For over a decade now, I have read through the Bible at least once per year, and using different translations. When I began, it was my old faithful King James Version (KJV), chucked full of thee, thou, words that end in ‘eth,’ and ye. I’ll admit it; I was a KJV only fanatic. The more I studied, the more I wanted to know and found myself going back and forth to a concordance to understand it. Words like charity surely didn’t mean to give a donation. Regardless of which translation I read, I read them all with the same functional strategy, daily morning devotion. As a pastor, people ask me which Bible translation is the best, I always respond, “The translation that you read.” Truly, if you’re not reading the entire book, in essence, you’re picking and choosing and creating your own god.
So, how do I read through the Bible every year; what is my strategy? I am a very regimental person, so my mornings are spent the same, regardless of how early or late I awake. Even on vacation, I never miss a day, I always find myself in God’s Word and in His presence (not that you’re ever alone). Here are three steps in getting through the Bible in one year.
1. Organize your time. This must be an intentional act on your part. No matter how I explain to you the methods I use, if you are not conscious and intentional about your time with God, there is no method for you. Let’s just be honest. But, it just so happens that I enjoy the early morning hours, when the house is still and silent. I love the verse, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35 ESV). Finding time for God in the early morning hours sets my day. You may want to choose another time, which fits your schedule—whatever time that is, stick to it!
2. Old Testament & New Testament. I have read many variations of how a person can get through the Bible in one year. Most of them are geared towards people who are looking for the least amount of time spent and work. But I’ll be honest; I just wanted to know more about the Word and Christ, so I dove in—I didn’t care how long it took. Here’s my strategy and results:
I began each year and each day by reading two chapters of the Old Testament and then two chapters of the New Testament. This sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t (I’ll address the exceptions below). For the most part, and I’m not the speediest reader, in actuality, I would have to admit that I do spend longer when reading the Scriptures, as I want to understand them; so, overall, it should take anywhere between 15-30 minutes, depending on the chapter length. If you can’t find that amount of time to learn more about you and God, maybe a self-examination of your faith is in order?
What Did I Find?
I have found that by reading two chapters of each testament daily, they also tended to coincide and helped me to get a better understanding of the whole counsel of God’s Word. For instance, there are many times when I found myself reading about an account in the Old Testament (OT) and then the same account was being addressed in the New Testament (NT); that happened more frequently then you would realize—it felt like solid confirmation to begin my day. So, beginning January 1, I would read Genesis chapters 1 and 2, and Matthew chapters 1 and 2. I’ve also found this result; I ended up reading through the NT three times, but the OT only once. It’s no surprise that the OT is larger, but this was a good thing for me, as it helped establish a firmer Christ-centered foundation. So, you may be asking, “What about the huge chapters like Psalm 119?” I’m glad you asked.
3. Reading the Long Chapters. At the end of my first year, I also found myself hurrying through and pushing my OT reading—I wasn’t quite finished with the OT (still in the minor prophets), so I made sure to tweak that in the second year. I’ve kept this outline ever since. Knowing the size of the OT made me pull the Psalms out of my morning schedule. I began to read one chapter of the Psalms just before bedtime. You can do the math; there’s 365 days in a year and only 150 chapters. So, I was quite lenient and not as regimental here. Chapters like Psalm 119 are huge; beginning each passage with a Hebrew letter (basically like the equivalent of the English alphabet, A through Z). But I also knew that Psalm 150 was tiny—so reading the Psalms became a reading of enjoyment and pleasure—it was “bonus” time.
Sometimes I would want to read a few more than one chapter, and this was fine—besides, I kept a Bible on my nightstand, next to my bed. If you ever want to fall asleep fast, start reading your Bible (just kidding). Another result? I ended up going to sleep with God on my mind and gained restful nights and happy mornings.
As well, if I was reading in the morning and came across long chapters, I would just eliminate one of the NT readings, as I knew that I could read through that testament more than twice the speed. Sometimes it just takes common knowledge. But I never skipped the begats, the book of Numbers, Leviticus, or Song of Solomon (whew! That’s a spicy book). What’s sad is that only 5% of Christians actually read through the Bible—and I have no idea why, other than laziness—even if you cannot read, we have Apps to listen to the Word now. Sites like these are awesome: ESV: http://legacy.esvbible.org or Bible Gateway https://www.biblegateway.com
Conclusion. Perhaps this structure can work for you, or you’re thinking, this is too much—believe me, it really isn’t, you can do it, and the joy at the end of that first year, looking back on reading every word and every phrase will not ever be regretted—you’ll never say, “I wish I had that time back.”
I believe God honors those who honor Him, not in a legalistic sense, but in love. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot begin my day without the Word—I feel lost without it. One last perk—I have three beautiful daughters, and I have read through three different translations (actually four, KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB) and made notes in each of them. My plan is to give each daughter one of these, a keepsake from dad—to remind them about their faith, father, and fortitude. Maybe you’ll want to start that tradition this year? In any case, get into the Word, it never disappoints.