How About a Two Year Bible Reading Journey?
Dear Church family,
Several years ago, a Scottish pastor named Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote a letter to his congregation, saying:
MY DEAR FLOCK,—The approach of another year stirs up within me new desires for your salvation, and for the growth of those of you who are saved. “God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” What the coming year is to bring forth, who can tell? . . . Those believers will stand firmest who have no dependence upon self or upon creatures, but upon Jehovah our Righteousness. We must be driven more to our Bibles, and to the mercy-seat, if we are to stand in the evil day. Then we shall be able to say like David—“The proud have had me greatly in derision, yet have I not declined from thy law.” “Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart standeth in awe of thy Word.” It has long been in my mind to prepare a scheme of Scripture reading, in which as many as were made willing by God might agree, so that the whole Bible might be read once by you in the year, and all might be feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time.
That was in December of 1842 and I feel much the same this December of 2011! As we look to the future of our church, it’s clear that our ministry of making disciples will only be as effective as the depth of our love for the Word. For it’s the proclaimed Word which the Spirit uses to transforms hearts.
But many Bible reading programs have some drawbacks. First of all, many people cannot sustain a schedule that takes through the whole Bible in a year if they aren’t already strong readers. Second, most plans spend the bulk of the front half in the Old Testament. This causes many to feel bogged down. Finally, many plans move so fast that there is little time for reflection on what is being read.
A Better Plan?
So, why not modify a plan that takes care of these problems? The plan I will be using—and I want to invite all of you to use as well—takes us through the whole Bible over two years, alternating between Old and New Testament books, giving room for reflection (or catching-up!). Practically, this means reading two chapters a day, taking Sundays off as well as a week off in July and December. For most people, this requires just fifteen minutes for reading each day.
But some may ask, ‘Why any plan at all?’ There is nothing sacred about reading the Bible according to a plan, but they can be helpful. M’Cheyne went on in his letter to list a few. Another pastor summarizes them well:
“These [benefits] included the reading of the entire Bible in an orderly manner over the course of a year; no wasting of time deciding what portion of Scripture to read each day; improved spiritual conversations between parents and children and between friends when each member of a family or circle of friends is individually reading the same portions of Scripture; a greater opportunity for pastors to reference passages of the Bible in their praying and preaching and individual conversation with church members who have just read those same passages; the strengthened bond of Christian love and unity among Christians who are reading the Scriptures together.”
How amazing could it be to have all of us “feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time” beyond the Sunday morning sermons? Try to calculate the spiritual blessing of having God speak to all of us from the same passages of his Word each day for two years!
Some Practical Tips
Maybe this is the first time you are considering a Bible reading plan like this. Or maybe you have begin something similar several times and failed somewhere in the middle. Perhaps you’re a seasoned veteran! Regardless of where you are at, Pastor Stephen Witmer gives some helpful tips for reading the Bible, especially on a plan like this one.
- If at all possible, read through the Bible using this plan together with other people. The fruit of reading through the Bible together as a church over the last couple years has been immense.
- There will be some passages that you find boring and difficult. Remember 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as you read these passages: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be equipped for every good work.” Ask yourself why God breathed out this particular passage, and how it is profitable for you.
- Do the whole reading for each day, but look for a “best thought” for each day—something you can meditate on throughout the rest of the day, perhaps a verse you can memorize, something that is particularly memorable. This way, you are left with more than a vague feeling of what you read in the morning.
- As you come to the Word each morning, ask God to open your eyes to its splendor. Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Psalm 119:36: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” Psalm 90:14: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”
- Let your prayers for others emerge out of what you read. Don’t choose between praying and reading Scripture—do both! After you read a passage, pray that passage for yourself and for those you love.
- Some readings will be longer and others will be shorter. Take advantage of the shorter readings. Read them more carefully and meditatively. Don’t just read; reflect, ask questions, pray for answers, engage. In Psalm 119:48, the psalmist says that he meditates on the Lord’s statutes.
- Look for ways in which you can practically live out what you’re reading. James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
Together in the Word
I hope you will take this two year journey through the Bible with me! Reading Scripture is the best way to grow in your love for God. Furthermore, reading together will give us a common reference for encouraging one another in faithfulness and spurring one another on to love and good works.
Grace and peace,