Friday, December 30, 2011

Plan to Read

After a year in which I've read more books than I have in decades, I'm working on my annual round-up posts with ratings and recommendations. But before I get there, I also must confess and refocus. The truth is, I spent a LOT of time reading books this year, from contemporary novels to classic literature to parenting advice to history and biography to spiritual growth. On the upside, that means I spent a lot less time reading blogs and internet drivel. But it also means that I spent a lot less time reading the inspired Word of God.

My Scripture intake this year was, to be honest, rather dismal in comparison to my total reading. I can offer some reasoning and excuses. I can beat myself up and wallow in guilt. Or I can repent and receive grace and seek to change that in 2012.

As the new year approaches, I am finding encouragement and inspiration in an email from my pastor and in several online articles. The bottom line is that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail! We can read Scripture in a lot of different ways. We can go at a breakneck, finish-in-six-months pace, or we can take several years to get through all 66 books. But we need a plan and some accountability. As our pastor kindly yet firmly challenged us last year: You may say you don't want something so rigid and formal as a Bible reading plan. Ask yourself--how's that working out for you?

It didn't work out very well for me this year. So I'm reading the following links and thinking about what kind of plan I want to tackle. I want to get more of the Word in me this year! And I know that's not just going to happen magically if I'm not intentional about immersing myself in it on a regular basis.

First, our wise and thoughtful pastor offers the following encouragement. He urged us to consider the astounding privileges we have as 21st century American Christians:
We can read
We have the whole Bible in our own language
We have our own personal copies of the Bible
We have time to read
He continues:
There are many things we can do with our discretionary time, and I hope that we are willing to prioritize, not out of guilt, but desire to know God more deeply and obey Him more fully this year.
...Yes, there are times when we are dry spiritually and it seems like routine. But we must act in faith believing that by taking in (over time) the whole of Scripture, by the help of the Holy Spirit, God's whole Word will be used to transform our mind.

A quick illustration: suppose you decide to go to the gym this year and lose some weight (or gain some strength). Going into the gym for 3 hours every day for one week will not really be helpful. You will not (despite the optical illusions of our mind) see the benefits in a week, or even in months. It is doing the hard and disciplined work over the long haul that we will see and feel the benefits.

This is true spiritually. You will not feel great personal benefit every single day, and come out of devotional time with a spiritual "high." But over time, the Word will be worked into the warp and woof of your soul.
John Piper makes a strong argument for the necessity of planning:
Without some rudimentary planning you probably won't have anything to eat when you get up in the morning. And without some detailed planning no one can build a house, let alone a skyscraper or shopping mall or city. If producing shelter and food and clothing and transportation is valuable, then planning is valuable. Nothing but the simplest impulses gets accomplished without some forethought which we call a plan.

All of us know this and practice it in relation to the basic physical necessities of life. We take steps to see that we have enough to eat and clothes to keep us warm. But do we take our spiritual needs that seriously? Do we apply the same earnestness in planning to maximize our ministry as we do in planning to make a living?

Justin Taylor offers a terrifically helpful roundup of Bible Reading Plans for 2012, with lots of ideas and links for your consideration. There are plenty of ways to plan your Scripture reading besides the traditional, familiar plans. You don't even have to plan to get through the whole Bible in a year. Everyone should be able to find something here that suits.  

Pastor Stephen Wittmer offers his church's Bible reading plan and gives "Seven Tips For the Two-Year Journey," including:
  • If at all possible, read through the Bible using this plan together with other people.
  • Do the whole reading for each day, but look for a "best thought" for each day—something you can meditate on throughout the rest of the day...
  • Let your prayers for others emerge out of what you read. Don’t choose between praying and reading Scripture—do both!
  • Look for ways in which you can practically live out what you’re reading.

So without further ado...make a plan! Get into the Word and get the Word into you! And feel free to share in the comments what has worked for you in the past or what you're planning to do this year.  


Zoanna said...

Excellent post, Amy. I need a plan .This past year was my worst in terms of spending time in the Bible. It was also, not coincidentally, my spiritually weakest year in battling sin, Satan, and self. For one thing, I HAVE to do what I know helps, and that is a plan, a journal, and a pen. No two ways about that. I have to journal in order to concentrate and retain what I read.

Danielle said...

Great post. I've loved the chronological reading plan (it's included on Justin Taylor's list). It was great! Now I'm doing a study on Genesis using a Nancy Guthrie Bible Study. The main thing I want to grow in is not so much reading God's word, but praying and continuing Bible memorization. To do that means getting up earlier for me. My boys typically rise and shine at 6 a.m. So my goal is 5 a.m. The past 2 days I've been up by 5:30 a.m. and that's already helped me a lot! Prayer and memorization suffer if I'm not alone in the morning.

Brenna Kate Simonds, Living Unveiled said...

I think about this when I run. Often, I simply run because I can.

JOY said...

thanks amy! this is my goal for 2012, to read the word every day and what you wrote just reaffirms what i'm after and why it's so important!