That New-Year-Bible-Reading-Plan Post
I’ve been reading a lot of very good blog thoughts about the new year, resolutions, and Bible reading. These, among other posts:
- Rick Holland’s post about his personal Bible reading plan and some related thoughts
- Jesse Johnson’s post about resolutions
- John Piper’s thoughts and plans in his post
- Justin Taylor’s offering of plans and possibilities
- Tim Challies’ 3650 Challenge.
Although I am planning to stick with my Bible reading plan that I’ve been using since sometime in the middle of 2011 (which happens to be the plan used in Challies’ 3650 Challenge), these godly men’s thoughts have been quite helpful in my thinking about the Word and the way that I approach this New Year’s “checkpoint.”
So, partly inspired by the posts above (but mostly just what I’ve found helpful for myself!), here’re some of my thoughts and suggestions on Bible reading as we head into 2012:
#1-Use a Bible reading plan.
Surprise, surprise. I’ve found that this really brings some structure to my time in the Bible each day. Life nowadays is too often characterized by the “tyranny of the urgent,” multi-tasking, and entertainment (hmm!) that when it comes to my Bible reading I find very little reason to not have a disciplined, structured time set out. Not talking about quantity here, but structure.
So whether it’s a self-developed plan of a chapter-a-day through certain books, something someone else has designed, or straight off the latest Bible-app-reader-thing, plans are helpful. Sure, it can get routine or checklist, but I’ve found it’s been much easier to guard against those heart issues than it is to flounder around the Bible. At least from my own experience, nine-point-nine times out of time I’ll end up in either an epistle or the Psalms if I don’t have a plan. It’s not that bouncing around randomly won’t get you anywhere (it’s God’s Word, so anything more than nothing will be profitable), but I’ve found that consistent and predictable time in the Word–if rightly submitted to the Spirit’s conviction– is all the more profitable.
#2-Weave prayer and meditation in with reading.
Something I’m trying to learn how to do effectively. These seem like pastor-ific things to do and are definitely hard things to start doing. Not only are they biblical things to, it’s how God uses His Word to work change and worship to Him in our lives. Spiritual disciplines come hand in hand!
#3-Read more than you think you should.
Okay, now I am talking about quantity. I do like what Rick Holland said in his post:
It is better to read one verse worshipfully than multiple chapters dutifully.
Wise words. Definitely true to a great extent. I would disagree, though, in the sense that I often find my view of the Bible is not what it should be: radical devotion to it in reflection of my radical devotion to God. For me, I’ve found that means reading more than less usually. Although there are times where stopping short and spending the rest of my set time studying or meditating on a truth, in general I know that for my default-undisciplined heart I need to take in more of God’s Word than I think I need. I need to know my weakness– having my mind on the things of the world– and battle that with what God’s given me in His Word.
#4-Read something to start your day.
Even if it’s one verse. Or two words (“But God” in Ephesians 2:4). Something to get your mind and heart rolling on the things of the Lord each day. Insert plug for memorizing Scripture here (especially on days you’re running late!).
I’ve found too, though, that the physical acts of setting my alarm a decent amount of time earlier, getting out of bed in a timely manner, opening my Bible, and passing my eyes over the page have been very good exercises in discipline for me. Discipline developed in reading the Bible while reading about things that will further bring discipline. That’s really meta, I know.
#5-Read different parts of the Bible.
I mean this in two ways. First, in the read-a-minor-prophet-every-now-and-again way. Second, in the sense that I’ve come to realize how helpful it is every day– different parts of the Bible on the daily. It’s helpful to see the continuity of Scripture, think on a how-does-the-plan-of-redemption-plan-work level, and ground your thinking in biblical concepts and multiple references. So, however it might look, read different parts of the Bible than just what your favorite is.
In fact, to neglect the parts of the Bible that are for the scholarly to explore or are just too hard to understand is neglecting a large part of God’s Word to us. Even if there are big portions of Scripture that are difficult to understand, there’s no way that we’ll begin to understand them if haven’t read them. On the same note, I’ve found that reading anything only once almost never gets me to a point where I can fruitfully understand it. Refer to #2!
#6-Put down other Christian books in favor of the Bible.
Not much to say here, except for the fact that it’s something that I’m constantly guilty of myself. We all know the right thinking here– there’s no comparing God’s Word with books about God’s Word or books about things in God’s Word. If I honestly know that I’m not spending adequate time in the Word, I need to have the firm conviction that other extracurriculars (even if usually good things) must fall by the wayside for the moment. The Word must be of proper priority. The discipline behind that obviously points to the idea that we must know our need for and weakness without the Bible’s convicting truths and timeless reminders. When ideas like this are alien to me…
#7-If nothing else, re-examine your view of Scripture.
Not at all a critical suggestion. It’s very helpful, and often necessary, to “take a step back.” There are few times in life sweeter than times of submission to God’s will in life– times of prayer on one’s knees, lifting of hands in private worship, and refocusing the heart on God. When I say “if nothing else,” I think I really mean “when the time comes.” Of passages that are particularly helpful for me to pick apart when I’m having trouble with my perspective of the Bible, 2 Peter 1:3-4 says:
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
Great reminder there of the confidence we can have in what He’s given us–everything we need. The all-too-familiar 2 Timothy 3:16-17 always rings true (read it extra closely this time):
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
He’s given us His Word. How could we not give it the adequate time, effort, and response its due? And, I must say that “adequate” is a very relative word, my friends!