A Bible Reading Strategy for 2014

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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)
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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?


  • This year I used SOLO, great experience in the Word.

  • David Ludwig says:

    Thank you for sharing this Bible reading plan, I can see a lot of value to a plan like this. Too often life gets busy, and it is easy to short change the personal time I should be spending in the Word (being honest), so I agree, a Bible reading plan is a necessity. Thank you again, for sharing this Bible reading plan.

  • Grover Westover says:

    I have been using Our Daily Bread for several years. It takes me through the Bible in one year, plus a meaningful devotional thought that many times will spark a preaching idea.

  • Mary Ellen says:

    I use Pastor Wayne Cordeiro’s S.O.A.P. Life Journal system. I like the question he asks – How will I be different today because of what I’ve read? It fleshes out an application for my life.

  • I currently read two chapters from the Old Testament (Started in Genesis) and two from the New Testament (Started with Matthew) Then similar to Mary Ellen I make a S.O.A.P Journal entry from one or two verses from both the Old and New Testaments. For those not familiar with S.O.A.P: S = Scripture (I actually write out the verses) O = Observation, A = Application and P = Prayer

  • Prentiss Yeates says:

    I think I the plan you suggested is a great idea. In the past I have used the reading plans offered in Open Windows publication. Using this devotional along with the reading plan is exceptional.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Prentiss, you’ll see in one my comments above that I’ve also used Open Windows in the past. I encourage folks to check it out.

  • Tony Foeller says:

    Greetings, Dr. Rainer.

    I put a plan together several years ago that many have found helpful. I’ve also “translated” this plan into a Facebook page / group. How hip am I?

    The Facebook page can be found here….

    If any of your readers are interested, I can also reply with a file where the plan can be printed out on 8.5 x 14 paper and folded to make a very neat Bible book mark.

    Blessings friends!
    Pastor T

  • Brian Autry says:

    I used your Bible Reading strategy this year and it worked quite well for me. Thank you for sharing a very practical plan. I also like that it results in personal edification as well as a resource to draw on for sharing your learning with others.

  • Allen Lawless says:

    Being someone who does things a little differently, or so I have been told, my ADHD fueled brain does well by having a plan for each month of the year. Unfortunately, I sometimes forget to think of a plan until it is the 31st of the month and then I convince myself that I need one more month of whatever topical study that God has suggested for me during the previous month. This entire year, 2014, my plan is to study, study, and study some more how Jesus shared about the Kingdom of God with others. I also plan on reading tons of books by those who have shared the gospel with others in a variety of ways and locations. Finally, my prayer is that I will be at least half as successful as I am ambitious and well intended, and that I share wholeheartedly the gospel of The Lord Jesus Christ with the lost and dying world that surrounds me. My relatively new position in the Multihousing Church Plant World would be a serious waste of time if I didn’t give 100% in the area of evengalism.
    My plan also includes a basic read the Bible through in one year ‘without cheating this time’ plan.

  • Darin says:

    I use a blended (OT & NT) reading plan to read through the Bible each year. I like the overview this gives and is stimulates ideas for sermons. Have found it helpful to add the month and day to each reading in advance so that I can see if I’m “ahead” or “behind.” I also try to read ahead so that a missed day doesn’t lead to discouragement.

  • I have and will continue to use the “Horner” Bible Reading system developed by Professor Grant Horner. Outstanding and not tied to a calendar…

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    The Horner plan is a good plan, Scott.

  • Dave says:

    Chuck for the past few years I have been using the One Year Bible. It has helped me. I like the order, however I might have to try your method. Thanks

  • Tyler says:

    Thanks for these practical tips and letting us “peek behind the curtain” into your devotional life.

  • Rick Hunter says:

    I also use the Horner plan. There are plans I would like to try, but I have no desire to give up the Horner plan. I enjoy it too much!

  • Kaye Wimberly says:

    Since 2008 I’ve been using a Daily Bible to read through the Scriptures each year. I’ve read different versions; one year I read through a Chronological Bible– I can’t adequately describe to you the difference spending time in the Word and prayer has made in my walk of faith. Once you get started, you just crave more and more of God!

  • John Wylie says:

    I personally am not a fan of reading the bible in a year programs. I find that it doesn’t lend itself to the slower more ruminatory reading I would prefer.

  • Mary Branch says:

    Yes I would like to receive a copy of this plan. Sacrifice have been searching for one that would be a greater teaching to me. Thank you in advance.

  • Jeff Farnham says:

    Thanks for this article – it gave me some great ideas to try for next year!

    I’ve read my Bible through for several years just following a plan that takes you from Genesis to Revelation. I also like to jot down notes on what I’ve learned. This year I started tracking certain subjects that I observed while reading. I would put a key word in the margin of my notebook and just capture my thoughts. For example, I was noting Bible passages on prayer, the gospel, penalty of sin, providence, etc. So now I’ve completed my own personal chain reference on topics interesting to me! But I also like the suggestion of focusing on only 4 topics.

    This year I’m hoping to read through the Bible in 2014 using a chronological Bible and read through the entire Bible in 2 years capturing my personal chain-reference notes.

  • Very excellent suggestions! I like your approach to study the Bible by topics and highlighting those scriptures and passages which relate to the topic. I am going to try and incorporate this in my reading plan. Currently, I utilize a plan that features a two-year track through the Old Testament (Year One: Reading the historical books. Year Two: poetry and the prophets). The New Testament is read through annually. I start my plan on December 1st to correlate with the start of the “church new year” which begins during Advent. Throughout the year, there will be certain days I match passages that match the particular season: For example, reading the passages around Christmas which foretell the birth of Jesus in the prophets as well as the birth narratives in the gospels. I have found that this plan works well for me.

  • I am definitely going to try your suggestion to highlight by subject matter. I currently utilize a plan that takes one through the entire Bible over two years (The Old Testament is divided by the historical books in year one and by poetry and prophets in year two. The New Testament is read in its entirety both years). I begin my plan each year on December 1st as this correlates with the start of the “church new year” around the time of Advent.

  • Angela Powell says:

    Thanks for sharing this Dr. Lawless! I LOVE this idea! I’ve always felt like we needed to reduce the number of Bibles we have, as we have a whole shelf, but why not increase and have more Bibles in which we’ve spend time in prayful focused attention on certain subjects?! Brilliant! So often I switch what I’m focusing on while reading the Bible (and I only have one, in English, that I read from) so the whole thing is slowly getting underlined. Wish I would have read this before coming back from our visit to the States in December…then I could have bought a Study Bible or two in English! Had as my goal to read the Bible through in French last year but only made it about 1/2 way so…have another year to work on that anyhow! In the meanwhile I’ll have some visiting teams bring me over some study Bibles.

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