I remember the first time I heard of the idea of reading the Bible all the way through. It seemed weird that this book I had only read verses or short stories from could be read as a single document. Then it suddenly hit me; the chapter and verse designations make it easier to find what I’m looking for and it helps me to memorize stuff, but they actually made me read less. Reading a few chapters of a novel or a few pages of a newspaper or magazine is pretty normal, but reading a few chapters from the Bible doesn’t sound quite so normal. It may sound quite intimidating and overwhelming for you too, so if you’re considering reading the Bible all the way through with me this year, but you need a bit of a push, here are a few suggestions to consider.
For people with willpower it’s as simple as telling yourself you’re going to do it. For most people though, I think it’s more important to tell someone else. Tell me if you want to, I’d be happy to hear it. You might be able to live with yourself if you don’t live up to your own expectations, but what if you share those expectations with someone else? They might ask you every now and then how your reading is going. If you know this question is coming from time to time, you’ll probably be more likely to read so that you have something to tell them other than, “Oh, I gave that up.”
Pick a time to do the readings. Not everyone lives in strictly scheduled worlds, but for most people it’s easiest to pick a regular time of the day to sit down and to the reading. As for which chapters to read when, you can get the schedule at the end of the newsletter. You can get the schedule online at esvonline.org. There are a number of schedules available there. The Daily Bread devotional that many people use has a listing of which chapters to read, which is great, and it will take you through the Bible from cover to cover over the course of the year. The schedule we are using is different and it has tried to organize all the readings in such a way that we will read the account in the order in which they happened.
Of course you can go through the whole plan with the Bible you already have, but a few purchases may provide a little extra incentive to read and may enrich the process as well. Get a notebook to record your thoughts and keep the notebook on the nightstand or bookshelf together with your Bible. Buy a new pen to write your thoughts with. Both of these things can make your routine more exciting and more personalized.
If reading the Bible through is a new idea, then any Bible would probably work, although the newer and more contemporary translations may be written in more accessible language. If the idea sounds more to you like ‘been there, done that’ you may benefit from reading from a new translation. Christian bookstores carry a wide variety of translations, and even Chapters and other mainstream stores carry more than just the traditional King James and NIV. If you want to read scriptures on your computer, biblegateway.com has over a dozen English translations, and if you want to read the Bible on your smart phone, the free Bible app from LifeChurch.tv also contains 20 versions as well. There are others, but the ones on my bookshelf I can recommend are, in alphabetical order: English Standard Version (ESV), GOD'S WORD Translation (GWT), New Jerusalem Bible, New King James Version (NKJV), New Living Translation (NLT), The Message, Today's New International Version (TNIV).
I generally don’t advise reading the Bible with a strong bias, but reading with one issue in mind can enrich the reading time too. Do you know what the Bible says about the environment? Do you know what the Bible says about sex? How about money, peace or homelessness? You can ask that question every day and catalog what the Bible actually does say about that one issue. You’ll miss some things about your issue and hopefully you’ll still learn about things that aren’t connected to that issue, but you will come out with a fuller understanding of the issue.
Have you thought about blogging about what you read? It's been done before, some have done it well, some poorly, some write as though it seems they are demonstrating their own piety while others write about it so irreverently that you wonder if they are only writing to make fun of everything. In the next week or so I will be putting together a new website and blog where I, and hopefully a few others, will chronicle our reflections partly for the world to see, but mostly for mutual admonition.
It's a big commitment, and I'll honest, there are some pretty boring days, but all-in-all it's definitely worthwhile.