Unlike most of my posts, this is a rather simple how to. It’s something I love, and I want to share what I’ve learned. I suspect a lot of readers will already know how to do this, but even so, maybe it’s okay to read about something that isn’t completely new.
I started this seven or eight years ago, and I’ve done it quite a few ways. Each has its pros and cons, so I’m going to share some of those. Do I think this is a necessary discipline? No. But for me, it’s been an amazing way to keep growing deeper in my knowledge of who God is and what he wants from me.
I recommend the first year be simple reading. Not studying, not searching for complete understanding of all things spiritual, but simple reading. A passage may baffle you or confuse you or even scare you a little bit, but just keep reading. This is the overview year. At the end of this one, you’ll have a big picture of what the Bible is all about.
But where to start? I have two methods for reading the Bible in a year. One is a reading plan using your own Bible. My favorite is by Discipleship Journal (Navpress) that includes both Old and New Testament readings daily and has you read only 25 days a month, which allows for the inevitable missed days. It can be found here. Or put ‘yearly Bible reading plan’ into a search engine and wait for about a million hits to pop up. Choose one you like.
The other is a one-year Bible. These come in many translations. I have NIV, ESV, and NLT. They can have the Bible printed simply from beginning to end, or include both OT and NT daily, or be chronological. This year I’m reading my first chronological Bible, and it’s in the NLT translation, also a first. I love having the prophetic books interspersed with the history and Paul’s books placed in Acts where they might have been written.
Once you choose your reading plan, decide ahead of time what you will do about missed days. Some years I decide I will absolutely read every word of the Bible, in which case I make up missed days. Other years, I’m not so strict, and I miss some days. Sometimes I admit I miss whole books, usually the longer prophetic books. But, I keep track of that and make sure the next year I pick up what I missed last year. One year I missed Nehemiah, and another I missed a lot of Jeremiah, but I’ve read both in their entirety in other years.
Also decide when to read. Do you want to pray first? Keep a journal? Do you work best in the morning? Evening? Over lunch? There are no right answers here. Last year I read at night before bed, and generally I don’t write anything down. I study the Bible at other times, but my yearly reading is simply reading. But what you do is completely up to you and the Spirit.
On choosing a translation, I suggest trying different ones in different years. I don’t think the NLT I’m reading is the most accurate out there, but it has been a delightful and insightful read. Some suggest The Message is a good first read, which makes some of the more scholarly versions easier later on. The more translations I read, the more insight I gain into how much God really packed into his words. But, if you believe one is much more accurate and you want to stick with that, by all means do so. Again, this is between you and God, so follow his leading without hesitation.
Finally, every few years I take a break. One year I took a break and simply read the gospels. I read them two or three times during the year, and I took it slowly. It was great to spend that year engrossed in Jesus’ life. One of the downsides to the chronological or beginning-to-end Bibles is that you don’t get to the gospels until September sometime. I was excited about finally getting to Jesus this year (September 24, in fact!), and I think next year I’ll choose a Bible that includes NT all the way before tackling one like this again.
The best way to know God is to read what he has to say about himself, and why not read it all, systematically and regularly? I’ve posted before about disciplines, and this is the Christian discipline I do best and enjoy the most, so I want to share it. A friend recently posted a blog about mastering the Bible by reading whole books over and over, like I did with the Gospels during an off year, and that sounds great, too, but even if I shift to that method, I will still read the whole thing every few years. The Spirit shows me more and weaves it together more tightly every time I read it, and I love that part of it, joining the Spirit on an adventure to see more and more clearly this God I follow and love.