Personal Bible reading can be a glorious adventure or a guilt-burdened duty. Choosing a Bible reading plan that fits your life may be part of the key to finding delight within the pages of the Old Book.
Have you ever read through the whole Bible in a year? For me, this strategy for Bible reading has blossomed and borne fruit as year builds onto year. Although this Bible reading plan can sometimes be burdensome, reading the whole Bible every year provides a solid foundation for understanding other Bible teaching and for personal growth. Every Christian who is literate enough should attempt this several times throughout his lifetime. After all, if God’s Word is the basis for the Christian life, shouldn’t we at least read it from cover to cover?
Through-the-Bible reading plans are easily accessible online, and readers can choose to read straight through (three chapters a day), to read through chronologically, or to read selected portions designed to get them through the whole book in twelve months. Reading through the Bible chronologically is my personal favourite. I love reading the history alongside the poetry and prophecy that grew out of that history as well as reading the epistles in light of the books of Acts.
If the whole Bible in one year is too daunting, how about settling for a shorter segment of the inspired Word? Try focusing on just the New Testament or the poetry. Another approach is to read key Bible passages to give yourself a Bible overview. This is especially good for people who are unfamiliar with the Bible as a whole and might get bogged down with all the details of reading the whole Bible in a year. Alternatively, try a one-book-in-a-year intensive. One year I selected the book of John and read it several times through – sometimes fast, sometimes slowly, sometimes intensely taking notes, sometimes just engaging with the narrative in my imagination. That experience enriched my life for years afterwards. Someone has suggested that the book of Proverbs (with 31 chapters) is perfect for taking one chapter a day to finish the book in a month. Imagine how well you’d know Proverbs if you did that for twelve months!
Another consideration is which version to read. What might deviating from your preferred version do for your appreciation and understanding of God’s Word? I had spent years reading the KJV and NKJV so when I switched to the NIV I really appreciated the more natural English flow and modern syntax. When reading the ESV, dynamic vocabulary translation choices unfolded fresh perspective on passages I’d read for decades without catching a particular shade of meaning. With teaching ESL children’s Bible classes, I have dabbled in the NLT, but next year I think I’ll tackle the whole translation. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be so exciting that I’ll be speed reading through the whole book several times next year.
You don’t have to buy a special Bible to start a special reading plan, but you can. John Macarthur has published a daily reading Bible with notes, and there are many other varieties of the same idea on the market. You can search at Koorong or Amazon for more options. My 10 year old son has been using the NLT One Year Bible for Kids, which is based on the key passages idea of Bible reading. Highly motivated by concrete goals, he likes the idea that he can tick off each day’s reading right in the Bible as he goes along. If you don’t want to buy a purpose-driven Bible, you can read it online or get it by RSS feed, or have it sent to your iPhone. Of course, if you’d rather have a paper reading plan (I do), you can print one from an internet site or buy one at the Christian bookshop or find one on the back table at your church in the Daily Bread. (Make sure you look up and read the Bible texts and don’t just settle for the interesting story in the little booklet!)
Here’s a fresh idea. Do you have an heirloom Bible that you have marked with special moments you’ve shared with God? How about laying that aside for a year, buying a cheapie paperback, and crazily marking it with notes, underlining and colouring with abandon? You won’t be distracted by all the sermon notes you’ve already put in that heirloom edition. You’ll have clean, fresh pages that no one but you and God ever need to see. Psalm 27 may not appear in the right column half way down the left page like it does in your other Bible so you’ll have a chance to think about the Psalm differently when you read it in another position on the page. At the end of the year you will have a record of your personal journey through the Scriptures and better still a less deliberate, more intuitive grasp of what God is saying in those pages. Then you can go back to your heirloom Bible next year.
Whatever you choose to do with your Bible reading, choose something. Don’t leave personal Bible reading to chance. What ideas do you have for Bible reading in 2012?