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Read through the Bible in 2012 (…or 2012-13)

December 30, 2011

Confession time. When it comes to read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans I pretty much stink. I’ve never completed one of these. For a pastor, that’s pretty embarrassing.

It’s not that I don’t read the Bible often. Part of my problem is that the pace necessary to complete the Bible in a year is simply too fast for my reading and reflection habits. I’ve finally come to embrace this. That’s not to say that other factors don’t sometimes get in the way (read: sin, laziness, selfishness, watching Psych reruns), but it does help to remember that there is nothing intrinsically spiritual about finishing the Bible in an arbitrary time period.

Confessions and caveats aside, I still think there is value in this discipline, and commend it to you in some form for the year ahead. As Kent Hughes, one of my former pastors at College Church, once said, “You can never have a Christian mind without reading the Scriptures regularly because you cannot be profoundly influenced by that which you do not know.” As the people of God in Christ, we must spend regular time reading, studying, and meditating on the Scriptures. Read-through-the-Bible plans are a helpful tool for cultivating this healthy habit.

The goal here is not simply to gain information, and even less to check off a box or pride ourselves in our accomplishments. The goal, rather, is to know and love God more deeply and to serve and follow him more closely by availing ourselves to the means of grace he’s given us in his Word. It is God’s inspired Scriptures through which he makes himself known to all generations and by which he instructs and corrects us, equipping us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).   

Justin Taylor has collected several different reading plans at his blog to help people choose. I recommend visiting it and checking them out. The one that I’m planning to use next year was put together by Stephen Witmer, Pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell, Massachusetts. It spreads the reading over two years and works through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a reading from Psalms or Proverbs each day). Witmer explains both some of the weaknesses and strengths of using reading plans, and provides an introduction to his reading plan here.

Whatever plan you choose, and however long it takes, may your life be increasingly marked by the Scriptures in 2012. May we know God more intimately and obey him more consistently and joyfully by the strength of his Spirit and the grace made available in his Son.

UPDATE: Here is another reading plan a friend and mentor of mine, Brian Wachter, shared with me. This one was put together by Alyssa Martens (currently on staff with the Navigators at Iowa State) and takes you through the entire Bible in one year, but organizes the Old Testament readings according to the order they’re found in a Hebrew Bible. This is an eye-opening way to read the Old Testament. All the books are the same, but some scholars suggest the Hebrew order reflects a more thematic arrangement of the biblical books. It’s also the order of books that Jesus likely read. When he says in Luke 24:44, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled,” Jesus mentions the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible–the Law of Moses (Gen. – Deut.), the Prophets (Josh. – Mal.), and the Psalms, which is the first book of the Writings (Psa. – 2 Chron.). You can download it here: Hebrew Canon Reading Plan

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