New Years. The smell of spandex and skinny lattes is in the air. For the next seven days you will witness an extraordinary amount of workout outfits….for better or for worse. Subway and Sport’s Authority peak in sales while Long John Silvers plummets (okay, they never do that well to begin with). New Years. I’ve found it’s easy to be skeptical about the ambitious goals people around us espouse, especially the workout folk! However, it’s equally easy to feed off of that ambition for our own lives and for good. Actually, I utilize the New Years holiday as a time to reflect and reach forward. I look briefly at what went well and why it worked well. I also look at things I’d love to see happen in my life by filling out a basic “Roles and Goals” sheet. One goal I love to lay forward for the year is how I will read and/or study the Bible. I like to set this at the beginning of the year because it’s typically the time when my head is clearest. That’s not to say I couldn’t deter from my plan should the Lord lead, but I have a plan in place regardless. Proverbs 16:9 clarifies this beautifully, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
Let me encourage you to take some time to decide how you will read & study the Bible this year. First, allow me to clarify some things:
- There is no one right plan to read through the Bible. Some will read the entire Bible this year. Others will read the New Testament. Some will read it chronologically. Others, topically or categorically.
- Don’t be legalistic or licentious. Most people shed off any kind of planning as legalistic. Checking off boxes as you read the Bible can get legalistic. But not having a plan because you don’t want to be legalistic will hurt more than help. That’s the second ditch: licentiousness. Have a plan and surround yourself with people who know you and love who can check in with you to make sure your heart is engaged in your study of the Word.
- Pick a plan that challenges you, but is not entirely unrealistic. Look at the coming year and be realistic about what you’re capable of. Pray through it. Don’t do the 5X5 (5 minutes a day X 5 days a week) if you know you’re entirely capable of reading and studying more thoroughly.
- Pick a plan that you like. f you’re not excited about it or already feel overwhelmed, you’re not even going to get off of the ground!
- If you fail, you’re not a failure. Keep on truckin’! The number one reason people stop reading and studying the Bible through a plan is they get backed up. Once they miss a few days or don’t read enough, they are discouraged and find no motivation to keep on reading. If this is your main problem, let me suggest one of two plans: 1) Shirkers and Slackers Reading Plan or 2) Discipleship Journal Reading Plan (My personal favorite).
- Get a study Bible. Let’s face it, there are verses and/or stories in the Bible that make you tilt your head. It’s helpful in those times to have a quick resource to look at for insight and explanations. My personal favorite SB is the English Standard Version Study Bible. It’s comes with an online-accessible version which is super-helpful. Other SB’s to look at would be the Life Application Study Bible (NASB or NIV) or the Holman Christian Study Bible.
- Get friends involved. Find some close friends who’d want to do the same plan as you. It’s not only fun knowing you’re reading and studying what your good friends are, it’s also challenging.
Here’s a compilation of various Bible reading plans. Scan through several of these and pick one that you like:
- Bible Gateway’s Chronological Plan
- Crossway’s ESV Plans (Includes 10 various plans that are syncable w/ iCal, RSS, and more)
- Discipleship Journal Reading Plan (Plan with OT & NT every day w/ 5 “catch-up” days each month)
- Book-at-a-Time Plan (2 readings a day alternating between OT & NT)
- M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan (NT & Psalms twice, rest of the Bible once)
- Shirkers & Slackers Plan (Not on a schedule)
- 100 Day New Testament Plan (From the Village Church)
- 5X5 Reading Plan (5 minutes a day/ 5 days a week)