Become a Peculiar Bible Reader

limburgerHave you heard the story about the guy who suddenly noticed a terrible smell in every room of his house? It was very distinct and a smell he recognized immediately.

He called his friend and said, “Someone has played a dirty trick and hidden Limburger cheese in every room of my house! I need you to come over and help me find it.”

The friend came over and noticed the trouble right away—the guy had Limburger cheese stuck in his mustache. Hrruumph!

I’ve had a similar realization recently. I used to think everyone else was weird, but I’ve decided after fifty years of thinking it’s the other guy…I’m the one that’s strange.

Odd.

Peculiar.

There’s just no getting around it. It’s not everyone else. I’m a little north of quirky.

One of My Peculiarities

I could list several oddities here, but let’s stick with the relevant one—Bible reading. I’m not weird because I read my Bible (though some would argue with me there). I’m peculiar in how I read my Bible.

I learned this peculiarity from one of my hubby’s seminary professors. He challenged his students to read the entire Gospel of Matthew in a single sitting. In case you’re wondering, Matthew has twenty-eight chapters (or 1071 verses).

Now, to give you an idea of how much time is involved in reading the entire book, I clocked reading a single verse (6 seconds) and multiplied that times 1071. Then divide 6,426 by sixty to discover the number of minutes to read the whole book. Basically, it would take about 1 ¾ hours to read Matthew without a breather.

Why does it matter? Because this little exercise proved “chunking” as the absolute BEST WAY to read God’s Word!

Hubby’s professor knew that by reading the huge chunk of Matthew’s Gospel, his students would get a clearer picture of Jesus’ ministry on earth and the full message Matthew was trying to convey.

Becoming a Chunky Reader

Through the years, I’ve tried lots of different strategies for my quiet time. I’ve done lots of devotional books, Bible studies, and Bible-reading plans, but I always come back to the Chunky-Reading Method because it gives me the whole picture of what’s happening.

For instance…stop right now, and read the whole book of Jude (Don’t worry. It’s only 25 verses.)

Are you confused about a few things? I was too! I had no idea angels fought over Moses’ body (v.9) or Enoch prophesied (v.14) about anything. But when we’re chunking, we don’t stop at things we don’t fully understand.

When we read the full book and look for the overall message, the confusion often dissipates as the Holy Spirit whispers the over-arching theme of the day’s message to your heart.

Here are a few questions you can ask to get your brain engaged before and after you read the big chunks:

  1. Who wrote the book (or big chunk)? And to whom was it written?
  2. Why did he write it? What occasion, celebration, or problem prompted it?
  3. What is the tone of the book? Discipline? Encouragement? Teaching?
  4. How can its overall message be applied to our lives today?

Devotional or Research-Oriented?

Depending on your temperament and/or time constraints, you may want to delve deeper into God’s Word after asking the previous questions.

If you’re at an emotional place in life, you may simply need to let the words wash over You, allowing the Spirit to massage His message into your spirit like balm into a wound.

If you find a specific part of the book (or large passage) especially intriguing, dig a little deeper with a Bible dictionary, map, or commentary. My spiritual life soared when I received my first NIV Study Bible as a gift in 1989. Each verse had a deeper explanation in the notes below, and I drank it in like a thirsty traveler in the desert!

Choose Chunks Wisely

If only we had all day to read and study God’s Word, right? Alas…life goes on…

So, how do we choose what chunks to read? For the last few years, I’ve been reading the passages corresponding to the novels I’m writing—focused in the Old Testament. However, before deadlines and editors invaded my space, I tried to balance my time between Old Testament and New.

One of my favorite New Testament books to begin with is James. Relatively short, it’s got LOTS of great nuggets in it but also a fabulous overall message to inspire and encourage. Ruth and Esther are great Old Testament books to begin with—familiar stories in which you’ll find new and powerful insights when read in a single sitting.

When you choose a book that life won’t allow you to read in a single sitting, try to break it into manageable parts.  Here’s how I’ve done it in the past:

  1. Decide which OT/NT book you want to read.
  2. Google, “How many verses in [chosen book of the Bible]?”
  3. Time yourself reading one full verse, and then multiply it by the # of verses in your Google search. Divide the total by 60 to determine how many minutes are required to read the full book.
  4. Now, realistically assess your daily quiet time to decide how many sittings are required to read the full book.

Remember, BIG CHUNKS! If you read a verse every six seconds (like me), you can read 300 verses in thirty minutes. If you have a little ADD (also like me), you’d probably better give yourself a little breathing room. 😉

Tweet-A-Licious!

Today’s Questions:

  • Have you ever tried reading a whole biblical book at once? What was your experience like?
  • Do you have questions about the logistics of how to be a chunky Bible reader?

About Mesu Andrews

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Comments

  1. Great help and comment on one of the most important habits (?) in your life. Like medicine to your soul you find your whole being being changed. Then suddenly….you know Jesus/God/Holy Spirit in ways you never thought you could. Truly a Book that has the power to CHANGE you. Wonder of wonders that God gave us this tool. Thanks, Mesu.

    • When John tells us the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1), it changed how I read the Bible. It told me that I can truly KNOW God better through His Word–as you said. So reading larger chunks of it is like getting to have a deeper, longer conversation with a good friend. Good stuff!

  2. I usually read my Bible this way- it is the first time I heard of it as a technique though. I have always been a reader and little snippets are never enough to satisfy. Often I will look up a single verse for a note or to add to a picture and end up reading the whole chunk it’s in. I don’t often read whole books, but maybe I will start.

  3. I’m not sure if I’ve read a whole book at one sitting (except for Jude, I, II, III John), so I guess what I do is mini-chunking! It is true you don’t get the whole story/picture by just reading one verse. I have found in reading your books, it helps to read the entire chapter of the verse listed and chapters before and after to give you a better understanding. I love imagining the what if’s. Thoughtful blog, Mesu. Thanks for the challenges you always give…Linda

  4. This was so refreshing to read. I’ve done this sort of reading on many occasions and have benefitted hugely from it. I hadn’t thought of all the benefits that you have laid out though. I’ve done Job and Revelations in one chunk and it certainly helped me get a better overview. Another useful method I’ve used is to use an audio Bible and listen and follow along in my printed Bible.

    • Audio Bible is a GREAT idea, Jenn! Some friends of mine wanted to read through the Bible in a year and knew they wouldn’t have time to sit down and do it, so they have an email sent to themselves everyday that will play an audio Bible reading (mobile app, computer, whatever). Here’s the link if anyone is interested…
      http://bibleplan.org/

  5. Just got an email from my hubby’s seminary professor–the one that suggested he read the whole book! (Yes, we still keep in touch, and he graciously reads my blog.) 😉

    Here’s his reply…I thought you might find it as interesting as I did!

    “I agree with your time of 1.75 hours on Matthew. Tried it years ago, and always came out the same no matter what translation I used. To really slow things down, one might try reading aloud. It’s my understanding that there was no silent reading in the biblical world until around 400 A.D. (at least that’s the first mention of it–in Augustine’s “Confessions”). If so, that’s how the Bible was intended to be read–a big change of pace for us!”

    Isn’t it fascinating to realize the Bible wasn’t read aloud until 400 A.D.? How blessed we are today! 😉

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