son, the Savior wants us to live.
The Bible is a love story from God. We read it to benefit from His love and know what He says. At times, Bible reading can still feel like rote practice. Simply admit it, Larson says, and come back to the Word again. God is always inviting us.
AUDIO BIBLE: And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Jenny Rough, reporting from Alexandria, Virginia.