For the first time in my life I’ve managed to read the entire Bible through in one year. I made this a goal at the start of the year and managed to complete the reading in early December, even though there were several periods where I did not read for days (illness, travel, the occasional too busy day, etc.). That surprised me somewhat, as I had assumed at the outset that completing the reading within the year would be a 50/50 proposition. It turned out to be a joy, and much easier than anticipated. I found myself hungering for the time each morning. Here are a few lessons learned, followed by my plan for 2020.
Having a plan is better, even when reading God’s Word. I didn’t have a plan in 2019, reading through the books as I felt led. A couple of years ago I read all of Paul’s writings in chronological order and then went on to other books. This year I changed it up, intending to alternate my reading between Old and New Testaments so that they were balanced throughout the year while reading through the entire Bible. That didn’t happen. I ended up focusing largely on the New Testament in the early part of the year, leaving a long spell in the Old Testament to follow. It was good and there were reasons I liked it, but I think more balance is desirable.
Don’t get uptight if you miss a few days. It’s not about maintaining a strict routine, it is about engaging the Word of God in a manner that speaks to you and changes your life. Let God be God. Don’t be afraid to take a day or two off to refresh if you feel like it is getting to be a routine instead of intimate, or if you feel too tired to give it your all.
Find your time and honor it. I am a morning person and usually have a few quiet hours available before the other household member is up and about, and I find that my spirit is most attuned and available to God before I get into the busyness of the day. For those reasons, I’ve made settling in with God’s Word my second task of the morning, right after I’ve made my first cup of coffee. I’ve learned that the two go well together … just sayin.’
Go into Heaven in the Spirit to read and meditate. I’ve learned that reading the Word there is more impactful to my life than reading it here. I ascend into the heavenly realm and read aloud in my prayer language as my eyes read the words into my mind. God honors our heart as we commit to encountering Him through His Word, so this reading in two languages simultaneously takes only a bit of practice before it becomes second nature. If you have a prayer language you will be able to do this quickly if you are not already. If you do not have a prayer language, ask the Holy Spirit to favor you with one!
Don’t just read, MEDITATE! I began the year with a desire to experience the Word more intimately through meditation as I read. What does that mean? For me, it means reading the Word with my heart, not just my mind; dwelling on and praying through phrases or even individual words that quicken my spirit, asking Father to open these to me and reveal deeper insight and mystery. For a good primer on meditating the Word of God, see Jeanne Guyon’s classic Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.
It’s not that hard. Reading through the Bible in a year requires only 2.5 chapters a day (7 days/wk) or 3.6 chapters a day (5 days/wk). Yes, some chapters are long, but there are many days where they are short. It simply does not take that much time. What seemed an overwhelming goal when I started became one of my greatest joys, and there was no “effort” involved.
Plan for 2020
I’ve got a plan, man! As mentioned earlier, I desired a plan for 2020 that would bring more balance to the reading. Further, I was looking for one that would lead me through God’s heart for us in a more or less chronological manner. After a bit of research, I found one that I think I will enjoy, and which fits my schedule and needs well.
- This five day per week plan is available in PDF form at no cost. I’ve printed one for my Bible and one to carry in my bag when traveling.
- The two free days each week give me opportunities to catch up when needed, or to devote time to other studies.
- The plan integrates topics from different books so that they are read together, providing one a whole perspective of the person, event, or principle being taught.
What Bible translation to read from? This is a personal choice, of course. I enjoy reading various translations to get different perspectives and revelations. Generally, I am a fan of the ESV and NASB translations as a base. In 2019 I read the Old Testament from a Hebrew perspective. I am also a fan of The Passion Bible, the Wuest and the J.B. Phillips translations when reading the New Testament. In 2020 I will be reading from The Voice version of the Bible, which is written almost in screen play form. It does not have the commentary and cross referencing that one normally sees in a Bible, but the format does offer a more intimate approach, and I am looking forward to that.
Credit where credit is due. I found my plan for 2020 on The Gospel Coalition website, in this post by Melissa Kruger. Many of her comments and reasons for preferring this type of reading plan mirror my own.