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.”




Traveling to Korea (Oct 25-Nov 5)

I leave today (Oct 25) to travel to Korea for 12 days.  I will be speaking at one of the largest churches in Korea, SaRang (which means “Love”) Church in Seoul.  I’ll be teaching all day (7 hours) for two consecutive Saturdays (Oct 28, Nov 4) as a part of a program my seminary is doing with SaRang Church (“Marketplace Missionary Certificate”).

I’m excited, but also a little nervous.  If you are the praying sort, I’d appreciate prayers.  There are several challenges.

  1. My teaching will be translated into Korean.  I don’t speak Korean, and I have never taught this long in translation.
  2. There will be 1000 students.  I’ve preached to a crowd like this, but never done longer blocks of teaching with anything close to this large of a group.
  3. I just became dean at my seminary this summer (which is why I haven’t blogged much lately), and I have had a full teaching load in addition to new administrative responsibilities.
  4. Seoul, as you may know, isn’t very far from North Korea.  I will travel to the DMZ on October 31.  Hopefully, my president and Kim Jong-un won’t decide to start WW III while I’m there (I’m praying it never happens full stop).  Seoul is only 35 miles from the DMZ/border with North Korea.

Korea Map

I’ll be doing other teaching while I’m there (see “Speaking” on my blog).  On October 31, I am scheduled to visit the DMZ.  I’ll do my best to not start a fight, or look menacing.  I’ll post updates on Facebook, and perhaps on my blog.

I look forward to seeing first-hand what God is doing in the land of Korea.