In 2016 I read through a chronological Bible for the first time, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now that I am done, I feel a little like I’ve lost my moorings. What am I going to do now?
Let me tell you about my Bible reading last year. I’ve read through the Bible many times since my teen years, but I had never read a chronological version. A month or two into 2016, Will installed a couple free apps on my phone that made reading easy and provided a bit of accountability.
Every day I read the designated passages and checked them off on my phone. If I got a bit behind, it was no big deal, because I could go back to the first unread passage and work my way through to catch up. Sometimes I would jump ahead a bit, too, if I got engrossed in my reading and couldn’t stop! The app I used was the Chronological Bible Reading Plan. The plan will ask you to download a compatible Bible app, and I chose the ESV version from Olive Tree.
Even though I prefer books with real pages to feel and turn, I did like some things about reading an electronic version. Highlighting, for instance. See, I have this weird thing that I don’t like to mark up my Bibles, because I want to come to the Scriptures with fresh eyes each time. I don’t want my previous ideas of what a verse meant to keep me stuck in the past when God might be wanting to teach me something different now.
But this time I allowed myself to highlight, since the Bible I was using was a free electronic version after all. I coded my highlighting in three colors. Yellow–passages I loved because they were beautiful or meaningful. Pink–verses that I thought were significant but had not noticed before (or at least didn’t remember). Green–portions that I did not understand.
Now here I am at the end of my plan, moping about being finished and wondering what to do next! I could go through the chronological plan again, but reading that much every day doesn’t allow a lot of time for studying specific passages in depth or reading other spiritual books.
Here are some ideas I could pursue in 2017:
-A few years ago I read through many of Paul’s letters twenty times, often reading a whole book that many times in a week. That was a life-changing exercise. I still remember shedding tears one Sunday morning on my thirteenth time through Galatians because the words deeply touched a specific need in my heart. I want to do intensive, repetitive reading like that again sometime, if not with the same New Testament books, maybe with the Gospels.
-I would like to study the verses I highlighted green over the past year. I’m not okay with blithely saying “oh this doesn’t make sense but it doesn’t matter.” The stuff in the Bible is there for a reason, and I want to find out why! Some verses I read this past year took me by surprise because I had often heard them and thought I knew what they meant, but many times these verses are quoted out of context. I can’t wait to go back to dig for treasure! For instance, how often have you heard “I will never leave you or forsake you”? In Hebrews, that verse actually begins with “Keep yourself free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.” Huh? What? I need to study this more!
-This year the Methodist church in town is offering the Disciple Fast Track program, which designates chapters to read from the Bible that will give the overall scope of the Biblical story. Fast Track spends twelve weeks in the Old Testament, and twelve weeks in the New Testament. I like the idea of reading through chunks of the Bible relatively quickly to gain a broad perspective. Plus Bible study with a group of friends is just plain fun!
-I’ve heard good things about this Beginner’s Bible Reading Plan developed by Dwight Gingrich. Maybe that would be something to read to the children this year? According to the description, this reading schedule averages less than 15 verses per day, but uses verses from every book of the Bible for a good overview of Scripture.
Perhaps I should be more spontaneous with my reading, but a plan gives me the nudge that I need, and if I just get started I enjoy reading the Bible. To me it’s kind of like getting out of bed early enough. I rarely feel like it but when I make myself do it, I’m so glad I did!
What suggestions do you have? Do you prefer studying the Bible on your own, or with family or friends? Do you like marking up your Bibles, journaling, drawing, or talking about what you learn? Do you use study helps? What Bible plans (or lack of) have worked well for you? How do you want to draw nearer to God this year? What motivates you to study the Bible? What questions do you want to ask God?
For myself, I’m praying that this year of Bible reading and studying will be based on learning to know my Father’s will, strengthening my relationship with Jesus, and preparing me to walk in tune with the Holy Spirit.
How about you?