I met Lee Corning several years ago when he lived in Jacksonville Beach for a while. A native of suburban Chicago, Lee now lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife Chelsy. Lee, 28, works in technology and trading. In January Lee decided to embark on a challenge: to read the entire Bible within 7 days. Having been raised in a devout Christian home (his mother is the author of Entrusted With a Child’s Heart and his father was chair of the elder board at Harvest Bible Chapel of Rolling Meadows, IL for twenty-three years), Lee grew up surrounded by a deep love and respect for God’s Word. Here at pastorbrett.com we post fairly frequently on the importance of Bible reading. I asked Lee if he would be willing to answer some questions about his experience of reading the Bible intensely over a short period of time. He graciously agreed.
PB: Thanks, Lee for being willing to do this interview. Where and when did you get the idea to try to the read the Bible in six days? Why six days?
LC: I generally wake up around 3 or 4 a.m. to watch overseas markets for a little before the work day starts and get a little reading done or something in the educational realm. I had been reading lots of business books and biographies of industrialists and technology innovators. I was about halfway through the Steve Jobs biography and thought to myself, this guy is really just an excellent manipulator… and kind of a charlatan. I put that book down and thought, people really put this guy on a pedestal and he’s not even a good guy. I don’t want to be like this guy at all, which raises the obvious question of, “Whose life do you want to imitate/learn from?”
The answer to that is pretty simple to me: 1.Jesus 2.My dad. 3. My brother. Since my number one option on this list wrote a Book which happens to be the all time best-seller, the idea to read the Bible was obvious. Feeling a little energized because the idea made perfect sense to me, I decided to read the Bible in way that I have never read it before: cover-to-cover in a sprint format. I did this to try to understand the context of the larger picture of what was written instead of tiny spoon feedings everyday, as I have done before. The reason I chose to do this in week is because I had read other books that were only a few hundred pages shorter then the bible in about 2 weeks before and that gave me the idea that it was possible to read the Bible in a week, given a little effort.
PB: What was your motive in doing this?
LC: A lot of people walk around daily saying they are a Christian but they have never read the entire Bible. They go to church, they read the New Testament, and the story of Jesus over and over. I have spent countless hours in church listening to sermons and messages. This was an exercise of diving headfirst into God’s Word and just letting it flow in it’s undiluted form with no editorial from Christian celebrities. I have read a few Christian books and some of them are good but a lot of them are filled with argumentative droning and people’s opinions on things that really cant be known. I think these books mean well but I just wanted to get the entire story from Author and Perfecter Himself. The time and effort are kind of nominal when you think of it this way. Would you let George Washington let him tell you his story and not cut him off? Would you let Steve Jobs tell his story and not tell him to meet you whenever you had time for 20 minutes? God wants to tell you His story…are you going to cut him off midsentence? The verse that came to mind after thinking this was Malachi 1:6, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you.” I have like 20 copies of the story (the Bible) and have never read it in it’s linear whole format? I just thought it was time to get it done.
PB: Did you alone do this, or were you part of a group of people who were committing to this challenge?
LC: From the time I decided to do this to the time I started about 15 minutes had elapsed. There wasn’t time to rally any cohorts. So no one did it with me. When I put on Facebook that I was doing this a few people messaged me saying they would like to try. I gave them my plan to do it.
PB: Have you heard if any of them have done it?
No one yet. Most people think it sounds like a cool thing to do but they don’t have time. To that I say, “All you have is time”. I am kidding when I say this but only kind of, it’s an undertaking but it’s an investment in the truth… “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23).
PB: I’m assuming you were off work during this time frame?
LC: I was. I am building an app and was waiting on some work to be done so I had some down time. I was also trading index equity futures but that is mostly calculated algorithmically, so I set my programs to execute my strategy… So, yes, kind of off work, but there was definitely the opportunity to read.
PB: I understand that it takes the average reader 80 hours to read the entire Bible. By my calculations that means you had to average 13 hours and 20 minutes per day over the course of your 6-day reading marathon. Did you log your hours? What was your schedule? Did you plot out how many hours per day it would take you?
LC: The plan was to finish in one week. There was no real plan outside of that it could be done. I didn’t plot the timing at all, I would approximate it took about 70-75 hours. People regularly watch a show on Netflix or something in a similar time so it was time to give some effort to better content. I thought of the verse in Proverbs 21 that talks about steady plodding leads to prosperity… but then I also thought of the verse in Jeremiah 12 that says that if running with men has made you tired, how then would you fare against horses? I took the approach of steady plodding in terms of not quitting and the approach of racing horses in terms of pace. Once I read these verses in the actual context in the reading… I realized I had taken them both entirely out of context! Ha!
PB: What were your Bible reading habits before taking on this challenge?
LC: Like just about everyone who reads the Bible I go through times when I do an excellent job and times when I don’t make the time for it like I should. Again I think about the verse Malachi 1:6, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you.” I have read this verse before and felt very humbled. We care about so much nonsense and let important things go undone.
PB: Had you ever read through the entire Bible before?
LC: Yes, Twice. The bible in spoon-fed portions is still an awesome way to take in the word but I thought taking it in at this pace was an entirely new shocking/awesome experience. For anyone feeling like this book doesn’t shock you anymore or the luster of God’s will has somehow worn thin, I strongly recommend doing this.
PB: What version, or versions, of the Bible did you use and why?
LC: I generally read the ESV because I grew up in a church that used this version. I used the “Today’s NIV” or TNIV for this exercise. I am not really into arguing with people about which translation is best, but I chose this one for the use of reading something that wouldn’t get me hung up on words I did not know or that would slow the cadence I was looking to keep.
PB: For an exercise like this I definitely think you were wise in choosing a functional equivalent translation rather than a formal equivalence translation. I am curious, did you read the Bible from straight through, starting with Genesis 1 and ending with Revelation 22 or did you use another approach?
LC: Straight through. The reasoning was that the Bible is laid out in this format, this must be how I should read it. My mom uses a chronological format, which I think is awesome. I would recommend that way too.
PB: My favorite soft drink is Mountain Dew. Did you use caffeine as an aid in this process?
LC: Ha! This is a funny question because I drink a lot of caffeine even when I am not doing something that requires me to stay up late. Actually, I drank a lot of water and coffee in the process. The Old Testament is packed with God telling the Israelites what to eat and drink and what not to do, so as an interesting side note I drank about a gallon of water per session and tried to eat lean foods or fast for specific sections just to kind of feel the story a little more, uneccessary… probably… but when you’re doing the same thing for any extended period of time it really helps me to stay engaged if I am doing everything I can identify with the story. Over the course of the six days I actually made me lost 2 pounds, which I thought was interesting. However, by the time I was through the Gospels in the NT I felt like I was playing in an overtime game, so I drank a bunch of different diet sodas to make sure I made it all the way.
PB: This question is from my oldest son. How did you feel when you finished?
LC: To be honest, I was really excited to have accomplished my goal and to have made the sacrifice to take in God’s Word. However, there was a sinking feeling that I wanted more. I had spent hours and hours learning about the old covenant and hours and hours about lineages of ancient people, hours and hours being chastised by the minor prophets for being a prostitute in God’s eyes. By the time Jesus shows up to save the world and explain the new way to do things, the book is almost done. I recall vividly reading about how the ark was to be built in great detail, what type of stones and sizes down to the types of wood and metal for the ark of covenant. Then when I am reading the Gospels and the star of the story shows up, Who this whole process has been leading to… I quickly read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and then John says, basically, “He did many other works that are not listed in this book” and I’m like “Come on man! I just read the names ages and complete family line of this guy… now I want to hear evvvvvverything about him! Haha, I guess Deuteronomy 29:29 will have to work here as well… “The secret things still belong to the Lord.”
PB: That’s a great observation. Did anything in particular jump out at you in this reading that you (a) either hadn’t noticed before or (b) saw in a new light?
LC: Absolutely. This is the question I am most excited to answer. This sprint through the Bible was easily the most invigorating spiritual investment I have made in a long time. The thing that really popped to me is that yes God is love, God is good, God wants you to be with Him and follow Him. But He’s also vengeful, and angry, and even at times, if I might dare say, spiteful. He’s jealous and hates being rejected by His people. He aggressively pursues them and punishes them in very real, down to earth ways until they understand. God is very concerned with your heart and wants it to be fully devoted to Him. He wants you to be humble and understand your lot in life. He hates impurity and fervently, with awesome unwavering consistency pursues His unfaithful bride. The Bible, especially the Old Testament, is filled with shocking items. People say “Oh that’s the old stuff, it doesn’t matter, just focus on the love and the grace.” The Old Testament pounds and pounds on at the characteristics of God. Yes, you can make him angry, and yes you can go so far down a wrong path that he doesn’t pursue you anymore and you are left to your own destruction. God is cut and dry, there is absolute truth and there is a righteous way.
I loved reading the Old Testament because God speaks at length about who He is and it is absolutely astounding. The term “fear the Lord” pops up over and over and its a point that is being driven. He’s God; He’s not your buddy and you guys take long walks together and tell jokes. He’s serious and He is jealous for your heart. You don’t get to pick out attributes of God you like to get the warm and fuzzies, which people so often do, or let sin abound that you may receive more grace. He is love, He is grace… but He’s more. If I could point to one verse that cut like a surgeon in this exercise it is Phil 2:12b “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
PB: Was there any point in which you wanted to, or were tempted to, give up?
LC: No, It was actually a lot of fun to feel like I was doing a good thing. It’s not everyday you can look at your actions and be absolutely sure you did something good and that your intentions were pure.
PB: How did this impact your walk with the Lord?
LC: Like I said before, I have read the entire Bible before, but this run gave me a really interesting view of the book in it’s entirety. I came across many verses I have memorized and thought, “Man, I know this verse word-for-word, but what I’ve been trying to make it mean in my life is not at all what’s being said here.” This exercise has left me extremely humbled and in awe of this book. God is shocking again, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
PB: Would you do it again?
LC: Yes. I would actually like to do it once a year maybe. We’ll see. Reading this has inspired me to dig deeper into specific areas and examine what’s being said in context of the big picture. And to be a little more like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, who “were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
PB: Do you have any advice or pointers for anyone who might want to try this challenge?
LC:The Bible is a big book, and when we were little we learned to be scared of big books, which is pretty comical because in another sense it’s not very big at all. This is a book written over 1800 years by over 40 authors with precise consistency. The Bible at times can feel a little overwhelming because it’s hard to know how some of the things written have anything to do with you. However, it has everything to do with you if you read it looking for how what is being said fits into the entire story, that is the story of an almighty God chasing his unfaithful people. You are that unfaithful person.
So if you are really looking at trying this exercise I would say, “Go for it!” Here’s a practical, executable gameplan. If you have a lot of focus and lot of resolve, try read the book with no props. God’s Word will not return void. If you have a little less focus and a little less resolve use some simple props listed here.
1. Go to Amazon.com and buy the TNIV. Simply stated, concise and non cryptic – … for sale here for less then 50 cents http://www.amazon.com/TNIV-Holy-Bible-Zondervan/dp/0310922704/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1391063737&sr=8-2&keywords=Today%27s+New+International+Version%2C+TNIV ….
2. Go to Audible.com and download the audio version of the old testament
3. Go to Audible.com and download the new testament
When you are trying to read this version it is very easy to differentiate between changes in the speaker is and when time and location change. I mention the audio portion of this because people learn and retain information in different ways, so if you need a prop to go along with the text, the audio helps you keep rolling even if you’re tired, which I think is a key success criteria if you plan on making it all the way through to the end of the book of Revelation. If you do use the audio prop realize that they will take some dramatic, theatrical, royalties which can get pretty annoying (especially late in the New Testament). But if you’re on a mission this is a good tool.
PB: Thanks, Lee, so much for your time! This has been outstanding!
LC: No problem Brett, thanks for taking time to understand this exercise and I’d love to hear if you get any feedback from people that have decided to give it a try.