I struggled for years to find a Bible reading plan that works for me. A few years ago, though, I developed a plan that now works well for me. I share that strategy not because I think it’s a perfect one (it’s not), but because I hope it helps you think about reading through the Word in 2014. Here are the steps I follow:
- I purchase a new study Bible each year. A good study Bible is not inexpensive, but it can help you understand the Word without requiring other devotional resources. Look for one with good introductions to the books of the Bible and strong study notes that accompany the text. If you don’t have a copy, consider the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible.
- I choose a daily reading plan from an online source. My preference is to follow a plan that includes both Old Testament and New Testament readings each day. My goal is to read the entire Bible each year, but you may choose a different plan. Be sure to read daily, even if your plan does not take you through the whole Bible in a year.
- Each year, I prayerfully choose a set of topics to study throughout the year. This step is the one that has been most important to me, as these topics guide my reading. In the past, some of these topics have been prayer, spiritual warfare, evangelism, and missions. I always remain open to studying other topics as I read through the Bible, but I especially watch for texts that speak to my selected themes for the year.
- I purchase a new set of Bible highlighters for the year (preferably Zebrite highlighters that are less likely to bleed through Bible pages). I then assign one highlighter color to each of the chosen topics, and I note the colors/topics on the inside cover of my Bible. In 2014, my plan is to study the topics of holiness, leadership, and the Holy Spirit. Thus, the inside cover of my 2014 study Bible will show:
- Highlights in green: holiness
- Highlights in pink: leadership
- Highlights in blue: Holy Spirit
- Highlights in yellow: other topics or notes that just grab my attention during my reading (sometimes these topics become my studies in future years)
- As I read each day, I watch for texts or notes related to the above topics. I highlight the text, pause to meditate on it, prayerfully consider how it might apply to my life, and perhaps write a few notes in the margin to help me reinforce the application.
- With each highlighted text, I pray briefly in response to what God teaches me. Prayer ought to be our natural response when the Word of God becomes so real to us.
- I send a brief email to my accountability partners and my wife to show them what the Lord has taught me. That way, they know I've read. They know I'm learning. And, perhaps they'll learn, too. Actually, these emails have now evolved into the subscription devotions I now write for this website.
- At the end of the year, I then have a study Bible with every text related to particular topics highlighted. Whenever I teach on those given topics, I simply pull that Bible off the shelf and use it as a resource. Remember, the notes on the inside cover quickly show me what topics are highlighted in that Bible.
Here is why this approach works for me. First, it’s a plan; that is, I know each day what I will read. If I wait until that day to determine the reading, it’s too easy to get busy and neglect reading. Second, I enter the text excited about what God might show me that day. I don’t always find something related directly to the chosen topics, but I can always find something that teaches me (and would thus be highlighted in yellow). I love reading the Bible with the knowledge that God speaks through His Word. Third, this approach gives me a resource for later use. The highlights allow me to do a quick topical review on a number of themes studied through the years. Fourth, it’s just nice to finish the year knowing I’ve reached the goal of strategically reading the Word. Imagine, for example, a Bible with every text about holiness—from Genesis to Revelation—highlighted in green. I can already imagine how my heart will be challenged in this next year!
What is your plan for reading the Word in 2014? What Bible reading strategies have worked for you?