How To Eat Your Bible: A Bite-By-Bite Guide Through The New Testament by Andrew Doane represents the third devotional/Bible-reading plan type of book that I have reviewed this year. The first one I reviewed, Seeking Him: Experiencing The Joy Of Personal Revival by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Tim Grissom, was a 12-week Bible study with little/no discernment and a decent amount of awful questions. The second one I reviewed, Unshakeable by Christine Caine, was a daily devotional that was a blasphemous mess engaging in much dishonest Bible citations. Will the third devotional/Bible-reading plan type of book be the charm? We shall see.
SOMETHING TO NOTE
It is important to understand that this book is a 44-week-long Bible reading plan and prayer journal. Doane makes it perfectly clear that the book is designed to be used “6 days a week for 44 weeks” (unofficially page iii; his introductory pages do not have page numbers). Time did not permit me to take a full 44 weeks to complete this. Instead, I completed this in roughly 3.5 weeks. I think one can get the fullest benefits from this book by taking 44 weeks to do this. Nevertheless, one can still (spoiler alert) benefit much from this book despite completing it in shorter time.
Before the reading plan begins, Doane gives a bit of an important introduction. I already mentioned that this book is meant to be used over a 44-week timeline. Doane gives essentially the goal of his devotional in his (what I will call) introduction (unofficially page iii):
Bite by bite, you’ll learn the life story of the most important man who ever lived — Jesus! You read about his miracles, listen to his teachings, and watch in wonder as he sets out upon the most dangerous rescue mission ever attempted! And along the way, you’ll learn the greatest news of all: how a human being can enter God’s good kingdom!
This piece of information is important; Jesus Christ came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Matthew 1:21; John 1:29; Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Isaiah 43:11). He did not come so that one can find purpose, find destiny, achieve dreams, have one’s best life now, have a better-than-average sex life, etc.. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). People need good news (what this Bible-reading plan gives a LOT), not good advice (what most Bible “plans” that I have read try and do). After all, people are born dead in trespasses and sins.
Ephesians 2:1-10 explains:
2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The Bible is clear that people are born dead in trespasses and sins (2:1-3). God’s being rich in mercy makes one alive in Christ (2:4). Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that one is saved (2:5-9). It is not based on works (2:9).
If you do not believe what Ephesians 2:1-10 states, I would ask you please look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Jesus said that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus also said that if you ever get angry at someone, you’ve committed murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26). Just the mere thoughts of adultery and murder make you guilty of the very acts themselves.
Please understand that it only takes one murder to be a murderer, one lie to be a liar and so forth. David said in Psalm 51:5 that he was conceived in sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Clearly, man has a sin problem. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is in big trouble with God because of his sin. This is more amplified by the fact that perfection is the standard (Matthew 5:48).
Now, some people try to justify their sin by trying to balance it out with the good deeds that they have done. However, if you were to try that in a court of law, the judge would throw the book at you. A good judge would not accept a bribe. He would cast you off into jail. God likewise will not accept a bribe, for there is no partiality with Him (Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9).
Thankfully, Jesus came to solve the sin problem over 2000 years ago (Isaiah 53:1-12). You and I broke the law. Jesus paid the fine (Matthew 26:14-28:20). This means that the judge can do what’s legally right in dismissing your case. He can say, “This person has broken the law, but someone has paid his fine. He’s out of here.” This is good news.
There are two things a person must do. He must repent. This means to turn from his sin (Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31). He must also put his trust in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, 17:30-31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29). These gifts of repentance and faith are granted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). If you repent and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (John 6:47). Oh may you know His mercy and grace today if you have never repented and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Coming back to Doane’s book, the Gospel is not the only thing Doane’s book gives a lot; each week has a Bible memorization verse (unofficially page iii). Doane instructs the reader to read the verse out loud multiple times again and again throughout the week. Since I read the book in short time, I instead wrote and read the verse for each day entry for the week. This helped a bit; it helped me really remember a verse that brought me to tears when I read it (more on that later). Doane’s suggestion is definitely a good one; I have even heard Gordon Fee say in a lecture no less than one positive thing about reading out loud. Since I listened to that lecture in June 2020, I have begun reading my Bible and even books and articles out loud. It has helped me a bit. I am glad Doane made the good suggestion.
The arrangement of Doane’s reading plan is rather simple. Each day features a passage of Scripture to read. I appreciate the fact Doane used chunks of scripture rather than single verses ripped out of context. After each Scripture passage is a short explanation of the passage. Two questions follow. Unlike Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth/Tim Grissom and Karl Vaters’ disastrous questions they use in their respective books, Doane stays absolutely glued to the respective biblical texts for the day in his questions. He also provides a verse reference in parenthesis after the question for easier answering. He does not engage in the “what does this verse mean to you” junk. Instead, he points the reader to the Scripture to find the answer.
Doane gives an important reason for why his book is “designed to be used six days week” (unofficially page iv):
The Bible is soul food and it’s not healthy to skip out on meals. When we don’t feed our bodies for a day, we become tired and angry. In the same way, forgetting to feed our souls is a recipe for disaster!
You might be thinking, “There are seven days in a week! Is my soul supposed to starve one day a week?” Great question! This book is designed only to be used six days a week for one important reason — church!
You might think that a church is just a building, but the Bible tells us the church is the family of God! It’s a group of people who believe the good news of Jesus. And God had commanded the people of the church to meet together regularly to worship Him and learn from His Word. So one day a week, instead of using this book to feed yourself the Word of God, you get to meet together with your church to enjoy a “family meal!”
Doane is right in his assessment; Jesus Christ said Himself that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3; Luke 4:4). Jesus’ Word is precious (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 10:35; John 17:17; Psalm 12:6; 2 Peter 1:16-21). To neglect God’s Word even for a day is to invite disaster upon the Christian’s life. I also appreciate Doane’s value for the church in the above quote.
In concluding his introduction, Doane explains to his readers to ask the leaders of the local church about what Bible translation to use (unofficially page iv). Doane explains he and his kids used the ESV (English Standard Version) for the memory verses and the NIRV (New International Reader’s Version) for the regular readings. I can vouch for the ESV. I have no opinion on the NIRV. I do know which translations to avoid (The Passion “Translation”, The Message, The Amplified Bible and the NLT). I do believe asking the leaders of the local church about what Bible translation to use is a fine idea, for pastors do need to be able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute that which contradicts it (Titus 1:9).
In explaining his prayer guide (which essentially concludes his book’s introduction), Doane uses Matthew 6:9-13 to justify the structure of it (unofficially page v). Here is that passage (ESV):
9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Each day of the reading plan has a fill-in-the-blank prayer to complete to conclude the day. The example model is below. The date and underlined sections represent examples that were used to fill in the blanks (unofficially page v):
Our Father in heaven… Date: 03 / 27 / 20
I praise you because you are in charge of the wind and waves.
May Cammy, Cade, Mr. Greg believe the good news of Jesus and join your kingdom.
Help me to obey your command to tell the truth.
I thank you for going out to eat tonight.
I ask you to help mom feel better from her cold.
I have sinned. Forgive me for yelling at my sister.
When I am tempted, help me to leave the room and calm down.
Protect me from bullies at school.
You will notice Doane sticks rather close to the Matthew 6:9-13 text in outlining his prayer guide. The blank lines feature a praise for God (hallowed be Your name – v. 9), a request for people to join the kingdom of God (Your kingdom come – v. 10a), a plea for forgiveness (forgive us our debts – v. 12), guidance for dealing with temptation (lead us not unto temptation – v. 13a) and protection from bullies (deliver us from evil – v. 13b). Now, I must admit that due to finishing this book just over 40 weeks quicker than its intended finish time, I did not partake in filling out the blanks for each day in this book. When I mentioned earlier that one could get the fullest benefits from the book by taking the full 44 weeks to complete it, the prayer guide was a big reason for the fullest benefits. This is an excellent prayer guide that does cling to Scripture in its emphasis. If one takes the full 44 weeks to complete this Bible-reading plan, I think doing the prayer guide each day will both be of enormous benefit and create a sound habit.
STRENGTHS OF THE BOOK
I found no less than five strengths in this book. First, Doane’s rationale for the structure of his Bible-reading plan is exemplary: it reveres Scripture, it gives sound guidance on what translation to use, and it ensures the reader that the Bible will be read everyday in some way, shape or form during the 44 weeks (whether via the Bible-reading plan or the church). If every Bible-reading plan had an introduction like Doane’s, I think we would see both more care for discernment and more Scripturally-literate people within a year in addition to less narcissism.
Second, Doane’s Scripture-selection is outstanding. As I mentioned earlier, Doane does not spaghetti-string a bunch of full or half-verses out of context to fit some pre-conceived agenda. Instead, he uses chunks of Scripture in-context for each day. While some days do feature passages of Scripture with a bit of a skip (pp. 146, 211, 218), the reader hopefully is encouraged to just read the skipped part anyway given the overwhelming of the majority of the days feature uninterrupted chunks. I know I read the skipped stuff.
Third, Doane’s memory verses are an outstanding attribute of his Bible-reading plan. Some memory verses were very familiar to me. One that was not so familiar to me brought me to tears. That verse was Hebrews 13:3. That verse states the following (ESV):
3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
I live in America, and I have it pretty good here. One thing I know I fail to do regularly is pray for the church at large. In 2012 and 2013, I went to Cuba for mission trips both times, and in those years, being in Cuba felt like time-traveling backwards about 50 years (I do not know what it is like there now). You could not see a cell phone. All the cars were old. There was no air conditioning (much less electricity). And yet, the churches we visited in Cuba (often in homes with ceilings barely 6 feet tall) had so much joy it put Americans to shame. I remember not wanting to leave when I went back home in 2012.
I say that because churches outside the United States have it very rough. In fact, people are dying for what they believe. While religious persecution may be heating up a bit in the United States (see John MacArthur’s current scenario with the court[s] in Los Angeles), it pales in comparison to how Christians suffered in Bible times. In fact, in the week of the Hebrews 13:3 memory verse, I read one passage that had me losing it emotionally. That passage (which was both sobering and tear-jerking) was Acts 12:1-17 (ESV):
12 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.
Notice in 12:2 that James was killed with the sword. When I hear false teachers (like Max Lucado) preach soft messages with little to no urgency, I just cringe. When I hear hirelings from the seeker-driven movement lead prayers that, with emotional manipulation, elicit decisions from those wanting “the rest of my life to be the best of my life”, I get angry. Christianity is not a self-help narcissistic religion; it is about Jesus Christ (John 5:39-45; John 20:31). It is about who He is and what He has done (Luke 24:44-45). Christians like James in Acts 12:2 got killed for what they believed. Others (like Peter) got imprisoned (he would later be crucified upside down by Nero). Prior to reading the Hebrews and Acts passages from Doane’s Bible-reading plan, I never really contemplated the possibility that I could go to prison for being a Christian. The supernatural way Peter both got out of prison and went to the house of Mary had me in tears. Reading the above passages from Hebrews and Acts makes me want to pray more for those Christians worldwide who are in prison. It also makes me aware that I too could go to prison for taking a stand for Jesus Christ. Finally, it makes me angry at the lack of reverence demonstrated by some/most “pastors” in the seeker-driven movement.
Fourth, I really appreciated the questions Doane used at the end of the readings. As I mentioned earlier in describing this book’s structure, at no point does Doane engage in the “what does this verse mean to you” nonsense the way the aforementioned Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Tim Grissom and Karl Vaters do in the books I referred to earlier. Instead, Doane stays glued to the biblical texts in his questions. The questions are also rather simple. They’re as easy as stating what the angel did not allow John to drink in Luke 1:13-17 (p. 2). For easier answering, Doane provides the verse number in parenthesis after the question the overwhelming majority of the time. He does not make you go on a wild goose chase for the answer. I appreciated that.
The fifth and final strength (there are more) that I note in this review is the fact Doane presents the Gospel on Day 6 of nearly every week of his Bible-reading plan. This is important. I gave the Gospel earlier on in this review. It is important to understand that mere head knowledge of Jesus Christ saves nobody (James 2:19). One has to repent and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Doane’s Day 6 explanations, which are significantly longer than the other explanations for the other days, give the Gospel in some way, shape or form (pp. 40, 46 and 76 are examples). This is important because Christians sin daily and they sin much (see Romans 7). They need to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8; 1 John 1:9). I’ll make the argument that Doane gives the biblical Gospel more (and more substantially at that) in his book than perhaps some seeker-driven churches have done in years (maybe ever). That statement is both an affirmation for why Doane’s book is solid and an indictment on the seeker-driven movement as a whole.
Finally, if an unbeliever was to read Doane’s book, he/she hopefully would come to the understanding that this Gospel Doane keeps giving is rather important. I’m glad Doane did not just construct a Bible-reading plan that could help a moralist in his/her moralism. People don’t need good advice; they need good news. They don’t need morality; they need the cross. Doane’s continued giving of the Gospel in his Bible-reading plan is something other aspiring Bible-reading plan crafters (if that is a thing) would be wise to implement.
WEAKNESS OF THE BOOK
As good as a Bible-reading plan as this book is, I still found a weakness in this book. It is not glaring to me. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning.
The grammar/spelling in this book left much to be desired. It was not bad enough that I could not comprehend or understand what was being communicated (my having a BA in Communications from CSU Stanislaus perhaps helped in that), but it was bad enough that it needs improvement. I will not specify examples of this in the review in an effort not to embarrass or demean the author, for we have conversed on Twitter a bit. In fact, I found out about his book on Twitter. I have the examples documented in my book. I would not highlight grammar/spelling as an issue if it was not an issue in general. I have much to lose by lying (Exodus 20:16). The grammar/spelling was not the greatest issue for me, but others might struggle with it. Let my pointing out this weakness be my offer to help edit for content any future book that Andrew Doane publishes.
Andrew Doane does not have a big name, and perhaps it may be best it stays that way. What he has done is construct arguably the best Bible-reading plan I have ever read. While that does not really mean much given my not reading a whole lot of Bible-reading plans in my life, Doane’s book, with better grammar/spelling, serves as a model example for how a Bible-reading plan should be: it reveres God’s Word, it asks the right questions, it nearly covers an entire calendar year, it placards Jesus Christ and the Gospel, it values the local church (albeit in a brief segment, but a segment nonetheless) and it gives the reader chunks of Scripture in context to read. If you are looking for a good Bible-reading plan that should be the model for all other Bible-reading plans, look no further than Andrew Doane’s How To Eat Your Bible: A Bite-By-Bite Guide Through The New Testament.
NOTE: I tweeted this review and I sent it to Andrew Doane on Twitter.