2020: every man should have this habit
Lou Reed and Alice Cooper’s habit is golf. Dylan’s habit is boxing. What’s yours?
Any number of habits deserve a good beginning or ending. The new year is the commonly accepted time to give it to them.
My father-in-law gave me a Bible with “RX: one each day” written in it. It’s been a good habit to fail at. I’d like to say I’m faithful to his command, but through the years many’s been the slip twixt the cup and the lip.
Still, I try, and that’s the thing.
Try. Fail in the right direction. We are to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, but it’s a long and winding road with no arrival until we enter the presence of the Lord. On this road, the best is often the enemy of the better so lower your sights and start reading the Bible each day.
First, because you don’t read enough. And I mean read—not forage and browse.
Too much consumption of words today is gossip, bragging, and whining. We don’t really need to know where our sister-in-law sources the paper pulp she uses to make her artisan facial tissue. We don’t really need to tell people how privileged we were to help the poor Guatemalans on our church’s short-term missions trip. We don’t really need to listen to women having hissy-fits over all the bad men they’ve ever known, starting with their dad. We’ve all known and suffered from bad men—both sexually and otherwise—and it’s really not something to talk about publicly with people we’ve never met. Sure, it’s titillating, but former generations of believers knew titillation wasn’t honorable.
Instead of trying to keep up with this whining and gossip, read your Bible.
Forget all the minutiae like one of this and one of that each day starting here and ending there. In your reading, what matters is not so much the mixture of chapters and books as bending your mind and heart into the necessary postures of trust and submission. We don’t need more souls going through McCheyne’s reading habits. We need more souls who read with the same reverence and submission to God’s Word that possessed McCheyne.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes telling us how to read God’s words:
But if any man despises the words of Scripture as language fit for simpletons and, in the stupidity of pride, climbs out of the nest where he was reared, woe betide him, for he shall meet his fall. Have pity on such callow fledglings, O Lord, for those who pass by on the road may tread them underfoot. Send your angel to put them back in the nest, so that they may live and learn to fly. (Augustine)
Read the Bible each day of this new year and read it as a baby bird in the nest with its head back and its mouth open, waiting to be fed. Read it with total trust in our Heavenly Father Who inspired each and every word of it.
No matter how many times you read any particular text, the next time you’ll hit it fresh and you’ll see something new. Something new in the text you never remember reading before, something new in the application of the text to you and yours, and often both.
Don’t read it blindly just in order to get it done for the day. Scripture isn’t a talisman. Magic plus authority is no longer magic. And with the Bible, that’s good. The Bible should never remind you of Harry Potter. It should remind you of thunder and lightning. Of a hammer and fire. Of horseradish and honey. Of life and death and judgment—always judgment.
So four days and then start. Or start right now so you’re a few chapters ahead.
What I’d recommend is that you read consecutively, from beginning to end. Five chapters a day. Maybe Genesis 1-3 and Matthew 1-2 on January 1, then Genesis 4-6 and Matthew 3-4 January 2nd. For myself, I prefer Genesis 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, and so forth.
Just make sure you don’t read one that removed God’s words in order not to offend you. There are only four versions I would recommend. In order of preference:
- New American Standard Bible (95 edition)
- New King James Version
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
Should you read hard copy or e-text like Smartphone or Kindle?
Whatever is most conducive to you actually reading and meditating on what you read. Until a year or so ago, I read hard copy. Now I read on a Kindle since I appreciate being able to open my highlights in a browser window.
One final thing. Many of us would be helped by reporting our failure or progress to others week by week. Set up such an accountability scheme in your marriage/family/church.
And tell people that they must not lie. Everyone will be tempted.
For those interested, here’s a primer for new Christians on Bible reading and Bible versions.