27 December 2011

Bible reading for 2012, and why

by Dan Phillips

Nate Bingham posts a nifty list of reading plans. All sorts of blogs are pointing you to reading plans. Let me help by leaning on and applying some why pressure, along with the what.

If you bumbled through 2011 without a plan, you really should adopt one. If you are a Christian and have never yet read through the entire Bible — which should be a perfect application of the word "inconceivable" — you really really should adopt a plan.

Why a plan? One is mindful of the possibly apocryphal story of the evangelist who was set upon by a critic, who announced, "Sir, I do not like your methods!" The man replied, "I am always glad to hear of a better approach. What is yours?" The critic stammered, "Why, I...I don't have one."

"I like mine better" was the response. And while pragmatism is a baneful worldview, there is something to be said for a touch of it once one has set on the needed goal within a God-centered worldview. Find the goal that pleases God, then figure out how to get there from here.

But what is the goal? God's vision for His church is very every-member, every-part, isn't it? Christ died for all of His people, not more for some and less for others (2 Cor. 5:14-15). God raised all believers to spiritual life by sovereign grace (Eph. 2:1ff.). Christ baptized all believers into His body in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), and thus constituted all of them as functional parts of that body, with a useful ministry for all of us (1 Cor. 12-14). The gifted men serve the local church that all parts of it may grow into doctrinal stability and maturity, by the contribution of each and every part of that body (Eph. 4:10-16). And that is why the letters of the New Testament are by and large addressed to all believers, to the extent that most of Paul's letters derive their names from the local churches to which each is sent.

That being the case, what is each of our part, in showing proper faith and fear and honor to God? After all, if we say we are Christians, are we not saying we are disciples (Acts 11:26)? And if we say we are disciples, do we not know that the word means "students"? And if so, what do we imagine that we are to study? Do we not even know that our Lord Himself defined in so many words what He intends our course of study and life to consist of?
 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32)
Well, there it is, isn't it?
  • If we want to be free, we must know the truth
  • If we want to know the truth, we must truly be Christ's disciples
  • If we want to be Christ's disciples, we must continue in His word
This is not a process that another can do for us. My wife can't eat for me. My children can't drink for me. Our pastor can't grow for us, or learn for us. Each of us must do what God has pressed on us.

But isn't the mere fact that I even need to make this case itself a sign of the wretched state of the church? I don't have to talk my kids into eating chocolate or cookies. By saying we are Christians, aren't we at least saying we believe God? Don't we even know that much? And do we know what God says about the value of His word (Ps. 1; 119, and on and on)?

Apparently not.

But here we are at this blog, all professedly big tough healthy Bible believers. Yet I know as sure as I am sitting here typing, that there are those reading who do not match walk to talk, practice to theory. I'm not here to rail at you; God knows my life does not measure up to my theory in all respects. But God helping me, I'm working at it, and I'm doing so with the loving prods and pokes of brothers and sisters.

And that is what this is for you: a loving prod, a loving poke.

You've got a good theory. Now do it. Pick a plan. Any plan is better than no plan. Play to your strength. If you're a morning person, read it first thing (this is what I found decades ago to be my path). If not, do it in the evening or midday. There is no law for a time to pick; but there is a law to do it. Pick a plan, pick a time, and do it. Be at it. Do what works. Don't scale the Alps in one day, but do set foot on the slope; and then another, and then another, and then another.


Dan Phillips's signature


Citation Squirrel said...

In the next two or three days, I will finish reading through the bible in 2011. I echo Dan’s encouragement to pick a plan and start reading. We need to be serious students of the Word and we need to be in the Word.

I’m doing something a little different this year. I created my own reading plan. It is actually for my young daughter (and I will join her). The plan will take us through the four Gospels and the book of Acts in one year. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Lord has to show me, and her, this year.

donsands said...

Thanks for the encouragement. We really do live by not bread alone, but every Word.

And the Word was made flesh as well. And so Jesus is there in the Holy Scriptures as well.

I gave my son-in-law the Literary Bible for Christmas, and it seemed to give him that extra "poke" that may help him. Also his oldest son is reading through Genisis with him, and that makes for a good way to read through. makes it tough when you get to certain portions, like Onan.

Gracias again mi amigo. Have a grand New Year in our Savior's steafast love! Psalm 98:3

Aaron said...

I always fail to reach my goal with Bible reading each year. I'm really going to try to knuckle down in 2012.

Mizz Harpy said...

I've been following Professor Horner's plan for about a year and a half now. I used to try to follow the Bible in a year plans but would get off track then give up after falling behind by a week or more. Horner's plan doesn't have a list of checks or anything so there isn't a set schedule. I keep a weekly planner with my Bible and write in what I've read each day. If I miss a day I feel ashamed for missing that day but I continue on the next day.

DJP said...

That's the way, Mizz H. Like the medicines that have instructions amounting to, "If you miss your dose, take the next one."

My own plans have tended to be challenging (works best for me), but I absolutely believe that reading a chapter or four every day is much, much better than reading nineteen chapters every eighth day.

Richard said...

I like “The One Year Bible” that has the entire Bible in daily readings already arranged in the text so there’s no need to refer to a separate plan. For each day there’s a portion from the OT, one from the NT, one from Psalms, and a fourth from Proverbs. The Psalms are covered twice during the year. It’s available in various translations; I have the ESV published by Crossway. http://www.crossway.org/search/?q=one+year+bible&sa=

Robert said...

I like to change plans every year or so because I find it challenges me and helps me to pull things together differently each time I read through the Bible. The main thing, though, is just to be reading Scripture every day and being filled with the Word of God. I can tell when that isn't happening because I'm not talking about what I've read and how it applies to what is going on around me.

aMandalin Rochele said...

I read always in two places, if not three: read through one chapter in the Old testament, New testament, and usually another in Psalms. I usually ignore places like Leviticus because they are old laws, but I decided to read through all the Old testament this year. So I am enjoying learning all about the Old testament! And there are such beautiful promises in the Old testament as well! Thanks for posting this! I was just thinking about how I would read in 2012. =)

Kerry James Allen said...

Amen, Dan, good article, needed reminder of what we so easily forget. If Scripture is manna (Deut. 8:3) we need it daily. In nearly two decades of pastoring I've discovered that when God's troubled people come for counseling and the question is asked, "Do you read your Bible daily?" the answer is almost always "No." I hereby proclaim my weakness and plead that I may be strong, and only that by the Word of God abiding in us. 1 John 2:14. The best thing, in the best place, with the best result-Psalm 37:31.
"Bible reading people seldom go off to modern theology." CHS

Sonja said...

"If you bumbled through 2011 without a plan, you really should adopt one."

This is so true. I'm not a good enough student left to my own devices and without some sort of strategy (beyond reading the Bible in a year) I truly bumbled through Scripture. In 2010 stumbled across Prof. Horner's plan and it works so well for me. Every day there some new treasures and understandings revealed. It's like Psalm 119 really comes to life in a way I hadn't fathomed. That Psalm is way too short.

Fred Butler said...

I haven't tried Horner's plan, but it looks good.

One internet acquaintance of mine suggested reading and studying the 4 Gospels deeply during the year, as a change of pace, rather than the entire Bible. That may be a worthy challenge.

Lynda O said...

I also like the Horner Reading plan (and variations on it), a genre plan that has you reading through chapters in each of the Bible genres. I now follow a modified Horner plan, 8 lists, 12-13 chapters a day, to read through the Bible every 125 days. Last year I also tried a 90-day version that worked well, reading through the Bible in 90 days but only a chapter or two from each section rather than sequentially from beginning to end.

F Whittenburg said...

For six years, I did some of my Bible study at night as well as during the day. The Lord showed me an interesting verse in Job 33.

For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; THEN he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man(Job 33:14-17 KJV).

I went out and bought the whole KJV Bible on cassette tape and played it next to my bed while I slept. I have heard it quoted that the mind never sleeps and this passage in Job does seem to indicate that God speaks to man as he is sleeping.

I do not remember having any dreams during these Bible study nights, but I did wake up with scripture assembling themselves together in ways I have not thought of before. When you study like this, you are receiving pure scripture without any judgement coming from your mind on what is the correct doctrinal interpertation of the scripture passages you are hearing. Has anyone else tried this besides me?
This is a study practice that has only been available to the Christian since the development of recording devices, unless someone sat by you at night and read the Bible while you sleep.

Question to all;

Do you believe we can actually trust God and pure scripture with our sub-conscience mind while we sleep or is the Bible scripture mingled with our unconscience mind in sleep a tool of the devil?

In His service,
F Whittenburg

The Squirrel said...

Citation Squirrel?

Is there really enough room around here for two squirrels? Dan will have to leave out more seed and nuts...


DJP said...

Oh, we've no shortage of nuts.

ba-dum bum

Citation Squirrel said...

If I didn’t know any better I’d say they were stocking up for a long winter.

Enough frivolity ….

I’ll try to live up to the high standard set by my namesake.

Kerry James Allen said...

Quantity or quality? I guess it all depends on what you get out of it. "Some people like to read so many chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soul asoak in half a dozen verses all day than I would, as it were, rinse my hand in several chapters." CHS

P.D. Nelson said...

There is an app for he IPhone called Bible Study Tools it is free (yea!) and one of the nice features is a variety of Bible reading plans many of them mentioned on Nate Bingham's blog.

lee n. field said...

"Why, I...I don't have one."

I don't. Well, I do, sort of. Read straight through, OT, NT and Psalms, in parallel. Read as much as you feel like in one sitting. Don't skip anything. The genealogies -- plow through them. "The proverbs are repetitive." Tough, read 'em. When you're done, start over. I've done this for over a decade.

I've read that the whole Bible amounts to about 90-100 hours of spoken audio. That's not so much, in the grand scheme of things. I wonder if our churches ought to be reading more of it out loud.

Deb said...

I'm going to try to do the read along with Challies.com in 2012. Once about two years ago, I took a four day weekend off from work and just read straight through the Old and New Testaments. It was quite a marathon. I'm looking forward to soaking in the Word daily again on a deeper basis.

Marla said...

Having a plan is important. You can always tweak your plan later if you you need to make adjustments.

Personally, I like the 90 day plan. I could never figure out why I couldn't get through the whole Bible in a year -- the plan I was using was just too slow for me. I read quickly and the other couple-chapters-a-day were just not challenging enough. I like Professor Horner's plan volume, but I need something a little more sequential.
My husband could never follow my plan because his reading style is so different from mine.

Get a plan. Feed yourself daily. You can't give to others what you don't have yourself. :)

Mark said...

If you're looking for a schedule that works for many try the Five Day Bible Reading Schedule. You only read five days a week, giving plenty of time to "catch up" or miss a day.

It's free at:


simonetta said...

In 2011, our pastor has suggested a plan for reading through the New Testament in a year during Family worship, so we did that. Before that, we were going through the morning and evening sermons the first two days, reading ahead the texts for the next morning and evening sermons the next two days, and reading from a devotional the other two days. I think the children were participating more with the previous approach but reading through the New Testament was also inspiring. Our pastor will work out a schedule for reading through the Old Testament in the new year.

Dave and Melissa said...

If readers are interested in doing it digitally there is a great app (for apple devices) called Reader Plan. It has dozens of reading plans available and will allow you to link the daily readings to various online Bibles or Bible apps (such as the ESV app). It also syncs across multiple devices so you can use with iPad and iPhone. It is very customizable and will even transfer your completed readings over if you decide to switch plans during the year. And, of course, it's free.