One of the most difficult yet rewarding disciplines I have learned over the past few years is the art of reading. Reading takes patience, persistence, and must be done with purpose. Each year, I make a list of what I’m going to read with a goal of at least 12 books.
In 2016, things changed. I was accepted into the Emmaus Pastoral Residency, and one of the requirements is to read the entire Bible each year. Ashamedly, I had never accomplished this feat. I grew up in church, went to a Christian school, went to a Christian college, was a youth pastor at two different churches and yet had never tackled these 66 books. That year, I was finally able to read the Bible from cover to cover!
Through these past two years, it has been a great joy to see so many passages and verses that I know and have memorized, fit together perfectly as a whole. It has been incredible to see the gospel drenched on every page and to see God’s glory as most supreme. It also has allowed me to see beauty in passages I usually just skimmed or had completely ignored. (I also discovered that 2nd Hesitations is not an actual book of the Bible.)
But it has also been overwhelming to see the sin of idolatry repeated over and over and over again. To see countless men and woman chase after the creation rather than the creator. To see the continued cry to go back to the bondage of Egypt rather than to the freedom God freely offers. It has been gut-wrenching to think I too could fall for the same sins, and have. It has been shocking to see stories of sin, rape, deception, child sacrifice, failure, unfaithfulness, sorrow, shame and death.
Yet despite the despair, these pages that are filled with the hope and love of a God who does not forget his people, but is faithful. A God who has made a promise to bruise his own son and crush the dragon. A God who does not give people the death, hell and eternal torment that they deserve but saves them in His mercy and grace. A God who adopts children into his family calling them sons and daughters of the King.
Reading the Bible in a year can seem like a trying task, but the journey will be worth it! Instead of giving you a bunch of theological reasons why you should read your Bible, which are many, I want to you my five “must-haves” for completing the task ahead in 2018.
There is no way I nor you can accomplish this sacred task without God’s grace. His consistent strength in my life has caused my heart of stone to be softened into a heart of flesh. My heart at times would rather do other things. My heart wonders into the lies of the enemy instead of trusting and resting on God’s promises. Grace is needed for daily reading and for daily heart change.
I need the Spirit to open my eyes to truth and am usually in prayer while I’m reading the text. I usually start my morning Bible reading by praying Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” I hope that anytime you pick up the Bible to read it that you trust not in your own abilities to understand but that you press into the Spirit’s power for clarity.
Attempting to read the Bible in a year with no plan is like going on vacation to Colorado with no map. You may end up there but you will probably be late and frustrated. Of course, there are hundreds of reading plans you can find online, but let me suggest to you what I have used the past two years. I use a plan of reading the Bible in 300 days.
GASP! You mean you didn’t read the Bible every day? Yes. Life happens. Sickness happens. Early shifts or late nights at work happens. I’m not proud that I went some days with never picking up my Bible. Trust me, those days when I missed my Bible reading were some of the worst. I attempted to tackle the day on my own power and strength and didn’t bother to renew my mind with gospel truth. One of the great advantages of a 300-day schedule is the cushion and flexibility you have when you do miss. Here is where I got my reading plan from.
A Good Study Bible
This is a must, especially if you are new to the Bible. Get something you will like and will want to read. Go ahead, spend the money on a good Bible because you will be using it all year long and hopefully for years to come. I prefer the ESV Study Bible. It has great study notes, easy reference help, and a fantastic color pictures and maps throughout. It runs for about $50.
If you prefer digital, there are plenty of options for you as well. YouVersion, Logos or Bible Gateway are great places to start when choosing what is best for you. I prefer paper over a screen for many reasons, but especially my final reason.
Highlighters & Pens
I am a very visual learner. My Bible looks like a coloring book. This may not be for you, but I really enjoy connecting ideas through color and taking notes. For example, I highlight all verses about God’s glory or power in orange and draw a red cross next to any verse that points to Jesus in the Old Testament. I also have a specific pen I use which is great for Bibles with tiny spaces. Even if you don’t want to write in your Bible, I recommend getting a journal and taking some notes in there. My favorite journal to use is Moleskine.
I hope these are helpful for you in your journey through the Bible. Happy reading!
Jonathan St.Clair, is currently a year three Pastoral Resident and serves on the worship team at Emmaus. He and his wife Tracy have three children, Bear, Fletcher, and Tennessee. They live in Raytown, MO where he hopes to plant a church someday.