My mother gave me my first Bible when I turned 18. Before then I had borrowed one of the Bibles lying around the house when I went to Bible Study or wanted to read the Bible. But when I turned 18 she gave me a beautiful New American Standard Study Bible with a concordance in the back and study notes in the margins. I decided that I would read that Bible through the very next year. So I found a bookmark type pamphlet that had the days of the years and assigned readings for each day and I plowed my way through. Sometime during that year I read that if you read just three chapters a day, you will get through the Bible in a year, so the next year I tried it that way.
During college and seminary I would read the Bible in big chunks as I prepared to lead Bible Studies or did research for classes. In this way I read all the way through the Bible every year. Reading the Bible through became a discipline for me as a pastor. The Bible is a wonderful collections of stories about God and how God is constantly reaching out to people. In reading through the Bible every year I caught up with old friends and somehow met new characters each time. Every time I read through the Bible I swear it contains passages that weren’t in it the last time I read it. I never lacked for sermon topics because God was speaking to me through his word every day.
Reading the Bible through is really about how God is speaking to me. As my circumstances change and as I get older, certain passages or stories speak to me in ways they did not before. For the last ten years, my favorite way to read through the Bible has been the “One Year Bible” because it mixes the Bible up. A couple of chapters from the Old Testament, a chapter from the New Testament, and a psalm and some proverbs every day. Leviticus wasn’t as onerous when I could read a chapter from a gospel and a psalm along with it. The prophets were less gloomy next to Paul’s letters.
Today I finished reading through the Bible again. It took me more than a year this time. I started reading it last September with the Disciple Bible Study class I was teaching. I followed along with those readings (about half the Bible) until class was over in May. Then I started reading the passages that Disciple skipped. Today I finished all of it, ending with Ephesians 5 and 6.
I’ve lost count of how many times I have read through the Bible at this point, but it is more than 30. I have read the Bible my mother gave me so much that I had to get it rebound. The words and the message of the Bible become more precious to me the better I get to know it. God is revealed in new ways every time. And always God’s primary message to me is repeated over and over: I love you and want you to follow me.
Today these words jumped out at me: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2.
We are God’s dearly loved children and we can live a life of love no matter what our circumstances or stage in life. Instead of imitating someone else – parents, neighbors, coworkers, sports figures, movie stars – we are called to something higher. To imitate the life of love in God who loved us so much he sent his son to us. There is no higher goal or calling for us. How do I know? The Bible told me so!