Rapid Reading of ONE Bible Book

Build rapid reading of one book…

…together with repeated reading of one chapter (the second skill).

Are you convinced that you can engage God’s Love-Letter in a way that changes your life? What changes you the most is what you believe, not so much what I believe.

For healthy BIG-small-BIG learning, it’s essential to train ourselves in both skills that belong to the BIG, rapid reading (BIG of survey and synthesize) and repeated reading (small of analyze). Rapid reading belongs to the BIG of both survey and synthesize (putting it back together again). Repeated reading belongs to the small.

Please be careful here!

I hear older Christians encourage younger Christians to get into God’s Love-Letter by sharing where they are and sharing too small of a context. “I just read a small portion and stop when something grabs me, whether a phrase or a verse.” There’s a time for this (my fifth skill that I share).

First develop the skills of rapid (BIG) then repeated reading (the first layer of small). Then build upon those strong skills over a lifetime. Our mind doesn’t like scattered bits and pieces. First build the big-picture by looking at the lush valley from the mountain peak (rapid reading). Then climb down and explore the fertile valley without rush (repeated reading, then additional small skills).

I’m suggesting the sequence of learning as first practice rapid reading then repeated reading (the next skill).

When I was a young Christian, I bemoaned that I had no one around me in the church who could teach me how to study the Bible. Their go-to was to read through the Bible consecutively from Genesis to Revelation. This was certainly not bad.

I was frustrated though because I knew that so much more treasure remained buried than I was able to mine. Where could I discover how to engage God’s Word so it greater impacted my life?

About this time I stumbled across a book by James Gray, How To Master the English Bible.

What a breakthrough for me!

This simple book opened my understanding about the Bible in two ways.

I first began to value more highly the solid foundation that only rapid reading through books of the Bible had laid in my life.

Second, he helped me to add repeated reading to my small arsenal of Bible tools to broaden understanding of Scripture.Now we will weave together rapid reading of one book in the Bible. Next we will focus on repeated reading of one chapter after another.

According to James Gray,…

…there are many ways to study the Bible. Each is good in its own partial way. There is only one way though to begin to master” a book of the Bible.

James Gray, a well-educated Bible teacher, describes the first practical help he received in the “mastery” of the English Bible. At a conference where he spoke, James Gray noticed the life of one specific layman. This man demonstrated an extraordinary peace and rest, a joy and a kind of spiritual poise that had eluded Gray to date.

James Gray’s ministry was dramatically changed as the man explained the simple, yet powerful, source of his changed life. The layman responded, “I read the book of Ephesians.” James Gray was surprised because he had read and even preached through Ephesians without the same results. So he asked him to explain the manner of his reading. Mr. Gray relates his story.

“He had gone into the country to spend Sunday with his family on one occasion, taking with him a pocket copy of Ephesians, and in the afternoon, going out into the woods and lying down under a tree, he began to read it; he read it; [the layman] read it through at a single reading, and finding his interest aroused, read it through again and again. I think he added that he read it some twelve or fifteen times, ‘and when I arose to go into the house,’ said he, ‘I was in possession of Ephesians, or better yet, it was in possession of me; and I had been lifted up to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus in an experimental sense that had not been true in me before, and will never cease to be true in me again.’”

Read that quote one more time please. What does it do to your heart?

Mr. Gray’s heart soared in thanksgiving to God for answered prayer. He had been praying for months, if not years, that he might come to know how to better master God’s Word. And his prayer was answered as he began to diligently practice what he learned from this unassuming layman.

Looking back at my life after reading James Gray,

I realized how much merely soaking in Scripture had changed me from center to circumference through my rapid reading of larger portions of Scripture.

Once I saw this, I began to discover that many of the great preachers who dug into God’s Word began with this in their study. Not first with the small bits and pieces but first with the sweeping overview by rapid reading of whatever book they were in followed up by repeated reading.

Since we are deepening skills through layer learning, however, we will now only focus on rapid reading married together with putting into practice one thing from what we saw.

As I put this simple practice to the test in my life, my grasp of Scripture and love for the Lord Jesus rose steeply. This practice became the foundation for all my future growth. My connected relationship with Jesus accelerated. God’s love flourished in me. My desire to minister to serve others grew. My enjoyment of God’s presence became central to my journey.

Are you willing to give this rapid reading a shot for two weeks? It could be life-changing!

I echo James Gray’s sentiments as he answers this question. “Was this task to rapidly and repeatedly read God’s Word tedious?”

“No more than was Jacob’s when he served Laban for his daughter Rachel. There were compensations all along the way and ever-increasing delight. No romance ever held sway over the thought and imagination in comparison with this Book of books….Words fail me to express the blessing that reading has been to me—strengthening my conviction as to the integrity and [word-perfect] inspiration of the whole Book, enlarging my mental vision as to the divine plan…, purifying my life and lightening my labors in the ministry until that which before had often been a burden and weariness to the flesh, became a continual joy and delight….”

How appealing are these results to you that James Gray catalogs?

There are many effective ways to study the Bible. Over time, add these. Yet still begin here with rapid reading (followed by repeated reading as the second skill).

I encourage us to adapt this holistic approach to study any Bible book, and especially the NT and Psalms. BIG-small-BIG, beginning with rapid reading of the one book you are focusing on now. I believe it’s the failure to adopt a similar approach to the Bible that is partially responsible for a lack of enthusiastic interest in God’s Word from God’s people.

For, me, James Gray provides insight into why this rapid reading is so powerful and how to intentionally tap into God’s creation design. And my personal experience agrees with him.

A fragmentary method of study as if no connection existed with the whole wearies us.

God designed our minds to hate bits and pieces when isolated from the overall picture. A natural BIG-small-BIG approach aligns with this natural sense of learning. There’s more that we can do after we’ve engaged a book of the Bible with the first BIG yet our attempts to dig deeply before this BIG yield less fruit.

Grasping a view of the forest precedes focusing on the trees. Many of us begin a jig-saw puzzle by studying the cover picture and then focusing on the border. If a farmer bought new farmland, he would first take a big-picture of the lay of the land before deciding what to plant in the various fields. To study geography well, begin with a globe of the world, then focus in on the country you are studying, even down to its rivers and mountains.

Begin with the wide sweep before digging down into the crucial details.

  • BIG, survey through repeated and rapid reading.
  • small, dig down into the parts, investigate and analyze with repeated and rapid reading, alternating with slowly mulling it over.
  • BIG, synthesize through repeated and rapid reading.

I believe such a natural approach and rhythm returns much of our passion to understand this Book of books and the God who inspired it.

Yet the most crucial factor to marry to these for growth is doing Scripture leading to obedience. To your rapid reading add quick obedience. Jot down your Biblical convictions from these passages.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:22-25, NIV).

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24-27, NIV).

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them…Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me” (John 14:21+23-24, NIV).

And it’s the Bible itself we are to master in our native tongue.

For now, go very light on books about the Bible or commentaries or charts or even Bible footnotes. When we first go to others for understanding, we then read the Bible through their eyes,.

There’s a powerful and crucial place for Bible footnotes and commentaries and for preachers and teachers and spiritual masters. Not up front in my opinion. First grasp a solid understanding of a book. Then we may want to go to solid commentaries that help bring more depth and expand our thinking on paragraphs and problem passages. These come later (my fifth skill, Dive Down into ONE Bible Passage.)

Sequence is crucial or we become shallow echoes of what others think rather than finding our unique voice for LifeChange from Scripture.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

This marvelous partnership where the Holy Spirit and human authors comes together is inspiration (“God-breathed”). The result is God’s own, completely authoritative words to us. Yet it comes through the uniqueness of different human instruments. Our Team-of-Three “thoroughly equips” His people. However, this demands our effort to metabolize knowledge into heart-experience by responding as partners of the Holy Spirit.

What benefits will we experience when we engage the Bible for LifeChange through a natural learning approach?

Before moving on, take time to list some of the benefits you think may be part of diving in to engage the Bible personally in an interactive group to dialog about how it impacted us.

Add your own before reading my few ideas. Active learning changes us.

  1. More rapidly transforms our lives as we begin to see our experience tie into God’s Love-Letter as we put truth into practice to encounter life.
  2. Develops lifelong life-learners and doers because we realize we have the answers ourselves as we partner with the Spirit.
  3. Provides a relational approach that aligns with the personal nature of our Family-of-Three.
  4. Recognizes our part in the responsibility for discovering truth and growing within God’s part and doesn’t passively wait for others to teach us.
  5. Keeps us more alert, engaged and satisfied because God designed us as active beings.
  6. Creates a sense of community in an atmosphere of love and acceptance that stimulates heart-conversations that can launch growth.
  7. It’s a lot more fun!

After thinking through this yourself, read the linked PDF for more benefits if you’re interested.

Where Do I Go from Here?

I’ve designed this series of sub-webpages with your self-learning in mind, 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 describing repeated reading of ONE Bible book if you want to think more about this.
  2. Put learning into practice by using this on Ephesians 1-3, then Ephesians 4-6. This breaks Ephesians into its two natural parts to aid you to learn this skill.
  3. Have you invited a couple of other believers around you to practice natural learning together in an interactive group? We learn best together and are changed through our doing, not primarily through our studying (although that is a necessary preparation for change).
  4. As you gather, add to the elements of these four bullet points to the group time. This is a simple, easy and powerful way to cultivate healthy culture in a group. I do this most every group I lead. It never becomes stale because these elicit different answers each week.
    • Starters. One thing this week you are grateful for. Review.
    • Read the passage out loud in a circle, a few verses each. If it’s an extended passage, read on 15-20 key verses.
    • Debrief insights from the passage and from “Stretch Myself” with each other as both a learner and a teacher.
    • Share a 15-30-second personal request. Then pray our best 30-second prayer. Also pray at times for our city.

Then in your timing, go on to the next sub-webpage, the second way to engage Scripture.

  1.  Repeated Reading of One Bible Chapter. 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. However, I still strongly encourage you to develop a daily discipline in order to form good habits that work for you.
  2. If you have not already, be sure to also strengthen your foundation by beginning to explore the “Seven Essentials from a Natural Learning Culture.” The learning culture is a powerful support for your learning.

Leave a Comment