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.
Read what the ancient book of Proverbs has to say about the attitude and responses with which to approach God’s Word. Notice the verbs, the action words.
My son, if you
accept my words and
store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom and
applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you
call out for insight and
cry aloud for understanding, and if you
look for it as for silver and
search for it as for hidden treasure… (Proverbs 2:1-4).
“IF” is a word of condition. Note its use three times above. When the condition is met, then the promised “then” is ours (Proverbs 2:5+911). Why? Solomon uses the word “for” to give us the sure basis…God will release wisdom for our lives (Proverbs 2:6-8).
Read 2:5 plus 2:9-11. Are these results you want. Are you willing to begin to approach God’s Word with a growing pursuit of our part, the “IF’s” because of the promises implied in “for”?
For healthy BIG-small-BIG learning, it’s essential to train ourselves in both skills that belong to the BIG, rapid reading (the “BIG“ of survey and synthesize) and repeated reading (the “small” of analyze).
I want to begin with the first skill of rapid reading of Scripture.
Please be careful here!
I hear older Christians encourage younger Christians to get into God’s Love-Letter by sharing where the older Christian is on their journey. By then, they should have a broad, sweeping view of Scripture, so they teach them too focus on a small 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).
Not now (in my opinion).
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 as the first skill then repeated reading as the second 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 properly study the Bible beyond simply reading. What I didn’t know at the time was that I stumbled into the most natural way to learn (thanks, Spirit of God!) I was frustrated though because I knew that so much more treasure remained buried than I was able to mine…and there was. Just not yet.
I was frustrated though because I knew that so much more treasure remained buried than I was able to mine…and there was. Just not yet.
About this time I stumbled across a book by James Gray that finally provided perspective, 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.
Then he helped me to add repeated reading to my small arsenal of Bible tools to broaden understanding of Scripture.
On this webpage, we will focus together on rapid reading of one book in the Bible. On the next sub-webpage, our focus will be the second tool, repeated reading, of one chapter after another.Notice how both are blended together in the quotations below.
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 ? 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?
Are they worth practicing the “Ifs” in Proverbs 2:1-4? Accepting, shoring up, turning our ear, applying our heart, calling out, crying aloud looking and searching as for hidden treasure?
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 together with these for growth is doing Scripture leading to obedience. To your rapid reading add quick obedience. Whatever engagement of Scripture you have, whether listening to a message or reading your Bible, practice D-O-I-N-G as of first importance. Jot down your Biblical convictions from the following passages.
…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you
(Jesus in the Great Commission, Matthew 28:20a, emphasis).
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says…, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:22-25, emphasis).
DOING is the key to Bible study (see also Matthew 7:24-27; John 14:21+23-24).
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 (or none at all to force you to think). 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.
Since nothing is more crucial for your Christian journey than knowing Jesus, I’m going to suggest that you begin your rapid reading with Him. After reflecting His entire life on Jesus, one of His best friends wrote a biography. The Gospel of John provides a glimpse into the heart of Jesus, the most relationally engaging person I know. Here is John’ purpose for writing.
[This was] written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31).
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.
- 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.
- Develops lifelong life-learners and doers because we realize we have the answers ourselves as we partner with the Spirit.
- Provides a relational approach that aligns with the personal nature of our Family-of-Three.
- 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.
- Keeps us more alert, engaged and satisfied because God designed us as active beings.
- Creates a sense of community in an atmosphere of love and acceptance that stimulates heart-conversations that can launch growth.
- It’s a lot more fun!
After thinking through this yourself, read the linked PDF for more benefits if you’re interested.
What benefits will YOU experience when you engage the Bible for LifeChange through a natural learning approach?
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.
- Read and reflect on this free PDF of much of this page if you want to think more about rapid reading of ONE Bible book at a time. When I was a young Christian, I was frustrated because all I knew was this rapid I wish I had valued it so highly then as I do now! I was sure there was so much more treasure remained buried than I was able to mine. And there is!. But be patient and build well.
- Put learning into practice by developing rapid I would suggest a rapid read through the Gospel of John since Jesus is so central to our lives. John has 21 chapters, so if we read three chapters a day for a week, we would read through John. Don’t dawdle in your rapid reading to take in all the nuances. You have a lifetime, although be sure you DO one thing this week. Read it rapidly without stopping to ponder. Or listen to John being read (or combine if you are an auditory learner, listening and reading simultaneously. The free app on BibleGateway.Com has a number of different translations and will read it to you. Even if this is difficult for some at first…but keep pushing through. Remember, your attitude is one of the primary motivations for an adult learner.
- Other options are reading one chapter of John per day (although I would recommend a minimum of one chapter per day to learn this skill). This puts you through in three weeks. Or the joyful book of Philippians (5 chapters) or Ephesians (6 chapters). I you are meeting in a group, make a group choice to do the same.
Learning in community is ideal.
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, 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.
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.