Repeated reading of one Bible chapter each day for a week…
…is the next skill we aim to build upon the previous one, rapid reading of one Bible book. This may not sound sexy…yet what LifeChange when we also put God’s truth from the chapter in action to encounter life. Doing His Word.
Rapid and repeated reading are closely intertwined, the two basic study skills to build upon. With rapid reading, push on without concern for every detail. You have a lifetime to swing back and look at the passage again. With repeated reading, you may read rapidly at times, then more slowly, even mulling over words or memorizing key verses at times to discover God’s truth. Rapid reading focuses on the broader sweep of Scripture and repeated reading on a smaller portion, usually one chapter. There is no fixed formula so remain flexible.
Ultimately as our lifelong practice, we want to “master” one Bible book after another as we add to rapid reading of a book of the Bible this repeated reading of one chapter each day for a week.. However, as we learn a skill through “layer learning,” this means we first focus on the easiest skill to experience “quick hits” change. First get comfortable with our rapid reading of one book once per week. Then we will add skills on top of this solid foundation. For now, though, focus on repeated reading of one chapter, once a day for an entire week.
At this time, please don’t go the typical process taught, Bible footnotes, commentaries or helps. Our primary Helper is the Holy Spirit so let’s first develop an increasing level of trust with what our Friend can do. The Spirit of God lives within us to teach us God’s Word. List what the Spirit does in this sampling: John 14:26, John 16:14-15. Everyone who has the Spirit can come to group as both a learner and a teacher. Since the Spirit enlightens, first approach the passage without outside helps to release personal learning. Temporarily lay down our existing views.
“God does not hide truth from us, but He hides it for us that the discovery is more precious” (A. Nonomous).
Our aim is more than Bible information so we can ace the next Bible trivia match. As we experience God’s Love-Letter abiding within though repeated readings, God blesses with an array of evidence of His presence (John 15:7-17).
Remaining in the true Vine.
Proof we are disciples.
Fruit that lasts.
Abiding in the Father’s love.
Which of these sound most alluring?
Learning studies also demonstrate that adults learn best in interactive, collaborative groups where each feel safe and respected. Jesus models this ideal give-&-take in community in Luke 2:46-47. As Jesus lived all-in with His Father, He grew in wisdom and favor with God and man (Luke 2:49+52).
If we want to accelerate our spiritual growth, intentionally align with Jesus’ ways in everything. Have you noticed how much of the OT Jesus had at the tip of His tongue, quoting Scripture from memory on the fly? Hebrew children memorized great chunks of the OT so they could soak in it.
Memorizing key passages of Scripture is part of this repeated reading, since most of us must go over it often to learn it by heart and even more to maintain it. One reason to memorize is to hide God’s Word in our heart like a sharp sword to ward off temptation, like Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Psalm 119:11).
And memorization leads to soaking in Scripture, which is called meditation. Meditation is what’s blessed, rather than mere memorization (Psalm 1:2; Joshua 1:8). Simplify for now. I’m not encouraging us at this time to memorize Scripture like Jesus did (although memorization has been powerful in my life). Instead imitate Jesus as we soak in one Bible chapter after another for an entire week through repeated reading.
Adult learners engage best when each brings all our unique interactive faculties to the process with safe, flexible space and structure to release insight and foster freedom in group discovery. I will shortly introduce a simple yet powerful tool to gather insights, D-O-I-N-G. It not only helps us learn, but also makes it easier for collaborative learning in community as we all come as both learner and teacher.
Let me repeat a portion of the quote from James Gray’s ministry since it impacted how I study Scripture so greatly. Mr. Gray relates his story in How To Master the English Bible…
“[The layman went] into the woods and lying down under a tree, he began to read [Ephesians]; he read it; he 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?
Stretch and exercise this skill of repeated reading by doing some REP’s (a memory acronym).
First, read a portion of the Bible repeatedly.
There’s a place for reading through the whole Bible consecutively (rapidly). However However, I’m encouraging us here to select one smaller book in the NT or one Psalm. Begin to make it your own. Trace the “BIG-idea” of the author, the flow of the book, so you begin to think like the author. Don’t expect to grasp all the nuances in the first few readings. You may want to stay in one book as long as you feel life on it.
When I drive over the same road a second or third time, I notice new bits of scenery each time. Read through a book of the Bible like this. Don’t be overanxious about the things you don’t understand now but enjoy and practice what you do understand. After all, isn’t this how we enjoy a repeated ride through beautiful landscape, noticing a bit more each time? We enjoy what we observe while not fretting over what we’re missing.
This is a learned skill. Anyone can learn it, regardless of your past experience, so persevere. Push through. It’s worth the effort. Give yourself permission not to understand all of a passage. After all, we have a lifetime to continue to learn. When the “scenery” becomes familiar, now have prepared yourself to dive more deeply.
In your repeated reading, don’t dawdle now over every nuance, problem or question. That’s why I have my “Deuteronomy 29:29 Bucket” to throw in what I don’t grasp at the moment.
You have a lifetime to enjoy His Love-Letter and dig deeper!
Second, read a book of the Bible exclusively.
For now, don’t read books about the Bible or only listen to someone’s sermon or footnotes (as helpful as they can be in time). For now, learn one layer at a time by first reading the Book of books alone. James Gray writes:
“Now there are many ways of studying the Bible, any one of which may be good enough in itself; but there is only one way to master it, as we shall see. And it is the Bible itself we are to master, not books about the Bible….And it is the English Bible we are thinking about, the Bible in the vernacular, the tongue most of us best understand. One is grateful to have studied Hebrew and Greek, just to be able to tell others who have not that they do not require either to hearken to our heavenly Father’s voice.”
Third, read a book of the Bible prayerfully.
It’s God’s Word so read with expectation of insight because He is present. The Holy Spirit is our Resident Teacher, and we desperately need His enlightenment or Scripture is a closed Book.
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law (Psalm 119:18).
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14:26).
The sweep of God’s plan and thoughts, heart and character in a particular book can best be first discovered by repeated, prayerful and rapid readings, preferably at one sitting for smaller books. When the original recipients of each New Testament book first received a book of the Bible, they read it as a love letter from a dear friend. They read it straight through together as a faith-community, rapidly, with delight. Then read it again. Read the NT like a letter or story written for you.
“There is something in all of us that loves to put together a puzzle, that loves to see the image of the whole emerge. The beauty of a person, or a flower, or a poem lies in seeing all of it. It is interesting that the words ‘whole’ and ‘health’ come from the same root (the Old English hal, as in ‘hale and hearty’)” (James Gray).
Do your “REP’s.”
Let the allure of the whole draw you to study the parts, even as the parts complete the whole. First become increasingly familiar with the landscape of the book. Here are some different ideas to focus on to develop variety in your repeated and rapid reading of a book.
What do I look for in a chapter as I read it through so often? Don’t look for all at one time or you may overwhelm yourself.
- Read to see what it says about our Family-of-Three, Father, Son and Spirit.
- Who are we and what does it call us to or from?
- Read for a general impression of the chapter as a whole.
- Do the “two-step,” by asking “What?” and “So what?” “What does it say?” and “So what will I do?”
- Bombard the text with your Six Helpers, who, what, where, when, why and how.
- Note what jumps out at you, a “neon” or an insight.
- Look for the major theme or themes by noting repeated words or concepts.
- Read for clear breaks and notable features, like shifts in topics.
- One time, read through with one, specific idea in mind, like a key theme.
- Read through the book in different translations.
- These details tip us off to discover the “flow” of the writer through major units of thought. Jot this “flow” down on D-O-I-N-G under the “Overview” section.
- Ultimately, try to summarize the book in a few words after you have blended this together with chapter studies. This is the second BIG, survey.
Read through the chapter in your favorite translations, switching them up as you want. Most importantly, actively put at least one thought into practice in your life. The most crucial factor in growth is willing obedience. Put truth into practice to encounter life.
An organic connection exists between abiding and obeying as we engage God’s Love-Letter (John 15:9-10). Quick obedience to do what God says aligns with how God designed us to learn cooperatively. As we soak in one Bible chapter after another, we begin to better understand truth, even if it has eluded us for years.
Take time to read James 1:22-25, Matthew 7:24-27, John 14:21-24, verses on the crucial importance of doing the Word. Bombard the text with “I wonder…” question-stems to gain fuller insight. Then jot down how doing and responding bring personal change as God’s truth encounters our life.
How does God’s truth encounter your life?
And be patient and persistent. An oak tree takes decades to grow.
After deeply ingraining this process as a healthy pattern in our lives, adapt it to our uniqueness as necessary. The only time we cannot learn is when we forfeit our listening hearts as lifelong life-learners and doers. Of course, I’m simply putting feet to what Ezra knew some 2,500 years ago. How did Ezra learn in Ezra 7:10?
Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel (NLT).
Be determined to study and obey God’s Love-Letter and give it away to others.
Would you be game to experiment to learn this way together?
Then let’s take the next step together by looking more closely at how we soak in one Bible chapter with repeated reading daily (or a unified passage since a chapter is not inspired). This is part of the “small” in the holistic BIG-small-BIG approach to Scripture.
This flexible and adaptable tool, D-O-I-N-G, is a simple, yet extremely helpful and powerful tool. It includes most all of the crucial aspects found in thick books on how to study the Bible. As a convenient “gathering place” for my insights, I’ve found this invaluable to soak in one Bible chapter at a time.
This tool is not complex yet maintains the flexibility to learn incrementally through an evolving process, one layer at a time. And it’s a great base upon which to build all our future studies. Yes, God can and sometimes does change aspects of our lives in an instant. However, growth normally comes like plants grow over time, more rapidly in some seasons.
Let me repeat myself so we are clear when I say “chapters.”
As you dive deeper and identify the author’s “flow,” you will discover that not all chapters break in the logical spot. Chapter breaks are not divinely inspired (although the text is). They have been added for common convenience by people (as are the verse references).
Still, begin with chapters for ease of learning. Then freely modify as you discover a better break to align with the flow of theme changes. Treat these breaks you detect as chapters for our purpose, repeated reading to soak in one Bible chapter.
God communicates to His people primarily through His Word, and never contradictory to Scripture. As His presence-people, I want God to communicate His heart, His inner inclinations from His Word. Then quickly obey His wooing presence. Such response to God’s Word leads us to experience growing freedom through LifeChange.
THE most crucial part of learning the Bible is not information but doing His Word. Doing leads to renewal. Although spending leisurely time in Scripture is preliminary, God transforms our minds as we put truth into practice (Romans 12:1-2). If we don’t respond, we deceive ourselves (James 1:22).
Usually I begin group time with “what did you do this week with what you learned?” Doing is that crucial and often what’s missing ingredient. Knowledge put into practice is love.
[Knowledge] puffs up while love builds up (1 Corinthians 1:8b)
Write out a short summary of the entire section (5-8 words works well). Don’t get caught up in too many details or try to master every nuance or fine turn of a word. Look for the author’s Big-Idea intended to the original readers. As we learn to discover the flow of the passage, this often helps us summarize a chapter.
What did God’s Spirit light up like a “neon” sign for you in this chapter? As I read, I dialog with the Spirit of God, our Resident Teacher: “What do You have for me, Spirit?” “I don’t understand what this means.” “Help!” Insights will include timeless truths that are just as applicable for our lives today as to the original recipients. They include both what brings joy or surprise, delight or conviction, because all can lead equally to LifeChange. Read with tip-toe expectation, jotting down several uplifting thoughts with reference.
“N” (Neon Verse)
What one verse stood out for you like a neon light? (the key verse in the passage or one most needful for you now). There’s no wrong answer. Write it out, perhaps memorize the verse. I begin here with new groups because this is the lowest hurdle. Anyone can have a favorite verse. Storing God’s Word in our hearts protects and provides guidance. When the group is used to pre-preparation, I collapse the “N” into “I” to cover together in the group time.
“G” (God’s Mysteries)
Not everything in the Bible is easy to understand. Focus on the “main & plain,” what is both crucial & clear. So it’s OK if this section is blank. Yet when these puzzling verses cut against the fiber of my self-life, they often mark where I grow the most. Don’t lose these sharp jewels. Many will be answered later as you continue to grow in Christ, so put these temporarily into your “Deuteronomy 29:29 Bucket.” God is God and so we practice a “theology of mystery in awe and wonder.”
Summary: Obey “piecemeal.” DO the little bit you now see after we soak in one Bible chapter, even if it’s not all that’s in the chapter. Obedience brings more light. Much of this cuts deeply, to the intentions and aspirations of our heart (Hebrews 4:12). Acting on truth raises our level of learning retention from 5%-10% up to 70% and on to 90% as we pass along a thought we are learning, even casually in conversation.
During the whole process of repeated reading as we soak in one Bible chapter, one after another, be an active learner, one who asks lots of questions and puts insights into play in our lives. Encounter life with God’s truth. Fifty-two incremental changes per year will lead to significant LifeChange after only one year. Be willing to take “ant-steps,” small, incremental steps in the right direction.
The D-O-I-N-G sheet is available as a free PDF download under the “Christian Growth Tools” tab on my website.
Where Do I Go from Here?
I’ve designed this “Mining God’s Word” series with 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 repeated reading.
- Pull up the free PDF D-O-I-NG and print for your use at any time. You may also want to pull up and read the expanded D-O-I-NG Explanation and reread as needed until you have made this yours.
- Have you invited a couple of other believers to join you as you practice natural learning together in an interactive group? Such a group is relatively easy to lead collaboratively.
- As you soak in one Bible chapter after another, use Ephesians 1-6 as your target chapters to deepen this skill of repeated reading (or Philippians 1-4 or John 14-16). Couple this with D-O-I-N-G sheet for each chapter. This will take three to six weeks for the chapters, one week per chapter, aiming to read the same chapter at least once per day and the whole book in one setting each week. Read one chapter daily since a habit is developed much easier on a daily basis rather than with periodic practice. You may want to read the chapter several times on some days since it only takes three minutes to listen to on a Bible app. Use your D-O-I-N-G each day to gather fresh insights since it makes your group time rich and impacting as we all come prepared.
When you finish the six chapters in Ephesians….
- Continue with this skill of repeated reading until it begins to feel comfortable. No need to rush on. After Ephesians, continue with Philippians or John 14-16, or another smaller NT book of your choice.
- Then in your timing, go on to the next sub-webpage to blend to deepen and broaden these two tightly interrelated skills, rapid reading and repeated Here you have a choice. I suggest moving onto the third skill to engage Scripture, Rapid Reading of the NT & OT. This focuses on rapid reading to build a broad-based context of the NT and OT. However, if you prefer to focus more on strengthening repeated reading, continue to the fourth skill, Deeper Insight with Spiritual Masters. Then circle back to rapidly read the NT and OT historical sections. Both are great!
- If you have not already, be sure to also strengthen your foundation from “Seven Essentials from a Natural Learning Culture” and its related free PDF’s. The learning culture is a powerful support for your learning.