I confess, I haven’t checked the boxes on my last daily Bible-reading plan in a few years. In fact, I don’t know where it is. I think I threw it away. I have also missed a lot of days, many more than my old plan allotted for, which, I think, was zero. But in these years since using a standard Bible-reading plan I have read the Bible more often, more consistently, and more properly motivated than ever before.
I made a plan that worked for me. It is a clear plan, but it doesn’t involve check boxes. For some personalities and goals, checkbox-oriented plans are ideal. But it’s not the only way to have a plan. Positively, they can be used for tracking progress and maintaining a regular rhythm for reading. Negatively, they could be used for motivation-by-list-completion. The “build-up” of make-up reading for missed days can also lead to motivation-by-low-grade-guilt. After missing too many days, many have abandoned not only that plan but any plan until the following New Year.
The 2OT-2NT Plan
If you have found that standard Bible-reading plans haven’t quite worked out for you, consider this one. It’s a no checkbox, no guilt Bible reading plan. And it’s not just for 2015; it’s for life.
It’s not complicated: Read two chapters of the Old Testament and two chapters of the New Testament every day. When you finish a book in either Testament, pick another one. It can be the next one in line, the same one again, or one that is of particular interest at the time. When you miss a day, forget about what lies behind and press on to what lies ahead. Open up where you left off and continue the plan, two OT and two NT. We might simply call this the 2OT-2NT Plan.
I’m currently reading through Isaiah in the Old Testament, and 1 Thessalonians in the New Testament, progressing two chapters each day in each book. When I get done with Isaiah, I will probably read Deuteronomy. I will decide what to read after 1-2 Thessalonians in a few days when I finish them. I may rewind and re-read them, but Romans has been on my mind recently as well, so I will probably revisit it.
Five Benefits of the 2OT-2NT Plan
- By reading a total of four chapters each day, the same amount of Biblical text is covered as yearly read-through-the-Bible plans. Most plans that cover the Bible in a year require a pace of about 4 chapters per day. I wanted that same pace, but without the necessity of making it through the Bible in a year. This plan maintains the same amount of reading, but covers the text in a more flexible manner. By reading two chapters in the OT and two chapters in the NT, and since there is built in flexibility to read certain books multiple times or others not at all in a given year, every page of the Bible won’t be read in the year.
- Without checkboxes for completion and the build-up of makeup reading, I’m motivated more naturally and biblically. I used to be partially motivated by the carrot of checked boxes and the pitchfork of feeling behind. I don’t miss that. Without those motivations, I’m forced to deal more immediately with my own heart. I need God’s word like I need food, why would I not want to read? If I miss a day, my sadness is that I’ve missed hearing from God through his word in this particularly focused way.
- Since I pick the next book to read each time I finish one, I am always reading what I am most interested in reading at the time. This doesn’t mean that I give myself a pass from reading parts of the Bible that don’t “interest” me as much as others. I have a sense of what I am prone to neglect so that I get back to them. It also doesn’t mean I’m always flipping around to different parts of the Bible; I do often follow in Canonical order to continue the flow of the story. Yet this flexibility has allowed me to read some books multiple times this past year (Isaiah, Hebrews, and Revelation). It has also allowed me to read Leviticus when, for various reasons, it was on the front burner of my mind.
- There is no need to ‘make-up’ reading for missed days. If a day was missed, it was missed. Press on. A potential downside compared with other plans is that without the fear “getting behind,” you might miss a lot of days. But I haven’t found that to be the case. In fact, when I used to “get behind,” it would keep me away from the Bible more than draw me in. I knew that when I missed two days the next time I read would take three times as long. If I didn’t have time for that, it would discourage me from reading.
- There are two additional benefits to reading from one Old Testament book and one New Testament book at the same time. First, it keeps me focused on just a couple places. I was never able to learn well when I followed a plan that had me reading one chapter from four different places in the Bible every day. Reading two chapters from two places keeps me focused. Second, by having one reading in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament, I am always keeping the whole story of Scripture in mind. If I’m having a hard time seeing the connection of the Old Testament text to Christ, the New Testament text does it for me much more easily. I still want to work at the OT text, but if I’m short on time, I know that I can walk away having seen Christ clearly from the NT text. Each day and over time I’m growing in seeing the coherence of the whole Bible.
Reading the Word to Know the Word
Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). We need God’s word like we need a meal.
Interestingly, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 here. Why is that significant? It means that Jesus was meditating on Scripture. Jesus isn’t just encouraging us to meditate on God’s word with this statement; He’s modeling it for us. He relied on Scripture, he memorized it, and he quoted it here in his time of temptation.
Whatever plan you use, make sure you have one. If you prefer check-box plans, I encourage you to check out Trent Hunter’s plan, Bible Eater. He’s my brother, and the plan is awesome. My favorite of it’s kind.
We read God’s word to know the Word, Jesus Christ, the Word-made-flesh.