- Choose a book of the Bible.
- Read it in its entirety.
- Repeat Step 2 twenty times.
- Repeat this process for all 66 books of the Bible.
To make a long post (that has very little to do with the Puritans) short, I decided to take Gray's/Carter's/Taylor's advice, and I'm now beginning my 15th reading of 1 Thessalonians. The results? Well, I haven't been caught up to the third heaven or had any epiphanies.
But I can say, without exaggerating, that I've experienced more sublime peace and gained more insight and encouragement reading Paul's heartfelt epistle these 14 times than I've ever known scouring the musings of men in print or around the blogosphere.
In fact, since I started following this plan I've come to the conviction that an intimate knowledge of God's sacred Word -- the kind of familiarity I believe anyone with a 6th-grade education can obtain by simply following these four steps in earnest -- is many times more valuable and profitable than any education any theological institution can offer. Don't get me wrong: I've had eight years of formal theological training, and I still recommend a (conservative) seminary education to anyone thinking seriously about going into full-time ministry. But if you finish all of that and you don't know and love the Scriptures, I can't help but think it's all an expensive waste.
This program isn't a magic formula for spiritual maturity. In its essence it's simply a way to master the Bible, one book at a time. And it's effective.
Read books, read blogs, read the news, read whatever you feel edifies you -- but you'll never find rest for your harried soul until you return to the pages of God's Word and make it your home. If you're preparing for vocational ministry or are already immersed in it, I can think of no better way to train yourself than to follow the four steps above prayerfully and obediently. I guarantee that if you do, you'll never lack the power or resources needed to feed the Lord's flock. By God's grace you'll be a holy powerhouse. Try it!
Now, back to 1 Thessalonians ...