Planning the Scripture Habit
Soul growth doesn’t happen by itself, it requires effort, devotion and commitment. As recent posts have endeavored to show, reading the Bible regularly in an ordered fashion is one of the most important practices to develop early on. Getting into the Word (and the Word into you) opens the conduit to God to hear Him speak.
If bible reading is new to you, a plan that starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation is not recommended. The narrative history of Genesis and Exodus will sweep you along and then you will hit the wall of Leviticus and Numbers. These books are important, but tough going for new readers and they tend to break down the momentum. An alternative plan that I discovered at The Christian Library has great potential in keeping up your pace while giving you a broad sweep of Christian thought. Over the course of five or six weeks, devote yourself to reading in this order:
Mark – It is written in chronological order
Matthew – Based on Mark and much more detailed
John – Written so that you might believe and includes material not in the other Gospels
Luke/Acts – Written by the same author who records the history of the early Church
Galatians – A condensed explanation of the change in dispensations between the Old Testament Law and the New Testament Grace
Conclude this plan by reading the remaining New Testament books. If you devote yourself to an average of 5 chapters per day you will find yourself enriched by the Word of the New Testament in a little over a month. More importantly, you will have developed the important habit of time reading the Scriptures.
Alternative: The 21 Day Challenge
The most common plan that readers follow enables you to read the entire bible over the course of a set period, usually a year. A plan that covers the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation presents you with a few chapters from each book every day. As the months pass by, you will accomplish a feat that many in the Church have never done, reading the Bible in its entirety.
Some plans sample both the Old and New testament each day. For example, this 365 day plan from BibleGateway opens up Exodus 7-8 and Matthew 15:1-20. The readings are short enough that you will have time to not only read the scriptures, but to spend time pondering their meaning as well.
I would suggest that you avoid plans that subdivide too much. Some reading sequences include the Old Testament, New Testament, a Psalm and some selections from Proverbs each day. The reading units become very small and the skipping through the pages leads to discontinuity in your understanding. If you are interested in this type of reading, perhaps you can take a selection from the Psalms once weekly and make that the reading for the day.
A reading plan that is attractive to both new and experienced bible readers is one which spends a year or some other period of time concentrating on the New Testament alone. The core of modern Christianity is Jesus, and this is His story. The pace is slower but it also enables you to focus your attention on the history, ideas and truths uniquely found in the New Testament. It is also a good place to start your habit of scripture memorization. Start with John 3:16.
The Old Testament also benefits from a long concentration. Complex law and ritual become clearer when you slow down and are able to spend time thinking about why God brought these to His people. The triumphs and failures of Israel and their ultimate effect on the people of Jesus’ time help you to comprehend the New Testament more fully.
Other concentrated plans center around certain books or types of books. For example, the many Epistles (personal letters) make up a good reading plan that give you a unique insight into the writer’s lives and battles, and the issues that confronted the Church then and now. The Pentateuch ( the first five books of the Bible ), the Psalms and the four Gospels and Acts all have benefit for the reader as points of concentration.
Alternatives: Bible Reading Plans
Struggling to read the Bible day after day is a common malady. It is a practice that requires training because, for most people, the discipline to read the Scriptures in our distraction-filled world is not easy to come by. Even those who develop the habit find themselves becoming bored by repeatedly poring over the same pages year after year. One of the things that I do to avoid this threat is to read a different translation each year. This year I’m back in the NIV (New International Version), but last year it was the ESV (English Standard Version).
Build some slack into your reading plan. If you are new to Bible reading and trying to develop the habit, 365 day plans can fill you with guilt if you get a day or two behind. The usual result of this is to abandon the plan and the practice. Set up your plan so that you read every other day or five days a week. Both methods give you open days to catch up so you are less likely to give up.