Bible Reading Plans

The #-chapter-a-day Bible Reading Plan

(plus links to a multitude of other plans!)

[formerly published as “Just Read It”–Jan.2014]

I’m excited about my Bible reading plan for the year. The funny thing is I had no intention of ‘burdening’ myself with a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan.  I have done this in the past and marched from Genesis through to Revelation in predictable order.  I think I’ve also done the OT and NT simultaneously but it was always a matter of having chapters to keep track of and tick off.  The more ‘creative’ and detailed the plan the more there was to keep track of, and God forbid that I should fall ‘behind’ (shudder!)  I’ve always hated that pressure.  So, like I say, I had no intention of taking on such a plan this year, although it has been a while since I read through the whole Bible, especially the Old Testament…

My Bible reading diet has become increasingly ‘devotional’ this year, focusing on ‘what’s here for me, today’.  While this is not necessarily a bad thing it lends to dietary imbalance over time, much like trying to live on granola bars, which are only meant to get you through in a pinch.  Might I be missing out on a broader perspective—maybe even some of the basic ‘food groups’ by reading in this me-centric way? The Bible is after all God’s revelation of Himself and His heart to the likes of us who would be clueless otherwise.  So, what if I were to read differently, with this Big Picture in view…

A New Way of Reading

Then I stumbled upon a plan that was unlike anything I’d seen.   Its claim to fame was ‘rapid, broad-scale contextualizing’, a fancy way of saying it covered a lot of territory quickly to give the Big Picture. I read on to discover it covered ten chapters a day and I started back-pedaling fast (!)  but not before I fell in love with the simplicity and genius of it.  Basically it was a system for reading from all the different genres of Scripture every day to get a complete overview of the themes that run all through the Bible.  The plan was simple, one chapter a day from each of ten lists… for a kaleidoscope of Scripture readings that are never the same in any given cycle of reading because the lists are of varying lengths!  Ahaa…Variety.  I liked the sound of that.

To make a long story short, since I prefer to read more slowly and take a few notes along the way, I tweaked this plan to cover fewer chapters per day, and I’m off and running, and loving it—so much that I’m dying to share the details with you, in hopes you may want to join me for the Grand Tour of the Great Plan of Redemption from the beginning of time to the end of it!

Here’s how it works:

First decide how many chapters you can make time to read every day.
The Bible contains 1189 chapters which means approximately 3 chapters a day will be required to read through the entire Bible in a year. There are lots of plans out there to accommodate this pace.   But this system really shines with a greater number of chapters per day, say a minimum of five-a-day. (And don’t say ‘no way’ to quickly. In actuality this only requires a half-hour to forty-five minutes a day, not alot really.)

So, choose a number between 5 and 10.

Then divide up all the books of the Bible, preferably by genre, into that many lists.

For instance,
If you were to read 5 chapters a day you might divide the Bible this way:

  • Law and History books (436 chapters)
  • Psalms, Proverbs and Poetic books (243 chapters)
  • Prophets (250 chapters)
  • Gospels and Acts (117 chapters)
  • Epistles and Revelation (143 chapters)

From each of these lists you will read 1 chapter per day. That’s it!
Day 1 would include Genesis 1, Psalm 1, Isaiah 1, Matthew 1, and Romans 1.  Easy as pie, right?  You continue reading through your lists sequentially,  starting at the top again when any given list runs out.  Remember, it’s not about getting through the Bible in a set amount of time, so if you miss a day, no worries. Just resume where you left off, no guilt, no pressure, just pure delight at seeing how God has woven His plan of Redemption through every book and chapter.

Some Pointers

  • Stick a copy of your chosen lists inside the back cover of your Bible for reference.
  • Use removable sticky tabs to mark the beginning of each section in your Bible.  Then as you finish a page, move the tabs along and you can just flip from tab to tab during each day’s reading!
  • If you enjoy taking notes (as I do) keep a small notebook  to record a phrase or key idea from each chapter and you will be amazed at the dovetailing themes and key words in any given day’s reading!  [hint: for me this is the very best part!]
  • For even greater variety, separate the Law and History books into separate lists and  read Psalms as its own list (a psalm a day all year!)  In this way you will be reading seven chapters a day and get through all the lists in a year while reading through some books as many as three times!

And what’s surprising is…

Because the readings are so varied each day, with just one chapter drawn from each genre, the reading goes by quickly and without bogging down in any one book.  The Bible begins to read like a commentary on itself.  Each day’s reading becomes a treasure hunt to find the connections between one chapter and another.  Key words and themes begin to pop out and intertwine in ways you’d never noticed before.  God holiness and his love intertwine throughout like gold threads in a tapestry.  Man’s desperate need and God’s incredible solution unfold beautifully.

I love this new way of reading!

It’s simple—no check-off charts or calendars to keep up with

It’s comprehensive—you’ll get through the whole Bible, but not predictably!

It’s full of variety—every day features reading from all the different genres of Scripture

It’s ready-to-go—no need to buy a new Bible or wait for the right day to begin

Details, Details, Details for those of you who love them…

A PDF printable copy of my plan is here.

—If you’re looking to personalize your own plan, a simple chart calculating the number of chapters in each book is available at Blueletterbible.org (my very favorite Bible Study tool!) The Link is HERE.  Or go have a look for yourself under STUDY→Bible Reference→Charts and Outlines→The Books of the Bible

—For the original ten-day plan by Professor Horner go here.

—Tim Challies has written an encouraging article about his use of this system at—http://www.challies.com/christian-living/ten-chapters-per-day
I find myself nodding in agreement as I read. Yes! One thing I do differently though is that I just start at the beginning and work my way along with tabs rather than switching back and forth from Old to New Testaments.  Perhaps I should try that! And, as I don’t like to read so quickly, I have chosen to read only seven chapters a day.

A multitude of other Bible Reading options

There are seemingly endless options for reading through the Bible. If this one doesn’t suit you, a dozen methods in a variety of formats are available here:  http://about.esvbible.org/resources/reading/

and here–
http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-reading-plan/

I find the check-off lists for many of these to be a little overwhelming. I prefer to sticky-tab the sections in my Bible and just keep moving forward without having to always refer back to a detailed list of chapter and verse that always leaves me feeling behind.  But these systems offer a variety of ideas for how to read the Bible. Here’s hoping you’ll find one that inspires you.  Then just dig in, no need to wait for the perfect month to start!

No matter how you decide to read your Bible, the really important thing is that you JUST READ IT!

–LS

(from the Archives, January, 2014.  Revised and updated, March, 2017)

 

For more information about reading the Bible multiple-chapters-at-a-time see these additional posts:

Some Bible reading pointers

My gleanings—the ‘mini devotional’

Settling into the Word