So, you’re busy. You work 50-60 hours per week (I know, some more), you have 2.1 kids and a dog, you have to keep up with House, CSI, Smallville, or whatever (no condemnation, I watch them with gusto). Oh yeah, and exercise.
So, how can you have a study life with all of that? I have some suggestions and they include buzz-words like leveraging, multi-tasking, and incremental learning.
I’m not asking you to give up your time with Hugh Laurie or Tom Welling. A rich narrative life is good for the soul and we need stories. Television has become a much more mature and meaningful source of heroic and moralistic tales.
But, if you have time for Superman, you have time for Torah and the gospels.
The Minimum Regimen
Don’t knock the minimum. It is powerful and incrementally speaking (small steps daily add up over time) you can become a well-educated reader and practitioner. I’ll have tips below on leveraging and multi-tasking.
(1) Read the daily portion of Chumash (five books of the Torah, Gen – Deut), a.k.a. the parashah. Note that we are in a lull right now, in these days of Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The regular readings have come rather to a halt at the moment, so you can breathe and focus on other things (if the Jewish holidays are part of your life). I have an email service called the Daily D’var in which I send out daily the scriptures and brief commentary that I write. You can always go to www.hebcal.com or www.torahportions.org and find the current parashah (keep in mind, there is none right now between Rosh Hashanah and Simchat Torah).
(2) Read the Gospels and Acts along with the Torah portions. These are included in my Daily D’var (see it online here or email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up). At www.torahportions.org you will find a very sane system of reading them with the Torah. Or you can just read 2-3 chapters per week along with the Torah portions and it will work out.
(3) Practice some specific type of prayer. For Jewish practitioners, I commend the minimum standard of the Shema twice a day, Amidah once, and the Lord’s Prayer (yes, we’re Messianic and Yeshua is our tzaddik and Lord). Over time, you will want to add more praises and meditations. For non-Jewish practitioners, I recommend at minimum a psalm and the Lord’s Prayer (perhaps also the Jesus Creed, google it) every day. I also recommend conversational prayer with God frequently throughout the day (some call it devekut or practicing the presence).
Leveraging Your Time
I love the buzz-word leveraging. It means to do what produces the most results first. You get the most bang for your buck from practices that leverage time for results.
That’s what reading the Chumash and Gospels is all about. They are the foundation of the Bible and the New Testament respectively. It’s not that reading the rest of the Bible in unneeded or unhelpful. It’s that reading the Chumash and Gospels teaches you more about the rest of the Bible than reading any other literature.
Learn to read while doing something else, especially exercise. Or listen to scripture on CD while driving or walking.
I’m at the gym about 5-6 hours a week. I get in about 3-4 hours of reading during that time (which is a small percentage of my reading time, but perhaps for you this would be an increase).
If you’re careful, you can treat Bibles and sacred books with respect at the gym (I never put mine on the floor and I don’t let sweat drip on them).
A similar idea: keep a Bible at work. Assuming you periodically take breaks, read from there. If you prefer, there are online Bibles (bible.org, blueletterbible.com, etc.). Or have the Bible on your iPod or something.
Adding Biblical Books
If you’re a Jewish practitioner, some times of the year already have built in additional reading. There are the five megillot: Song of Songs (Passover), Ruth (Shavuot), Lamentations (Tisha B’Av), Jonah (Yom Kippur), and Kohelet (a.k.a. Ecclesiastes, Sukkot). Plus there are Psalms for various days and occasions. Some people read through the Psalms regularly (one a day takes you through more than twice a year). Some also read a chapter of Proverbs a day.
Your reading in the Chumash and Gospels will likely suggest other biblical books to read. Ideas and themes will come to you and interest you.
Or you can read through the whole Bible in a year plus concentrate on the Chumash and Gospels. 3-4 chapters of Bible a day gets you through in a whole year (but I still recommend you add to this the specific reading of the daily parashah and gospel readings).
A key thought is to notice how your additional reading of the Bible will integrate intellectually and theologically (as well as mystically) with your concentrated reading of Chumash and Gospel.
Choosing Studies to Supplement the Basics
(1) Want to learn Yeshua’s life and message? I just published Yeshua in Context: The Life and Times of Yeshua the Messiah. Get it at MountOlivePress.com (eBook and audiobook coming soon).
(2) Want free goodness about Yeshua’s life and message? I just started and have been populating with info and inspiration YeshuaInContext.com. It includes a link to my Podcast.
(3) Sign up for FFOZ’s Chronicles of the Messiah, an intensive study course coming to you with weekly materials. Daniel Lancaster is the bomb for interesting and engaging talk about Yeshua. Soonm I will have a banner here through which you can sign up.
(4) Need to know Torah better? First step, get a good Chumash. I recommend J.H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haftorahs which you can find here at amazon: http://amzn.com/0900689218
(5) Sign up for FFOZ’s Torah Club, Volume 1. You can always do Chronicles of the Messiah next year.
(6) I have some free goodness on Genesis at one of my other blogs: BibleOfUnknowing.wordpress.com. It’s a mystical take on Genesis (will be on the whole Bible someday). Right now I’ve gone through Gen 1-3. You have to go back and read the posts backwards to get them in order. Will be a book within the next year or so (Bible of Unknowing: A Mystical Guide to Reading the Bible).
(7) Get good commentaries for more in-depth reading and research. I will have a post on good commentaries in the near future (someone remind me).
Thanks, Derek. I can both relate to, and appreciate this post. Having double the average number of children, a small farm, running my own business and being a ministry assistant on top of all of the other stuff you mentioned seems to press in on me pretty quickly. Although I have maintained my studies, my outflow (such as my much neglected blog) suffer because of this and it’s easy to get frustrated because of this. I hope to better “leverage” my time soon and be able to share more of my thoughts on Torah & Yeshua. Thanks for the encouragement!
Are you saying you are reading between exercises? Like 30secs each? Im just trying to picture someone reading a book between weight lifting sets:) Perhaps an audiobook or some kind of lecture on your ipod would be a better idea?
wow thanks for the Hertz Chumash. i will be adding this to my library when i have the funds. i have been trying to incorporate more prayers and study into my daily schedule (which has proven most difficult). i have the Ohel Sarah Women’s Siddur Klein Edition from Artscroll and A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book edited by Aliza Lavie. I try to recite the upon rising, morning blessing and the Shema before i go to work and the bedtime prayer out of the second book before hitting the pillow. as soon as i get this book and work is not as hectic (in a few weeks) i would like to incorporate the daily readings from the Chumash as well. great job Derek! let’s us know it can be done… especially those who have not grown up in the regiment.
I read books during cardio. U r right it would be hard 2 read between lifting sets. Besides, these days I super-set exercises (do pairs of exercises, trading off) with no rest between. Lifting could be a time a listen to iPod though.
Many blessings with your use of the Hertz Chumash. It is the overall best one, in my opinion. I’m not fond of Stone (Artscroll). If you ever want to expand, add the Sapirstein Edition Rashi (Artscroll), which makes Rashi intelligible.
I am finding that simply reading a little every day is really helping me to gradually gain a picture of all of Scripture. Of course I’m just going to pursue a career in scholarship so that work doesn’t get in the way of studying! ha. To be a bit of a devils advocate though I think “we” kind of use the business excuse, atleast for the kidless. If you really want to do something you will do it, and considering that most Americans watch like 30 hours of t.v. a week I think most could find the time.