Bible Reading 101 (Part 2): Keep Track

Bible Reading Chart 2What do you keep track of?

People keep track of calories, expenses, water consumption, sex, bills, medications, vacation time, chores, taxes.  Why do we record these things?  When life is complicated, it’s easy to forget (particularly as we get older), and there are often serious consequences when we can’t remember what we have and haven’t done.

Things that are important you keep track of.  

For the past four years I’ve been using a fitness tracker (first a Fitbit, then a Garmin watch) to help me record my steps, my runs, my heartbeat, my workouts.   A few years ago, it seemed like no one had fitness trackers, but I was in a meeting a few days ago, and I looked around and the majority of the people were wearing some type of tracker.  Why do I have a tracker?  It is important to me to know how much exercise I am getting.

Things that are important you keep track of.  

In my last blog, I wrote about reading the Bible slowly, one chapter a day.  Here, I’m going to encourage you to “Keep Track” as you read the Bible.

For most of my adult life I would randomly pick a part of the Bible to read next in my daily devotions.   I would feel like reading Mark, then Exodus, then 2 Timothy (my favorite books).  I would continue this cycle for a while until I thought, I think it’s time for me to go back and read Mark, then Exodus, then 2 Timothy.  Strangely, I never felt like reading Leviticus, Nahum, or Jude.

In my optimistic moments, I would rationalize that I had probably read through the whole Bible in its entirety in my random Bible reading plan.  But in my more realistic moments I realized that the odds of me randomly completing the Bible were the same as winning the lottery.  It is important to read through the whole Bible if you believe all Scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching.

Things that are important you keep track of.  

About 6 years ago I started to keep track of which parts of the Bible I’ve read.  I decided I didn’t need a high-tech solution to this problem.  A piece of 8.5″ by 11″ paper listing the  66 books of the Bible would suffice (see image).  After I finish a book, I record the month I complete it.  To decide which book to read next, I just find one I haven’t read for a while.  It took me about 5 years to finish.

There are 1189 chapters in the Bible.  If you read one a day (and you keep track), you should finish the Bible in 3.25 years.  If you are young, you could read through the Bible 10-15 times over the course of your life.

I know there are apps for keeping track.  But I’ve decided to not use my phone during devotions or prayer times because it is too easy for me to get sucked into emails, news, sports, youtube, or other temptations.  Perhaps you are better at resisting temptation than I?

I also don’t like using devotional guides that direct you through the Bible because it is easy to spend more time on the fluff (the side bars, the personal stories), so you don’t actually spend much time reading the Bible.  Pure, unadulterated Scripture is my preference.

I would be happy to email anyone (dlamb@biblical.edu) my Bible Tracking chart.  I folded mine in half and I keep it in my devotional Bible, so I know where it is.

There are a lot of ways to record what you’ve read, but figure out a method that works for you, since…

Things that are important you keep track of.  

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Bible Reading 101 (Part 1): Start Slow

Image result for slow runningI often hear someone say, “I’m going to read through the whole Bible this year.”   I don’t say it, but I think, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.”  I’m not normally a pessimist.  When I applied to college, the adjective I used to describe myself on my application was “optimistic.”  But when I comes to year-long Bible plans, I’m a realist–they are rarely realized.  I don’t want to be a heretic, but I think trying to read the Bible in a year is usually a bad idea.  And I love reading the Bible.

I’m reminded of the new jogger who boldly declares, “I’m going to run a marathon in 3 months.” I’ll believe it when I see it.  I’ve been running for twenty years.  I’ve run three half-marathons, but haven’t been able to do a full marathon for a variety of health reasons (AFib, plantar fasciitis, and a varies of injuries to my toe, calf, knee, hamstrings, etc).  Running in a marathon won’t happen for most people, and it’s probably a bad idea (running is hard on the body).

Reading through the Bible in a year is a lot like running a marathon.  It’s hard for most of us to do, and not very helpful.  The Bible contains 1189 chapters, which means if you read seven days a week, 365 days a year, you’ll need to read 3-4 chapters a day just to finish.

If you’re sick, or miss a few days on vacation, it goes up to 5-6 chapters a day.  How much do you comprehend, or even remember when you are reading that much Scripture that quickly?  Not much.  (If you’re retired and have several hours a day for long Bible reading–that’s fantastic–I’ll look forward to that!)

Most people who start with this lofty plan end somewhere in Exodus, or perhaps they make it as far as the desert of Leviticus.  Then they feel defeated, discouraged, perhaps like they let God down.

I never recommend reading through the Bible in a year.

I was speaking this past Sunday to the high school group at my church (Calvary Church of Souderton) with my wife Shannon about personal Bible study.  I gave them three recommendations.  My first was, “Start slow.”

Most people when they start running are excited, eager, energetic, so they run too fast, too far, too long, which often leads to injury, pain or burnout, which means they give up after a few runs, like most year-long Bible readers.  If people ask me about starting to run, I say, “Start slow.”

When I started running (in my 30’s), I began running a slow mile, for several weeks, and then very gradually running longer distances.  Over the course of a year, my distances increased, and I started running in races: a 5K, a 10K, then a half-marathon–but only after having run for several years.

When it comes to Bible reading, “Start slow.”  Plan to read your Bible just a chapter a day, or perhaps 5-10 verses.  It may take you a few years to finish it but you probably already know how the story ends.  And you will get more out of it from a slow read.  If you’re reading a short section, you can re-read it, and reflect on it since you aren’t in a hurry to tick off those four chapters.  You are far more likely to remember a chapter you’ve read twice, than 4 chapters you’re read once.  If God can speak through a donkey (Numbers 22), he can certainly speak through speed-reading programs, but it is more likely we will be able to hear him if we are reading his word slowly.

My next blog, “Bible Reading 101 (Part 2): Keep Track.”

Memories of my father

Dad Nate Note Dave (high)My father (Richard C. Lamb, senior) passed away yesterday (Feb 10, 2018). 

While it wasn’t a shock, he was 84 and in hospice, we are still really sad.

I have hundreds, but I’ll share only three memories of dad here.

When I was young Dad would play ping-pong with me and my brothers.  Most fathers in these situations would show compassion to their young children as they learned the basics of the game, letting them win points, get close, perhaps even “win” the game.  In this regard, Dad was not like most fathers.  He would say, “I’m going to beat you 21-0!”  He would then proceed to beat me…21-0.  Perhaps not compassionate in this regard, but honest.  I learned about competition from my father.

When I was in grade school, my father switched fields of research, from high energy physics (think quarks) to gamma ray astrophysics (think quasars).  When I told people what my dad did, I liked to say, “It’s not rocket science.  It’s far more complicated than that.”  At the time of my dad’s research transition, I didn’t really understand why he did it, but I knew it was a big deal, highly risky professionally.  For biblical scholars, it would be like switching from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  Mom later explained it me.  Dad’s high energy research required him to make a lot of trips back to Argonne National Lab (outside Chicago), which meant he was traveling a lot, far more than he wanted to.  Doing astrophysics gave him more time at home, more time with his family (more time to beat his sons in ping-pong).  I loved having time with dad growing up.  I learned about fathering from my father.

When mom was battling Alzheimer’s, dad took care of her for years at their home, until it became dangerous for mom.  Finally, mom moved over to Richmond Place (in Lexington, KY) where they had more resources.  Whenever my family and I would go to visit them, dad would often say, “Let’s go over to Richmond Place and visit Jane.”  He would drive over to see her 2-3 times a day, seven days a week.  At the end of her life he would feed her, tease her, sing to her–some how make her smile.  Dad’s college roommate at MIT was from Northfield, Minnesota, so dad learned the St. Olaf fight song, which he taught to mom.  Because of the development of her Alzheimer’s, at their 50th anniversary celebration mom could no longer converse, interact, or really engage with anyone.  But she could still stare into dad’s eyes and sing harmony, to his melody.  They sang,
We come from St. Olaf…
Um Ya Ya, Um Ya Ya,
Um Ya Ya, Um Ya Ya,
Um Ya Ya, Um Ya Ya,
Um Ya Ya, Ya.

They really loved each other.  I learned about husbanding from my father.

Dad loved competition.  He loved his children.  He loved his wife.  But most significantly, he loved Jesus.  We’re sad and we miss him.

“We never leave you alone”

Incheon Coffee 4 Friends (11.5.2017)As my Korean friends drove me to Incheon Airport to send me home to JFK last Sunday, I expected them to just drop me off at the curb, and commented thus as they walked in with me.  One of them said, “In Korea, we never leave you alone.”  So true.

In future blogs, I’ll share more stories from my time in Korea.

The two women chatted with me in line as I checked my bag, while the two men took pictures of us as we weaved back and forth in the queue.  After check-in I said, “Well, I should probably get in the security line,” which looked like it might take a while.

They said, “Let’s get some coffee.”  I think they thought we still needed a few thousand more pictures.  I said, “Sure” (although I don’t drink coffee).  We wandered around the check-in area for a couple of minutes until we found a restaurant.  I got tea.

While we were sitting there chatting (and taking pictures), my friends said, “You can go to the prestige lounge after going through security” (I was flying business class, which was not my decision).  I pointed around at my four friends and said, “This is my prestige lounge.”

I hadn’t finished my piping hot tea, but it was time to get in line (a good place for pictures).  One of the women said to me, “You are more attractive in person than in pictures,” which is perhaps the kindest way to say to someone, “You aren’t very photogenic.”

Usually when I get in the security line I discover that I have a full water bottle that needs to be instantly chugged.  Fortunately, it was only half-full this time.  Ah, but I still had a scalding cup of tea with a lid still on.  Probably worthy of another picture.  I poured enough cold water into my hot tea to make it drinkable for my wimpy lips, and then proceeded to guzzle.  The women stayed with me in line as long as possible (we never leave you alone), and they then graciously offered to accept my donation of a trashed tea-cup.

They couldn’t stay with me in line, but they could walk along next to me on the other side of the rope, waving at me, until finally I disappeared from their sight behind a wall.

Once on the other side, they sent me some photos, including the two I’m using in this post.

 

Incheon Farewell Wave (11.5.2017)

I learned many things while in Korea, but this final lesson, the incredible value of simply being with people, never being left alone, was perhaps the most profound.

Upon my arrival at JFK, I tell Shannon, “When I come home, I expect you to treat me just like my Korean friends, like a king.”  Her response, “Yeah, right.”