Tools and Tips to Help You Read Through the Bible This Year

January 1, 2017 — 2 Comments
4278335002_3e90e703c3_mNothing has been better for my consistency in God’s Word- leading to greater intimacy with God and understanding of Him- than having a clear plan for reading through the Bible each of the last five years.

I think the reason it is so helpful is simple, in the words of Robert Murray M’Cheyne:

“Time will not be wasted in choosing what portions to read. Here the question will be solved at once in a very simple manner.”

That’s it. Not having to decide what I’m going to read every morning- I just open up and let the calendar tell me what to read – is enough to reduce the friction on the tracks to get me going.  

Some tips and helpful tools:

  • Use a plan where you read from multiple parts of the Bible every day- that keeps you from getting bogged down in more difficult books (I’m looking at you Major Prophets). The Discipleship Journal and the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan are excellent. The DJ plan has 25 days/month to give you some grace days. M’Cheyne’s method is everyday and reads through the NT and Psalms twice in a year, which I modify to read the NT and Psalms only once (to modify it, just read the first 3, instead of 4, chapters every day).
  • I highly recommend DA Carson’s For the Love of God Volumes I & II. Carson provides commentary and reflections on each day’s scriptural passages in the M’Cheyne plan. I just wake up and open up For the Love of God on my Kindle. It tells me what to read, and then gives me a brief commentary on what I read. It’s almost always insightful, and always short. For the Love of God is also available for free online.
  • I’ve written a short 2 page article on Spending Time Daily in God’s Word that gives a little more re the why’s and how’s.
  • The Gospel Coalition has a great initiative with resources for Reading the Bible in 2020 using the M’Cheyne method. 
  • My wife uses Dr. Constable’s FREE online Bible commentary as she reads through the Bible. Constable’s commentary is an unbelievable gift to the body of Christ – most commentaries are either unhelpful because they are: too obvious/short or too long/intense/parsing Greek.
    • Dr. Constable’s is like a best-of-commentary: he does all the heavy lifting, reading all the commentaries and presenting to you the best of what he found to be helpful. He’s my go-to commentary when I don’t understand a passage and he almost never disappoints. Just google “Constable Philippians” or whatever book you’re reading and it will be the first Google result.
  • The Bible Project has phenomenal, short (8 minute) summary videos for every book in the Bible. They illuminate how each book of the Bible tells one story of redemption through Christ.
  • You don’t have to start at the beginning of the year in January. And you don’t even have to finish the Bible in a calendar year (though it IS very doable; and having a measure of my progress spurs me on to keep going and not fall behind).

I’ve had a few friends push back on reading through the Bible in a year (RTtBiaY). They’ve said that it led them to duty instead of delight. They felt that they were merely checking boxes, rushing through the daily reading to get it done.  

All I can say is that it has had the opposite effect for me. Maybe it’s personality differences. For me, RTtBiaY has been incredibly motivating and life giving. I’ve found it also helps to give yourself plenty of time: if you only have 15 minutes to read, RTtBiaY will feel like duty and a checklist. But if you have 30min-hour, you can really soak in the Scriptures.

I’ve found a regular time in God’s Word, making regular process plodding through the entire Bible does not produce a rut but freedom. John Piper offers great insight on routine and structure in your Quiet Time:

“If your longing is to be spontaneous in the way you commune with God, then build discipline into your Bible reading and prayer. It sounds paradoxical. But it’s no more so than the paradox of corn spontaneously growing in a Minnesota field because of the farmer’s discipline of plowing and sowing and guarding the field. He doesn’t make the corn grow. God does. But God uses his farming disciplines as part of the process. The rich fruit of spontaneity grows in the garden that is well tended by the discipline of schedule.”  

Tim Keller, John Piper, my wife… All the great spiritual giants recommend RTtBiaY as a daily Quiet Time plan.  

My only regret is that I haven’t been doing this for the past two decades that I’ve been walking with God. Early on in walking with God I read through the Bible annually. But somewhere along the way I stopped.  

May we see Jesus more clearly in 2020 as we soak in God’s Word this year!  

What tools and tips do you have that have helped you read God’s Word?

  photo courtesy of Dwight Stone via Flickr


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  • Would love to know what you do to modify that plan as you mentioned. I’m guessing many would find it more doable to read 2-3 chaps over 4. Thanks for this article, Tim!

    • timcasteel

      Rich – You basically don’t do the 4th reading. For example, to start the year, I read Genesis 1, Ezra 1, and Matthew 1 (but not Acts 1). You don’t need to read Acts 1 because on July 14 the third reading will get to Acts 1.

      I thought I recalled reading just 2 chapters some days but it seems like it would have to be 3 unless you’re reading ahead in some parts.