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Lynn Maudlin: Read the Bible's my favorite book!

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Did you know that you can read the entire Bible outloud in approximately 75 hours? It's true— in 1985 my mother, Lauralee Maudlin, conceived of a program called Bible Alive Aloud in which members of the congregation signed up to read half-hour portions of specific verses at a specific time. They started at noon on Palm Sunday, 1986, and read until 6:00 p.m. that day; they continued Monday through Saturday of Holy Week, starting at 6:30 a.m. and ending each evening at 6:00 p.m. They read 150 half-hour segments, Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21, not including the Apocrypha.

Her church did this every three years through 2001. Folks would come early and read before work, some came during their lunch hours. The church was open to the community for anyone who wanted to listen and there were occasionally as many as ten people simply listening. My mother made a point of being present for the entire reading; this way she could step in if someone was delayed or didn't show (a rarity!) and everyone had an "audience" appreciating their labor of love.

The breakdown of readings is here. In the years since, my mother has been reading the Bible outloud in fifteen-minute segments, keeping notes on the various versions (the Amplified Bible, since it adds many words, is obviously the major exception to the rule).

When you look at it this way, it's surprising that so many people are so daunted by the thought of reading the whole Bible in the course of a year. I think it's a great discipline and most years I do it simply by reading the Bible in bed before I go to sleep. One of my favorite "one year" Bibles is the Oswald Chambers Daily Devotional Bible, sadly out of print; like most "one-year" Bibles it breaks down the daily reading with a portion from the Hebrew scriptures, a little bit from the Psalms and Proverbs and a portion from the New Testament, along with an excerpt from one of Oswald Chambers' books.

You can use the My Utmost for His Highest Oswald Chambers website to accomplish the same end: read the devotional excerpt and, at the bottom, their "Bible in One Year" portion, linked if you wish to read it online (I have linked to the "January 1" devotional in order to start with the first chapter of Genesis, but their home page is always the current day of the year).

Another approach is chronological, reading the books in basically the order in which they occurred. Among Blue Letter Bible's assortment of reading plans is a chronological Bible reading plan.

One of the oddities of the Bible is that you shouldn't try to read it cover-to-cover like any other book, at least not the first time you read it (my suggestion: start with the gospel of Luke). But, ironically, it's a great way for serious Christians and Jews: start at Genesis 1 and read it straight through, read it quickly, at least half an hour or more at a sitting, like you would read a novel. And while reading the law (much of Exodus, most of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) it helps to ponder the world in which the Hebrews found themselves and how God set them apart and made them distinct from the surrounding peoples, by use of the law.

In the last decade or so I've been enjoying listening to the Bible via the Word of Promise Complete Audio Bible which employs a wonderful cast of actors and takes about 98 hours in its entirety (there are some sound effects and music added, which extends the length). Because of its size it used to download in 17 "parts" but now is apparently downloaded as a single enormous file, so it's hard to find specific locations within the Bible unless you have the breakdown by chapters or "parts" This breakdown by chapters also works for the excellent in-an-entirely-different way Complete Audio Bible recorded by David Suchet (yes, the actor who played Hercule Poirot for many years); he does a spectacular job reading the NIV (New International Version); this one runs about 83 hours.

A great related tool is Dr. Chuck Missler's Learn the Bible in 24 Hours, a tongue-in-cheek title to his excellent overview of the Bible; the 66/40 radio program occasionally podcasts parts of it. And my favorite website: Blue Letter Bible, with wonderful search tools and online concordance so you can follow a Hebrew word (or Greek, for the New Testament) through every occurrence in scripture.

One of my personal favorite ways to soak in God's word is to read the books of Proverbs and Psalms in full each month. This is easily done; Proverbs has 31 chapters so you read the chapter which corresponds to the day of the month and chapter 31 simply isn't read every month. The book of Psalms has 150 chapters (the Coptic church includes Psalm 151, as do most Catholic Bibles) so my preferred method is to read the psalm which corresponds to the day of the month, plus 30, 60, 90, and 120. So on the first, I read Psalm 1, Psalm 31, Psalm 61, Psalm 91, and Psalm 121. I save Psalm 119 (all 176 verses!) for the 31st of the month.

I am frequently appalled by the high degree of general ignorance of scripture even among Christians. I am aghast when I hear a Christian say something about "the God of the Old Testament," as if there was any change in the nature or character of God between Malachi and Matthew... don't get me started! exasperated face

Why do I care? I grew up with computers as dinner table conversation but the Bible and church were the central core of our home life. My folks grew up in Iowa where my maternal grandfather was a Methodist minister and they moved out to Los Angeles after WWII. They found the little, local Methodist church and that's where I grew up: liberal, social gospel, non-sacramental - a very different approach to Christianity from their Methodist church back in Iowa.

The Bible got cut off at the knees in my early childhood (a long, complex story) and I'm not sure that all our ministers, over the years, believed in Jesus as Savior: God-incarnate, sacrificed in our place to take care of our sins and make a way for humanity to be reconciled to a holy, righteous, perfect God.

So it wasn't until life started to smack me around the head that I realized I didn't have a saving faith; God graciously showed me the deeper way - and that openned the Bible to me. Suddenly, reading the Bible wasn't like eating sawdust, it was alive and vital. If you don't experience the Bible as alive and vital, I respectfully encourage you to pick it up (I recommend the New American Standard Bible as the most accurate modern translation but the best Bible translation is the one you actually read!) and ask God to open His word to you and open you to His word. That's a prayer He loves to answer!

House of Bread is a result of my love for the Bible, a musical based on the book of Ruth.

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