If you are a believer seeking to grow in your relationship with the Lord, it is probably on your list of things to do to think through how to do so in 2017. Today I am talking through two ways to get into God’s Word next year…
If You Want Something Small…
If you are looking ahead to 2017 knowing it is not the year for you to commit to a massive Bible study plan, I highly recommend Tim and Kathy Keller’s devotional, The Songs of Jesus. It takes you through the book of Psalms in daily readings that include devotional thoughts and prayers.
You can spend as much or as little time each day as you want. The basic reading is five minutes or less – really. It’s a very small commitment. Even if you get behind, it is simple to catch up. And just because the readings are short doesn’t mean they aren’t loaded with content. The devotionals are theologically rich and challenging in practical ways.
I have loved reading this book in 2016. I ended last year with the flu (which morphed into pneumonia) and was very sick entering the new year. I started this devotional in January because I knew I needed something small and very, very doable. I eased into daily Bible study using The Songs of Jesus, and it has been a huge blessing.
Sometimes something small, accessible, and not overwhelming is the way to go.
If You are Ready for Something Big…
If you are gazing at 2017 with a decided glint in your eye, ready to dive into something really meaty, I heartily recommend the most life-altering Bible reading plan I have ever done: The Daily Bible.
Two words: Game-Changer. (Or is that one hyphenated word?)
I was fortunate to grow up in a Bible-believing home. I learned Bible stories from a young age and could always throw down a win at the Sunday School Bible drill. I went off to college and became highly involved in a collegiate ministry. I spent my off-time on summer projects studying the Bible (and doing other stuff too – we weren’t complete Bible nerds). After graduation, I joined the staff of that college ministry and started leading Bible studies right and left – for a living.
Have we established the facts here? Bible study = my wheelhouse.
Or so I thought.
What I had been doing all those years — while incredibly valuable — was not giving me the whole picture of the Bible. I was studying extracted pieces of the Bible, without ever focusing on how those pieces related to one another. It was like examining a beautiful piece of artwork – but only from up close. I saw intense color, beautiful brushstrokes, exquisite detail. But I never stepped back to see what the painting was actually depicting.
Enter The Daily Bible.
Many years ago, I decided I wanted to read the Bible all the way through. I had never done it before and had heard reading chronologically was a great way to go. Because accountability is king when tackling a daunting project, I gathered a group of women to read with me. We purchased our copies and got started. We met on Tuesday nights at each other’s houses. We shared great meals and discussed God’s Word. It was like the best book club ever. Little did I know how transformative the experience would be.
Unexpectedly, reading the bible chronologically allowed me to see Scripture in a whole new way.
I read the story of David hiding in a cave, in fear of his life. Then I read Psalm 142 – which he wrote while hiding in the cave. Psalm 142 became palpable. I could viscerally feel what David was feeling.
Reading the Bible chronologically brought so much together for me…
- The books of Kings and Chronicles are interwoven into a single narrative, allowing you to understand how history unfolded.
- The prophets (major and minor) are woven in at the time of their writing — and you actually get who they are writing to.
- The four Gospels read as a single, unfolding story, culminating in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
- Paul’s letters are intermixed into the narrative of the early church described in the book of Acts. Again, you understand who Paul is writing to – and why.
The first time I read through The Daily Bible, I understood things I didn’t think I could understand. I was able to grasp more obscure parts of Scripture (Obadiah, anyone?). I saw how it fit together.
And most importantly, I felt the longing of the Israelites for the promised Messiah.
Because here’s the thing: when you read The Daily Bible, you don’t get to Jesus until October 18th.
You start on New Year’s Day and you don’t see Jesus until the leaves have changed colors. It’s a long time to wait. You groan with Israel through the ups and downs, the longings, the mistakes, the rebellions, the punishments, the mercies.
And more punishment. And more mercy.
You shake your head in wonder that a people forgiven and delivered from so much could rebel against the God who rescued them from so much.
You feel the frustration, the longing.
And when October 18th arrives, you want to jump up and shout HALLELUJAH! The Rescuer has finally come for these DUMB, REBELLIOUS PEOPLE who don’t realize HOW BLESSED THEY ARE.
Could it be?
Is the Old Testament one long narrative to make me realize the depth of my own sinful heart?
Am I Israel?
Am I the rescued one? The one who continues to run after idols, falsely believing they will fill the empty places? Over and over? Again and again?
I had never really seen it before.
Three years ago I was itching to tackle The Daily Bible again. Knowing my weaknesses and need for accountability, I once again gathered a tribe of women to read it with me. Life was a lot busier than it was a decade ago, when I spent every Tuesday night talking about God’s Word with my girlfriends. This time we took a more technological approach and combined a private Facebook group with monthly in-person meetings. We read, and we longed, and we waited for the Savior.
And when October came, we shouted HALLELUJAH.
A few months after we finished, a friend sent me a letter:
“…As I read through the Word, I basked in God’s holiness. It was the chronological reading that really forced me to sit in the messiness of sin and the holiness of God as we sat in the Old Testament for 10 months before we finally reached the gospels. As my knowledge of myself and my sin became bigger, the cross of Christ became more glorious. My understanding of God’s love became greater because I understood more deeply the cost of the Cross…”
I include her words because it’s better than anything I could write: “My understanding of God’s love became greater because I understood more deeply the cost of the Cross.”
Sometimes the waiting and longing is exactly what we need to feel the Hallelujah.
If you are feeling coaxed into digging into God’s Word this year, I encourage you to consider a chronological reading plan. The Daily Bible happens to be the one I love, but there are many versions available.
Whatever you do, the most important thing is that you find a way to consistently be in the Word in 2017. It is transformative food for your soul.
Cheers to a 2017 full of the richness of God’s Word,
This post is not sponsored in any way – I am just a big, big fan of these two books. I do use affiliate links, however, which means if you click and/or purchase anything I recommend, I might make a small commission. Thanks for your support!