It’s almost the new year! Are you making a resolution to start having a personal, daily Bible study time? Would you like to improve on the way you study your Bible? Maybe you’re looking for a Bible reading plan, or maybe you’re just looking to change things up a little?
Happy New Year! Do you make resolutions or set goals you’d like to accomplish during the new year? A lot of people resolve to read the Bible more often or read it through in a year. If that’s you but you’re not quite sure where to start, here are some awesome and unique reading plans that can help¹. (Click titles for links to each plan.)
I cannot recommend this plan strongly enough. You’ll read through the entire Bible in a year, following the events as they happened chronologically. I have been through this plan several times (I even took my ladies’ Sunday school class through it in 2014). It is wonderful for helping you see the big picture of the Bible as well as how all the little pieces of the biblical puzzle fit together.
You can use this year long, 5 days a week plan individually or with the whole family. It “focuses only on the narratives [stories] of Scripture, along with all of the psalms and proverbs,” and includes a 52 week catechism, a weekly hymn, and a study guide for each day’s reading. You can access the plan online, in CSV format, in Google Calendar, and via daily email notifications.
How about reading through the Bible in a year with your spouse or family (you could also do this one individually)? With the M’Cheyne plan you’ll read through the Old Testament once, the New Testament and Psalms, twice. Each day, you’ll read an OT chapter and a NT chapter as a family and another OT chapter and NT chapter on your own (“in secret”). Free Daily Bible study offers suggestions for making this a two or three year plan if one year seems too daunting.
“Read the Bible cover to cover by investing as little as 30 minutes a day. In 90 days (two “grace days” are included) you’ll see the big picture of God’s great story unfold before you.” Can’t be done, you say? Think of it as binge-reading the greatest story ever told.
New to daily Bible reading and don’t want to bite off more than you can chew? Try Back to the Bible’s 21-Day Challenge. Each day, you’ll read one chapter in the book of John, and in three weeks, you’ll be finished. It’s a great way to get your feet wet.
“The God’s Glory In Salvation Through Judgment Bible Reading Plan will aid your study of Scripture by helping you see the gravitational center of Scripture, God’s glory in salvation through judgment. This Bible reading plan follows the order of the Hebrew Bible and the canonical order of the New Testament.” This one year plan is available in two printable formats and a Kindle format.
Another great one for those who struggle with long term commitment. “The 90-day Bible reading plan integrates readings from Genesis, the foundational book of the Old Testament, with the three [synoptic] Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. On one side you’ll see God’s creative work and earliest interactions with His people; on the other, you’ll get to know Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us, fulfilling the promises made even in Genesis.”
Take time to slowly savor God’s word with this relaxed pace plan. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testament to keep you from getting bogged down in some of the more difficult sections. You’ll read through the whole Bible, one to two chapters per day, in three years.
“The book of Proverbs is a unique and treasured part of the Bible, rich with timeless wisdom. It is meant to be read slowly and meditatively, yet most reading plans require whole chapters of reading at a time…Read through the book of Proverbs in a year—a few verses per day—with this 365-day plan.”
Up for a challenge? The Horner system is sort of an osmosis system, the idea being “inundation” rather than “meditation.” With it, you’ll read ten chapters per day from ten different books. Over the course of a year, “you’ll read through all the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters 4-5 times each, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, all the Psalms at least twice, all the Proverbs as well as Acts a dozen times, and all the way through the Old Testament History and Prophetic books about 1 1⁄2 times.”
Want to join with others all around the world using the same plan? Try the To the Word plan. Jump in any day you’re ready, and in a year you’ll have read through the entire Bible. This plan is available in several different languages, and on a variety of apps (YouVersion not recommended). There are also separate men’s and women’s Facebook groups for connecting with others using the plan (Use the Facebook groups discerningly. Anyone using the plan can join the groups regardless of church or theology, and posts are not always screened for sound doctrine.)
“Over the course of a month, follow along with a reading plan…comprised of twenty-eight readings, offering a selection of passages that follow the broad narrative of Scripture. This plan stretches from Genesis to Revelation, making important stops along the way.” Geared toward new Christians.
“The Bible Reading Plan for Beginners takes into account the great number of people who do not have a strong background in the word of God. This plan gives you a stepping-stone so that you do not have to read straight through every word of Scripture the first time. It starts you with the basics. After you feel comfortable at this level, then you can go on to the entire Bible.
The Bible Reading Plan for Beginners is a plan for reading about 40% of the Bible in 170 days (about six months). In this plan, you will read much of the Old Testament story, every chapter in Psalms and Proverbs, the two gospels of Mark and John and several of the New Testament epistles (including Romans, Philippians, Titus and others). You will not read the details of the ceremonial law, lengthy genealogies or difficult prophecies.”
This unique, one year plan offers daily readings from the Old and New Testaments focusing on various biblical themes. “This Bible reading schedule is thematic or connective in nature. The goal is to make as many associations as possible between the different parts of Scripture while still reading individual books of the Bible from start to finish.” Another great feature of this plan is that it isn’t dated. You can get started on the day of your choosing.
My friend, Pastor Nate Pickowicz’s latest book, How to Eat Your Bible, is a gem in the Bible study genre. This brief book is packed with great instruction on how to approach studying your Bible, and culminates with Nate’s seven year Bible reading plan, which you can customize.
A fascinating topical study. In 121 days you’ll learn how God works, teaches, and reveals Himself through people, including major characters of the Bible and not-so-major characters. Each day’s passage is linked so you can do your reading on site from the translation of your choice, or you can print out the chart to use with your regular Bible.
Did you know that biblical literature can be divided up into different genres? The Genre Plan takes you through the entire Bible in a year, with a reading from one of seven genres – gospels, law, history, Psalms, poetry, prophecy, and epistles – each day of the week.
Though it’s billed as a plan for new Christians (and it’s certainly an excellent plan for that), this would also be a wonderful plan to work through to help you present the gospel to others, or to suggest to a lost friend who’s open to learning the gospel. Day 1 starts with the Fall of Man. Then you’ll work your way through OT passages demonstrating our inability to keep the law, followed by NT passages from the gospels and epistles detailing what Christ did for us and how that applies to us for salvation and eternity.
“Over six months, this plan takes you through the New Testament from Acts to Revelation. This plan also integrates the worship and wisdom of Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes on a daily basis, for a balanced diet of instruction and intimate time with God.”
This handy dandy little algorithm allows you to design your own Bible reading plan. You choose the start date, the length of the plan, your language, your favorite format, which books of the Bible you want to read, which days of the week you want to read, and several other options, and the Bible Reading Plan Generator creates a custom designed plan just for you.
Need more suggestions? Check out these collections of Bible reading plans:
Ligonier– A wide variety of plans, most available in PDFs.
ESV Bible– Here, you’ll find several good, “no strings attached” plans available in PDF format for easy printing. But if you sign up for a free ESV/Crossway account, you’ll have access to more than twenty great reading plans, many of them only 5-7 days in length. You’ll be able to read the day’s text, take notes, and track your progress, all online.
Bible Study Tools– Some awesome “start any day you like” plans, ranging in length from ninety days to two years.
Bible Gateway– Several great plans, especially if your church uses the Revised Common Lectionary or the Book of Common Prayer and you want to follow along at home. Log in each day and the selected text is displayed on your screen, or subscribe to your plan via e-mail. (Note: I would not recommend the Daily Audio Bible plan. It uses several different “translations,” which is an interesting idea, but while some are accurate, reliable translations (ESV, HCSB), others are faulty paraphrases (The Message, TheVoice). However, many translations on Bible Gateway have an audio option, so pick another plan with a good translation and listen away!)
Into Thy Word– A number of diverse plans, including one in large print, from 31 days to one year in length. Available in PDF or Microsoft Word formats.
Heartlight– Five different one year plans that will take you through all or parts of the Bible. Daily passages are linked so you can read online, but translations are limited, so you might want to use the printable PDF guides with your own Bible.
Blue Letter Bible– Several one and two year plans that cover the whole Bible. Available in PDF format.
Bible Plan– Yearly and monthly plans, one chapter per day plans, and a few miscellaneous plans. Sign up for daily reminders for your plan via e-mail. These plans are available in many different languages.
¹Please note- I do not necessarily endorse all of the content of the websites linked Above. These links are provided for Bible reading plans only. I do not endorse anything at any of these sites which conflicts with the theology outlined at my “Statement of Faith” and “Welcome” tabs at the top of this page. Should you choose to explore these sites beyond the linked Bible reading plans, please do so discerningly and reject anything that conflicts with Scripture.
Baskin Robbins is one of my favorite places to get ice cream. Not only is their ice cream good, but they boast a plethora of flavors to choose from. I love to start at one end of the counter and work my way through all their offerings, getting a little “taste spoon” here and there if a particular flavor piques my interest.
Having a myriad of options is great when it comes to ice cream, but when it comes to studying the Bible, the tsunami of materials, methods, and other choices out there can be overwhelming. Where do I start? How do I know if a certain Bible study book or teacher is doctrinally sound? Is the study method I’m using in line with good hermeneutics?
It can be enough to make you throw your hands up in the air and head for your local Thirty One Flavors to drown your sorrows in Peanut Butter ‘N Chocolate.
Sometimes it can help to get back to plain old, simple, vanilla Bible study. I’ve been saying for a while now that Christian women should, for the most part, put all the “canned” Bible study books, workbooks, and DVDs aside and simply pick up their Bibles and study them in a systematic way. After all, up until somewhere near the latter half of the 20th century, that’s generally how people studied the Bible. And it worked. People grew in their faith to godly maturity just fine. So, why can’t it work today?
It can. It does. It will.
Unfortunately, the blessing of lots of options, methods, resources, and information, and the marketing of that blessing by celebrity Christians and Christian retailing, has bred a generation of Christian women who are fearful that they aren’t as smart or as capable of reading and understanding God’s word as all the “experts” out there. They look at the simplicity of picking up their Bibles and studying them like calves looking worriedly at a new gate.
“What does that mean?”
“How do I do that?”
“I’m scared I’ll get it wrong!”
It absolutely breaks my heart to hear this angst from women who, I’m certain, genuinely want to study God’s word correctly so that they can know Him better and grow in their faith. And it makes me livid at the churches who haven’t trained them properly, the plantation-style women’s “Bible study” marketing that has kept them ignorant and dependent slaves to Christian retailers, and whatever other forces have conspired to keep these precious ladies away from the pure milk of the word.
So let’s reboot, get back to basics, and get as many women digging into the Word as possible.
First, it’s important to start out with a biblical perspective:
1. God is kind, and He loves you.
Yeah, I know, that’s pretty basic. But it’s worth bringing to the forefront for this discussion. This is a God who loves you and wants you to know Him. He has revealed Himself to you through creation, through Christ, and through His written word. He has indwelt you as a believer with the Holy Spirit to help you understand Scripture. He has told you that you can ask for wisdom and promises to provide it. In His kindness God has bent over backwards to provide you with ways to know Him. He is not some mean ogre sitting up there just waiting for you to get something wrong so He can chastise you. He wants you to understand His word.
2. The Perspicuity of Scripture
There’s this really great, comforting, reassuring doctrine called the perspicuity of Scripture. The gist of it is that Scripture is, for the most part, clear and understandable, especially for believers, because of the aforementioned indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But even lost people tend to understand a lot of what Scripture says (that’s why you hear so many of them arguing against it – they couldn’t do that if they didn’t at least partially understand it).
So, by and large, if you’re reading the Bible in an orderly way you should be able to understand it fairly well. You don’t have to have a seminary degree or be an “expert.” There are dirt farmers and country preachers out there who have a better grasp of Scripture than some celebrity pastors in multi-million dollar churches with thousands of congregants, and a string of seminary degrees behind their names.
OK, now that we have a biblical perspective on studying the Bible, how do we do it in a systematic or orderly way?
Don’t see this as childish or unimportant and skip it. Start your Bible study time by asking God to help you understand His word, to learn what He wants you to learn from it, and to obey its instruction. Even if you’re pretty well versed in the Scriptures, praying like this before opening God’s word will remind you of its holiness and your proper place of humility and submission to it.
4. Read the Bible the way you would any other book.
When you pick up a novel, do you read one sentence out of the middle of chapter 4, followed, the next day, by a paragraph from chapter 37, and, the next day, a couple of lines from chapter 1? Of course not. You wouldn’t know what was going on and what the characters meant by what they were saying. If you wouldn’t read something as inconsequential as a novel this way, why would you read the Bible in such a haphazard manner? Yet this is precisely the way people often approach daily Bible study.
My pastor said something awesome about this in his sermon the other day:
The Bible isn’t Google for self-help.
And he’s so right. We don’t just parachute in to a random passage, hoping to glean a nugget of truth. Pick a book of the Bible (maybe Genesis or one of the gospels if you’re new to all this), start at the beginning, and read a little each day until you reach the end. It’s really that simple.
5. Context, context, context
It’s important to read and understand Scripture in its context: how a verse fits with the verses immediately surrounding it, within its chapter, within its book, and within the overarching narrative of the Bible. This is really the biggest key to comprehending Scripture. Fortunately, the main way to do this is by reading the Bible in an orderly way (see #4- You did already read #4, right?)
Another invaluable practice is to make use of the cross-references and footnotes in your Bible. Cross-references will help you get a better idea of how the passage you’re reading fits together with other, related passages. Footnotes are there to add a touch of clarity to particular words and passages.
6. Get a plan, Fran.
If structure helps you, choose a good Bible reading plan. For the beginner, start off with one of the shorter plans so you won’t get overwhelmed. When you’re ready, I highly recommend the chronological plan. It is extremely helpful for learning the big picture of Scripture.
If you decide to choose a reading plan, though, hold its schedule loosely and don’t be beholden to its time frame. Work through the readings at your own pace. Take the time to let the Scriptures sink in and spend as long as you need to on any given section. God doesn’t give gold stars for finishing the Bible in a year.
7. Understand the background and setting.
There are some passages in Scripture that are a little more difficult to understand if you don’t know the customs of the time or what was going on historically and politically. In these cases a good study Bible, commentary, and other resources can be beneficial. I’ve touched on the specifics of some of these resources here. Many of these helpful materials can be found on-line for free.
8. Take notes on the text.
Hmm…an orderly method of reading…footnotes…extra resources…taking notes…this is starting to sound like…well…studying! Yep, that’s the idea. Isn’t it interesting that we often take a more serious and scholarly approach to studying for a class or a test than we do to studying our Bibles?
If you were a better student than I was in high school and college, you probably took notes on your text books as you read them. You wrote down things you wanted to remember, things that seemed important, things you didn’t understand and wanted to work on more later, things that were especially meaningful, even questions that occurred to you. Those are all good things to write down as you study your Bible, as well.
9. Listen to good preaching.
As a Christian, you should already be doing this at least weekly at the church you’re a member of. But try to sneak in some extra listening – to your own pastor or another doctrinally sound pastor – as often as you can during the week. Listening to someone rightly handle and explain God’s word helps you to understand it and trains you to rightly handle it yourself as you study.
I once read that children who read a lot are better spellers. Not because they study spelling more, but because they’re exposed to more words and have the correct spelling of words constantly in front of their eyes. They sort of soak up good spelling by osmosis, and when it’s time for the spelling test, they simply write down what they’ve absorbed. Listening to good, expository preaching can have the same kind of helpful impact on your Bible study skills.
10. Practice makes perfect.
Studying the Bible is just like any other skill. You’ll probably fumble around a good bit when you’re first getting started, but if you stick to it, you’ll find that it gets easier and you get better at it as time goes by. Don’t be afraid to start. Jump right in there and try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
Ladies, simply picking up the Bible and studying it each day is such a joy. I have been doing it for years, and I love it. The excitement of “digging for buried treasure” in God’s word and uncovering the truths of Scripture for myself has been far more meaningful to me and has grown me so much more than any workbook or curriculum I’ve ever used. I hope you’ll put aside your book studies and devotionals, and give it a try yourself!
For years now, I have urged women to read through the Bible using the chronological plan. It’s especially helpful for getting all the historical events of Old Testament history in order so you can understand what precipitated what’s happening in whichever book you’re currently reading.
But there’s another reason it’s helpful. A reason that’s difficult to put into the right words, but one I think is equally important as understanding the historical order of events.
I’ve read through the Bible a few times using the chronological plan, and I started it again this past January. It started out OK, like it always does. You’ve got Creation. You’ve got a bunch of godly patriarchs: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses. You’ve got God rescuing His people from Egypt and bringing them into the Promised Land. And, of course, along the way, you’ve got instances of some pretty heinous sins committed by individuals. But the overall, visceral sense you get is that God is advancing His plan through godly people. He’s working to establish His people in their land and prosper them.
Then, along about the time Solomon’s wives turn his heart away from God and entice him into idolatry, you start getting this sense of foreboding. Things are changing. Something is about to happen and it isn’t going to be good. And that’s exactly what comes to pass. You get slammed with a bunch of evil kings. Oh sure, there’s the occasional bright spot of an Asa, a Hezekiah, a Josiah. But the bad kings keep coming more and more frequently, each one more and more depraved. And God’s people, led by these evil kings, plunge headlong into sin and idolatry that’s worse than that of the pagan nations God had them drive out when they entered the Promised Land.
You sit in the midst of the filth and rebellion of God’s people for months – knowing that, for them, it was actually centuries – feeling your skin crawl at the evil you’re reading about. You hear God cry out to Israel through the prophets, to turn around and come back to Him. You see Him pour out a little bit of His wrath on His people here and there. Just a taste of what’s to come if they don’t repent and return. You sit there, helpless and frustrated, knowing what’s going to happen to these people, aching for them to just stop it! Stop sinning. Humble yourselves. Rend your hearts and not your garments.
But they don’t. No matter how many times you read the Old Testament hoping and pleading with Israel to change her ways so that there will be a happy ending, it never works out that way. God’s people continue to forge ahead, inventing new ways of doing evil. Whoring after idols of stick and stone. Abandoning the God who saved them and carried them.
By August (in the chronological reading plan) I’d been watching these people sink lower and lower into degradation and debauchery for the better part of a year. But then I started reading Jeremiah, and I realized another reason he’s often called “the weeping prophet”. Yes, he was probably lonely since God didn’t allow him to marry and have a family for support. Yes, he was grieved that his people wouldn’t turn back from their sin. But after reading the first three chapters of his book, I had to think Jeremiah had yet another reason for weeping.
The words God put in Jeremiah’s mouth are the words of the broken heart of God:
I remember when you loved Me and were loyal to Me; how we enjoyed sweet fellowship. You trusted Me and I protected you. You followed me and I provided for you. You lifted up my Name, and I lifted up yours in the eyes of the nations.
You’ve never been able to say that I wronged you. I have never let you down. I have never failed you.
And despite all of My love and care for you, you have cast Me aside. You have chosen the sewer over your Savior. Evil over the Eternal One. Hell over Heaven.
I have called you back to Myself time and time again, but you keep running away from Me. Even now, if you will repent and come back to Me, despite everything you have done, I will forgive you. You can enjoy that sweet fellowship with Me once again. I want to tenderly care for you and give you every good thing.
I love you. Come home.
How could Jeremiah – how could we – not weep over the things that break the heart of our good and loving God? How can we not grieve over the things that grieve Him?
And that brings me back to why the chronological reading plan is so helpful.
You need to not only understand the cold, hard historical facts that led up to this moment, you need to feel in your spirit, know in your heart the weight of sin, the blackness of evil, the depth of God’s love, compassion, patience, and righteousness. And you don’t get that by randomly parachuting into OT books. You have to walk with these people – live with them – and watch what they do over time. You have to sit next to God through His words and see with His eyes, understand how He feels about His people, and stand with Him as He acts in holiness and justice.
“Just the facts, ma’am,” is not enough when it comes to Scripture. We must live it, put it on and wear it, immerse ourselves in it, if we truly want to feast on God’s Word and know God’s heart.
I used the word “profit” intentionally in the title of this article as a play on words. Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet” and I believe it will “profit” us to study our Old Testament as I’ve outlined in the article.
Hi ladies! I hope you enjoyed our most recent Bible study, Imperishable Beauty, which we wrapped up at the end of February.
For the next several weeks, I’ll be making preparations to speak at the Reliance on God and His Wordconference (Need a speaker for your next women’s event or podcast? Click the Speaking Engagements tab at the top of this page.), so our next regular weekly Bible study won’t start until after I return home and get my household back in order (I’m thinking probably mid-April-ish, but don’t quote me on that.). :0) I have a study in mind, but will keep thinking and praying about it for a few more weeks.
So anyway, for the next several Wednesdays, you’ve got some options:
📖 You can finish up Imperishable Beauty or any of my other studies you’re currently working on.
📖 You can choose a book(s) of the Bible to work through on your own.
📖 You can choose one of my studies to work through at the Bible Studies tab at the top of this page. (I would choose one of the shorter ones, like Colossians or Ruth rather than one of the longer ones if you’re only trying to fill the space between now and the beginning of our next study.)
📖 You can follow along with the sampling of “re-run” lessons I’ll be posting here on the blog each week.
Here’s today’s “re-run”:
During 2014, I led my ladies’ Sunday School class in a chronologicalread-through of the entire Bible. Each week I taught a lesson from that week’s reading and posted it here on the blog.
Are you using the chronological plan this year? If so, you can find my weekly lessons here (in reverse chronological order, ironically – you’ll have to scroll back to get to the beginning) if you’d like to supplement your reading plan with them. And even if you’re using another reading plan or simply studying through a book of the Bible, maybe you’d like to match up what you’re reading with my lesson that corresponds to the passage you’re currently studying.
Here’s a lesson that goes with this week’s reading in the chronological plan:
Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 10 ~ Mar. 2-8 Numbers 16-32 Tackling Tough Issues: Genocide in the Old Testament
Genocide: It’s defined (by dictionary.com) as, “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” This week in our reading, we dealt with a passage in which God commanded the Israelites to kill nearly all of the Midianites, even those we might consider “innocent.” Was God being cruel or capricious? How could a loving God command such a thing? Click here to keep reading…