Bible Reading Plans

In the 6:30 a.m. news on January 4, 2013, KMOX radio announced that the first Annual Resolution Run scheduled for the next day in St. Louis had been cancelled. A winter storm was due to blow into the St. Louis area that night. Only the fourth of January and this resolution froze down before it left the start line. Perhaps future years will prove it to be annual. Meanwhile, the irony was too strong to miss.

Did you make resolutions for the new year? Reading the Bible through in a year is one resolution that many make. It’s a good resolution. Hopefully, you’ll persevere through February and March better than I have. In the past, enthusiasm high on the new resolve, I dashed merrily through Genesis and into Exodus. Energy waned toward the end of Exodus and Leviticus sapped all remaining momentum. In other years, if Leviticus didn’t end the experiment, Numbers or Deuteronomy did. Don’t get me wrong. Leviticus and Deuteronomy are fascinating to study, but I find them tedious to read.

A few years ago, I adopted John MacArthur’s approach to the New Testament. Read through a whole book, or sections of it (usually 7-8 chapters), every day for a month, then move on to the next section or book. For example, Matthew will take four months to read at seven chapters per month. It takes two-and-a-half years to read the New Testament in this fashion. Since I have a good forgetter, I liked the daily review. I didn’t always accomplish reading all of the chapters on any one day, but missing a day didn’t put me in arrears. Finally, I had met a plan that didn’t quickly discourage me. One drawback was that it left me with no plan for the Old Testament.

Almost three years ago, a good friend from Montana told me about Professor Horner’s Bible Reading Plan. Professor Horner teaches at The Master’s College in California. He divides the Bible into ten sections. For example, the Pentateuch is one section, Psalms is another, Proverbs is one, the gospels comprise another. Read one chapter from each every day, equalling ten chapters a day. When a section is completed, begin it again. The reader keeps cycling through each section. Professor Horner provides tips for success, such as reading quickly, which helps a lot.

I thought ten chapters would be overwhelming, but perhaps because reading is to be done quickly and it wasn’t just from one book and I had a sense of progress, it didn’t seem as overwhelming as I expected.  Sometimes I split long chapters in half, or read five chapters from the Old Testament one day and five from the New another day. (Sorry, Prof Horner.)

After testing for six months to see if I persisted, I adapted it for my preferences. (Sorry again, Prof Horner.) For example, I did a bit of regrouping. Also, I designated one of the books for devotional time so that rather than read a whole chapter from it each day, I read only as much as is needed for meditation and prayer, maintaining that pace until I finish that book. I incorporated the daily psalm into prayer time. These latter two adaptations reduced the sense of having so much to read.

What I like about the plan:

  • It constantly exposes me to the broad spectrum of God’s kingdom plan.
  • It refreshes my memory in several books at a time.
  • It maintains my reading the whole Bible, not just favorite parts.
  • Reading this way, I often see connections. A truth from Proverbs is illustrated by a character in Kings who broke a law of Deuteronomy, the law being reiterated in Corinthians.
  • The set-up for failure is gone. There is no deadline. There is a daily goal of course, but if I don’t meet it I just pick up the next day where I left off. If I am short on time, I read less, knowing that with this system I can jump right back in again wherever my bookmarks are.
  • It is not overwhelming. At Leviticus I do not have the whole Bible stretching insurmountably above me like Mount Everest. Rather, I’m climbing a series of hills. I am eating the whole huge bunch of grapes all by myself but at the rate of only a handful at a time.
  • There are frequent small achievements along the way–each completion of a book and each completion of a whole section.
  • It habituates to a lifestyle. With no one-year finish line, reading becomes perpetual cycling and a daily habit.

This is the first plan that has kept me in consistent whole-Bible reading for a prolonged period of time. My thanks to Professor Horner for the overall concept.

My daughter has been using another popular plan, the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, created by Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a pastor in Scotland in the early 1800s. With his plan, the reader will read two portions of the Old Testament and two portions of the New Testament and Psalms each day. In a year, the reader completes the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once. Don Carson adapted it and suggested half speed so that it takes two years to complete the Old Testament and the New Testament and Psalms are read once in a year.

Whatever plan you choose, remember:

Value the Bible. You are reading the Word of the Living God, your Creator. This is truth, inerrant truth. This is truth that informs us about God and about how to love Him and others. This is the Word of Christ the Lord who speaks to us through His Word as the Holy Spirit illumines with faith and applies it to our lives.

Seek knowledge to renew the mind. Don’t make it a project. Scripture is not just a book. It is “living and active” to change us (Heb. 4:12). Think upon what you read at some point during or after reading. Talk to God about it in prayer.

Plan and discipline yourself. Plan the method. Read in consecutive order so that you keep passages in context. Set a regular time for reading. Refuse distractions. Do it.

Keep at it. Keep renewing your mind with God’s Word.

Build a habit. Make Bible reading a lifestyle, not just a one-year project.

What Bible reading plan do you use? What tips would you like to share?

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About Linda

Wifing, Singing, Studying, Counseling. I counsel at Gateway Biblical Counseling and Training Center. M.A. in Biblical Counseling. Certified by Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
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