Yesterday I wrote about a sermon I heard recently that has been impacting how I read my Bible. Today we’ll go on with the second resource that’s been inspiring my reading habits lately. Over at Desiring God, Noel Piper wrote an article about how she abandoned her usual Bible-in-a-Year plan for a more engaging way of reading, and I’ve fallen a little in love with it.
In a nutshell, what Piper does is she reads through a book of the Bible at a time, going through the Bible in no particular order. I decided to start in Nehemiah.
As Piper reads: “I felt free to skim repetitive sections (like genealogies and censuses). But I did skim carefully enough to catch any unusual information that might have been stuck in unexpectedly.”
Like my preferred method/current needs she doesn’t stick to rigid daily assigned readings, but reads as much or as little as she has time for. “I completed one book before I began another, except for the Psalms and Proverbs which I read in scattered chunks whenever I wanted to.”
The core though, the exciting part for me is this:
“…but here was the most important difference from other efforts to read through the Bible. This time, I became a hunter, and my blue highlighter was my weapon. The prey was God’s attributes. I set out to underline everything the Bible says about God (didn’t want to set my sights too narrow!). I made blue stripes through all the names of God, word pictures about him, what he likes and dislikes, how he reacts to faithfulness and to sin. I was on my third pen when I finished.
This “hunt for God” was irresistible to me. It drew me like a magnet. And once I was inside the pages, it kept my mind moving-no more drowsing and waking up two chapters later.
My Bible’s flyleaves are filled with lists. As I read, I found I didn’t want to lose what I was finding out about God. I made lists of God’s names (I found over 200 names, phrases and variations that referred to him), Jesus’ names (about 140), and the Spirit’s names (about 35). There is also a list of pictures used to describe God (shepherd, potter, eagle, farmer, husband, nursing mother . . . ). Another list is of references for passages so beautiful I knew I’d want to find them again.
I used my “finds” to focus my thoughts on God. From my daily reading, I could choose a name or description of God and think of him in those terms all day. For instance, on a vacation afternoon when my four boys had been out of school one day too long, it helped to know God as a Rock who cannot be shaken. Or when we couldn’t see our way clear toward a decision we had to make, we still knew that God is our Light and our Salvation.
This year? I recently picked up an inexpensive paperback Bible and a new pink marking pen. This year I think I’ll hunt for God’s presence—all the times and circumstances when he promises he will be with us, that he will not leave us.“
I put the extended quote in there because, well, isn’t her delight and excitement infectious?
We’ve (in the churches I’ve been around, anyway) always been told that we need to “know God.”
How do we get to know God? Through His Word, right?
What Piper is writes about never occurred to me before. Reading my Bible looking for what the Bible reveals about God, in a purposeful and deliberate manner.
So Simple. So powerful.
And then I get to think about it all day, remembering the scriptures to go with “God’s not just ‘a’ or ‘the’ God, He is my God,” “God’s hand in described as good” (Neh 2), or “our God will fight for us” (Neh 4:20) and so on.
I don’t know about long lists (I don’t exactly have blank pages in my Bible), but I am writing my paper journal, and underlining, annotating in my Bible. I would use my tablet, but I can’t type nearly fast enough in a user-friendly organisation to make that worthwhile (I am writing this by hand to be typed on a laptop keyboard later, rather than using my tablet).
This is exciting, at least for me. It’s proving to be a much more exciting, engaging, enlivening approach to read than the plans I had fought to get through, to tick off, in the past. It’s a welcome structure and direction to my reading, in lieu of my abandonment of the Horner plan. I think it’s partly the freedom in being able to do something tangible, to get to know Him more, rather than praying, worshipping and hoping that He did ‘it’ somehow. Not to discount His agency in everything and definitely all of this, I mean anything and everything I realise about Him is something He has engineered, orchestrated, and allowed to occur. That realisation itself is enough to meditate on and celebrate. But it’s nice to feel like I have more of a part than “sit and wait,” where I can engage my mind as well as my heart.