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Promise Box Syndrome

When I was a kid, reading the Bible was reduced to the Promise Box just like the one on the right. My mom made sure that we picked a different color every day and read the promise. The directions on the box were:

This box contains 200 Precious Promises with accompanying appropriate bits of verse. These cards may be read at every meal, during social gatherings, in study groups, etc. Use these cards to memorize the rich portions of God’s Word.

Promise BoxNot only did the small cards have verses on them, but some only had “bits of verses” on them. They were all colored coded for no apparent reason except to look nice in the box.

We haven’t moved too far from that reading mentality. We still treat verses as the root way of reading, memorizing, and quoting the Bible. Even our “Read through the Bible in a Year” campaigns use a fragmented method. Usually, the reader is invited to read a passage from the Old Testament and then a passage from the New Testament. Our penchant to think that we can better order the interior of the books of the Bible is part of the curse of reductionism in Modernity. We may have come close to making “bible verses” our new idols and we worship at their feet as we affix them in different orders, usually to prove a point that we presuppose is correct.

We can correct this fashion of reading by reading the Bible in a way that gives prominence to the books of the Bible’s own structures. For our reading, we will be using The Books of the Bible text which is a new edition of Today’s New International Version where:

  • Chapter and verse numbers are removed from the text. (A chapter and verse range is given at the bottom of each page.)
  • Each book’s natural literary breaks are shown instead.
  • There are no notes, cross references, or section headings in the text.
  • Text is presented in one column rather than two.
  • Books that have historically been divided into parts are restored.

Dr. Chris Smith, a contributing editor to The Books of the Bible™, and author of The Beauty Behind the Mask: Rediscovering the Books of the Bible, says, “It’s easy to forget that we’ve had the Bible for much longer without chapters and verses than we have had it with them. Chapters and verses make the Bible look as if the authors wrote numbered sentences and then gathered them into groups. We’ve become used to these things in our Bibles that were not originally there—the numbers, the divided books, and the added notes.” He adds, “Why force people to read past all this interference to find the text itself? Just present the books as they are-the poetry, the stories, the oracles of the prophets, all of it.” I have suggested in my book God’s EPIC Adventure that the antidote to reading the Bible in a fragmented way is reading it as a story.

Chris suggests that one can read the whole text of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in about seventy (70) hours (119). Our problem in reading the Story of the Bible is not one of time, but one of the structure. So, our first goal with the aid of one of the reading plans offered from The Books of the Bible is to provide you a more attractive way of reading the text. We have created 4 reading plans, each one 40 days in a little under a year. It is an experience that you will never forget.

This reading plan will take you about thirty minutes a day, depending on your own reading speed, for each of the 40 days to finish the entire Story of God. Is there a better way to spend our time on a daily basis than to begin the process of impregnating ourselves with the whole of Scripture?

The daily sections are built on the natural interior structures of the books. Each reading will start and stop you at the beginning and end of a specific section. No more reading a story by beginning in the middle and ending at the beginning of a new story.

What could be easier?

Reading Scripture using a normal “Read the Bible in a Year” reading plan is usually done solitarily. Grab a cup of coffee or your favorite beverage and read away. So, the second goal to add to your reading solitarily is to add a community around you, a place where you can go and write about your experience of reading, ask questions that may arise in your reading, and read what others are experiencing as they read the text. This will occur in a Facebook group.

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