The new year is coming, and I, for one, am beginning to think about how I’m going to do my daily devotions in 2019. I know that for me to be consistent, I need to put some plans in place. For the past several years I’ve made great use of the Five-Day Reading Plan and have had the joy of reading through the Bible each year. But as I’ve been getting a better grasp of the Bible’s big picture, I find myself wanting to perhaps narrow my focus this year by going into greater depth with just a few books. To make a decision I began to gather information about some of the options and thought I’d share them with you.
Use the Five-Day Reading Plan. I’ve used this one for several years now and benefited from it tremendously. I find it strikes just the right balance between quantity and speed. You’ll read the whole Bible in the year, but at a manageable pace of five weekly readings of four to five chapters each. There are no readings on weekends which allows lots of opportunity to catch up if and when you miss a few days and fall behind. You can find the plan here.
Use the Professor Horner plan. This is an intense plan that requires 10 chapters per day. The idea is that you read each passage quickly and trust that over time you’ll become very familiar with the whole Bible. I did it for one year and found it a bit too intense, but I do know many others who continue to use it and benefit from it. You can download the PDF that will get you started right here.
Use the one-book-per-month plan. This plan, which I associate with John MacArthur (I think I heard him commend it once), has you pick a book of the Bible and read it every day for a month. It’s that simple. You choose a book and read it once per day all month long. Then you choose another book and read it every day the next month. Not surprisingly, it works best with short books like the epistles. For longer books, you may need to break it into sections (read Genesis 1-11 every day for a month, then the next section, and so on until the book is done). The idea, of course, is to gain familiarity with one book at the time through the simple discipline of re-reading.
Study a book of the Bible with Keri Folmar. Aileen has been using this series of inductive Bible studies through the year and has enjoyed them a lot. She finds each day has just the right amount of content and each study goes into just enough depth. You should note that they are targeted specifically at women. You can find them at Amazon or Cruciform Press.
Study a book with the God’s Word For You series. The God’s Word for You series, published by The Good Book Company, is a great tool for going deeper into a book. It will help you understand the book and faithfully apply its truths. It may also help you lead a Bible study if that’s of interest. I have fallen a bit behind as the series has grown, but read several of the early volumes and enjoyed them a lot. You can find the list of books here. (You might also want to try the Explore by the Book series from the same publisher.)
Study the Bible with commentaries. Often the best way to go deeper into a book is to go through it with a good, trustworthy commentary that is meant more for reading than for in-depth study. I tend to recommend the Reformed Expository Commentary series for this purpose, though there are some other great picks as well: The Bible Speaks Today, Preaching the Word, the new but growing ESV Expository Commentary series, and so on. If you choose this option, you’ll read the passage, then read the commentary, then work on application.
Use a journaling Bible. Though I haven’t used journaling Bibles extensively, I know lots of people who have benefited from using one. A journaling Bible includes the full text of Scripture with blank spaces in the margins so you can jot down notes (or, if you prefer, draw, doodle, etc—whatever it takes to help you understand and apply). The ESV Journaling Bible is an obvious candidate if that’s your preferred translation and, as you’d expect, it’s available in a bunch of editions. Most other translations have similar products.
Use a Scripture journal. You might also consider a Scripture journal. Here’s the difference between a journaling Bible and a Scripture journal: A journaling Bible is a Bible that includes spaces for notes; a Scripture journal is a journal that includes the Bible. I think the ESV leads the way with options here, though many other translations may offer similar options. You may be interested in the ESV Scripture Journal New Testament as a complete set (or the Illuminated version for those who are a bit more artistic). You can also buy the individual books of the Bible. It looks like the complete Old Testament will be available early in the new year.
Use a good devotional. You may want to stick with a daily devotional. Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening is a classic that just never grows old. You can find other great devotionals by Paul Tripp, John Piper, Tim Keller, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Randy Alcorn, Owen Strachan, and a host of others. Tabletalk magazine is another great option. They will almost invariably include both a Scripture text followed by a reflection of some kind.
Plan only to read. Perhaps you don’t need a plan beyond committing to consistently read the Bible. Perhaps you can begin with a Psalm a day, or a chapter of one of the gospels. Then find a list of 100 key Scripture passages and focus on them. Then pick a short book like Colossians or Titus, read it quickly a few times, then read it slowly a few times. What and how much you read matters a lot less than the simple fact that you read something and meditate on it. Be creative! But mostly, be in the Word.