Three days ago, I ditched my daily bible reading plan. Not the habit, mind you, just my appointed plan… We had a “falling out” of sorts.
Three months ago, I had completed a daily reading plan of my own making, which I dubbed “the absorption approach.” I would read or listen to scripture every day, beginning with Genesis and proceeding book-by-book to Revelation. If I didn’t quite understand a section or wanted to meditate it, I would re-read or re-listen until I was ready to move on. Sometimes I would remain in the same chapters for days at a time just to dig deeper into the context.
When I completed the “absorption approach,” I decided to go through The One Year Bible (ESV), in which the reader gets four different readings per day—three Old Testament readings (beginning in Genesis, Chronicles, and Psalms, respectively), and one New Testament reading (beginning in Matthew). When it comes to my personal bible study, I like to change my technique periodically in order to see the scriptures from a new angle. Sometimes I change the version I use, other times I will try a different reading plan.
Alas, the One-Year Bible and I did not mesh.
During the “absorption approach,” I would make sure to have time for Bible reading each day. If I missed my appointed time slot, I would fit it in somewhere else that day. I could pick up any Bible anywhere and I would know exactly where I was in my daily reading. Often, I could make connections in Bible class with something I had read that week. My days overflowed with illumination.
With the new plan, my “daily” reading was becoming more of an “every-other-day” event. I might go as much as two or three days without breaking open my Bible. When I was reading or listening, I would absently skim ahead to favorite verses or only half-listen. I found it difficult to get engaged when I would jump from Moses making excuses, to a king acting foolishly, to David pouring out his soul, to Paul exclaiming, “by no means!”
Did Moses just say, “Honor your Father and mother by no means?!”
No, I definitely got that mixed up.
I need to grab the laundry out of the dryer…
Oops! Focus, Elihu!
Moses was delivering the law to the Israelites and it was Paul who said, “by no means.”
Ugh! I forgot to place that order!
Elihu! Get your head back in the text!
Wait… by no means… what? What was he just talking about??
Frankly, I was getting bored. When it comes to reading the Word of God, I do NOT want to be bored! I want to be engaged, excited, enthusiastic!!
I also noticed a shift in my attitude. Instead of meditating on the Word during the quiet intervals of the day, my mind would come to rest on trivialities. This disastrous election, stories I was reading with kids, random worries—they were all squeezing into the blank spaces of my mind.
I was slowly drifting off-center.
I have spent the last two years immersed in the Word, growing more consistent in prayer, and—best of all—growing closer to the Lord than I have ever been in my life.
I had no desire to lose the riches I had gained, yet I could feel them slipping away…
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
~ Psalm 53.10-13, NKJV
David wrote this Psalm after Nathan confronted him with the sins committed in the affair of Bathsheba. David was referred to as “the man after God’s own heart,” but in a period of apathy, he became a murderer and adulterer. How on earth did that happen?!?!
We don’t wake up one day, stretch our limbs and say, “Yeah…I think I’d like to go out and sin today.” Sin is a creeping, sinister thing, and it begins with this slow slide from the presence of God.
I don’t want to wait until disaster strikes to cry out, “renew a steadfast spirit within me!” I want to pray the prayer of renewal at the first little tug of indifference.
Bible reading may not seem like a “righteous” or “important” endeavor, but it is often the small duties that reflect the inner character. We cannot know the Lord without spending time with Him. When we read the Bible, we listen to what God has to say. When we pray, He listens to what we have to say. Neglecting either of these things is to neglect our relationship with God.
The Holy Spirit has so much more to work with in our hearts when we commit ourselves to absorbing the Word. I did not want to quench the Spirit in my negligence, nor lose the joy that had become my sustaining strength.
It was time to for a new approach.
I hit delete on my plan and started wrestling with Romans. I am still undecided on my long-term course of action, but for the present, it’s me, October, and Romans. I’m going to get all those “by no means” straightened out.
Are you struggling to maintain your daily Bible Reading? Maybe the only time you crack the leather on the spine is when you’re at church and the preacher says, “Turn with me to _________, chapter ___, verse___, and read along…”
Maybe some of what I have shared sounds eerily familiar…
If that’s the case, it’s time to change your approach!
Where do I begin with daily reading? What should I try?
Do a little research. Ask around for a few methods people have tried with success. Check out my old post, 4 Ways to Study Your Bible in 2016, for a few suggestions. The One-Year Bible is in there, by the way. It might work well for you!
Get an accountability partner. If you’re having trouble getting into the Word, find someone willing to do a particular plan with you and then text each other with some insight or question each day. If a day goes by and no text is received, one of you needs to text the other to stay on track!
Audio Bible here I come! If you have small children or a very hectic schedule, I highly recommend audio bibles. Before you tell me you’re a “real book” kind of person, hear me out. I wish I had time every single day to sit quietly in my wingback chair devouring good book and a chai tea. I love the smell of books, both new and old (maybe that’s why I majored in printing), but there are far too many demands on my time to enjoy the luxury on a daily basis.
*Audiobooks to the rescue!*
You can listen to an audio bible on your commute to work or while you are folding laundry. It’s a great way to get time with your Bible during those quiet moments of busyness! Best of all, if you have an app like YouVersion, you can access an audio bible FOR FREE.
Bible Journaling. I love technology, but I love the physical act of writing so much more. If you’re having trouble absorbing a passage, copy a few verses from that passage in a notebook; jot down some reflections on what you’ve read; scribble in a few questions. You’d be amazed what will jump out at you, simply through the physical act of writing.
Plans combat aimlessness. Just because a particular plan didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work well for you, nor does it follow that all plans are useless. A reading plan is an excellent accountability tool. Make sure you give a plan at least thirty days before giving it up.