Saturday, December 22, 2018

Starting A Bible Reading Habit

Starting A Bible Reading Habit: Tips, Reading Plans, and Resources for Beginning to Read Your Bible |

With the new year approaching, you may be looking for a New Year's resolution that will improve your life. You can plan to exercise more, eat less, eat better, or spend less time on your smartphone. However, the most important resolution that you can make for next year is to read your Bible more.

Why Read the Bible

I could try to convince you why you should read the Bible more, but I think it's best to let it speak for itself.
2 Peter 1:19-21 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart
Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever
Luke 11:28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” 
Psalm 119:11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You
Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

How To Get In The Habit Of Reading The Bible

It's always a challenge to start a new habit, but here are a few suggestions that might help:
  • Tie reading the Bible to something you already do: read before you go downstairs in the morning, while you eat your breakfast, listen while you drive to work, listen while you go for a walk or run... Whatever works best for you.
  • Listening can be just as good as reading. Even better, try listening while you read, which is pretty similar to reading aloud.
  • Set a timer on your smartphone to remind you to read every day. Pick a time that you are always available.
  • Don't allow yourself to do something important to you (like eat breakfast, check social media, read a book, watch TV...) until after you have read your Bible. 
  • Have a plan for what you want to read and how much. If you have to spend your time choosing what to read, you will most likely put it off.
  • Read at your best time. Don't plan to read when you're sleepy or not awake yet. You are just making it difficult on yourself. Set yourself up for success by choosing a time when you are able to concentrate. Wake up a few minutes earlier in the morning if you have to, but wait until you are more awake to read your Bible.

Choose a Reading Plan

There are many Bible reading plans you can choose. There is no right or wrong choice. 

The Bible-In-A-Year Plans

You can read the Bible in a year many ways.
  1. From Genesis to Revelation - There are many plans where you read 3-4 chapters of the Bible in a year. This is the easiest method, but there is a lot of Old Testament before you get to the New Testament. My favorite of these reading plans is one by The Bible Project that includes their overview videos. The reading plan is available in their ReadScripture app and in the YouVersion app. I read through this plan in 2018 and loved it!
  2. Chronologically - Read the books in the order that they happened. Some plans will even harmonize the gospels (meaning that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are ordered by the chronology of the passages and not separated by books). You still have a lot of Old Testament before you get to the New Testament, but it helps to give you a perspective.
  3. Alternating - These plans alternate between Old Testament and New Testament books either daily or at the end of each book. This spreads the encouraging gospel of the New Testament throughout the year. Here is one version. Or this plan has you alternating different genres each day of the week.
  4. Blended - There are many variations of the blended plan, but basically you read some of the Old Testament and New Testament (and possible a Psalm or Proverb) each day. This spreads out the New Testament so that you don't have to wait until October to read it. The Discipleship Journal Reading Plan is one popular version where you read each day from two places in the New Testament and two places in the Old Testament. Another alternative is this chronological blended plan that requires reading only five days a week. 

Other Through-The-Bible Plans

  1. One Chapter A Day - This takes you through the Bible in about three years and three months. My favorite resource for this is the Daily Bible Reader (available in KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, and Spanish) which gives you a phrase to search for in your chapter. 
  2. Five Day Reading Plans - Plan to read just five days a week. This allows for weekends off or to catch up on anything you missed during the week.
  3. Two Year Plans - Pick a one year plan and extend it by reading half of the assignment each day. This will give you more time to absorb what you read. 
  4. Read At Your Own Pace - I love this option because there are no expectations or goals. You read as many chapters as you want in whatever order you want and you just check off each chapter to keep track of what you've read. Here is a great chart by visualunit to keep track of it. 

Shorter Plans

  1. New Testament Plan - The most common New Testament reading plan is the 5x5x5 plan. You read 5 minutes a day for 5 days a week to get through the New Testament in a year.
  2. Single Section Plan - Read through a section or division of the Bible, such as the Minor Prophets or the Pentateuch (first five books). You can do this with videos by the Bible Project or through many other reading plans. I'm planning to do a harmony of the Gospels next.
  3. Single Book Plan - Read through a specific book of the Bible. You can do this on your own with just choosing a book and reading through one chapter a day. Or find a reading plan on YouVersion.
  4. Overview Plan - These plans take you through the Bible to give you an overview, but don't read every chapter or even book of the Bible. Alex Tran has many suggested overview plans linked on his website. Some focus more on events and others on characters. 
  5. Topical Reading Plan - There are many reading plans available where you read through passages covering a certain topic. These usually last a month or less. There are some monthly plans available from Rachel Wojo. Or there are many plans available in YouVersion's Bible app. This plan by Kathy Howard takes you through different doctrines in a one year plan. 

Read To Understand and Apply

Here are some Bible reading tips to help you read for understanding and application:
  • Take notes either in your Bible or in a journal. Writing helps you remember things, even if you don't look back at them. However, looking back through them will help you even more when you come back to that section of Scripture.
  • Make observations about what you are reading and what it's really saying. You can find some helpful hints about this and the inductive Bible study approach on my printable Bible Study Bookmark
  • Consider what the passage is telling you about God, Jesus, believers, and the world. What is it telling you about how you should act with God and other people?
  • Ponder the message of the passage. God had it included in His Word for a reason. What does He want you to learn?
  • Look for something to apply. It might not be directly applicable to you, but there may be principles it is teaching you that you may apply. When reading the Old Testament laws that Christians do not have to follow, but consider the reasons for the laws and how those principles might apply to us today. Did the story have a positive or negative (or possibly a mixed) example of following God that we should or should not follow? The easiest question to consider for application is "What does the God who inspired the author to write this passage want me to do?" Try to be specific as possible and then do it.
  • Hebrews 4:12 says that God's Word exposes the sin in our lives. Consider what sins are mentioned in the passage you read. Examine your own life to see if versions of these sins have crept into your own heart. Repent and turn from these sins.

Don't Give Up

Now that you have a plan of when to read and what to read, get started and stick with it. Of course, it won't be easy to follow through every day. Problems will come up that you'll have to deal with.

Here are some common reasons people quit reading the Bible and how to handle them:

Problem 1: I'm hopelessly behind.

When you miss a day or week... or more, don't give up. Don't try to catch up by reading multiple readings in one day. Just pick up where you left off. You might not finish at the originally planned time, but you will finish. Giving yourself time in God's Word is the goal, not a timeline. And be honest- does it really matter if you finish in one year or one year + two months?

Problem 2: I don't understand what I'm reading.

It's difficult to read when you don't understand. Try adding resources that might help you (like videos by The Bible Project, a commentary, or a study Bible notes) even if you have to adjust your plan to read less each day so that you have time to understand it. Also, if you are saved, then you have the Holy Spirit inside you that can help you understand God's truth. Pray before you read that He will give you insight (John 16:13; 1 John 2:27). Don't give up because the more you read the more you will understand.

Problem 3: I'm bogged down in a section that I find boring.

Sometimes you get bogged down when reading genealogies in 1 Chronicles, laws about sacrifices, minute details about the building of the tabernacle or temple, or lengthy prophecies about judgments on unfamiliar nations. This can seem boring, but remember that God had the authors write them for a reason. Think of them like a treasure hunt where you look for certain verses that are gems. Or search for the symbolism in the details. Or find what this is telling you about God or what He wants His people to do. Whatever you do, don't stop reading because the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It's powerful and important, so take the time to find out what God is trying to tell you.

Starting A Bible Reading Habit: Tips, Reading Plans, and Resources for Beginning to Read Your Bible |

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