When I was twelve, my parents taught me to read a chapter of Proverbs a day. Proverbs has thirty-one chapters, so the day of the month determined which chapter to read. (Some months, of course, have fewer than thirty-one days, and I just skipped those last chapters. Without guilt.)
After ten months of Proverbs, I finally—dare I say it?—got bored. So on a whim, I decided to read Hebrews. But then a Sunday school teacher told me Hebrews is a horribly difficult letter, and I would do better to begin with something easier, like Timothy.
I immediately stopped reading Hebrews. (I didn’t even look at it again until I was thirty.) But studying Paul’s two letters to Timothy was good. I read them three or four times.
And then, once again, I was stuck. What should I read next? My venture with Proverbs, Hebrews, and Timothy sparked a multi-year struggle to find a Scripture reading plan that could pass the test of time.
Those Weren’t My Only False Starts
Our bodies are fed by bread, and our souls are fed by God’s Word. But like my past diet failures, I couldn’t find a Bible plan that lasted more than a few months. I tried:
- Several One-Year Bible plans. I always bogged down in the middle of Isaiah or else missed a week and had to read twenty chapters of Leviticus to catch up. And I quit.
- Numerous daily study plans. Some were frankly stupid: “Read the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. What was the name of the tax collector and what kind of tree did he climb?” (Seriously!) Excellent study plans do exist, but I found myself interacting with their authors more with than God’s voice. And I quit.
- Multiple church lectionaries. But almost no lectionary covers all of Scripture, and the pace of their readings conflicted with the pace of my prayer. I was often drawn to a few verses, wanting to reflect on them rather than move on. I always fell behind. And I quit.
I Never Told a Soul
My multiple misstarts, false starts, and restarts made me feel like a spiritual dweeb. I was sure that I alone—of all believers in the world—failed to find a good Scripture plan. So I told no one.
But over time I designed my own reading plan that incorporates lessons learned from my failures into an intentional time of prayerful reflection. And I love it. Even though I used my plan for years (decades actually), I once again never told a soul. Not even my wife!
I wasn’t embarrassed to share it; I just assumed everyone else had a terrific plan that they loved. But I’ve recently discovered that scores of believers—virtually every one of my friends (including my wife)—share my struggles with finding a long-term plan that help us hear God.
What’s So Different about This Plan?
My various failures brought clarity. I realized I wanted a plan that (a) allowed me to go at my own pace; (b) covered all of Scripture; (c) intermingled the Old Testament genres of story, poetry, and prophets; and (d) was designed to engage with God through biblical meditation.
Each day’s reading fuses together passages from the Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament narratives, and New Testament letters. The Old Testament books are reshuffled so that Isaiah isn’t followed by a dozen more prophets.
You read at your own pace. Some days you may read a few verses from each section; other days, a whole chapter. If you miss a day (or a week), you pick up where you left off—no need to play catch-up. A typical day averages fifteen minutes of reading.
But there is no typical day.
A Delightful Surprise
The plan provides a unique mixture of passages every day. This morning I read Psalm 142, Jeremiah 10:1–5, John 3:1–8, and 1 Peter 1:3–9. I’ll never read that mix of Scriptures again. The next time I read Jeremiah, I’ll probably read Luke not John, and the next time I read John, I’ll probably be reading Romans not Peter.
The interplay between passages provides a unique mixture of Scripture that I’ll never repeat. Today’s passages gave me a glimpse into a Psalmist’s saddness, the futility (and stupidity) of our idols, the hope of being made new, and God’s promise of an unfading inheritance. Tomorrow’s readings will again be a new mixture and an enriching surprise.
The plan also provides four different methods of biblical meditation. The length of time for meditation depends on you, but I find myself reflecting on the readings throughout the day. In fact, the majority of my articles are spillovers from those times of listening to God in his Word.
Try It Yourself
I’ve discovered I’m far from being alone in my spiritual dweebness. So I’ve decided to share my plan with anyone looking to try a new Bible reading plan. It’s not so much a Bible study as it is a deliberate, daily approach to seeking God’s voice in Scripture.
And it’s free. For the last several years, I’ve given the Scriptural Meditation Plan to anyone who subscribes to Beliefs of the Heart. But I want to offer it to anyone who wants to learn to hear the voice of God in reading Scripture. Click here to get the Scripture Meditation Plan.
I promise you this: You’ll never fall behind; I won’t ask you the name of Balaam’s donkey; and the book of Hebrews will no longer intimidate you. And I’m pretty sure you’ll love it as I do.
Yea…all is well and good…until you get to Psalm 119…
p.s I just remember a diatride of yours a while back about Psalm 119…and it struck me how your least favorite Psalm was my MOST favorite psalm…
Thanks Sam for your honest and insightful articles – they’re great. Keep them coming.
All the reasons you stated are why THIS has been my reading plan for the past 7 YEARS! If anyone is wondering if this plan could really make a difference in your ability to consistently engage with God in His Word, my experience has been yes, absolutely yes.
We live in an age when there are so many teachers readily available on the Internet. Some are faithful to teach what God says in scripture, many simply take a passage and twist it to support what they want it to say. If we don’t know God through the entirety of His Word, it can be hard to spot the difference.
The way this plan puts different passages together at different times has allowed me to see over and over how connected they all are. And as I’ve developed the habit of daily time with God in His Word, there are very few days where that’s a dry experience. He speaks through His Word!
Thanks for your encouragement. Isn’t God’s “connectedness” in His word fantastic and moving?
Looking forward to seeing the plan. I’ve been using a plan of my own devising which commandeers my time away from other things in life, which is not such a good idea for something that is not one’s primary work. So I would end up not having any Bible reading many times. Sort of like the old illustration that if the devil can’t keep you from falling off the horse on one side he’ll push you off the other side. Thanks.
On my website listing, I put the post where I developed the one I’ve been using.
https://beinghumaninfaithartscience.blogspot.com/2019/02/favorite-bible-chapters-and-inverse.html. My plan is snuck in there 3/4 down the page.