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Cromulent musings and intelligent thoughts

It's been rather a long while since I last made time for a blog post. Lots to do in life and lots to do that fulfils the same desire as blog writing. So blogging has slipped down the pecking order somewhat.

Today has been a day of tidying and clearing and re-organisation. And whilst clearing the tit from the tat in that lazily repurposed cupboard I call an office, I came across my Bible reading notes from last year. And, since I've wanted to write about this for a little while, I suppose that now's as good a time as any. And I can tell you that these notes are probably some of the most valuable things that I could possibly hope to own. Not because they are brilliant, but because they are - in conjunction with the Bible reading itself - what God has used to effect a lot of change in my life.

Now, at the risk of sounding like I'm bragging, my discipline for reading the Bible is pretty good (in many ways). And actually, the more I do it, the easier it gets and the more desire I have to do it. It's a lot of effort at times, but in the grand scheme of things, the more I do it, the more I want to do it. And, since February 3rd 2017, I've not missed a single day. At one point I do believe I was so tired that I managed to squeeze in half a chapter before falling asleep midway through. And there is the risk of course that I'll become so fixated on my hot streak that I'll eventually become more concerned with that than with the content itself. But generally speaking, this has been one of the very best things I've ever done, and I heartily recommend this worthy endeavour.

I don't read the Bible in a fancy way or follow a guide or anything. I just have a very simple way of reading the Bible which is from start to finish. 1st Jan I start in Genesis chapter 1, and, by about mid-November I have finished in Revelation 22. Cover to cover. That's four chapters a day. Now if I remember rightly, four chapters a day takes 292 days. That's 73 days worth of leeway for getting through the Bible in a year, which is something I've managed now for the past seven years. And once I finish the Bible, I just cherry pick some of my favourite passages to revisit until December 31st then start all over again. Last year I worked my way through some Psalms and Proverbs. It was fantastic. You might not like the sound of it, but it's remarkably quick, too. Four chapters take, usually, between 15 and 30 minutes to read, depending on the book and how fast you can read. I'm not a fast reader, although I can speed up if I need to. So it's not burdensome. It's a pretty low commitment in many ways. I'm not a morning person. I have to leave for work at 7am which is early enough for me, so I read in the evenings. I think this is entirely fine, (despite the impression you might get if you follow Desiring God on Facebook). God isn't a legalist and so I'm pretty sure he doesn't mind if I choose breakfast over his word in the morning (because that's not really what I'm doing, is it now)? Also, when I read the Bible, I just read it. I don't study it, I don't get out the commentary or whatever. I just read. I do have an ESV study Bible with lots of notes in it, but I'm gonna say that 90% of the time, the verse I want to check out the notes for doesn't have a single comment. Typical. So I just read, then stop.

Having read through the Bible seven times in seven years, It has become very familiar to me. I have developed a real sense of the flow of the whole thing. Of course, I know some bits better than others. But I'm really starting to get it. The canon is wonderful you know. So intelligently put together (of course). No doubt of divine inspiration there. And this familiarity of the flow of the whole book has been an immense blessing. I can see what God has been doing throughout history. I understand who he is and how he works and what he's been trying to say to people. I feel like I know God and am getting to know him better all the time. I suppose what's happening is that I am becoming able to think Biblically. So when I get to a bit of the Bible I don't know too well, all the stuff I know about the rest of it and my now intuitive sense of what God is like, helps me to figure out what might be going on, reasonably quickly.

Also, it helps me in regular life, too. I make Biblically informed decisions and have Biblically informed ideas and this broad knowledge helps me to pray, to contribute to Bible studies and prayer meetings and conversations, in 1-2-1 meeting with friends etc, etc... It really is the best thing for helping me to think and speak in a way that builds me up and can build others up.

I've started keeping notes since 1st January 2018, and have made notes for what I've read on every day of the year. The photo at the top is of two notebooks. The second one isn't even half full I don't think. It's not a major task to get through. Although, I will admit to getting very far behind on my notes, and although I read the chapters, I didn't finish my note keeping until earlier this month. Hopefully, that won't happen again. I had to sacrifice lunchtime book reading to catch up, although it was an absolute delight to do it.

What I do is, before a start my Bible reading for the night, I write about what I read the previous day. Usually, this involves a quick re-cap for a minute or so, looking for words or phrases or narrative that I paid attention to or highlighted the night before. And of course, a lot of stuff gets missed out on the notes. I read four chapters but I only comment on one thing. I don't summarise the four chapters (sometimes four chapters includes three different books). But you know, it's uncanny how much brighter my thinking has become overnight - perhaps it's like how a lasagna or pizza always tastes better the next day...

Anyway, I quickly write down some notes. Sometimes this is commentary. Sometimes it's an application. Sometimes it's an interpretation of narrative and sometimes it's a question like: what does this even mean? But, as I mentioned above, the more I read, the better understand, and my comments become more interesting over time. And the more of the details I know, the more significance they seem to have as I begin to see how they fit inside the big picture. It's a truly wonderful experience. And I know I must be doing it right because I don't feel particularly proud of this. And I don't think it's proud to notice that fact and articulate it. Because my life is genuinely changing. Don't' get me wrong here, I don't feel my heart burn within me every single time. I don't have extraordinary experience on a daily basis. But, chatting to my wife a few weeks ago, we both agreed that there has probably been as much change happen between us last year alone as there has in the previous five (of our marriage) combined. Our anniversary is on March 23rd. And I'm sure that 75% of that, or more even, has been down to daily devotion to God's word, in this way. There has been real, tangible, obvious gospel transformation. And I'm truly thankful to God for that. Because he's at work when I read and write. It's not my intelligence, it's not my devotion, it's not my attitude (which isn't great sometimes), it isn't my intentions - it's the fact that when scripture is encountered, the Holy Spirit is at work. I'm simply exposing myself to his influence and putting myself within the context in which he operates.

 I'll never forget a talk I heard a few years ago. I think it's online somewhere but I forget where. Actually, I forget all of it apart from one thing the speaker said. He said something along the lines of: reading the Bible is like eating a meal. You might remember a few of the best ones, but you don't remember most of your meals. However, if you hadn't eaten the ones you've forgotten about, you'd be dead. They kept you alive. And so it is with Bible reading. You don't always remember the experience as something for the memory bank. But when you do feed of God's word, it keeps you alive spiritually.

And so, on this note, I'll end: read your Bible or die.


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