Raise your hand if you’ve ever resolved to read your Bible through in a year. OK, that’s about all of us.
Raise it again if you jumped ship in, oh, somewhere around Leviticus (or I Chronicles for you diehards). Yeah, me too.
Raise it one last time if you elbowed on through it, Scourby’d the genealogies and/or the Prophets, sailed through the New Testament, and wrapped up the Revelations on December 31.
Yeah. My hand’s not up. Some preacher’s kid.
Life gets busy. Mornings that started so easily in January just turn to lead by March. Schedules get disrupted. The perfectly planned Bible reading chart gets lost under the bed, and the multicolored highlighter set magically scatters like the nations at Babel. By August or so, you’re so far behind on your 3-5 chapters a day that it’s not even worth trying to catch up (especially when you know you’ll have to start back at Leviticus).
“[The Holy Spirit]’s not just a little “I’m Saved” badge that you wear the rest of your life. He’s a constant companion, a teacher…”
So at some point, I decided that a strict Genesis-to-Revelation approach wasn’t working for me. Over the past few years, I’ve tried several different methods, often at the same time. Here are some of the best, in no particular order:
- The Get-Something-to-Go Method. This is quantity plus quality and gets me through the entire Bible in a year. I read one or two Psalms, the chapter of Proverbs corresponding with the date, and 3 chapters elsewhere (either three successive chapters, or keep bookmarks going in three different books). This way, even if I spend three solid chapters in temple stats or “begats”, I can still walk away with a truth from Psalms or Proverbs.
- The Aww-Not-Again-I-Overslept Method. Not recommended for daily use. Period. But I’ll be honest. I cannot walk out the door in the morning without stuffing some sort of spiritual munchies in my face, or I’ll be sick and bratty the rest of the day. If all I can do is read a chapter of Proverbs while I’m swigging my morning coffee, or plug in a Bible-on-CD in the car, or leave a New Testament in the magazine rack in the bathroom (come on, we all read in there), I will. The Anti-Hypocrite lobe of my brain is screaming “You should’ve gotten up earlier! It’s all or nuthin’!”, but wisdom says that, while I can do better tomorrow, I can’t redo what’s already happened, and I’ve got to connect to God today.
- The Chronological Method. This is my current method, and I’m loving it like crazy! Using a Chronological Bible, I’m reading the Bible in the order that everything occurred. I’m already grasping the timeline much better, and the genealogies are starting to gain a lot more relevance. A word of caution here, though: the chronological divisions are as accurate as possible but not to be taken as divinely inspired, nor are the additional notes, dispensations, etc. It’s merely a timeline to give you perspective. If you can swing the cash for it, it’s worth the investment; otherwise, check to see if your pastor can loan or recommend you a copy.
- The Read-Til-It-Convicts Method. This may be the toughest to maintain, because it requires some spiritual persistence and clarity that I frankly don’t have every day. There isn’t a time frame, there isn’t a chapter allotment, it’s simply reading until the Holy Spirit has gotten a hold of you and shown you something that you can’t get away from. It’s not just a “Hmm, that’s a cool thought.” You’ll know it when you hear it.
More important than any method or reading schedule is that you invoke the help of the Holy Spirit as you read. He’s not just a little “I’m Saved” badge that you wear the rest of your life. He’s a constant companion, a teacher, your own personal guide and mentor. Ask Him for wisdom; spend your morning coffee time with Him; let Him guide you into all truth. Pssh, on particularly bad weeks, I’ve even asked Him to puh-leeze help me get up with the alarm so I can spend time with Him… and He does.
A closing admonishment from the spiritual giant George Mueller: “As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time unless he eats, so is with the inner man. What is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God – not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe. No, we must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our hearts.”