Welcome to September 1st! I love September; I feel that it has more of a freshness to it than January 1st does and is certainly an easier point in the year to be making tweaks to your life, than it is after you’ve consumed a metric tonne of mince pies and inexplicably drunk Advocaat. Note to the wise, if it’s yellow don’t drink it, it always ends badly.
For Schools, Colleges and Universities of course, September is the start of a new academic year, so maybe we never quite lose that association with September and new things. New shoes, new shirts, new pencil cases and new exercise books to open up and write in, using your very best handwriting – which rapidly descends back into your usual scrawl by page 3.
For the last few years, I have shifted the start of my spiritual year to September, finding this point in the year more of a natural jumping in point than January. When I say the start of my ‘spiritual year’, I mean simply that it’s the point at which I get to the end of Revelation and my Bible-in-a-year readings start back at Genesis. I use a free download-able reading plan from Heartlight, which I’ve simply customised to begin on September 1st. There’s nothing flashy about it, it doesn’t come in any fancy packaging and it (mostly) works for me, although I do have a tendency to get bogged down in the lower reaches of the Old Testament. Those books are not the easiest of things to read.
To that end, and in a change to my usual method of reading, I’ll be using a companion volume this year, that hopefully will provide me with some good contextual information and prevent the usual losing-the-plot in Jeremiah which tends to happen. I’ve chosen Unlocking the Bible by David Pawson, which I’ve dipped into already – for Jeremiah coincidentally – and I’ve found it immensely readable and informative.
One of the nice little touches that he includes is an anonymous poem:
Yes I thought I knew my Bible
Reading piecemeal, hit or miss
Now a part of John or Matthew
Then a bit of Genesis
Certain chapters of Isaiah
Certain psalms, the twenty third.
First of Proverbs, twelfth of Romans
Yes, I thought I knew the Word
But I found that thorough reading
Was a different thing to do
And the way was unfamiliar
When I read my Bible through.
You who like to play at Bible
Dip and dabble here and there
Just before you kneel all weary
Yawning through a hurried prayer.
You who treat this crown of writings
As you treat no other book
Just a paragraph disjointed
Just a crude impatient look.
Try a worthier procedure
Try a broad and steady view;
You will kneel in awesome wonder
When you read the bible through.
I agree and I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to take the time to read the books of the Bible from beginning to end, just like you would any other book. It’s not mandatory to start at Genesis and read to Revelation, it’s not arranged chronologically, you can start pretty much where you like. Pick a book, any book but don’t be tempted to jump about within it. Read the whole book to get a sense of context, location, the audience it’s intended for, the people in it, the big themes, the small details and it will yield far more impressive results in your life than jumping about reading individual bits of scripture. Don’t just see the individual trees, get a sense of the entire forest!
Some bits are easier to read than others, the New Testament virtually reads itself and I do find myself having a bit of a chuckle in Proverbs, which I’m pretty sure isn’t an about-to-be-hit-by-a-thunderbolt offence. I’m sure God has a sense of humour, because how else can you explain wasps?
And Pot Noodle.
Another thing I do each year is change Bible translations. Last year I read the NIV and the year before that it was The Message. This year I’m using the New Living Translation, (NLT), which isn’t strictly speaking a translation, it’s a paraphrase, a thought-for-thought translation rather than a word-for-word which versions like the NIV (New International Version) and the NASB (New American Standard Bible) are. Despite that, it’s eminently readable and this morning saw me back reading the first three chapters of Genesis.
I must admit that as book openings go, it gets straight down to the action. In three chapters God’s made this amazing planet and given stewardship of it to Adam and Eve. But an incident with some crafty member of Slytherin house means it’s all gone a bit Pete Tong and Adam and Eve are in the do-do. When I left it this morning, they’d both been evicted from the
Big Brother House the Garden in designer leather fashions and as they left, they passed a big scary angel flashing a sword about and shouting ‘oi, be off with you!’ It doesn’t specify that the angel sounded like Davina McCall, but if you wanted to imagine that, by all means do.
Yes, I agree it does lack some of the grandeur of the King James Version, but you’ve got to admit, you want to find out what happens next…
And there are only 1186 chapters to go!