Six months ago many of us were excited to kick off the year with a new Bible-reading plan. We had the plan printed out and the Bible laid open and the time set aside. We began with a lot of discipline and enthusiasm. But along the way, life happened. We missed a day here and there, then missed a week, then realized we had fallen far behind. Now, halfway through the year, many of us have given up and are waiting for next January so we can try it all again.
But here, halfway through the year, I want to encourage you to not wait. I want to encourage you to start the second half of 2020 strong. I want to encourage you to consider how you’ll read God’s Word from now until December. There is a lot to lose if you go 183 days without the Word; there is a lot to gain if you’ll make a commitment to reading the Bible for the next 6 months. (Frankly, has there ever been a year in which we’ve had a more desperate need to be thoroughly and constantly grounded in Scripture?)
So let me offer a few suggestions and draw your attention to a few resources that may prove helpful.
Try a six-month reading plan. There are several plans that divide the Bible into 183 (or so) sections, so you can read the entire book in six months. Here is one example, and here is another. However, you should be aware that reading the entire Bible in six months is going to be quite a challenge. If you couldn’t do it in a year, perhaps it would be better not to try to do it in half a year.
Begin Professor Horner’s Plan. Professor Horner’s plan is intense—it requires ten chapters of reading per day. But unlike most plans, it runs forever rather than running from January 1 to December 31. For that reason it doesn’t much matter when you begin. But again, do be warned that it requires a lot of commitment. (Alternatively, you might try Pastor Paul’s Bible Reading Program which is based on Professor Horner’s, but goes at only half the pace.)
Read with a chart instead of a plan. Instead of reading according to a defined plan, perhaps you can simply print out a chart with each book and chapter of the Bible and then cross them off as have read them. That way you can chart your reading of the entire Bible. Here is a good example that is free to print.
Read with the ESV Scripture Journals. The ESV Scripture Journals have a simple format: the Bible text is printed on one page while the facing page has nothing but blank lines. They are intended to allow you to read the text and make your own notes as you go. They are available in complete OT and NT sets or as individual volumes. They pair nicely with some of the Bible studies below. (You might also consider a journalling Bible which has blank lines but not blank pages.)
Read with a Bible study. We are extremely well-resourced today with excellent Bible studies meant to help us read and understand the Bible. You might try: Keri Folmar’s Bible Studies for Women; P&R’s Reformed Expository Bible Studies; The Good Book Company’s God’s Word For You series; John Stott Bible Studies or the Reading with John Stott series; TGC’s Knowing the Bible series; and so on. There’s more than you could do in a lifetime!
Read a commentary (or read with a commentary). Sometimes there is a lot of value in reading a commentary, or reading the Bible alongside a commentary. In that case, the Reformed Expository Commentary series and the Preaching the Word series are both based on sermons and are therefore ultra-readable. The Christ-Centered Exposition Commentaries are also suitable for the purpose. And then, of course, there is a whole host of other options depending on your training, desires, and so on.
Even with all these suggestions, I’m sure there are many other ways to make a commitment to reading the Bible in the second half of 2020 and to then keep that commitment. We are not lacking in options, we are not lacking in resources, we are not lacking in ability. If anything keeps us from the Word between now and December, it will only be a lack of desire and a lack of discipline. Perhaps we’d do well to ponder Spurgeon’s challenge: “If you find a professing Christian indifferent to his Bible, you may be sure that the very dust upon its cover will rise up in judgment against him.” And Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s: “Mark it down—your progress in holiness will never exceed your relationship with the holy Word of God.” And Donald Whitney’s: “In my own pastoral and personal Christian experience, I can say that I’ve never known a man or woman who came to spiritual maturity except through discipline.” And Thomas Guthrie’s: “The Bible is an armory of heavenly weapons, a laboratory of infallible medicines, a mine of exhaustless wealth. It is a guidebook for every road, a chart for every sea, a medicine for every malady, and a balm for every wound.”