Spending time together is the cornerstone of any relationship. It is no different with our God. Reading God’s word, reflecting on it and time in prayer are daily practices God has given to us. God will use that time to reveal more about himself and bless us with his peace and presence. A deeper understanding of scripture will help us to know His heart and allow us to cling to his promises. Are you looking to improve your faith life? Start here.
We make this reading plan available to help you work through the Bible in a year. We pray it will help you on your way. If it gets overwhelming, do what you can and keep trying. Blessings!
Sunday, December 3: Genesis 1-3; Psalm 1
Monday, December 4: Genesis 4-6; Psalm 2
Tuesday, December 5: Genesis 7-9; Psalm 3
Wednesday, December 6:: Genesis 10-12; Psalm 4
Thursday, December 7: Genesis 13-15; Psalm 5
Friday, December 8: Genesis 16-18; Psalm 6
Saturday, December 9: Genesis 19-21; Psalm 7
Sunday, December 10: Genesis 22-24; Psalm 8
Monday, December 11: Genesis 25-27; Psalm 9
Tuesday, December 12: Genesis 28-30; Psalm 10
Wednesday, December 13: Genesis 31-33; Psalm 11
Thursday, December 14: Genesis 34-36; Psalm 12
Friday, December 15: Genesis 37-39; Psalm 13
Saturday, December 16: Genesis 40-42; Psalm 14
Sunday, December 17: Genesis 43-45 ; Psalm 15
A Spiritual Journey Through Daily Bible Reading
Everyone loves to receive a love letter. Begin your journey of Daily Discovery by being encouraged by a true story of love letters.
What are the essentials of beginning a journey—a good map, some comfortable shoes, snacks for the road? Each journey has those things which are critical for the trip to become a success. This section outlines five essentials for a fulfilling and beneficial time in God’s Word.
The old saying is that if you don’t know where you are going, pretty much any road will take you there. In reading through the Bible it’s helpful to have a road map to guide you along the way. Over many years of reading the Bible I have developed the following path for completely reading through the Bible.
How Much, How Long?
What is a reasonable amount of time to spend reading the Bible each day? What is a reasonable amount of material to cover each day? The answers to these questions vary greatly from person to person. But in this section I provide you with some general guidelines as to how much and how long.
Have you been in a Christian or secular bookstore and seen just how many different translations of the Bible there are? At least twenty different modern English translations of the Bible can be found on the bookstore’s shelves. Yes it might have been easier in grandma’s day just to pick up a copy of the King James Version and start reading. But we no longer speak that way. Here you will find some recommendations for picking a Bible you can understand.
When God Speaks
Okay, so you are convinced that having a time of Daily Discovery in God’s Word will be good for you. You have your direction set and your journey has begun. But what are you going to do on the chance—and I can tell you there is a pretty good chance—that God actually speaks to you through the pages of Scripture. Here are five suggestions on what to do when God speaks to you.
Do you ever go back and read your old love letters? For some of us it might be a bit embarrassing, for others it might be painful, for others still it might be nostalgic. Regardless of how you feel about them now, when they were first written and when they were first read, they were opened with anxious anticipation, read with breathless attention, and cherished with boundless passion.
When my wife and I were first married we wrote love letters to each other. It was a time before e-mail and a day before the advent of cheap, de-regulated, long-distance phone calls. We had been married only five months when an unexpected, out-of-state job transfer caused us to be separated for the next five months. As my wife boarded the plane that began the time of interminable separation for the young newlyweds, we vowed to write each and every day. And so we did.
I remember when the first love letter arrived. I didn’t wait to even get through the door. I ripped open the letter to read the words I longed to see. She had written what you might expect to see in a love letter, “I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.” Knowing those words would be there in no way lessened the experience of reading them for myself. In fact, reading them firsthand only heightened my bond of love for my wife.
The letters arrived daily. I read each one with the same anticipation, and each one contained those same words, “I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.” Well the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and the letters with the same message kept coming, “I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.” Then a day came when I was particularly busy. I grabbed the mail, saw the letter, put it unopened on the kitchen table and rushed out the door to meet some friends for a movie. I knew what it said, “I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.” I came home distracted and left the love letter unopened but still knowing the sentiment. The next day I got sidetracked again by work and another letter came and it too remained unopened. The next day there was yet other distraction and another unopened love letter. Mind you, I knew what they said. After all she’d been writing the exact same thing in every letter, “I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.” Why bother to open them?
Well, after a while I realized I had quite a collection of unopened love letters. Because they were from my wife I figured it might be a good idea to keep them around. And because they were special I wrapped some ribbon around the stack of unopened love letters to make them look nice. When friends would come over to visit, I would put the ribbon-wrapped stack of unopened love letters on the coffee table, sort of as a conversation starter and a reminder of my wife’s love for me.
How many of you actually believe this is what I did with these love letters? You’ve got to be out of your minds! I did nothing of the sort. Every day for five months I waited for those daily letters to come. Even though each letter contained the same sentiments as the last, with only the slightest variance due to the facts of the day, I would tear open each letter as my chief priority, never missing a day and read the words again, “I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.” It is ridiculous to think that someone would knowingly leave a love letter left unopened. Yet this ridiculous scenario is repeated millions of times a day the world over.
It seems there is a love letter that remains conspicuously unopened. This love letter is God’s Word—the Bible. The Bible is God’s unabashed and unashamed love letter to the people of his creation. The Bible is God’s love letter to you. It is a love letter composed over centuries. It is a love letter that intertwines the lives of many people. It is a love letter written with the deepest passion. But if you take nothing else away from this article, take this, it is a love letter addressed to you.
As a pastor, one of my highest joys is getting people to read their mail. I know no greater exhilaration than when people open their love letters from God and read of his love for them in Christ. But it is an equal joy when I see people reading that love letter again and again.
Do you ever go back and read your old love letters? Maybe it’s time you did.
The first essential in a beneficial time of daily Bible reading is prayer. I begin my time of reading the Bible with a prayer. As a Christian I believe that God inspired the writers of the Bible, cf. 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21. It follows that if God is ultimately the author of Scripture, it would be beneficial to ask God to help and guide our reading the Bible. The work of God’s Holy Spirit creating the Bible is called inspiration. But the Holy Spirit has a role in guiding us in the truth of Scripture. This is called illumination. Typically I will offer a simple prayer something like this. “Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Word. Today, by the power of your Holy Spirit, guide me in truth and grace, for Jesus sake, Amen.”
The second essential is willingness. We listen best when we are willing to hear what another person has to say. The same can be said of reading the Bible and listening to God. I equate willingness with having a desire for something. In Psalm 42:1-2 we read, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” This is the kind of desire that brings about a deeper understanding of God’s Word. Irving Jensen, a man who spent many years teaching others how to study the Bible, said that effective Bible study begins with four essential attitudes: recognition of the Bible’s authority, receptivity, dedication to exactness of study, and a willingness to study. Think about how much better conversations go when both parties are willing to listen.
The third essential, openness, is closely linked to the second essential. Some might confuse openness and willingness as being the same, but there are some nuances between the two as they apply to reading the Bible. Just because we are “willing” to have God speak to us does not necessarily mean we are open to what he is going to say to us. We all have our own preconceived ideas about all manner of things. In reading the Bible, it’s helpful for us to surrender our preconceptions and allow the Holy Spirit speak to us. One account in the Bible tells of a group of people who lived in a place called Berea. These people had the fortunate opportunity to hear the apostle Paul preach in person. While these people were well-versed in the Bible, they were open to hear what Paul had to say and compared what he said with what was written in Scripture, Acts 17:11. In another place in the Bible we read of Jesus opening the mind of his followers regarding what the Scriptures said about him, Luke 24:44-45. Many portray religious people as being closed-minded, but when it comes to reading the Bible, the opposite is not only desirable but is necessary. We need to be open to what God has to say to us.
Moving on to the fourth essential, the importance of having a regular time for reading cannot be overstated. How regular are you about eating, sleeping, and personal hygiene? When we have regular schedules for these daily necessities, our lives are in balance and we feel much better about ourselves. The same can be said about reading the Bible on a daily basis. Indeed, having a regular time and place to read the Bible is key to successfully incorporating this practice into our lives. From my years of experience, I’ve found that it’s best to have a quiet time and a quiet place to do this. Being a pastor, husband, and father of four, I find that getting up early in the morning is my best opportunity to have a quiet time reading the Bible. Does this mean you need to be a morning person? No, but find the best time and place where you can regularly take 20 to 30 uninterrupted minutes (longer if your schedule permits) to read from the Bible. Perhaps this might be first thing in the morning. Maybe find a quiet place over your lunch hour. Or reading right before you go to bed. However, consistency is the key. In Psalm 1:1-2 we read, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Think of reading your Bible as your fourth daily meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Bible time. Cf. Deuteronomy 8:3.
The fifth and final essential for an effective and fruitful time of daily Bible reading is, of course, a Bible! Now this may be stating the obvious but having the right Bible is… well …essential. What do I mean by the right Bible? As you might be aware there are numerous translations and study editions of the Bible. So numerous, in fact, that when you go to the Bible section of many bookstores you will find charts designed to help you in selecting a translation. While I have a preference for the English Standard Version, there are many good translations available. What I mean by the right Bible can be summed up as follows. 1) The right Bible is one that you can easily understand. What good is my recommendation about a specific translation if you can’t understand what you are reading? 2) The right Bible is one that you can feel free to write notes in. My father considered writing in a Bible to be a sin—that is until I pointed out to him the scribes in the earliest days of the church were forever making notes in the margins of the first parchments of Scripture. Note taking in the margins of the Bible helps us remember things that come to us as we read the Bible. Underlining or highlighting passages that particularly speak to you is another good practice in daily Bible reading. If you have a special Bible, for instance a family Bible or a Bible given to you as wedding or confirmation gift, you may not feel comfortable writing in or highlighting. Well then, get a Bible you do feel comfortable writing in or highlighting. 3) The right Bible is one that is a trustworthy and credible translation. While the great variety of English translations of the Bible can be a great blessing, it can also be a great problem. Some of the more contemporary translations can become out-of-date quickly. I’ll have more to say on selecting a good translation later. Finally, 4) the right Bible has a good strong binding. Avoid paperback or bonded leather bindings, and cheaper Bibles in general. A good binding typically will be a cloth-bound hardback or a genuine leather binding. These more expensive bindings will more than likely last you a lifetime. And in the final analysis, daily Bible reading has its fullest and most fruitful affect when it becomes lifetime Bible reading.
Read through the following eight sections in the order they appear below, reading three chapters a day. In addition to this, read one Psalm each day as well. Following the completion of the 150 Psalms, read one chapter of Proverbs. Following the completion of Proverbs, begin again with Psalms. With this plan you will be able to read through the Bible in a year with comprehensiveness and variety, and get a double dose of Psalms and Proverbs.
Genesis through 2 Kings
It’s always a good idea to begin with the beginning. This section will give the reader a biblical understanding of the origins of humanity, the grand sweep of the history of ancient Israel, and the foundational principles of God’s relation to humanity.
Luke, Acts, Hebrews
This will give the reader a grand sweep of the earliest days of the Jesus movement through the eyes of Luke, a first century Greek physician and follower of Jesus. By reading these first two sections the reader will have a general understanding of what both the Old and New Testaments are about, but there’s so much more so keep reading.
Isaiah through Malachi
This section is a contiguous reading of the Old Testament Prophets. Like the Wisdom Literature much of this section is written in a poetic form. And while the topics range from visions of the end times to calls for people to return to the true worship of God, the message of the Prophets may be summarized in the words of one of their own, “…do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly before the Lord.” Micah 6:8
Matthew, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude. Returning to the New Testament, this section begins with Matthew’s Gospel, which seeks to tell Jesus’ story in light of the events of the Old Testament. The four letters in this section reflect numerous spiritual themes that are similar to Matthew’s understanding of Jesus.
Job through Song of Solomon. This section contains what is called the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. Much of this material is poetic in form and deals with some of the most fundamental human experiences.
Mark, Romans through Philemon. Switching back to the New Testament, here the reader will be reminded of the mission and ministry of Jesus through the eyes of Mark, the shortest of the four Gospels. However, the bulk of this section is comprised of letters written by Paul of Tarsus, the most celebrated apostle of Jesus. These letters offer key insight into the early days of the Christian church.
1 Chronicles through Esther. With one final trip back to the Old Testament, this section will give the reader another view of the history of ancient Israel.
John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation. The final section returns the reader to conclude the New Testament with the Fourth Gospel, three letters, and the final book of the Bible. These five books are traditionally attributed to Jesus’ beloved disciple, John and give the reader his perspective on Jesus and the early church. The section concludes with the final book of the Bible, Revelation.
But why not just begin with Genesis and just read straight through to Revelation? There are three distinct challenges presented in doing it this way. First, it takes a very long time to get to the New Testament. Second, once in the New Testament, the reader is confronted with four accounts of the life of Jesus in a row. While the variety of the four Gospels is one of the treasures of the Bible, reading them consecutively can seem redundant to the novice student of Scripture. Third, like the problem of the Gospels appearing back to back to back to back in the New Testament, a similar challenge awaits the reader with 1 Samuel through 2 Chronicles with the history of Israel. My method addresses these three issues and provides a coherent plan of completing a Bible read-through.
How Much? How Long?
Before answering the question of how much of the Bible you should read each day, there are some pitfalls to avoid.
Reading through the Bible is not a race. People invariably have a competitive spirit. “Faster, Higher, Stronger” may be a good motto for the Olympic Games, but when it comes to reading Bible, you’re not in competition with anyone, not even yourself. You don’t win any extra recognition for finishing early.
It’s not a school assignment. When you read a book for an assignment in class, the overriding question is, “When is the assignment due?” When reading the Bible, you don’t have any deadlines that you have to meet. The teacher is not going to grade you down for being late.
It’s not climbing a mountain. Some see reading through the Bible as if it were some great conquest, some obstacle to overcome, or a puzzle to complete. Certainly doing so is a great and worthy accomplishment, but reading the Bible is not merely something to check off on a list of things to do before you die.
Through the Bible in a Year
Having said this, it is still good to have a goal in mind. It is not uncommon in Christian circles to hear about plans to read through the Bible in a year. There is no shortage of plans to read the Bible through in a year. I have already offered my suggestion in this regard on the previous page. Most are predicated upon a seemingly simple formula of reading three chapters of the Bible each day. This is almost right. If you rigidly adhered to this plan, it would take you about thirteen months to complete the Bible—if your object was simply to complete the Bible. But I believe our objective should be to have a time of Daily Discovery in God’s Word.
How Long, Not How Much
Instead of establishing a goal of how much of the Bible you should read each day, I believe a better goal would be to establish how long will you spend reading the Bible each day. Chapter lengths can vary widely as well as you might find that certain sections of the Bible interest you more than others. For a time of beneficial Daily Discovery, I can’t imagine spending much less than twenty-minutes a day in Bible reading. For beginners this seems to be a good place to start—long enough to get a good taste of God’s Word, yet short enough to not be so daunting a task that you would be inclined to give up. For busy people, twenty to thirty minutes is not an unreasonable amount of time. And for most people this seems to be just the amount of time needed to become prayerfully and peacefully immersed in God’s Word. However, my observation has been that the more time you spend reading the Bible the more time you’ll want to spend reading the Bible.
Through the Bible in a Life-time
So you’ve read through your Bible. Congratulations! And you did it in a year. You are to be commended! But there is so much more to Daily Discovery than simply reading through the Bible once and accomplishing this in a year. As important as a daily guideline for reading the Bible might be that would help you complete reading through the Bible, this is not our ultimate goal of Daily Discovery. Daily Discovery is precisely that, setting aside time each day to discover God’s desire and design for our life.
Most of us plan on living longer than a year, so a once-in-a-lifetime read-through of the Bible is an insufficient plan for Daily Discovery. Here are some suggestions regarding what to do next:
Begin a second or third trip through the Bible using a different translation. My practice has been to alternate between reading through my favorite study translation and a translation that I have not yet read. I’ve found that in subsequent read-throughs of the Bible, I often come across insights that I had not noticed before. This is particularly the case when I read a new or unfamiliar translation. And as I noted earlier, there are enough translations out there to keep you at this method for quite awhile.
Start a subsequent read-through using as slower pace. In spite of my warning that reading through the Bible is not a race, I understand there is an initial desire to complete the task in a timely manner. But now that you’ve done that maybe you should slow it down and take more time to pray, observe, reflect, and meditate.
Partner with another person in reading the Bible. I never cease to be amazed at the insights I gather from other people when I hear what they have learned in a time of Daily Discovery.
Find some other method of reading the Bible on a daily basis. These methods have proved helpful to me over the years, but there are doubtlessly many other methods to try. Find one that offers some variety. But where do you find such resources. Ask a pastor, check your local Christian bookstore, look online. But most importantly look for someone who is a satisfied customer, so to speak. Seek out advice from people whose lives reflect the grace and love of Jesus.
Each of these versions of the Bible is sufficient to convey God’s Word to the reader, and provides the reader with an accurate rendering of the ancient text into the English language. Nonetheless, when people ask me what English version I recommend, I offer them three other choices.
New Living Translation
For people beginning their journey of faith, I recommend the New Living Translation (NLT) published by Tyndale House Publisher. The NLT is a fresh look (well, fresh as of 1996) at an old book. The NLT has the sound of modern English, not Shakespeare. Originally planned as an update of the Living Bible paraphrase, the editorial staff of the NLT sought to maintain the spirit of putting the Bible into the common language of today, yet they were more mindful of the meaning conveyed by the original languages of the Bible. If you’re looking for the general meaning of the Bible and didn’t grow up speaking the language of church, then the New Living Translation is a good choice for you.
For people who appreciate a good novel or like things with a little zip when they read, I might recommend Eugene Peterson’s The Message (2002 published by Navpress). In The Message, Peterson uses his great literary skill and years of pastoral experience to help readers connect with the Bible in a new way. Peterson’s style is lively, though from time to time he takes some liberties with the ancient text to make the point in modern parlance. (I’m particularly fond of how Peterson handled Romans 14:5-9 though I’m quite sure that the Apostle Paul mentioned neither broccoli nor prime rib in his original letter.) When recommending The Message, I also strongly recommend the use of another translation to read alongside.
English Standard Version
For people who have grown up in the church or who have an appreciation for the dignity of what some people call “Bible English,” I thoroughly recommend a new translation with an old pedigree, the English Standard Version (ESV). Good News Publishers released the ESV in September of 2001. Sadly the events that month far overshadowed its release. The ESV stands in the same tradition as the Revised Standard Version and the King James Version before that. The editorial staff sought to maintain the same majesty and cadence of this time-honored tradition while doing away with much of the archaic language. Likewise they applied the most recent scholarship regarding the use of the ancient languages of the Bible. While there are many English versions of the Bible that are far more established or more widely used, I enthusiastically recommend the ESV for personal study and devotion, as well as for public worship.
However, after all is said, what matters most is that you be a regular reader of God’s Word, and that regardless of which of the many version you may use, “…that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
When God Speaks...
An amazing thing happens when we embark on a spiritual journey of Daily Discovery in God’s Word when we approach the task with humility and expectancy. The amazing thing is that the Holy Spirit will speak to us through the pages of Scripture. Amazing is about the best word to describe it because more often than not we will be amazed when the Scriptures come alive to us and bears witness to God’s truth within our own spirit. Jesus himself promised, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. ”Again the Bible tells us Hebrew 4:12 that, “…the word of God is living and active….”
Expect God to Speak
Here is probably the greatest thing I’ve learned in my years of reading the Bible. Any time we come to God’s Word, whether it’s being read aloud in Sunday morning, or in a small group study, or in the privacy of your own quiet time—any time we come to the Bible, we should expect God to speak. Yes, friend, expect God to speak to you when you read the Bible in your time of Daily Discovery. God did not go to all the trouble of having his people record, preserve, and translate his Word, only for it to gather dust on a shelf somewhere. Remember, the Bible is God’s love letter to you. He intended for it to be read and in the reading of it, he intended to speak to you of his desire and design for your life. In reading the Bible in a humble and prayerful manner, we have every expectation for God to speak to us.
When God Speaks…
Fine then, we are sufficiently amazed by God speaking to us through the Bible. What do we do when God speaks? In my years of Daily Discovery, I’ve come across five steps recommended in Scripture regarding what we should do when God speaks.
When God speaks…Listen
In Mark 4:9 when speaking a parable to his followers, Jesus tells them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” General inattentiveness is rampant in the world we live in. Could it be that our infrequent hearing from God has more to with our inability to listen than his silence? If God speaks to us, we owe him the respect to listen.
When God speaks… Think it over
The shepherds of Christ’s Nativity brought a great word from God. They retold the angelic message to the Holy Family and all gathered at Jesus’ birth. Luke 2:19 tells us, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Sometimes when God speaks to us, we need to give due consideration to what is being said before we can understand the full importance of what God is trying to tell us. Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to check our brains at the door.
When God speaks…Write it down
If you’re like me, even the greatest flash of inspiration can be lost in an instant unless I write it down. In Revelation 1:11 the risen Lord Jesus tells John, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches…” Earlier I alluded to writing notes in the margin of your favorite Bible. This is a good practice and I highly recommend it. You might even want to write down the date and thereby keep a spiritual history of God’s promptings as you read his Word. Over time you might want to keep a notebook handy. You will be amazed how the margins can get filled up over the years.
When God speaks… Share it with a friend
I said earlier that some of the greatest insights I have learned from God are through what he said through other people. The insights God gives us when he speaks will more than likely bless someone else as well. Consider the situation in John 1:45. There we read, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” Philip couldn’t wait to share the good news he had heard with his friend Nathaneal.
When God speaks… Keep it for future use
Not every word you hear from God is something that you will use immediately. As a twelve-year-old boy, Jesus went missing from his family and where should he turn up but in the temple in Jerusalem. His parents did not immediately understand what he was doing there and the prophetic nature of the words that he spoke to them, trying to explain why he was there. In Luke 2:50-51 we are told, “And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” One day, years later, it would all become clear to Mary. So, too, with our times in Daily Discovery—something we may learn from our time in the Bible might strike us as important but we are not entirely sure why. Some of the marginal notes that I wrote in my Bible long ago didn’t reveal their fuller meaning in my life until years later. In keeping it for future use, we need to be reminded that God’s Word will not grow stale.