This is the second post in a series, ‘SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE FOR REAL WOMEN WITH REAL LIVES’. You can read the first post in the series here.
Spiritual Discipline: Read the whole Bible
The foundation of any and all spiritual disciplines is God’s Word. Every other spiritual practice comes from it. Everything we learn about prayer and fasting, giving, serving and worship, we learn from the Bible. Knowing what the Bible says is the single key to every other spiritual practice.
But the Bible is hard to read. It’s long, 783,137 words long (according to Google). That’s longer than War and Peace, coming in at a measly 587,287 words. It’s intimidating and confusing and challenging. There are unfamiliar words and ideas.
So often it’s easier to read all the books written about the Bible rather than reading the Bible itself. It’s so easy to get your hands on a devotional or a study Bible that has explanatory notes, it can be tempting to just read what other people think about the text rather than reading the actual text.
But today my mission is to encourage you to read the Bible for yourself! The WHOLE Bible. And here’s why.
The Bible is God’s story of the redemption of the world
From beginning to end, the Bible is a love story of God’s heart and purpose; it’s important, it’s mysterious, it’s beautiful and it’s life giving.
Here’s my outline:
God created the world
In the beginning God created the world, including people. It was perfect. Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed. God walked with them in the garden in the evening. They had a perfect relationship with themselves, each other and with God.
We broke it
Then Satan tempted them, Adam and Eve decided they wanted to be like God, and they broke God’s perfect world. Sin came into the world, and with it came pain, conflict, sickness and death. Our relationship with God was broken.
And with sin and broken relationships, come family drama!
If you’re into soap operas, read Genesis. It’s worse than a season of The Bold and the Beautiful. Truly, you couldn’t script some of the stuff these people get up to.
Then God calls Abraham and choses a people for His own, putting into action a plan of redemption to rescue the world from our sin.
Abraham and his family eventually end up in Egypt, and after more than 400 years in slavery, God orchestrates one of the most epic rescue missions in all of history. God leads the Israelites out of slavery and gives them the Law, a plan that enables a Holy God to live in the presence of His people.
Action & adventure
Then we get to the action movie lovers’ section of the Bible!
There are a series of battles and wars, heroes, villains and intrigue. Seriously, if you love gory movies, read Kings and Chronicles. Some of the antics of these warriors make Gladiators a yawn.
And God said…
And alongside the Kings, come the Prophets. These guys are the spokesmen of God’s words to His people. Reading these words of love and mercy, warning and judgement, give us a wonderful view into the heart of God. This is where the promises of God are written.
God, where are you?
In the middle of the wars and drama, is the poetry. We have the songs of worship and praise, honest cries of pain and lament, anger, fear and despair. The entire spectrum of human emotion is expressed in the poetry of Psalms, the love story of Song of Songs and the wisdom of Proverbs.
Then Jesus shows up…
He comes and announces the coming of the Kingdom of God, but it is unlike any other kingdom, and it is not what the people expect. Jesus welcomes the outcast, heals the sick, raises the dead and eats with sinners. His kingdom is upside down, where the first become last and the last become first. The only people Jesus really seems to have a problem with are the religious ones, the people who think they are doing everything right, but have proud hearts that are far from God.
Jesus dies, is buried and is raised to life, conquering death and sin for all of eternity. He ascends back to Heaven and sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in all those who call Jesus Lord. Salvation has come!
Enter, the Church
The church grows rapidly, and with no experience in running churches, they have lots of problems. The Apostles write letters to the churches with problems to advise them how to live together as Christian brothers and sisters, which is great for us, because we have many of the same problems today.
The final battle
Then the story ends with the great vision of the return of Jesus and the victory celebration of history, when we worship with the angels around the throne of God. Victory, peace, eternity.
That’s the express version! It’s a story worth reading. It is worth putting all of the pieces together in big chunks and getting a broad understanding of the big picture, the entire narrative.
Often, we get scared off by the size and complexity of the whole and we allow ourselves to nibble in small bites, just reading a verse here and a few verses there. The whole Bible is an intimidating undertaking. I don’t know how many times I started well, got stuck in Leviticus and gave up, discouraged and confused. Let me encourage you, push through, hang in there, and read the whole story.
There are heaps of great tools out there to use. Choose one that suits your personality and your circumstances, give yourself lots of grace for the missed days, and don’t give up.
Here are some of my favourite Bible reading tools:
(These are not affiliate links. They are just tools I use and recommend.)
The Bible Project
These short videos summarising each book help put the big picture in context. They are particularly helpful for confusing books like Leviticus and Daniel and help to see the structure and themes of each book.
The 30 Day Shred
This plan gets you through the entire Bible in just 30 days. If you set aside the time it takes to watch a movie every day, you can get through the whole Bible in a month. (Okay, a long movie. It takes between 2 & 3 hours of reading each day, depending on your reading speed.) This is quite a big commitment each day, but it can be a cool project for the Summer.
This free App has lots of whole Bible reading plans. Chose the one that suits you – chronological order, Bible in one year, plans that give you a bit of the new testament, old testament, Psalms and Proverbs each day. The cool thing about this app is that on some translations it can read the Bible to you. This is a great way to add value to folding laundry or the daily commute.
Katrina is an author and blogger, and she has designed graphic Bible reading trackers that are like colouring in. For visual creatives like me, this is a beautiful way to see which parts of the Bible I have and haven’t read. I subscribed to Katrina’s blog so that I could make use of her download, and I am not disappointed.
I hope I have inspired you to have a go at reading through the whole Bible. It doesn’t matter how long it takes and how many days you skip. It just matters that you keep going and get to read God’s redemptive love story for you, the whole way through.
Have you ever read the whole Bible? What tool did you use? Let me know in the comments.