Intro to Bible Savvy
A Message from Pastor Jim
People tend to view their pastor as a Bible-Answer-Man. He’s the guy who went to school for years to learn how to draw really cool insights out of God’s Word, right? Well, I can vouch for the fact that I spent lots of years studying the Bible in college and graduate school. But that’s not how I gained most of my knowledge of God’s Book and its wisdom. I’d guess that 90% of my insights from Scripture have come from personally reading and applying it to my life day after day after day.
That’s something that any Christ follower can do—and should do! If you’ll make time for the Bible every day, it will transform you into a wise, godly person, who has a huge impact on your world. The apostle Paul wrote to his young friend, Timothy, that the Holy Scriptures are “able to make you wise for salvation,” and are also “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). That’s why thriving Christ followers have always been people who meet with God in his Word every day.
Bible Savvy is designed to encourage you in daily Bible reading. It will take you through the entire Bible in a four-year period. It will also train you to get your own insights out of Scripture, using the COMMA method, rather than depending on some Christian author’s pre-packaged devotional guide.
Helpful tips to get you started
- Choose a time and place where you will read the Bible every day. Many people prefer early morning because that’s when Bible reading is least likely to get bumped by other activities. Others read the Bible on lunch break, or after their kids are put to bed. By choosing the same time every day, this is more likely to become a good habit.
- Purchase and use a NIV Study Bible. This is what will enable you to make sense of difficult-to-understand passages. The footnotes to every passage include historical, theological and application insights. You won’t need the devotional or study guide of a well-known Christian author to get something out of the text for yourself.
- Use the COMMA method to come up with an application for your life from each day’s reading. Someone has said: “It’s not how much of the Bible you get through that matters—it’s how much of the Bible gets through you.” That’s absolutely true! Reading the Bible won’t change your life unless you are crafting a personal application from each daily passage and writing it down.
This is where the published devotional guides will let you down. They’ll give you a sense that you’ve gotten something out of the Bible because you’ve read the author’s one-page summary of the passage (complete with engaging anecdote). But that’s their insight and suggested application—not yours. Toss out the devotional guide (sorry) and allow God to speak to you directly.
- Don’t expect every day’s reading to be a stellar experience. There are going to be some books of the Bible (Leviticus, Ezekiel, Jude, to name a few) that will be challenging to draw scintillating insights and applications from. Keep reading. It’s the ongoing discipline of reading the Bible day after day after day that will transform your life over time. You don’t have to come away from every passage with an amazing zinger for the day.
- If you miss a day’s reading—you miss a day. Some people will want to go back and read the passages they missed. If you’ve got the time to do that, great! But if catching up for the days you skipped reading becomes a burden to you, don’t do it. Just pick up the schedule again at the current day’s reading. Instead of guilt-tripping yourself for the days you miss, be reminded that you’re now reading the Bible more consistently than you ever have in the past.
How the Schedule is Organized
This schedule has been put together thoughtfully so that the length and order of the readings make sense. Here are some of the principles that guided the creation of the schedule:
The Whole Bible in Four Years. The reading plan covers the entire Bible in four years and some New Testament books twice. Even though the Old Testament is longer, the readings are divided so there are an equal number of days spent in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Context Preserved. Because context is crucial, we will read through whole books from start to finish. This helps us keep track of the plot or the logic of each book. Likewise, there are some places where the chapter divisions—which were added years after the Bible was written—are not in the most logical place, so some readings are divided in the middle of chapters.
Reading Length. For the most part, readings will be 1-2 chapters long. They tend to be a little longer in the Old Testament and a little shorter in the New Testament. This is because much of the Old Testament is narrative, and it is easier to read a big chunk of a story. There are also key passages in the New Testament that are worth going through more slowly.
The Old Testament in Chronological Order. In order to follow the big storyline of the Bible, we will try to read the books in the order of the events they describe. When there are deviations from chronological order, it will be noted in the Context page for that book.
The Gospels are Spread Out. Because we want to frequently come back to the Gospels—the four biographies of Jesus—we are reading each of them twice and have spread them across the four years. This means that we will work through the life of Jesus twice a year.
The New Testament by Author. For the most part, books by the same author are grouped together. Associated authors are also grouped together. Mark and Peter worked together, so their books are together. Luke and Paul were associates, so Paul’s letters come right after Luke’s books. Matthew, James, and Hebrews all have a very Jewish flavor, so they are next to each other. When there are reasons like this for the order of the books, they will be noted in the Context page for each of those books in the journal.
Psalms and Proverbs. The only books that we will not read all at once are Psalms and Proverbs. Neither of these books are designed to be read all together. Psalms is the songbook of the Bible. These are prayers that are meant to be worked into our lives all the time, so we will read three chapters each month. Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings which are hard to digest if they are read too fast, so we will read one chapter each month.
The Difficult Passages
Paul says, “All Scripture is…useful” (2 Timothy 3:16). Every passage in the Bible has something to teach us. This is why this reading plan covers every chapter and verse in the Bible. We want to learn from the whole Bible, not just the easy parts.
As you work through COMMA in the difficult parts, ask yourself, “Why would the author think it was important to include this?” The details of how to offer a sacrifice or build a tabernacle might seem irrelevant to you, but the fact that Moses (and God) chose to write them down might tell you something significant about what God is like and what he values.
At the same, it helps to be realistic. There are some difficult passages in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. This schedule does two things to help with these parts:
Rip off the bandage. Some passages are tedious. They are repetitive and detailed. These passages are important, but that does not mean you have to spend a week slogging through nine chapters of names. When these stretches come up, the readings have been made longer in order to get through them faster. So, if a reading looks long, don’t panic! That is done for your sake. The recommendation for these parts is: skim, but don’t skip. Get the big picture of what is going on. This is where using the headings and notes in a study Bible will help a lot.
A Spoonful of Sugar. In some particularly long and challenging sections of the Old Testament, the choice has been made to weave in every-other-day readings from the New Testament. This way, even if one day the passage you read isn’t very accessible, the next day you will have one that is more accessible.