Back in middle school, a friend of mine challenged me to read the Bible cover to cover, a chapter per day. I’m not sure why I had never thought of this before, but I decided to try it. I started at Genesis, made it through all of the ceremonial laws, spent a long time in the Psalms, and finally completed the New Testament somewhere around the middle of high school or so. It was a big commitment that took several years, but one that was entirely worthwhile.
That isn’t to say that there is no value in simply soaking up particular books or passages during your devotional times (I’m reading 2 Samuel at the moment, which isn’t connected to any long term plan), but it is important to get the entire sense of what God is doing in creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. There’s no better way to do that than to read through the Scriptures for yourself.
So, here we are drawing close to the end of another year – what better time to begin planning your Bible reading for 2015? Here are a few tips that I’ve been given and found helpful:
1) Speed isn’t what is most important. If you are like me, I love the idea of checking off things on my “to do” list. Unfortunately, sometimes my Bible reading falls into that category and it becomes something to get done rather than something to be transformed by. Resist that temptation. Most Bibles these days seem to include some sort of “Read the Bible in a Year” plan and that’s fine. I’ve done that and believe it to be incredibly helpful. But there is no verse handed down from God that says you need to read that quickly (about 3-4 chapters per day or so). Sometimes a chapter a day is plenty. Sometimes even a passage per day (several paragraphs) is more than enough. Don’t feel pressured to conform to a reading plan if it isn’t helping you to grow in Christ. If you start ambitious, but can’t keep up, then there’s no shame in slowing down. But that said…
2) …don’t use laziness as an excuse. Making time for everything else (watching the game, surfing the web, etc.) and then conveniently never having time to dig into the Scriptures is laziness. That may sound harsh, but I apply that same standard to myself – yes, even pastors get sidetracked at times! Let’s not be intentional about everything else in life only to let our faith simply flow this way and that, like the lazy river at the local waterpark. Reading the Scriptures is hard work. Like any habit, it will take time to become natural and normal, and then it will take effort to maintain it. That effort is well worth your time – certainly more than whatever the latest evening TV sitcom is.
3) Have a plan. Whatever the duration or speed, make a plan to accomplish something specific in your reading. It may be “read through the Bible in a year,” or it may be “I want to really dive into the Gospels over the upcoming year.” Perhaps it’s even “I want to read through each of Paul’s letters in two different Bible translations.” Whatever your idea, have a plan. Otherwise, the tendency is simply to become aimless in your reading. Without direction, it then becomes all too easy to stop reading altogether. Make a plan, stick to it, get back on track when you miss a day.
4) Lastly, read from different translations. Yes, we use the ESV at church. No, that isn’t some perfect translation handed down from heaven. But it is an extremely good one, which is why our church has settled on it. But we must always remember that our Bibles are translations of the Greek and Hebrew. If you’ve ever learned much of a foreign language, then you undoubtedly know that translation is a very difficult and sometimes less-than-precise endeavor. While you can trust any of the major Bible translations to be accurate, sometimes picking up a different version can be helpful as far as your own understanding of the English grammar goes – different words may help you to better understand a concept, or see a verse from a perspective that you never have before, not to mention giving you variety. So, if you always read from the NIV, try the ESV in your devotions next year. If you’ve never read anything other than the ESV, then why not get a copy of the NASB or NKJV? Or HCSB? Vary up your reading to get the best understanding of God’s Word.
As you plan, sometimes it can be hard to see the big picture or to come up with ideas on your own. Several blogs I follow generally have listings of Bible reading plans near the end of the year, but a good place for year ’round options is Crossway’s ESV site (which you can use with any version of the Bible). This gives 10 different plans so that you can see which best appeals to you.
Start planning now, start getting excited now, for what the Lord will do through His Word in your life in the upcoming year!