If something helps you engage God through His Word, do that thing. That’s my rule of thumb. My personal study time has evolved in the past few years and I’d like to share with you a few practices that have energized my Bible reading.
1. Ditch Bible reading plans.
Bible reading plans provide a rhythm and a structure for Bible reading and can be incredibly helpful getting readers into the text of Scripture. That being said, I’ve found myself confined when following a certain plan, and in my flesh I sometimes would focus more on getting my reading done for the day than deeply engaging God’s Word. That being said, if a reading plan helps you, by all means use it!
Another downside of reading plans is that they may break up the text of Scripture too much for my liking. For example, the Robert Murray McCheyne plan has readers read one chapter from four books of the Bible each day. I’ve found great benefit in this plan in the past, but now prefer a different approach (that you will see in the next several practices I outline).
2. Re-read books of the Bible.
Many Christians forget that God didn’t give us random chapters or verses but entire books that are meant to convey a specific message and draw out change in the life of readers. That’s why I like to re-read entire books of the Bible with my focus on the book’s context, structure, main idea, and intended response in the life of the original receivers of the book. As I re-read a book, each of those elements become clearer.
3. Read large chunks of text in one sitting.
Most people don’t watch a movie five minutes at a time and yet engage books of the Bible that way. Reading one chapter at a time can sever the chapter from the larger meaning of the book. Reading large chunks of Scripture at once allow us to pick up on major themes and repetitions crucial for understanding the book’s main idea and intended response.
What is even better than reading large chunks is reading an entire book in one sitting. The graphic below from Desiring God displays how long that will take you for each book of the Bible.
4. Meditate on a small nugget of truth or two.
While at times I like to read large portions of Scripture, it’s nearly impossible for me to meditate on more than one truth at a time. As I study each day, I try to pick at least a truth nugget or two to meditate on and make my prayer. (I follow a similar pattern as I share here.)
5. Interact with Scripture in a Scripture journal.
Writing in a Scripture journal encourages an active reading of Scripture as opposed to passive. Writing notes and observations helps me build upon previous readings through a book and helps me think through preaching a passage as well. (Also see my review of the ESV Illuminated Scripture Journal set.)
These five practices have energized my reading, and if you think they would benefit you, I encourage you to adopt them. But don’t forget my rule of thumb: If you find great value in a certain practice for Bible reading plan, do it!