Reading the Bible has been indispensable in my spiritual growth. This has been true from the day of my spiritual birth (January 24, 1976) up to the present. God has used this time in His Word to grow and shape me and, especially, draw me into a closer relationship with Him.

One of the biggest changes in my practice of Bible reading took place around 1983. At that time, a conversation with a brother in Christ helped move me beyond reading the Bible as a study exercise to reading the Bible as an act of worship. In other words, it became more personal, more relational.

For many years The One Year Bible has been my “go to” for my personal Bible time. What is that? Here is what the cover of my very weathered copy of The One Year Bible says: “The entire New International Version arranged in 365 daily readings.” (The One Year Bible has been published in other translation versions as well, at least two of which I have tried, but I have found I like the NIV best for my personal Bible time.) Each day’s reading is dated for the day of the year and contains readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms, and the Proverbs. In fact, the entirety of the book of the Psalms is in there twice: from January 1 – July 2 and again from July 3 – December 31.

The copyright date of the edition I read is September 1988. Why is that significant? I believe I have had this copy almost from that date, perhaps from sometime in 1989. A dear mentor of mine, Jim Paul, gave me the copy I have. My wife Sue Ann and I began serving a church in Dallas in February of 1988. Jim Paul led the Spanish-speaking congregation which was part of that church’s ministry. Jim frequently came to my office, most often solely to pray with me. What a gift that was! On one of those occasions he had this red The One Year Bible in hand and gave it to me. To use a well-used phrase, it was a gift that has kept on giving!

My latest development in Bible reading has been to slow down the pace of my reading. For many years my goal was to finish reading through my one year Bible within the calendar year. And, for a number of years I met that goal, but not in the last couple of years. I found that frustrating. What often got me off my pace was vacation, or any other stretch of time where I was out of my regular routine (e.g. attending conferences, etc.). I tried to catch up; sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I didn’t. The result, along with the frustration, was a sense of self-imposed pressure. Needless to say, this distracted me from enjoying and benefiting from my reading.

My new approach? Read as much as I want, or, as much as I have time for. Then I mark the spot and pick up my reading there the next time. I got the idea from my wise and dear wife, Sue Ann.

Now, instead of being focused on getting to the end of the day’s reading, I focus more on the content of what I am reading. I can linger over a verse or a paragraph or even a phrase. I can jot a note in the margin. And I underline. I use highlighter pens and colored pencils to underline specific themes (e.g. red for salvation, green for God speaking, orange for the Holy Spirit, etc.)—a color-coded way of bringing those themes out visually.

In the past, when I completed reading The One Year Bible, I would pick a new theme to look for while reading in the new year, and use a new color to underline it. I am still doing that. I have found it to be very beneficial in helping me focus while I read. And now that I am reading more slowly, I can see where I have missed those themes in some passages in past readings and I can underline them in their respective colors.

I am encouraged with my new approach. I feel less pressured in my reading and sometimes thoughts from my morning reading linger throughout the day. I think this has been a good step for me—slowing down.

Tom Loyola is a senior pastor at an Evangelical Free Church in Iowa. He and his wife Sue Ann have partnered together in pastoral ministry since 1984 and are the parents of two children. Tom received his Master of Theology and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary and enjoys reading, running, oil painting, and a good movie.

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