Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Abandoning the Bible Reading Plan

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had decided to adopt a Reading Plan for the first time and include an audio reading portion of the plan. Through Bible Gateway I had been listening to Max McLean read Robert Murray M'Cheyene's plan. I liked McLean's reading and of course I love the Bible, but after a month of it I'd felt my absorption of its truths were temporary, shallow, and not as lasting as when I read the Bible myself in a systematic bot non-externally organized way.

I had succumbed to the New Year pressure of people doing plans and talking about them. It is a good thing to systematically pursue truth by an organized reading plan. We have so many resources available to us these days that it seemed a shame not to endeavor to join the fray and take advantage of one.

But alas, it was not for me. I abandoned the reading plan a few days ago.

When I studied the Bible before the Plan, I'd just pick a book and read it through. I stopped reading for the day when I felt full up and unable to absorb any more. Sometimes that occurred after half a chapter. Other times I read two or three chapters before I felt unable to spiritually absorb any more. Usually while reading, my mind raced with ideas and questions and I eagerly looked up parallel verses, the Greek words, or other verses the Spirit brought to mind. I have a small Post-it notes next to my table and I jotted down ideas and thoughts to pursue later. Here is the pile of Post-its I haven't yet pursued, written before I started the plan:

 

Here are the ideas, notes, and things to pursue written down after I started the Plan:


So I decided to dump the Plan and go back to the way I used to read the Bible. I think it's good to experiment, and it's good to be flexible. I had been reading Genesis when I started the Plan and one of the readings each day was also in Genesis, which brought me up to chapter 30. Our pastor plans to begin a tour of Genesis in his preaching schedule next week, so I think I will stick with Genesis for now and continue reading my old way. Which is to say, just read it.

Here is Charles Spurgeon with an introduction to his sermon on

How to Read the Bible (No. 1503)
Delivered by C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Have ye not read?...Have ye not read?...If ye had known what this meaneth."—(Matthew 12:3-7). 
THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES were great readers of the law. They studied the sacred books continually, poring over each word and letter. They made notes of very little importance, but still very curious notes—as to which was the middle verse of the entire old Testament, which verse was halfway to the middle, and how many times such a word occurred, and even how many times a letter occurred, and the size of the letter, and its peculiar position. They have left us a mass of wonderful notes upon the mere words of Holy Scripture. They might have done the same thing upon another book for that matter, and the information would have been about as important as the facts which they have so industriously collected concerning the letter of the old Testament.
They were, however, intense readers of the law. They picked a quarrel with the Saviour upon a matter touching this law, for they carried it at their fingers' ends, and were ready to use it as a bird of prey does its talons to tear and rend. Our Lord's disciples had plucked some ears of corn, and rubbed them between their hands. According to Pharisaic interpretation, to rub an ear of corn is a kind of threshing, and, as it is very wrong to thresh on the Sabbath day, therefore it must be very wrong to rub out an ear or two of wheat when you are hungry on the Sabbath morning. That was their argument, and they came to the Saviour with it, and with their version of the Sabbath law. 
The Saviour generally carried the war into the enemy's camp, and he did so on this occasion. He met them on their own ground, and he said to them, "Have ye not read?"—a cutting question to the scribes and Pharisees, though there is nothing apparently sharp about it. It was very a fair and proper question to put to them; but only think of putting it to them. "Have ye not read?" "Read!" they could have said, "Why, we have read the book through very many times. We are always reading it. No passage escapes our critical eyes." Yet our Lord proceeds to put the question a second time—"Have ye not read?" as if they had not read after all, though they were the greatest readers of the law then living. 
He insinuates that they have not read at all; and then he gives them, incidentally, the reason why he had asked them whether they had read. He says, "If ye had known what this meaneth," as much as to say, "Ye have not read, because ye have not understood." Your eyes have gone over the words, and you have counted the letters, and you have marked the position of each verse and word, and you have said learned things about all the books, and yet you are not even readers of the sacred volume, for you have not acquired the true art of reading; you do not understand, and therefore you do not truly read it. You are mere skimmers and glancers at the Word: you have not read it, for you do not understand it.
Spurgeon then mentions something worse. Those who don't skim, but don't even read.
You have Bibles at home, I know; you would not like to be without Bibles, you would think you were heathens if you had no Bibles. You have them very neatly bound, and they are very fine looking volumes: not much thumbed, not much worn, and not likely to be so, for they only come out on Sundays for an airing, and they lie in lavender with the clean pocket handkerchiefs all the rest of the week. 
Ouch. Lord, let not a day go by when I have not attended with all diligence to Your word.

For the rest of Spurgeon's sermon, go here.

4 comments :

  1. The link you gave is dead, and looking around the web I actually found two sermons he gave on how to read the bible. Here's a link to the entire 1879 sermon you referenced (in pdf format)

    http://www.bible-researcher.com/spurgeon2.pdf

    And here's one he delivered in 1866 (also in PDF format)

    http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols58-60/chs3318.pdf

    And thank you for the inspiration for my Spurgeon Thursday blog entry

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  2. I have tried audio-reading also, and it just doesn't work for me. I can't stay focused without having my eyes doing something.... and I think I read so much faster than the narrator can talk that I lose interest. It seems too slow for me.

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  3. I have never felt the need to go some organized Bible reading plan, or a Bible-reading Bible, or a Bible-reading Bible Bible.

    My late pastor explained it all very well when my wife and I were young, and I was in college.

    "Read three chapters a day Monday through Saturday and five chapters on Sunday, and you'll read the Bible through in a year. You will read it in context, and you will see how it fits together."

    Still the best plan for us.

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  4. I gave up part-way through so many times throughout my life that I probably can't count them! In 2014, I finally read the Bible through for the first time, encouraged along by a friend. It was so wonderfully beneficial that I decided to present the challenge on my blog for 2015. Except for this time, I found a chronological plan. Both times were very rewarding, but that being said, I did really miss the depth of study that comes with my normal Bible Reading. So, I guess my point is that while I do believe there is a wonderful overview you get of God's Story from reading the Bible through that we can't get any other way, I wouldn't want to do it every year :)

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