Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reading the Bible in 2011

I was very pleased with the response to my post yesterday concerning the setting of goals. I hope to have encouraged you to take some time and prayerfully consider what you would like to accomplish in various areas, including your spiritual life and growth next year. I hope that you will write them down, keep them close, and take them out periodically during a devotion and see how you are doing. 

Develop a means to monitor your goals by examining whether you are completing the steps in order to achieve your goals.

One goal that many people set, as The Old Geezer did, is to determine to read the bible through in a year. As I was responding to his comment and his permission to help hold him accountability the following information flowed into my email to him. As I typed this and re-read it I thought it would be a good blog.

I realize goal setting is just that - setting some markers of what I would like to accomplish in various areas during the coming year. I also admit that I haven't been successful in every area by keeping every goal. However,I find if I don't set any goals then I have a tendency to be reactive rather than proactive. I want you to be proactive in your spiritual development. I don't want you as Paul told the Ephesians, " that you are no longer children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." My heart's desire and prayer for you is that you are, " mature manhood, speaking the truth in love,...grow up in every way into him..." Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV)

I applaud those who set a goal to be faithful to read the entire bible each year. I think when it comes to scripture there are at least seven (7) areas that we need to be faithful in. In order to be faithful in these areas it takes discipline, planning or goal setting, monitoring, and yes accountability. We need to:

read the scripture - this builds familiarity and reminds us of various principles to live by each day

study the scripture - this is different than reading; here we take great pain and effort to study a doctrine, a book, a biblical character, Christ, etc.

meditate on scripture - this is where we talk it back to ourselves and reflect on its meaning through recitation, repetition, rehearsing, and realizing its meaning and application. This is helpful when we are having a hard time with a passage, understanding its meaning or seeking its application

memorize scripture - we need to regularly hide the word of God in our heart in order not sin against God, to have as a tool to ward off temptation and sin, to encourage fellow believers, to edify believers, to confront believers, to rebuke believes, and to evangelize the lost. I recommend you memorize one verse per week, or 52 a year.

obey the scripture - we read, study, meditate, and memorize in order to be obedient to the truths and principles of God's word. I know you know this but many times we look in the mirror and take no action and thereby we leave the house with breakfast on our shirt, hair uncombed, spinach in our teeth etc. We need to be doers and not just hearers.

share the scripture - this is related to our memorization, but we truly need to share what we have learned. We do not want to be Dead Sea Christians where water runs into the sea but never leaves the sea.

pray through the scripture - prayerfully read your passage, stopping to ask God through His Holy Spirit your teacher what that verse or paragraph meant and how does God want you to apply it to your life.

So, again I applaud you in setting a goal to read the scriptures through in 2011. 

First of all -  do not use a reading plan!!!!!!! Unless you are absolutely different than any of us you will slip into the legalistic habit of trying to read in order to check off the box, or color in the square. In other words reading plans lead you to miss the meaning of scripture because you are trying to catch up and complete the days reading.

Second - God will not love you any more or any less if you read everyday. You won't have a better day or a worse day if you miss a day in your reading. Please do not get on the "performance treadmill."

Third - reading here and there, piece-meal will not allow you to fully meditate on the context and find its meaning and application for our life. You need to read in context.

So what do you do?

Take a 3 x 5 or a 5 x8 card and write all sixty six books of the bible on it. Then each time you come to read, each day, read 3 or 4 chapters of a book of the bible you want to read. That is about 12-20 minutes for the average person. 

Read that book each day until it is completed. Then check off or cross off that book on your index card as completed. The goal isn't to read a certain section, or a certain number of passages, the goal is to read all sixty six books before December 31, 2011.

You get to pick and choose where you read. On one occasion you may feel like reveling in the Psalms or another time you may feel like tackling a doctrinal book like Romans. Just once you have read a book completely, cross it off the index card.

Enjoy scripture don't endure it.

What goals have you set to read the bible through in 2011? What plans have you used and what worked for you? Why? What would you recommend to others concerning reading the bible through?

Happy 77th Birthday to my Mother, Evelyn L. Metcalf, in Modesto, CA. I love you Mom!



As I lead a busy life visiting children and grandchildren And blogging I tend to read the bible at the end of the the day when all is quiet and calm.

Happy Birthday to your mother and many more to come,

Tom Shelton said...


It is a very good thing to encourage others to read God's Word. God's Word deserves our attention and the effort we make to read it daily will be time well spent.

However, I must disagree with your first point about not using a reading plan. Your concern that using a reading plan may cause the reading of God's word to become a legalistic habit is valid. I am sure it happens because i have experienced it myself. There are some days that I simply am not in the mood to read my Bible but I do it because I gotten in the habit (and so that I can check that day off my tracking spreadsheet). I would suggest that this is only a step in the process a person goes through in learning to love to read God's word. Some may not progress beyond this stage but most will. Believers are not re-born with a love for God's word. It must be developed over time the same way our love for God develops as we become mature Christians. As such, a good reading plan may be a valuable tool for believers in this maturation process.

I currently use Prof. Horner's Bible Reading Plan. I have been using this plan for over a year and a half (today will be day 556...not all in a row) and some days are still a challenge for various reasons. But the benefits are enormous. I have come to a better understanding of what God's Word actually says. I have come to appreciate, anticipate, and enjoy my time reading His Word. I have grown in many ways. I know that my experience will not be the same for everyone but it easily could be.

In conclusion, thanks for writing your post encouraging the reading of God's word. I agree with the vast majority of what you have said (even though my comment here has been focused on the part I take issue with). May God bless those who read you post and use it to get them to read God word in whatever way benefits them the most.

Michelle said...

I haven't been on blogger all week so I'm working backwards...haven't seen your yesterday post yet. :)

I have been reading throught the Bible since February. has been such a treat. I have read the NT before (all but Revelation). Doing this through morning sickness placed me on pause in Chronicles for a LONG LONG time. I love your idea to write down the books and check them off. That is so much better. I follow a semi-plan but read at my own pace. Somedays it is more, somedays it is less, is none.

Can't wait to catch up on the posts I missed.

Mike said...

December 2009 on the radio was Chuck Swindoll. He related an anecdote about a small group of prisoners whose bibles were confiscated from them. Amongst their small group, they were able to piece together a great deal of the bible from memory. He set forth a challenge for 2010 for Christians to memorize more scripture.

So, I did. I didn't just wanted to memorize a verse here and there. Instead, I wanted to memorize larger chunks, paragraphs of scripture amounting to one chunk per month (amounted to well over 100 total verses). I finished! But I'm not finished...I plan to continue it into 2011.

I don't share this to pat myself on the back, cuz it's not really all that impressive. Especially when guys like John Piper are considered, guys who can take people through the bible and recite from memory just about anywhere. I share it because it's rewarding to complete a goal, and it's inspiring to do more. I read the bible thru in 2009 and think I'll undertake that goal again in 2011.

Great posting as usual, brother Gregg!

Larri said...

Still working on setting my goals, Gregg! I'm encouraged by your posts. Thank you.

PS...Happy Belated Birthday to your Mom! :o)

RaD said...

This is great! I have learned to not push to follow a plan, I carve out my own anyways, so no box to check off. No way to know just how far behind I end up. But I have trudged forward instead of stopping to "hear" what certain verses say to me. I have a hard time stopping to ponder it, but I am learning the benefits of that.

Anonymous said...

great post!