In yesterday's message I talked about how I try to read scripture every day. I said that it's a practice that has fed me and kept me on track for 28 years.
This isn't a new concept, but it can be intimidating. For many, their heart says yes but they don't know where to start or what to do.
So today I'm going to tell you what I've found helpful.
In fact, I dare say that this "daily" habit has helped me more in my faith than any other, coupled with the habit of regular contemplation.
But first, before I explain my plan, let me say that there is not such a thing as an inspired reading plan, other than just the Bible itself.
And second, I must admit that nowhere in the Bible are we told to read the Bible every day. We are, however, told to meditate on it day and night. It is described as a lamp that helps us see the path. It offers wisdom, correction, guidance, all that. It makes us wise for salvation, so we follow it.
Third, we need to remember that the Bible wasn't written as a Bible. The Bible is actually a compilation of prophetic writings received over a period of 1500 years that were finally bound together as one book so we could have it all handy. And the chapters and verses weren't added until the 1500's. It makes it easier to reference things. Even if there are some cool connections and patterns in the numbers, it's the words that are significant, not the little numbers. So don't get caught up in having to read a certain number of chapters or verses. They're just there to help you find stuff.
That said, I try to read four chapters a day.
I'm not perfect at it. But it would be impossible to overstate the help that this habit has been for me. It gives me perspective. It "lights my path." There simply is no substitute for sitting in the counsel of scripture every day.
Years ago I was looking for my own Bible reading plan, and I discovered a plan to read through the Bible in a year. It took me two and half years! I read it slowly, with curiosity. I cross-referenced freely and allowed myself to use the reading plan to stimulate my interest, and then allowed God to lead me.
After that I decided that four chapters a day was a good pattern. I decided that rather than trying to read through the Bible in a set amount of time, I would just read in the Bible every day.
I divided the Bible into four sections, and since that time I have been reading one chapter a day from each section.
1. "WORSHIP & WISDOM" covers Psalms through Ecclesiastes. I let these chapters lead me in worship and teach me God's wisdom. I often refer to the teachings in these books to help me make wise decisions when my heart or mind would either be confused, or pulled sideways. I read through this section every seven months or so.
2. "THE STORY OF GOD & HIS PEOPLE" covers Genesis through Malachi (skipping those covered in the "worship and wisdom" section). These are the stories of God and his people, that lead up to Christ. Reading this in the context of the next two sections leads to some wonderful insights about what God was up to from the beginning. I read through this section once every two years.
3. "THE STORY OF JESUS & HIS CHURCH" covers Matthew through Acts. These are the stories of Jesus' life and the lives of his followers after he returned to heaven. As followers of Jesus it is critical that we get to know him in this way, and to learn how those first believers followed the leading of the Holy Spirit. I read through this section three times a year.
4. "THE LETTERS TO THE CHURCH" covers Romans through Revelation. This is where I learn from the apostles how to live out my faith. Technically the last book is not a letter, but it actually references letters to seven churches, and it makes sense to keep it in this category. I read through this section two times a year.
So I read those four chapters a day using three bookmarks and the ribbon in my Bible. When I finish one section, I start over at the beginning of that section the next day, while continuing on in the other sections. For example, here's what a few snapshots looks like:
-1 Corinthians 1 (Go to next book)
-Matthew 1 (Go to beginning of section again)
-1 John 5
-Psalm 1 (Start at beginning of section again)
This staggered pattern means that I will probably never read the same four chapters in a day. And it's amazing how often the daily readings interact in eye opening ways. Such is the nature of God's word.
So that's what I do. And I give myself plenty of freedom in it. Remember, the goal is to spend time contemplating God's word on a daily basis. And this pattern is a helpful guide. Make it a lifestyle habit and you will receive a balanced, ongoing experience of sitting under the whole counsel of scripture!
May God open up his word to you, as you devote yourself to him in this way.
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.