Rapid Reading through the NT & OT

Blend this fourth skill of rapid reading through the NT & OT…

…into what I see as the “main course” for engaging God’s Love-Letter on our journey.

  • Repeatedly read one chapter in the Bible every day for an entire week plus
  • rapidly read the entire book once and
  • rapidly read one chapter once in a solid Christian book each week to look topically at key, foundational concepts from spiritual masters.

You practiced the skill of rapid and repeated reading of a Bible book and chapter. Now build upon those skills and extend the skills to the Bible as a whole with rapid reading through the NT & OT. We build this naturally upon the first three skills we looked at together in the 8-part DiscipleMaking Companion series.

So, now seek to grasp the panoramic view of the interconnected whole through rapid reading through the NT & OT.

Our aim is incremental change through layer learning, building one skill upon previous skills.

Whether you simply read or study in more detail, one thing is crucial for LifeChange. Put what you learn into practice in some way. Don’t allow knowledge to remain dormant in your mind or we end up deceiving ourselves (James 1:22). Simply reading Scripture can become a powerful way towards change though, if we add doing while we…

…devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching
(1 Timothy 4:13, emphasis).

The insight in this verse is one reason why groups I lead almost always read the applicable Scripture out loud when we get together to encourage each other around God’s Love-Letter. So often when we read God’s Word out loud in a circle, a “neon” jumps out at me that I hadn’t seen before.

Our first shift in thinking…

…must be to begin with the whole, rather than with the isolated parts. A major reason for a lack of enthusiastic interest in God’s Word lies in a failure to adopt an initial BIG picture approach to the Bible.

We have focused in our past trainings together on rapid and repeated reading for growth in both books of the Bible and chapters in those books. This BIG-small-BIG approach releases maximum learning as we see life-impacting details in the context of the interconnected whole. To expand our context to the entire Bible, let’s add the next skill. I’ve published on Amazon.Com two easy-to-use books to aid us in grasping the BIG picture by rapid reading through the NT & OT.

  1. 90-Day Engagement with the New Testament.
  2. 13 OT Biographies Plus Proverbs that guide us through the entire historical portion of the OT while focusing on one bio of a key person in each era.

Martin Luther used the analogy that reading the Bible is like harvesting apples. This skill is equivalent to Martin Luther’s “shaking the tree” to harvest ripe fruit. Both of these provide support for a big-picture, rapid reading of longer portions of the NT & OT.

Or another analogy. This skill is like looking at the topographical map to add to our more detailed study of the mountains and rivers and lakes. Give yourself permission to miss some details when you read rapidly. Others in your group will add their thoughts and you have a lifetime to return and explore further.

This is a learned skill…so persevere. It’s worth the effort.

“But Jim, I’m not as good of a reader as others and don’t even enjoy reading! How can I practice rapid reading through the NT & OT?”

First, don’t ever compare yourself or your skills with another.

You are only responsible to max out what your specific capacities are. Jesus will meet you there. And a few Christians may not be able to learn to read because of limitations. Be creative then. The OT was more of an oral society, and they knew Scripture. Many options to listen to Scripture are available today. And putting truth into practice drives LifeChange even more than study (although knowledge is important as fuel). Learn to be an active reader (or listener). Ask lots of questions, always in your head and selectively to others. And put insight into practice so truth impacts life.

Second, if you have hung with us this long,…

…I would be fairly sure that you have personally experienced a growing love for the Father, Son and Spirit. Your longing to know Him better and to see yourself like Jesus does must be soaring. And a growing friendship with the Father and Son prompts a desire to follow wholeheartedly. With increased motivation comes perseverance to push through the hard work necessary on any learning curve. Is knowing Jesus and what He has for you worth carving out time to learn? How high is your passion to know Jesus?

Third, the quote above is a “chicken-egg” argument.

 If we don’t perceive ourselves as good readers, we probably will not enjoy reading. Learn to read up to your God-given capacity and then you will probably learn to enjoy reading more, especially Scripture. Have you put in the hard work necessary for a breakthrough in reading?

Fourth, simple learning tips are available to help all of us learn to read better.

Studies show that three bad habits underlie most people who feel they read poorly. Break these three lingering habits from when we first learned to read and experience personal breakthrough. In the free PDF, Tips for Improved Reading, I identify the three negative reading habits along with suggestions for breakthrough. Here are summaries of the three bad habits to break for improved reading, just to prime the pump, with the link above a pathway to expanded help.

  1. The problem of vocalization: The reader will physically move his or her lips as they silently read, often mumbling the words audibly, even when reading to himself or herself. Place a finger on your vocal cords as you read to yourself to check this out. This is how we were first taught to read as children, sounding out words, and the habit often continues.
  2. The problem of single word reading. As children, we were taught to fix on a single word at a time, or a single syllable. Many adult readers still read this way. Observe your reading. Listen to your mind as you read to yourself to evaluate if you normally fix on one word at a time.
  3. The problem of regressions. Regressions mean that we read a word, then go back to be sure we have read it correctly. It arises from our desire as children to get it right in front of our teachers and our peers peers. We do not trust our minds to comprehend. As an example, did you stop and look back because of the repeated word “peers” two sentences ago? If not the first time, did you just now go back? Regressions slow down our reading speed.

When you mentioned reading the NT & the OT, why did you first focus on the New Testament when the Old Testament comes first in time?

Of course, feel free to use the two resources above in any order, beginning with the OT or the NT.I’m interested in supporting you as you engage Scripture.

As I understand the Big-story, Jesus is the fulfillment and the culmination of the OT. A one-word summary of the OT is hope. A one-word summary of the NT is fulfillment because Jesus completes the OT. I prefer to help others see Jesus as He is because His coming marked a radically different relationship with His Father.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Then after seeing how stunning Jesus is as He made all things new, we can more accurately return to the OT and see reflections of Jesus in the OT.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Lk 24:27;27:44 John 5:39+46).

So, my personal preference is to first major on the inspired NT in order to get a clearer grasp of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. From this inspired viewpoint, then read the inspired OT with this clearer insight. If you are interested, this links you to a free PDF on Jesus Fulfills & Supersedes the OT.

After reading the NT and the historical portion of the OT, what’s left?

A lifelong adventure of growth in His presence as you get to know the God of the Word better through the Word of God.

After laying a solid NT foundation…

…of a clearer view of the Father, Son and Spirit and His high calling to restored image-bearers, read the rest of the OT that you have not yet read.

The Psalms and Proverbs are rich subjects. Perhaps for one month, read through five Psalms per day, 30 days’ worth. Or read Proverbs through one month, a chapter per day for 31 days. The Psalms lead our hearts to worship and prayer and Proverbs to practical responses to life. Psalms is the Christian on our knees and Proverbs the Christian engaging life.

  • The Jews memorized the first five books of the Bible (called the Pentateuch). I would at least read them through at sometime early in your journey.
  • Pick one of the prophetic books to read and reread (Isaiah through Malachi in our Bibles). After one, perhaps go on to another or circle back later.
  • Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon are unique books. Ecclesiastes gives us King Solomon’s view of “life under the sun,” the futility of a life of self-focus and self-indulgence. Song of Solomon describes the passionate heart of Solomon for his bride and his bride for Solomon. Dong of Solomon is also a feint reflection of our passionate relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit.
  • Which books remain to be read? 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles are similar to 1 Kings and 2 Kings. However, they provide more the priestly perspective of the time rather than the perspective from the kings. Interesting differences stand out.

Finally, the difficult yet powerful book of Job. 

Job may be a contemporary of Abraham described in Genesis. I’ve found the book of Job super helpful to fill out how God works through tough times, especially Job’s conclusion in Job 42:5-6.

For me, the key to the book of Job comes in 42:5-6.

Job was the most blameless man on earth at the time, according to the Lord (2:3). Yet the Lord gave Satan permission to attack Job, within specific limits. How strange!

Why, Lord?

At the end of the book, Job reveals to us the inner change that happened to him during this process. Before Job saw God more as a distant God (“hearing of the ear”). But now more intently (“my eyes see You”). Job’s heart is broken, and he responds with a fuller, all-in surrender to his lovely Lord.

I want to take what may look like a quick detour.

I see two broad approaches to teaching on a continuum with mixed styles. “Put In” by telling and “Draw Out” with questions. Two reasons I want to touch on this.

  • To remind you of another set of cascading webpages called Teaching for Transformation in Agile Learners.”
  • To underscore that the style in which a group is taught also impacts to a great extent how the group members learn.

As we seek to rediscover God’s design for learning, which of these two styles better represents your view of a teacher? Please circle one before continuing. Don’t choose the one you think I’m looking for. It’s crucial we begin with active learning at the place we now are.

  • More “put in by telling”?

  • More “draw out by asking”?

Both reflect valid aspects of the teaching spectrum. My profs taught and modeled the first one, “put in by telling” (and this style is more difficult to perform well). My subsequent personal study and experience shifted me to value “draw out by asking” as the highest art of teaching to influence lives (and the easiest to learn and to pass on).

Why do I personally believe “draw out with questions” generally stimulates more and better spiritual growth? Our end-goal is LifeChange and “draw out” sparks this because it’s…

  • the most impacting for personal change in our lives as we learn to take responsibility,
  • more effective in influencing change in others, and
  • quicker and easier to learn so more easily reproduces teachers.

Each style is effective to accomplish the specific results it’s designed for. Both are valid.

So, what results do you personally desire when you engage God’s Love-Letter?

“Put in by telling” is more effective to pass on knowledge and information, and to envision a larger group, like in a larger adult classroom or all-church service. It’s also what we have most often experienced, so now expect when we join a group. Most of us then come to a Bible-based group expecting to experience the teaching style with which we learned, “put in by telling.”

However, “draw out with questions” best fulfills my purpose for engaging the Bible in ways adults learn best. My goal is formation, not primarily information, LifeChange, not merely Bible knowledge. We come to God through His revealed Word with our own uniqueness to experience direct communion with Him. Adult learners grow best together in community with the give-&-take and personal responsibility to learn of the more collaborative style of “draw out by asking.” Together, we all ask and answer questions, deepening understanding as both learners and teachers. “Everyone gets to participate.”

Both are valid and proper in given settings. However, “draw out” best fulfills my purpose for engaging the Bible with adult learners.

Which style of teaching/learning do you prefer? Why?

Although you can’t change how others teach, you’re the gatekeeper of your own heart. To a great extent, you can choose how you learn, regardless of the teacher’s style. When I’m in a situation where a person primarily teaches directively (“put in”), I turn my learning into “draw out.”

How can I do that?

  • I try to find out beforehand what the presenter will teach on and prepare.
  • I take notes, actively engaging my mind as I listen.
  • The ideal collaborative community learning may not be available, but I still learn “collaboratively” by asking myself questions in my head to myself as I listen.
  • I listen closely and reflect through the lens of D-O-I-N-G, especially putting truth into action to encounter my life.
  • After the “put in” teaching time, I find a person after the service or lecture and ask what he/she thinks about a certain excellent point. Or ask about  one I’m wrestling with to stimulate my thinking from others.
  • Be creative! But listen actively to turn “put in” into “draw out” for you.

In order to shift how we engage Scripture, I believe one early change we need is the fundamental understanding of how powerful “draw out with questions” is.

Do you believe that…

  • …new information does not become our own until we do something with it?
  • …information alone just puffs us up unless it’s put into practice in ways to build up?
  • …when we hear the Word of God and don’t respond, we build inner walls of deceit?
  • …the knowledge and experience of each of us in the group is as important as our teacher’s (and more important to us)?
  • …the basic nature of those created in God’s image is to desire to question and dialog, interact and learn so we change?
  • …an experience is a more powerful way to learn than simply listening?
  • …what people personally say and do change us more powerfully than what the teacher may say since we don’t argue with our own data and point of view as much?

Unless we are convinced of this…

…really convinced to the depths of our being…we will not put in the hard work needed to switch from an information-based belief system to natural learning.

What part do you want to play in this new/ancient learning process that God is releasing? I call this natural learning because it aligns with how God designed us. Unless you are personally convinced that in many cases the learning community together has more to offer than a teacher does, you will never pay the price to tap into the creativity lying dormant in the church.

We must begin with a high view of mankind designed in the image of God and restored through faith in Christ. I’m already anticipating the rich pleasure of sensing those growing glimmers of a new way of learning and living in this group as we learn from each other!

What is your choice? Whatever it is, put it into action!

Where Do I Go from Here?

I’ve designed this series of sub-webpages with your self-learning in mind for Mining God’s Word, one layer of skills after another. This flexibility helps you learn in the way you learn best.

  1. Read and reflect on this free PDF of much of this page to develop the skill of rapid reading through the NT & OT.
  2. Pull up any links scatted throughout these web pages and reread as needed, like Tips for Improved Reading and Jesus Fulfills & Supersedes the OT.
  3. Have you invited a few other believers around you to practice natural learning together in an interactive group? We learn best together and are changed through our doing.

Additional Choices for the future:

  1. Now decide if you want to invest six months in rapid reading through the NT and the OT now. Click here to get a free PDF of this page. Or click here for the article of Jesus Fulfills and Supersedes the OT.
  2. If so, 90-Day Engagement with the New Testament is available on Amazon.Com for a discount price. This is excellent for group study, although it also works to pace your individual study of the NT.
  3. As a separate decision, also decide if you want to invest 3 months in reading through the OT historical section now. If so, 13 OT Biographies Plus Proverbs is also available on Amazon.Com at a discount (Proverbs is a bonus addition). This is excellent for group study, although it also works to pace your individual study of the NT.
  4. If you have not already, be sure to also strengthen your foundation from “Seven Essentials from a Natural Learning Culture.” This learning culture is a powerful support for your learning.
  5. Then after this, work on some of the other OT books listed above, as you intersperse those with mastering more books in the NT.
  6. As you have read and studied, perhaps one paragraph gripped your heart in an especially deep way. “I know there’s more here than I can see now!” This need and desire move you to this fifth skill, Dive Down into ONE Bible Paragraph. The varied tools introduced in that webpage allow you to drill down more deeply. You are the gatekeeper of your heart. Set you own pace as you partner with the Spirit to grow as a disciple, a learner, as you put truth into practice.