A very quick Google search of Bible Reading plans provided a wealth of options for reading through the Bible. Some focused on reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Others focused on reading through the Bible chronologically. A few tried to read through the Bible historically (reading individual books in the order they were written). While others included readings from the Old Testament and New Testament everyday. Most of these plans were designed to read through the Bible in one year, although some were stretched out to two years to slow the pace down some. My own personal practice for many years has been to read through the Bible in a year. This entails reading three to four chapters a day everyday. I would always start in Genesis and start reading through until reaching the end of Revelation, and then starting over again. It has been a wonderful discipline over the years that has shaped me in many ways. God has used this practice to speak to me on numerous occasions from passages that I probably would not pick on my own. It has been a great blessing.
A couple of years ago a friend who was a Campus Minister told me about a new plan that allowed one to read through the entire Bible in 90 days. He was getting his students to sign up with him to commit to reading through the Bible in a semester. It was a great idea. Here were students who took time each day to read and study in Chemistry or Business or Computer programing and they were also reading and studying scripture. It could be completed in less than a semester. It provided great results and allowed my friend to have meaningful conversations with his students about scripture. They were asking questions and growing in faith. It was a wonderful idea.
However, with some of the things that I’ve been thinking about and reading recently I’ve been challenged with a new idea for a reading plan; slow down. So often, I must confess, I read the Bible for information or to fulfill my reading plan schedule. While it has been a blessing I wonder if it is enough. Because the Bible is more than just a book to read; it is a word from God. It is a story that reveals the Word made flesh. It is a narrative of God’s interaction with God’s creation and the part we now play in that story. Because of that, Bible reading needs to be not just for information but for formation. There’s nothing wrong with reading the Bible for information; trying to better understand the history, searching for truths, and trying to understand theology. But reading must also be for formation. Reading must be designed in a way that the Spirit is allowed to work through the reading of scripture to carve out the areas of our lives that need to change. Reading needs to be taken in small chunks; one chapter or one paragraph being read over and over again, meditated on, chewed on, swallowed, and thought about again. Instead of reading three chapters a day maybe the plan needs to be to read one chapter every day for three weeks. To dwell on the same passage for an extended period of time; meditating on one passage and allowing it to speak into our hearts and lives. What if instead of reading the entire Bible in 90 days we read the Sermon on the Mount for 90 days? What would we learn? What would God reveal? How would we be changed? Maybe the new plan we need to start sharing with others is not a detailed plan of how to read more but an encouragement to actually read less, but to spend more time with it; allowing it to slowly transform our lives.
I must confess, as one who has spent the last twenty years reading the Bible through every year this change is alittle frightening; it messes with my OCD tendencies. But I believe it may be time. Not that it’s wrong to read multiple chapters a day; but we also need times in our lives to slow down and let the Spirit have time to work. To allow God to form us through the reading of scripture into the people God created us to be.
So my new encouragement to myself: slow down and dwell in the Word and let the Spirit work.