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From “Dick and Jane” to The Word of God

by Scott Yorkovich on March 08, 2021

When I was a first-grader, I learned to read using the iconic Dick and Jane books. If you’re not familiar with Dick and Jane, you’re probably younger than 45. Up until the 1980s, the Dick and Jane books taught children how to read using stories from the life of the brother-sister pair. I remember sitting in the library holding a Dick and Jane book in my hands, realizing that I was “learning the code” of reading. I was excited by the realization that learning this code would enable me to unlock the information in the thousands of books that sat on the shelves surrounding me. 

As I continued learning to read, my love for books continued to grow and at about the same time the Lord was calling me to himself and to His Word. 

As a kid, I grew up going to church and Sunday school each week. I was exposed to the Bible on a regular basis, but no one taught me how to read the Bible. I had heard and read all the classic stories from the Bible … but it was a really big book and it was clearly not like any other book I found at home or in the school library. I didn’t understand how all those writings were put together, how the Bible was structured, who wrote it, or even why we had this volume called the Bible. Quite frankly, reading the Bible was intimidating. 

So I treated the Bible more like it was the most important reference book in the world and I never even considered reading it from start to finish. I don’t think the idea ever occurred to me until I was in high school. By then, I was a born again believer. I highly valued Scripture, knowing it was the Spirit-inspired Word of God. So I thought, “If I’m serious about following Jesus, I should read every word of this book.” One of my Bibles had a one-year reading plan in the back, so one year on January 1st, I got to work. I thought to myself,  “One year … a little each day … I can do this!”

However, sometime about the end of January, I had missed a few days of reading and I got frustrated trying to catch up. I don’t remember whether or not I actually completed my one-year goal that first time. But I do recall not liking the process. I wasn’t finding that my love for God’s Word translated into a love for reading God’s Word. It began to dawn on me that if it takes a whole year to read the Bible, that’s a really big commitment and maybe I wasn’t up to doing this.

Throughout most of my adult life I would continue this struggle with reading the Bible. I knew it was important. I valued the Word of God. It was my Redeemer’s Word, written so that I could understand Him, His plan for creation, and how I should live. I succeeded in making it through, cover-to-cover, a few times, but each time it was a battle. 

But then, about five years ago, two things changed. Those two things helped me turn that desire to read the Bible cover-to-cover from a struggle into a joy that I look forward to each year. In fact, as I write this, I’m almost complete with my fifth time through the whole Bible in as many years.

So, what three things changed?

1. A “New” Bible Format

First, a new format of the Bible became available. I’m not referring to a new translation. I mean that a publisher came up with a new format for how the Bible is physically presented on paper. 

In 2014, Crossway published the first ESV Reader’s Bible. The Reader’s Bible doesn’t have verse numbers in the text, nor does it have footnotes and cross references. And most editions of the Reader’s Bible don’t even have chapter numbers. What’s interesting is that this isn’t really a new format. It’s actually a return to how Bibles looked prior to 1551, which is when chapter and verse numbers were added to the text. 

When you first pick up a Reader’s Bible, I think your reaction will be much like mine, which was something along the lines of, “Wow! This is clean and inviting. The lack of all that extraneous information removes the intimidation and … I really want to read this!”

When you first pick up a Reader’s Bible, I think your reaction will be much like mine, which was something along the lines of, “Wow! This is clean and inviting. The lack of all that extraneous information removes the intimidation and … I really want to read this!”

There are several editions of the ESV Reader’s Bible and Crossway has an information page that explains more about each, along with images of what the various editions look like. For those who like reading their Bible online or with a mobile device, Crossway’s ESV.org Website has the full Bible online. The settings allow you to hide verse and chapter numbers as well as the footnotes and cross references to get the same clean, uncluttered experience. The ESV Android and iOS apps also let you control these features.

My personal experience in using a Reader’s Bible is that the content flows more naturally and I’m able to follow God’s storyline much better. I am more engaged and I’m not distracted by a lot of information that God didn’t put there. 

So, that’s the first thing that changed -- a “new” format for the Bible that is less intimidating and looks more like a normal book to read. What’s the second thing that changed?

2. A New Perspective

My perspective changed.

My understanding of what it takes to read the Bible straight through changed. You see, almost all of the reading plans I have seen are “one year” plans. In my mind, anything that takes a little bit of time every day for a whole year must be a huge project. And if I miss some days because I forget, or I’m sick, or I’m traveling, the enormity of the task snowballs into a bigger challenge once I get back on the plan.

Once again, my love for God’s Word was not being met with a love for reading God’s Word. My perspective was that reading the whole Bible was a pretty big challenge. 

Or, was I making this challenge look bigger than it really is?

Recently, I polled a few people sitting around at a family gathering and asked the question, “How many hours do you think is needed to read the whole Bible at average reading speed?” The answers I got ranged from 125 to 500 hours. (Well, one person said 32, but the group consensus was definitely the other direction.) 

In reality, the time required for the average person to read the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation, all 1,189 chapters, more than 31,000 verses... is 74 hours and 28 minutes. That’s just over 3 days. Crossway has a tremendous infographic that lays this out in detail, showing how much time is needed for each book, how much time for the Old Testament and the New Testament, and so on. 

In reality, the time required for the average person to read the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation, all 1,189 chapters, more than 31,000 verses... is 74 hours and 28 minutes. That’s just over 3 days.

So, how did this change my perspective? With this new information, that it takes just over three days to read the whole Bible, the goal became attainable. I began to focus on the steps that I could take each day, instead of thinking about a year-long climb up a mountain.

If I committed to just 15 minutes in the morning and another 15 minutes at night in my Reader’s Bible, I would be done in about 5 months! Just 5 months. I knew I could do that. And I did. 

In fact, today my annual routine is to start on Thanksgiving day and I read 30 minutes each morning and 30 minutes each evening, finishing in less than three months. When I complete my read through this time, it will be the fifth straight year.

Maybe you don’t have an hour each day. You might be on the 15 minute per day plan. That’s OK! If you miss a day (or two, or three), no one is going to ask you on day 366 whether you completed your plan and chastise you if you didn’t. However, that person might actually encourage you to finish your full read through. (I do encourage you to look at the Crossway infographic I mentioned. It also has information about how much time we  typically commit to social media and other activities that might be better spent reading God’s Word.)

3. A Love for Reading God’s Word

Has my love for God’s Word translated into a love for reading God’s Word? Yes, it has. I look forward to this journey every year now and it has had an impact on my faith journey, too. Each time I work on my annual reading plan, I see connections and themes across the Bible that I hadn’t noticed before. Each discovery is like finding a treasure buried in the sand at the beach. 

I identify with the priest Ezra who “set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it and to teach His statutes and ordinances” (Ezra 7:10). I find great comfort in the Word of God, especially in these difficult times. These words from the 40th chapter of Isaiah are a reminder to hold onto: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8). 

Each time I read through the Bible, the Holy Spirit helps me see things I don’t understand, prompting me to study them more during the year. For example, on my current journey I decided I need to study the book of Ezekiel in the coming year.

Each time I read through the Bible, the Holy Spirit helps me see things I don’t understand, prompting me to study them more during the year.

The annual reading plan is also a great foundation for my personal Bible study and devotion time throughout the rest of the year. This increases my dependence on God’s Word for daily life and living. My annual read-through also develops my confidence in helping brothers and sisters grow in their skill applying scripture to their lives.

My goal in sharing these experiences with you is to help you see that reading your whole Bible doesn’t have to be a mountain climb. Don’t make it a bigger challenge than it really is. Get a Reader’s Bible, or use an electronic version, to make the reading experience less intimidating and more enjoyable. Pick an amount of time that works for you each day and get started. 

Enjoy God’s Word. The Lord gave it to you so that you could know Him and enjoy Him.

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Tags: reading the bible, scott yorkovich

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