My recent post on being set apart has had me thinking about how critical it is to be familiar with God's Word. To really know our Bible: His Words. And the only way we can know what God expects of us is by regularly immersing ourselves in His Word. And I mean, regularly.
New Christians are often told to start reading their Bible in the New Testament - usually one of the Gospels - and while I see the value in this, my personal belief is that after a time we need to have a broader view and knowledge of God and what He says to us that can only be known from reading through the entire Bible.
It's not as daunting as it sounds. It doesn't have to be done in a day, nor even a month. It doesn't even have to be done in a year. It can take two or three years or even longer. But if we are to really know God, and to know how He wants us to live, then we need to know everything that God says to us through His Word. Otherwise it's like knowing the beginning and the ending of a favourite story and not knowing anything of what happens in between (can you just imagine how much we'd miss if we read Pride and Prejudice or To Kill a Mocking Bird or Anne of Green Gables like that).
I've shared before my Bible reading plans - if plans they can be called - but this year I decided to try something different. I tried two plans before coming back to the point where I organised my own plan. I think this is just the 'precise/detail' side of my personality. I like to control the details. Besides, my plan suits me better than any other I've found. This is not to say that there are not a lot of good plans out there - there are and many can be found for free online - it's just that no one else knows how I like to read my Bible and no one else can tailor a plan specifically to me.
So what do I do? In recent years I've read the entire Bible through every eighteen months. I've tried doing it in a year but this just puts too much pressure on me. The last time or two, after the eighteen months have been completed, I've gone back and re-read the New Testament and Psalms. This has meant that those last six months have been pretty cruise-y in that I haven't had to read as many pages a day as during the previous year and a half. So I asked myself: why not devise a plan where in TWO years I read the Old Testament once and the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs (which I decided to double up on too) twice?
Once I decided what I wanted to do I came up with my own plan. It's easier than it sounds. I worked out how many pages there were in the Old Testament less Psalms and Proverbs and divided that number by twenty four (the number of months in two years). That gave me the number of pages I needed to read from the Old Testament each month. Then I took the number of pages in Psalms and Proverbs and divided that by twelve (remembering that I wanted to read them twice over the course of two years - I could have doubled the number of pages and divided by twenty four and received the same answer - whichever makes sense to your way of thinking) which gave me the number of pages per months and then did the same with the New Testament. Each month can then be divided by the number of weeks (or to be really exact, multiply by twelve and divide by fifty two) to give you the number of pages to read each week. Then it's just a matter of deciding how many days a week you want to read (I like to divide by six because that gives me a 'catch up' day if I need it or a day when I can reflect on something else).
I ended up with a nice little plan that allowed me to spend three days reading the Old Testament, two days the New Testament, and one day reading from Psalms or Proverbs each week. It means I read the equivalent of one and a half pages in my Bible daily which is extremely manageable and it gives me variety each week (it's very small print - your mileage might differ). Currently I'm working through the Old and New Testaments from beginning to end, but you could read the books in any order as long as you keep track of the number of pages you need to read each day/week.
I also like reading at this pace rather than in a year because with shorter plans (and I've seen some that read through the entire Bible in 90 days or less) there is the danger of speed reading where you get through the required reading but don't remember a word of it. It's not a race. Its value lies in filling our minds and hearts with God's Word. I don't know how many times I've now read through the Bible but every single time I discover something new and think, 'I've not noticed that before'. This despite reading through the Bible more times than I can recall.
It can be quite valuable to read through the whole Bible chronologically at least once in a lifetime - although I will admit that when you read the same story three or four times as can happen in the gospels, there is a sense of 'been there, done that' - which is actually the case. And reading all those lists of names in the Old Testament twice over ...
If we believe, as Scripture tells us, that all Scripture is "God breathed" then shouldn't we make it a priority to know what it says?