(Photo ‘Good Read’ courtesy of user george.bremer and Flickr)
Now comes the time of year in which people begin clamoring to make plans for the upcoming year. With a new year come a renewed hope of accomplishment. While plans are made across a multitude of life disciplines, there is no area more important than that of one’s spiritual life. Out of it flows every other discipline. At the most foundational level is the need to be engaged with the Word of God.
Many will endeavor to read the Bible in its entirety, making a commitment to last the entire year. Reading Scripture is more than a noble goal, it is an essential one. However, overwhelmed both with the volume of words contained within the covers of the Bible and with the depth of the content conveyed by those words, meditating upon God’s Word often becomes an easily neglected task.
With a new year then, not only is it worthwhile to consider embarking on a journey through the Bible, but it is important to be prudent in that reading. More than a task to be weary of, reading Scripture should be an enjoyable experience that overflows into life. Such a task is supported by engagement and continuity. There are ways then to help you maintain a regular involvement with God’s Word and as you start your journey this year I would recommend the following:
- Use Accountability: Find a partner who will check-in periodically to simply keep you accountable. This is not something to be undertaken lightly, but should be serious, otherwise it lacks follow through. Share what you’ve been reading, the lessons from that reading, and what impact those readings have had.
- Use A Group: Read with a group. I don’t mean that you only read Scripture with the group, but rather find a group of people who also are engaging in daily reading and set up a plan to read the same passages on the same day. Then when you see each other you can discuss what you’re reading. It not only provides accountability but automatically provides an opportunity for deeper fellowship with fellow believers.
- Use A Plan: There are plenty of wonderful reading plans. These reading plans divide up Scripture in various ways allowing you to see Scripture in various ways.
- Use A Different Version: Perhaps read a different plan every year or use a different version every year. Seeing familiar verses in different versions can sometimes create those ‘ah ha’ moments in which you understand something better or see something you did not catch before.
While any of these would add value to your reading time, you could potentially put several into place or use all four options. The key is to be consistently involved with God’s Word in such a way that it impacts your life through the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
The next decision answers the question, “Where do I (we) start?” While there are enough reading plans out there to meet your personal desires, I would suggest that two criteria be met. First, follow a plan that encompasses all of Scripture over the course of the year. Second, make sure it is something theologically solid. If you will permit me to, I would like to share a few of my favorites with you (clicking on the titles will take you to that particular plan online):
- In Order: Simply read Scripture from Genesis to Revelation in order. Many have developed plans that take into account so many chapters per day to get you to the end. I don’t always consider this to be the best way to start because people seem to lose steam very quickly. However, it is worthwhile to do so.
- Chronologically: Admittedly this can be hard because it jumps back and forth so much, however, it is also good to see the order of texts and events. This is helpful with books such as Chronicles, Kings, and Samuel which have many overlapping events which become difficult to track what happened when.
- Robert Muray M’Cheyne Reading Plan: This has become a popular plan for many readers that covers a reading from the Psalms, the Gospels, the Old Testament, and the New Testament everyday.
- God’s Glory In Salvation Through Judgment: If you have not read James Hamilton’s book, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, I would recommend it. It is a good book. Hamilton has put together his own reading plan that includes readings from Scripture and then selections from his book.
- The Grant Horner Plan: Professor Grant Horner developed a plan years ago that honestly has become my favorite and is one that I regularly use (although I may try something different this year). It takes you through the entire Bible in less than a year but the idea is you keep reading and starting over. Dividing the Bible into ten sections, he has you read a chapter from each section. The idea is that you get a broad view of Scripture from all genres and that repetition will help you in your remembrance and understanding of Scripture.
While these are some of my favorites, there are plenty of reading plans that might work better with your own style of reading. You can also visit various apps and sites to find others such as:
- Ligonier Ministries: Ligonier ministries published a lengthy list of various plans with links to other sites or to PDF’s.
- Logos: If you are a user of the Bible software Logos you can pick from some of their preloaded options or try and develop your own. However, you do need access to the program for this one.
- ESV Study Bible: Crossway has developed a whole website around the ESV Study Bible. It is a great site with many resources (many free and some paid). It is a place to keep your notes and highlights of passages as well. Within the site they have included a number of reading plans, including some of those mentioned above, to coincide with the ESV Bible.
While other sites and apps offer other reading plans (i.e. You Version, etc.) sometimes sorting through the many heretical ones to find those that are solid and truly dive into the Bible can be cumbersome. Whereas these recommended above I can recommend with little reservation, especially since they are more about reading the Bible rather than someone’s thoughts about the Bible.
Take a look at them, find some accountability partners, and jump in. Let your Bible define you this year.