This is the time of year when we think about new year’s resolutions, and many of us resolve to spend more time connecting with God by reading the Bible, and every year I post my thoughts on Bible reading plans. I was in my late 30’s when I actually read the entire Bible through from cover to cover for the first time. It was a 1-year Bible and it took me about 18 months. The key is just to keep going, no matter if you miss days here and there.
There are several Bibles that provide a year-long reading schedule. Tyndale’s One Year Bible includes daily readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. It’s great if you want your Bible reading in convenient, bite-sized portions. But frankly, it’s a terrible way to read the Bible because it strips each section of any sort of context or understanding of the greater story. And the Bible is all about story.
In fact, it’s one story comprised of lots of different books, written by different authors, and many tell about the same events. So you may want to try a One Year Chronological Bible. This version rearranges the books and narratives so they fall into a chronological order that tells the story in a more understandable way. This particular version (in my opinion) isn’t great because it lists duplicate passages back-to-back. It’s a bit annoying to read the same part of a story over and over.
My favorite and most recommended version is The Daily Bible in Chronological Order. The writer provides brief overviews as you go along, and helpful historical context. Multiple retellings of an event (i.e. the Gospel narratives) are blended together, with references. The power of chronologically telling the story is evidenced, for example, in incorporating the Psalms as David wrote them during his adventures in 1 Samuel. As you read of King Saul chasing David into the desert, David, fleeing for his life, hides in a cave and writes Psalm 54, “Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might.” You get a much broader sense of the Bible as a beautifully sweeping, epic story, in which the Old Testament is an indispensable backstory to the New.
If you work at a church or are otherwise involved in ministry, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants is a great devotional guide (and would make a great gift for your team). The readings are arranged in themes that loosely follow the liturgical calendar, which is a helpful grounding in Church tradition. The daily order includes an invocation, Psalm, daily scripture reading, other readings for reflection (collected excerpts from a variety of Christian thinkers and mystics), directed prayers, and a benediction.
And, in a digital world, of course digital reading plans are available for your SmartPhone or iPad. Plans can be customized for length (months or years) and can be followed with a group for accountability.