As I reflect back upon the Walk Thru the Bible seminar we held at the church in October, my greatest sense of accomplishment is that we as a whole church were focused outward, by choice—focused upon our community and upon our presence as a witness to that community. Further, even more important and likely more long-lasting than the number of visitors who actually came that day, is the effect of the self-conscious effort we gave to our need for outreach. That effort took many forms, beginning with the commitment of so many of you to help with some significant cleaning and initial remodeling of our church building, to the specific fliers or personal invitations you gave to your friends and neighbors. The effort was rewarded by many visitors, and beyond that, a public visibility and active testimony for the church which we haven’t had in awhile. All of that stimulates a justifiable sense of accomplishment for which I’m thankful.
In that context, it has been my consistent experience through all the years of my ministry that when the church is active in “doing” outreach, whatever the form, the blessings and results of that effort come from the Lord in ways that are usually not directly connected to whatever outreach event was scheduled. In other words, when we are faithful in reaching out in ways that we might schedule and organize, God is faithful to bring in people through often unrelated ways. Such are the ways of God’s secret providence!
There was a second, very tangible benefit that we as a church gained from that whole experience, one related to our own spiritual health and vitality—namely, the encouragement and motivation to read the Bible individually and personally. One of the obvious benefits of that “overview” study of the Old Testament was the way in which the whole, broad structure of the Old Testament story came into focus, at least in terms of the 77 items we all memorized. As an organization, Walk Thru the Bible is committed to the usefulness of that overview in stirring the people of God to read their own Bibles every day. So the goal of the seminar was not simply outreach, but also our own spiritual nurture. Many of you made a specific commitment regarding your own Bible reading, and that is something I want to promote and encourage in any way that I can.
With that in mind, beginning in January, I will provide a list each month of daily Bible readings. I will publish and distribute that reading list for you to keep with your Bible, a list consisting of generally one chapter a day each from the Old Testament and the New Testament. That schedule, which I have found to be a manageable amount of reading each day, will allow you to read through the complete New Testament in one year and the complete Old Testament in two years. With only two chapters to read most days, it isn’t hard to get caught up if you miss a day or two as well. The balance between the Old and the New Testaments is also very beneficial. That sense of purpose and the subsequent accomplishment should be very edifying!
This isn’t the only Bible reading plan and I have no sense of imposing this particular plan upon everyone, so if you have your own consistent practice and habit of reading the Bible regularly, please don’t feel any necessary obligation to follow this particular suggestion. Just keep reading! Still, many of us (myself included) are able to be much more consistent when there is a helpful structure and plan to keep us both organized and accountable. So if you struggle to read the Bible regularly, please consider the benefit of a commitment to read the suggested chapters each day. I will pray that we all will become more faithful, more disciplined, and more fruitful in Bible reading regardless of the particular schedule that is followed.
Consistency can be an elusive goal, for lots of reasons. Yet the repeated emphasis and organization for regular, daily Bible readings is extremely helpful. I plan to publish these daily reading list each month—in the newsletter, in the bulletin and on our website. I will embed the schedule in that website, so if the form of the Bible that you read is your phone or tablet, it will be all the more accessible.
Related to that, please exercise your own freedom to choose to read from any number of good English translations. In in the pulpit, I read and preach from the New King James Version (NKJV), which I find to be an excellent combination of both accuracy to the original languages and what I simply call “readability.” There are other good translations available as well, including the New American Standard Bible (NASB), which might sacrifice a little bit of that subjective sense of “readability” in the pursuit of accuracy of translation. It’s hard to call that a fault, though I do find it a bit harder to read out loud in public reading. For myself, I use the NASB extensively when I am doing my own study and sermon preparation. The original King James Version (KJV) is also useful, though often a bit harder to understand in our day because of the changes in the English language in the past 400 years. Yet the beauty of that Elizabethan English is clearly unsurpassed. And anyone (such as myself) who grew up memorizing verses from the King James might have a more difficult transition to other versions.
The English Standard Version (ESV) is also high on the list of good translations that read and flow well. Next on that list would be the New International Version (NIV), which is a little less accurate in translation due to the pursuit of readability. The NIV has also made a number of revisions in the 40 years since it was published, which I believe are not generally helpful. Given the availability of other translations, I no longer recommend the NIV for general reading, though it can often be a helpful secondary translation for a more detailed study you are doing. As I often emphasize, reading several different English translations is a very good way to study a particular passage from the Bible.
Above all, remember that the Bible is the Word of God. It is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), therefore without error or contradiction. It is our only infallible rule of both our faith and our practice—what we believe and how we are to live. It is the Word of life (1 John 1:1), a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (Psalm 119:105)