New Year’s Resolutions get a bad rap— and so they should.
We often sense the need for a new start or a reset. So, we make a resolution for the first day of a new year.
Almost always, our resolutions fail. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology (University of Scranton), 45% of Americans make resolutions— but only 8% achieve them. By contrast, revolutions succeed.
Here is a definition of revolution supplied by the Cambridge Dictionary:
A very important change in the way that people do things.
Resolutions seldom succeed; revolutions always succeed.
So, here is my proposal for your New Year Revolution.
This is the proposed revolution: reading the Bible daily in large sections.
Of those who do, many only read an isolated saying, sentence, or verse. Glenn Paauw, writing in Saving the Bible from Ourselves, states:
Fragmentary, superficial, and out-of-context readings and misapplications abound. One of the core reasons for our Bible engagement breakdown is that many would-be Bible readers have been sold the mistaken notion that the Bible is a look-it-up-and-find-the-answer handy guide to life.
This use of the Bible isolates a fragment of text from its context and allows our uninformed imaginations to make up meanings to conform to our ‘story’ rather than drawing us into the alternate reality of God’s ‘Story.’
Although the Bible is no ordinary book, my proposal might be somewhat novel. It encourages you to read the Bible like any other book— in sections, chapters, or scenes, not in isolated sayings or sentences.
Why should we do that?
Here are two of several reasons why you should make this your New Year Revolution.
First, there is a direct correlation between reading the Bible and spiritual growth.
There is much research that shows the correlation between spiritual maturity and reading the Bible. In Brad Waggoner’s book The Shape of Faith to Come, which is based on a Lifeway Research study, and in George Guthrie’s Read the Bible for Life material, we see that reading the Bible is the best predictor of spiritual maturity. In other words, if you are in the Bible, you are growing spiritually.
Second is the concept that we all live within a narrative or ‘story,’ which is related to our culture and worldview— the unspoken storyline that directs how we view and live within the world. My proposal invites you to live within God’s ‘Story,’ meaning that you will begin viewing the world from God’s perspective, shaping how you think, speak, and act. See: “Living God’s ‘Story’— two problems and a solution.”
How do we do that?
Perhaps the two most common questions are:
1. When do I start?
The simple answer is now. If not now, then when?
2. Where do I start?
You can begin anywhere, but the most logical and beneficial starting point is “In the beginning …” (Genesis 1:1).
The Bible comprises 66 books or documents written over 1,500 years by more than 35 human writers. It contains various genres or types of writing, including historical narrative (e.g., Genesis, Luke), wisdom (e.g., Proverbs), prophecy (e.g., Isaiah), and poetry (e.g., Psalms), to name a few.
I recommend that you begin with the historical narrative, which is like the backbone that runs through a body. In this way, you will understand the large picture or story of God’s dealings with humanity and Creation. Later, you can read other books, such as Isaiah or Romans, fitting them into this larger context of the historical backbone of the Bible.
This recommendation involves 370 of the 1,180 chapters of the Bible.
3. What do I read?
Generally, this is a question about the translation of the Bible.
I usually read the New International Version (NIV). Still, there are others, including many excellent English translations such as the English Standard Version (ESV), New Living Translation (NLT), New English Translation (NET), and New American Standard (NASB).
If you are more comfortable reading the Bible in a language other than English, here are some websites for free Bibles in a myriad of different translations:
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
4. How much do I read?
The next step is choosing a comfortable and sustainable pace for your reading. Keep in mind that you should read enough chapters each day for good context and flow, but not so much that you tire yourself and give up.
As for your pace, you might find that you can read five chapters a day, six days a week, in about 30-45 minutes. So, 370 chapters divided by five equals 74 reading days. At six days a week, that is a little over 12 weeks. Obviously, like all revolutions, this involves commitment.
Do not get bogged down over a question or issue; keep reading. Your goal is to comprehend the whole narrative or ‘story.’ You will often find that your question is answered or the issue resolved as you read.
Keep a log to record your progress, observations, and questions. Here is a suggested form you can use.
5. Link with a reading companion
One of the most helpful assets for maintaining your reading pace is linking with at least one reading companion. This means one or more people who are like-minded and like-hearted and who share your goal.
It would be best to telephone or meet with your companions regularly for mutual encouragement and accountability. You might meet in a coffee shop and share what you have been learning, questions that you have, and ways in which you are being impacted. I have supplied summaries for your readings in the series. For example, when you have completed Genesis, you might want to read “A 10-Minute Tour of Genesis.”
Over the decades, I have led reading groups of 10 to 50+ people. Like a bicycle touring group, there are accomplished riders and others who have not ridden since childhood. As they follow their route, the accomplished riders hold back and encourage others; the novice riders work at keeping up, energized by the others. Even in such large groups, each person is linked with at least one other partner. Interestingly, the drop-out rate for such groups is almost zero, usually for some significant reason.
As already noted, there is a difference between a resolution and a revolution. One additional difference is that resolutions are made at the moment, and the resolve usually evaporates quickly.
A revolution involves the determination to accomplish a change. As such, a revolution keeps the goal in mind and perseveres until that goal is reached. Remember our description of a revolution:
A very important change in the way that people do things.
When you complete the 370 chapters, here are some things to celebrate:
Here is the link to the “Historical Backbone of the Bible” series, which you will want to read and enjoy.
Let me know whether you have made this your New Year Revolution and how you are progressing. Use this link to write me.
Helpful resources provided to 'living theology' subscribers.YES!