Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pastor Paul’s Bible Reading Program

With the New Year approaching it seems like a good time to promote a Bible reading program I have used for a few years now. I have tried many reading programs in my life including the Robert Murray M’Cheyne calendar and Professor Horner’s system. I found both of these helpful, but a little overwhelming. The pace of these programs was like an invitation to failure. I couldn’t keep up. I wanted to enjoy the Lord as I read His Word, not worry about falling behind and blowing the system.

So, I thought through the Bible as a whole and determined to read from each of these five broad categories all the time: Gospels, Pentateuch, History/Prophets, Wisdom and Letters. I made it my goal to read five chapters a day, five days per week. One chapter from each section. And I really liked it!

Here is how things break down.

Gospels - 89 chapters

Pentateuch - 187 chapters

History/Prophets - 499 chapters

Wisdom - 243 chapters

Letters - 171 chapters

If you read five chapters, five times a week for a year here is what you will cover in those 260 readings.
  • You will read the Gospels 2.9 times in a year.
  • You will read the Pentateuch 1.4 times in a year.
  • You will read the History and Prophetic books 1.04 times in two years.
  • You will read the Wisdom literature 1.07 times in a year.
  • You will read the Letters 1.5 times in a year.

As you can see, it is not a perfect system that gets you through the whole Bible in a year, but it is surprising how much you can read if you just stick to it. Plus, if you read more than five times a week, you will end up reading a lot more of the Bible every year.

To help you find your place every day, I have made up five bookmarks you can print off and cut to place in the appropriate section. You can get those here. (You can see a picture of them above.)


Why is this a good system?
The biggest advantage to this method is that you are reading in one of the five major genres of the Bible all the time. And it is amazing to see how things connect. You will start to see things you have never seen before if for no other than reason than you cannot remember what you read in Leviticus seven months ago. Christians need to see how their whole Bible fits together.

Who can do this?
In my church I know of one octogenarian, many adults of various reading ability and a bunch of kids who stick to the program. Anybody can do this.

How fast do you read?
The idea of this kind of reading is not to linger long over every word. There is a place for that kind of  meditative reading, but I do not think this is it. I aim to read at a normal pace and have one goal in mind: to meet with God. I stop when I find something that resonates with my own heart and write it down. All told, this usually takes me between 15-30 minutes. I like to read in the mornings prior to family devotions.

What if you really like to read slowly?
Well, that is fine. But I would challenge you to read at this pace for a while. Plus, with two “bonus days” every week, you can always go back and meditate on those passages that have piqued your interest. I often do this on Saturday and Sunday as a kind of incentive to keep at it the rest of the week.

Do you think the history and prophetic books are less important?
Because it takes nearly two years to read through this section, some have wondered if I think less of that part of the Bible. Hardly! Part of the rationale for this longer section is that there is some repetition especially in books like Chronicles and Kings. Also, so much of the prophetic work belongs with the history that I like to keep them together.

Why do you read the Gospels so much?
Jesus is the answer to everything. The whole Bible is about Him. So, I think it is great to be reading about Him over and over again. Having been on this system and one similar to it for nearly 8 years now, I can attest to never being bored with Jesus.

Is this all you do for “devotions?”
I like to read in the mornings and then journal a few verses. “Journaling” for me is usually copying out various verses that have stood out to me and then jotting down some reflections based on them. I often include a written prayer. These two little actions help to focus my wandering mind. I believe I exist to delight in God to the glory of God for the good of all people. So, my aim in this time is to find my happiness in God. I need Him and He has promised to reveal Himself to me in His Word.

What’s with the bookmarks?
When I tried Professor Horner’s ten chapters a day program I had to make bookmarks to remind me where I was in my reading schedule. You could use a piece of paper and tick off little boxes, but you risk losing the paper. I like my bookmarks! They include all the books of that section and keep everything organized right in your Bible. I am all about removing all my excuses.

What do I do if I miss a reading or partially complete it?
Here is what I love about this program. It does not matter that you missed. Just pick up where you left off last time. That way, if you are suddenly interrupted one morning by a sick kid, your whole program is not off the rails. Even if you read perfectly you will eventually find the chapters do not match each time through due to the different size of each section. This lack of consistent correspondence is partly what makes the method so interesting. It will amaze you to see how much of Bible relates to all its other parts.

Got any ideas on how to improve this system? Leave a comment below!

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