It is that time of year again. Time to set some goals for reading the Bible in the New Year!
I know some folks greet New Years resolutions with crossed arms and a smirk, but I like making resolutions. I need a target, something for which to shoot. I like goals and the sense of accomplishment that comes when they are completed. So let’s talk reading goals.
The last couple of months I have been mulling over a bible reading plan for 2016. Last year I began the One Year Bible, a reading plan I have done and enjoyed in the past. But somewhere along the way, I got behind and abandoned ship. I have since been wandering about the Bible from passage to passage, topic to topic, and plan to plan (e.g., HeReadsTruth.com). I did like the freedom, but after several months of this, I must admit I need more structure.
To that end, I have decided to again embrace a one-year plan. My goal this year is to be diligent but not obsessive. This will be no easy balance.
The problem with the one year plans (and perhaps, my personality) is that they tend to invite an all-or-nothing mindset. If you miss a few days, you are tempted to think, “What’s the use?” and quit. Obviously, this outcome is not helpful. But on the flip-side, in trying to execute every reading, you can become so militant about the plan that you march through it like a soldier determined to take the hill, but you never actually meditate on the word; you just trample over the flowers in pursuit of the goal. The reading plan is no longer for you; it is you for the reading plan. So, this year my goal involves both the plan itself and how I approach the plan.
Okay, so let’s talk about the plan.
I have decided to try the M’Cheyne reading plan. Why? Because I have heard about it for over tens years from various pastors and writers I follow, but I have never tried it myself. Why else? Because this plan is well-supported, which is a key part to keeping up with any plan. You need a plan that can be accessed from a number of places and in a number of ways. This plan is included on the ESV App. It has a pdf printout if you prefer using your own Bible, or you may also purchase a Bible set up with all the readings laid out already. And finally (and this feature is the kicker), this plan is also available as a podcast. You can have the scriptures read aloud to you!
Now, I am not sure why, but people often feel that a podcast is somehow cheating. Well, it is not. I would actually argue listening can be better than reading for a number of reasons. First, if you’re worried about the biblical precedent, you must remember that for centuries, Christians had no personal copies of the Bible. So, the public reading of scripture was an important part of the service. We see the public reading of scripture practiced in the Old Testament (Nehemiah 8) and commended in the New Testament (1 Timothy 4:13). Second, many folks have pointed out that hearing the Bible, because of the slower pace, actually surfaces different facets of the text that you may have otherwise missed if you were reading it quickly in your head. Not to mention that the various texts of the Bible were written to be read aloud. So, you could argue that the author wrote it, imagining that you would be listening to his words read aloud, which shapes the way the text was written and should be received. Third and finally, a podcast is very practical. Many days you can and should linger long over the text with a cup of coffee in one hand and a pen in the other. But other days, you can and should listen to the Bible while you walk around the neighborhood for exercise…yes, multitasking!
Regardless, the point is to be in the word everyday. For then we grow like well-watered evergreens (Psalm 1:1-3).
So, that is my plan. What is your plan for the new year?