Last year I went through a Bible reading plan that I created and shared that was topic-based. My goal was to read sections of Scripture thematically, so although I didn’t read the entire Bible word for word, verse by verse, I read various passages that all related to certain matters of faith and living like relationships, stewardship, knowing God’s character, developing habits or disciplines, creativity, and more. It was fun, but deeply instructive. I journaled through my readings on some months, and on others I simply read the passages, meditated on their message, and prayed them back to God as a personal Amen.
But for this year, I want something different, something MORE. There are several excellent reading plans out there, and I’ve journeyed through some of them, but like last year I want to go through my own plan to meet my particular needs. And what I need right now is to drink deeply and slowly. So, this year I am reading through and studying whole books of the Bible. What does this look like exactly? I didn’t create a template or anything, but a rough sketch looks something like this:
A Whole Book Bible Reading Plan for 2017
Bible. Duh. But really…no “Jesus calling”-type devotional here. Get the real Jesus calling in your hands and heart.
*What I do is copy/paste a book of the Bible onto a Word doc. and double-space the text so that I can write notes between the lines and margin. I think print it out and put it in a three ring binder. So, include copy paper and a three-ring binder in your plan.
Study Bible. This is for after you have read the text repeatedly. Study notes are for after you have read the passage and made notes for yourself.
Lexicon or Key Word Study Bible. Don’t be intimidated by this. Word studies have been so helpful for me in understanding ambiguous words. I use this one, but there are many that will work just as well.
Writing tools like a highlighter, pens, and colored pencils. You can develop your own system of how you want to mark the text, but you will want to highlight or mark repeated words or phrases and grammatical distinctions like the subject, object, and action of the text. I am no grammarian or Greek scholar (ha!), but with practice I am learning to look more closely at the language of the Bible with careful readings and study tools. So, my point is that anyone can study Scripture with practice! It’s about the journey.
A Journal. After I read the text a few times, and jot notes in my binder I then write my own commentary in a moleskin notebook based on that day’s reading. I also write out a short prayer based on the passage to help respond to the text after I study and take notes.
There is no standard to a whole book Bible reading plan, but this is the general process of what I am doing in studying through the Bible this year:
*I should note that obviously the whole Bible cannot be studied in a year, or a lifetime for that matter. I select a few books that I want to study and then go from there. Right now I am studying Ephesians (my favorite epistle), and I will probably study a short OT book next.
- Read the whole book of the Bible once.
- Read the first chapter or a short section of verses repeatedly.…maybe 3 times or so.
- Mark the text. Highlight repeated words and phrases, subject of the passage, main ideas, and jot notes or questions you may have in the margins for further study.
- Look up key words in a lexicon. Write identifiers and notes in the margins around key words.
- Journal your response to the text. I call this narration (not original by me). You are simply retelling the text in your own words. Make it conversational like you were explaining the text to a friend.
- Pray the text in response to God. This may seem artificial or not genuine at first, but I am learning that praying Scripture helps my thoughts to be more aligned with God’s thoughts, and then when I pray from my own heart my doctrine improves and so does my faith. For example, a prayer in response to Ephesians 1:11-14 could go something like this: “I praise you, Father, for causing me according to the counsel of Your will to obtain an inheritance through Christ’s shed blood and victory over death. I was predestined for this. Thank you for sealing me with Your promised Holy Spirit who even now counsels, guides, and convicts me. All of this is to the praise of Your glory. Amen.
- Read a commentary. I try and read a scholar who is a great writer, like Timothy Keller, James Montgomery Boice, or Warren Wiersbe. I am not looking to write a dissertation or teach a seminary class. I want to be engaged in the text and challenged as when I hear a hearty sermon. Hearty…I like that word, and I rarely use it. Ha!
This may look daunting at first, but one you get going with studying whole books of the Bible it becomes additive and incredibly nourishing. I usually a lot about 30 minutes a day in my personal Bible study. Sometimes this means I will study and write about 5-6 verses or more, or maybe only 1 verse. For me the breadth is not as crucial as the depth and understanding. Take your time with this. One of the benefits of not speed reading through the entire Bible in the year is that you have time to digest God’s Word slowly. Don’t give yourself a time frame. Just read and study at your own pace. I am amazed and blessed by the daily bread that God faithfully gives us. The plan or method doesn’t matter, as I have written about before.What matters is that we are daily going to the living water of God’s Word, and letting His Word dwell in us richly. Oh taste and see the Lord is good in 2017! Be blessed!