About this time last year, I decided that 2010 was going to be the year that I read all the way through the Bible. As you can see from my blog post on New Year's Day, I had decided to make it through no matter what. It wasn't a "resolution" as much as just a "decision" - I realize that both words mean pretty much the same thing, but to me a "resolution" sounds like something very formal, something that will have consequences if you don't do it, and something you are destined to fail at. A "decision" is just something that means that you're making a simple change in your life; it used to be this way, and now it's another way.
So I'll cut to the chase: I didn't make it all the way through this year. Today I finish the last chapter of Proverbs. There are a few reasons for this; I want to share them, not to excuse or explain myself (it's not like I did anything wrong, after all!), but I'm thinking that if there are other "Bible-in-a-year-failures" reading this, they may be encouraged by this when something happens to them and trips up their schedule!
I was on track for the first couple of months of the year, right on schedule with the plan I had (pretty much arbitrarily) picked out. I was actually reading the Bible text and the study notes from my ESV Study Bible, which was a bit above-and-beyond the whole "reading straight through" thing, but I wanted to make sure I was understanding what I was reading. A book or two into it, I got an NIV Study Bible too, so I started reading the ESV text, then reading the ESV Study Bible notes, then reading the NIV Study Bible notes. It's like my own little mini Bible school! It's particularly interesting when the two sets of study notes have different perspectives on the same topic; it gives me a chance to see two sides of the story and form my own opinions. After a month or so of this, I started noticing that my attitude and outlook was changing. I was being transformed by the Word!
The problem with adding this extra reading on myself is that it made the schedule that much less forgiving. It was harder to catch up when I got behind, and it was harder to decide to do my reading on days when I was tired and knew concentration wouldn't be easy. And then something happened to make it even harder: We had not one, not two, but three deaths in our family, and all were people I was rather close with: my grandfather, my wife's father, and my wife's brother's wife all died within a span of couple of months. Not only did we have traveling, funerals, and visiting with family to take up our attention, but frankly there were nights when my wife and I didn't get an awful lot of sleep. There were weeks at a time this year when I felt fatigued every single day from not enough rest. If that's not enough to throw you off schedule, I don't know what is.
But I can't blame being this behind on only that, because I'll admit it: some nights I just didn't feel like it. Some nights I could have read, and I didn't. So an embarrassing amount of the "behind schedule" came from plain old laziness.
So I didn't read all the way through the Bible this year. But you know what? I read through more than half of it! And if it takes me all next year to read the other half, and if I do it, then I will have read the whole thing! And learned a lot in the process. One year is not a magic number. There's nothing in the Word itself that says you have to read all the way through the whole thing in one year. It's completely arbitrary. But one big thing I learned this year is that if you immerse yourself in the Word for a long enough time, the Word begins to immerse itself in you! My Bible reading this year had an unmistakably positive effect on me, and I expect my reading in the coming year will have a similar positive effect. Actually, I'm pretty excited about getting into the Prophets... that was one of the things I really wanted to get into! I can't wait to dig deep into Isaiah, Jeremiah, the whole bunch of them. And now that I have a grasp on the historical events surrounding them, I should be able to understand them even better!
I definitely, unreservedly recommend a consistent Bible reading regimen for everyone. If you don't read every single day, that's still OK. If you read maybe three or four days a week, it will still transform your life. But if you do want to go all the way through the Bible, there's an abundance of help out there! If you need help figuring out where to start or how to do it, my blog post from New Year's Day 2010 has some help, but this year I've run across some other resources:
- BibleGateway.com has some great Bible reading resources. They even will send you reminders via email, taking you all the way through the whole Bible or just the New Testament in a year. In addition to the email reminders, you can receive reminders via RSS or iCal, or you can just visit the site regularly.
- The ESV Bible site has ten different reading plans you can use.
- If you use YouVersion.com, you have access to a number of reading plans, including entire-Bible plans, partial-Bible plans, topical plans, and lots more... they must have something like 60 different reading schemes. And if you have a smartphone, you can download their phone app and do your daily reading right from your phone! How convenient is that?
In this age of mobile devices and Internet connections in almost every home, there's no reason not to get involved in the Word. Just make a decision to do it! Become a "fan" of the Word (and I'm not talking about Facebook here!) Get interested. Get excited. Get into it! It will change your life!