Read The Bible In 2016
As we prepare to flip the calendar over to a new year, we are provided an excellent opportunity to think about how we will approach God’s Word in 2016. Whether you’ve followed Jesus for a long time or are relatively new to the faith, the task of reading the Bible on a consistent basis may prove to be a daunting challenge.
But, you and The Journey Church will be much better positioned for maximum impact if you will commit yourself to soaking yourself in the Bible. But how do you get started?
I’ve narrowed it down to a few basic guidelines to keep you on the path that will lead you deeper in you walk with Jesus as you discover more and more about the God who loves you and gave Himself for you.
So, let’s get started.
Keep It Simple
One of the biggest dangers in selecting a reading plan is going for broke and overloading yourself. The quickest way to NOT finish or even enjoy your daily Bible reading is to make it such a grueling task that you become overwhelmed or quit altogether.
You have nothing to prove to yourself or anyone else. You don’t need to make it your aim to read all of Leviticus or power through each of the Minor Prophets in one sitting. While those might be fun in subsequent study, that should not be your goal as you start out.
Remember, the idea is not to get just get through the plan, it is to know God. As you take the time to read daily, you will learn about God because He has chosen to most clearly reveal Himself through the pages of the Bible. It’s really that simple.
As you begin to develop a reading plan, you can consider something that will last you a week, a month, a quarter, or even a year or more. There are a number of options available to you that I will link to below, but consider the following examples to create a plan for yourself.
If you don’t have any idea where to start, then start small. Make your plan to read a smaller letter like 1 John each day for one week. You’ll be amazed what you might discover by reading the same thing for seven straight days.
If you really want to dig into the life and ministry of Jesus, why not read a chapter or two in The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) each day until you make it all the way through?
If you’re terrified of the Old Testament because you’re not sure what’s in there, take a chunk of it (the Pentateuch, the wisdom books, the history books or the prophets) and work through them in smaller, bite-size morsels.
Do It Daily
The best thing you can do is not bog yourself down. As you make your plan to read, set aside time each day and mark it on your calendar. Set a reminder on your phone or computer and tell someone who knows you well (or lives with you) what your plan is so they can ask how you’re doing and encourage you to keep at it.
One of the best examples of the fruit that can come from daily Bible reading comes from the Bible itself. In the very first Psalm, we see:
1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
— Psalm 1:1-3
The person who spends time daily (day and night — v.2) is like a tree planted by streams of water. It’s roots grow strong and it bears much fruit because the stream (in our case, the Bible) provides a constant source of nourishment. Thus, it bears fruit and prospers. God nourishes our faith as we spend time each day with Him by reading the Bible.
Daily soaking in God’s Word provides sustaining growth that allows HIs people to exist for others. They bear fruit in the lives of the people around them as they live out and speak of what God is revealing in their daily Bible reading.
It can be too easy to sit down to immerse yourself in the Bible but then rise after ten minutes and not remember a single thing that you just read.
That’s why I always encourage Bible readers to do so with a pen, a highlighter and a notebook nearby. As you read the Bible each day, you’ll begin to make connections. You’ll find fascinating tidbits you might have missed before. You’ll develop some questions that you want to look into for deeper study. Or maybe you’ll discover a nugget you want to share with someone you know.
These basic tools will be most effective in helping you grow the most during your reading plan. Circle key words in the text. Highlight verses that stand out to you. Write notes in the margins or on your notebook. As you read, ask questions of the text and write those questions down, as many as you can generate.
These are simply ways to keep you engaged in the text and growing in your understanding of the Bible. You won’t just be scanning the words with your eyes, you’ll be thinking about them and learning what they mean and what God is intending to communicate to you.
Don’t Give Up
If you find yourself on January 5 having not picked up the Bible all year, the worst thing you can do is quit and assume it just isn’t for you. No one who hasn’t worked out in a decade should go into the gym, try to bench press 600 lbs and leave dejected because they couldn’t pull it off. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your Bible reading plan will take intentionality to engage.
Remember, the enemy doesn’t want you to read the Bible. He will do his best to bring distractions and discouragement in an attempt to prevent you from knowing God through His Word.
Don’t give into his schemes. If you miss a day—or twelve!—acknowledge it and then dive right back in where you left off. As we read earlier in Psalm 1, we will be most effective and see lasting nourishment in our lives when we delight in the Bible we read each day and meditate on in morning and night.
Ready To Begin?
If you’re looking for where to start, there are plenty of options available to you:
Ligonier Ministries has a wide selection of reading plans you might incorporate in 2016. They range from basic five-minute readings to multiple chapters and locations throughout the Bible. I would recommend the Outreach New Testament Plan (six months) or the Chronological Plan (full year).
The ESV Study Bible is a phenomenal addition to your library and has plenty of study notes and extra articles to help you as you read and study the Bible. One of the best features is the built in Bible reading plan near the back. It maps out an entire year with daily readings in four different areas of the Bible. I will be working through this plan again for 2016 and invite you to join me in it.
Many Bible-based mobile apps have reading plans you can use. Some even allow you to create your own.
NOTE: While these apps (ex. YouVersion and the ESV Bible App) can be helpful in today’s on-the-go world and for keeping track of your daily reading schedule, I still encourage you to spend your daily time in a hard copy of the Bible. Here's why:
- You simply cannot highlight a digital copy of a Bible or take notes as smoothly as you can with a hard copy. You probably mark up the text differently than I do. Your experiences are different than mine, you will notice things that I may not notice, and you write and highlight in ways that make sense to you. Yet, apps pretty much force everyone into the same method of making marks and notes. Outside of your choice of highlighting color, you don’t have many options. The best way to combat this is to have your own hard copy and highlight and write notes in a format you can understand and revisit.
- Reading and studying a hard copy will make you more Bible literate. You will know where things are better and how they fit into the story. It’s easier to know where you are when the physical book is in front of you than swiping from page to page on a screen.
- Distractions are ever present no matter which way you read the Bible. People can drop into your office unannounced. The school calls because your child is in trouble. The neighbor decides to re-shingle his roof and hires the noisiest crew on the planet. Distraction will happen. They are probably more prevalent on digital devices as a steady stream of updates, posts, messages, e-mails and other notifications can keep you from really digging into God’s Word. You can establish a better rhythm by unplugging and focusing on the pages in front of you.
- No one else really needs to know what you are doing when you are reading your Bible, but it’s a lot more telling when you sit in the coffee shop or the break room with your Bible open than scrolling on your phone or tablet. It’s virtually unmistakable. In a way, you are proclaiming to others around you: “God is my focus in this time, and I am listening to Him as He speaks through His Word.”
Do you have a plan yet for 2016? If you’d like some help, see me on Sunday or shoot me an e-mail, and I’d be glad to help you get started!
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