This year I'm going to do it.
I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions (because I figure you're mostly just setting yourself up for failure), but I think I can do this. And if I try and fail but don't quit, it'll still be a good thing.
What I'm talking about, of course, is reading all the way through the whole Bible in a year! I've tried it before... I have an NIV Daily Bible: In Chronological Order that I've had for probably two decades, and I made it a good bit of the way through that once. There are LOTS of schemes for getting through every verse in the Bible... they're in the back of your Bible, they're in pamphlets that you can pick up for free at your church or Christian bookstore, they're in your Bible software, they're on the Internet... heck, there's one in the right-hand column of this blog! They're even on your cell phone! The trick is to stick with it for 365 days.
The real problem with those plans is that there's no leeway. They're a recipe for sending yourself on a massive guilt trip! If you miss one day, you feel terrible about it... then you try to catch up, and maybe you succeed. But what if you miss two days? Or three? There's no way to catch up on that much reading unless you just sit down for a whole afternoon and don't get up until you're up to date! That just doesn't work for me, and I'm guessing it doesn't work for most people... life is too hectic and unpredictable these days. My life doesn't tend to fall into nice little squares so I can put my Bible reading in the 9pm-10pm square every night or whatever. Heck, I've been trying to do some Bible studies with just my wife and son, and we have a hard time figuring out when to do it. Life goes by fast these days!
But today I've read a couple of blog posts that I've found very encouraging. First, Denny Burk blogged his plan for Bible reading this year. He's going straight through, from cover to cover, but he's done two interesting things: first, he's divided up the chapters according to whether they are "long" or "short" chapters, and he's stopped on chapter boundaries. Maybe not a foolproof scheme for some passages (what if he breaks in the middle of a story?) but it should get the job done. But more importantly, he's done something I've never seen before: he's added a little bit of grace into the picture. He's included "catch-up days"! So if I keep up with the schedule perfectly, I could even take those days off if I wanted to. (I don't expect that to be a question that comes up, but if it does, hey! The leeway is there!)
Another blog post has encouraged me further. If you've been following this blog for any amount of time, you know that I fall all over myself loving my ESV Study Bible. Well, this past year Bob Kauflin read the entire thing, cover to cover! (Well, the Bible text and notes, not the extra-credit articles.) If he did it, so can I! If I take Denny's plan and Bob's success and put them together, I think I can do it!
But what if I fail to finish by December 31? What if I get to December and I'm in the middle of Obadiah? What if I choke on Leviticus (which has been my problem in past tries) and that one book takes me a whole month? Well, you know what... if I don't get to the end in one year, I'll get to the end eventually. Maybe it will take me two years. Maybe three. Maybe it will be so fascinating that I'll make it in even less. J. Jackson of Christian parody band ApologetiX has read it cover to cover many times; when he finishes Revelation, he turns around and starts over with a different translation. In past years the members of ApologetiX have encouraged many teenagers to start reading the Bible, and some of those kids have gone cover to cover. If Denny and Bob and J. and a bunch of teenagers can do it, so can I! What's so special about starting on January 1 and finishing on December 31 anyway? Nothing. Nothing at all. Well, except maybe bragging rights. But what's special about making it all the way from the book of "Pre-Face" to the book of "Maps"? EVERYTHING.
I know I've read every word in the New Testament countless times and in any number of translations. I've read much of the Old Testament as well, but I know there are nooks and crannies where I haven't been. And if my experiences reading all the way through John and Revelation in the ESV Study Bible are any indication, the notes will direct me to historical information and correlations with other parts of Scripture that will simply blow my mind. It might take me two, or three, or five years to read through the entire Bible "in a year," but however long it takes, this year I'm going to get started. God's Word is too important to miss any part of it.
January 5 update: I'm on track so far, even though we were out of town for the first couple of days of the new year! I'm tweeting about my Bible reading using the hashtag #BibleInAYear, and several other people have use that tag too... so I created a list of those people at @TulsaMJ/bibleinayear. I've also been thinking about how I might want to do this next year... if I don't use my NIV Daily Bible I might want to use The ESV Literary Study Bible instead. If I finish by the end of the year, I'll buy myself the ESV LSB as a reward! ;) I've had my eye on that Bible for some time anyway, and I'm reading a related book already. I'm not the only one who thinks using that Bible as a read-through Bible is a good idea... check out this brief blog post!