Resolved to Read God's Word (Updated for 2023)

Ah, those pesky "resolutions." How often we target some day or event—especially that beloved January 1 date so many of us call the new year, and by which so many of us live—stating that's the day we're going to "make that change." This can be a good thing, and it's typically thought of with great intentions. But frequently, and even annually just after a year begins, I hear people complaining they've fallen off whatever wagon they intended to ride. And that can be enough to make us give it all up fast. (Perhaps this is the year to consider a "Rule of Life" instead.) 

For many people, reading the Bible can become one of those "resolutions." And since we do have that handy 365 days in our calendar year, the top of a year or the beginning of a month are not necessarily bad times to get such a thing started.

But where to begin?

In the beginning? Genesis is not a bad idea if you want to go cover to cover. But after the excitement of creation, the sadness of the fall and the action and adventure that follow, a lot of people get bogged down a few books in, frequently for a lack of understanding what they're reading and why it's important. Whether or not that includes you, this should help your study.

For the new believer, the book of John is often suggested as a good place to start. In any of the Gospels, including Matthew, Mark or Luke, you'll get a picture of who Jesus is, frequently by His own words, and how He lived, died and came back to life in an amazing display of perfection and love for His people, which is exactly what the entire collection of 66 books is about.

Another popular standby is to read and pray through the Psalms and/or Proverbs each day.

But if you've already done or tried all that and would like a new approach, yet have no idea what that might look like, perhaps one of the following will help.

Plans and Tools

BibleGateway.com Reading Plans
The page above includes two 61 day overview plans to get you started if a year feels intimidating. There's also a 121 day overview. All three put together would gradually build you up to having spent over half a year in God's Word. Any of these are great recommendations for learning or reviewing major Biblical themes and characters. If you want to go for it, use the year plan.

Even More BibleGateway.com Plans
Lots of options here. This list gives you 365 day options for Old/New Testament, Chronological, Genesis-Revelation, Historical and NT only, plus a few 40 day plans for the coming Lent season. There's even a Bible in 90 days plan and an NT in 24 weeks guide for the particularly ambitious.

ESV.org Reading Plans
On top of the plans available through the link above, ESV.org offers a variety of daily reading plans of different lengths, including shorter, topical studies, with a free account. (Once you click "read now," you'll find those plans under the right most of three tabs featuring a calendar icon in the right hand panel.) Scroll through to see which might work best for you.

Crossway - ESV Podcasts (Added for 2023)
In 2023, I'm prepping to use one of Crossway's various ESV podcasts, particularly their "Straight Through the Bible" plan, with hopes of utilizing more commute time to focus on God's Word.

From Tim Challies' Blog
Here's a bunch of plan ideas from Challies, including the why-didn't-I-think-of-that "Change Your Mind" plan. For 2023, he has a few new recommendations, including the Five Day Bible Reading Plan.

• Ligonier Ministries Reading Plans (Updated for 2023)
A few more options, including a flexible 5-day a week plan, all available to download as PDFs. Ligonier also has suggestions for a basic overview of the Bible for those just getting started.

TGC's "Read the Bible"
Daily readings from four different books along with commentary from Don Carson. You can read or listen online, or download a printable PDF to follow along.

The Bible Project
Illustrated video summaries of each book of the Bible, plus series and theme videos to enhance your understanding as you go. They also have their own reading plan and an app to follow.

Bible Reading Plan Generator
Nothing look right for you? Build your own Bible adventure with this handy tool.

Hey, don't get overwhelmed here. The point is, you've got options. Choose one and get in there!

Tips and Tricks

No matter what you pick, as you embark on this journey here are some things to keep in mind:

Pray - Ask God what He wants to show you in the text. Pray the words back to Him as appropriate, or pray along to a Psalm that expresses how you feel right now. Be honest with God. He knows your heart better than you do. Ask Him to show you the truth, and to show you the love and forgiveness of Jesus throughout the Scripture and in your own life.

Look for Jesus - Remember, Jesus is who the Bible is all about. Really. He's in there everywhere, either literally or represented by something or someone. If you are wondering where He is and how to find Him, here's a quick and helpful summary. Seeing Jesus in ways you've never seen Him before will help you get to know Him better, and helps keep you motivated as you understand Who the Bible's really about.

Pick a time/place/plan/style best for you - Do this whenever and wherever you will be least distracted. Pick whatever works best in your current life situation, but pick something. If reading is not your thing, there are plenty of audio Bibles and podcast options, and the ESV site allows you to listen online as well.

Find a friend - This isn't mandatory, but a reading plan is often easier to stick with if you have someone reading with you. That way you can ask each other how you're doing and discuss what you're learning. I once created a private blog to do my study with others, and just being able to interact and comment each day in that way, much like journaling, really helped keep me going. (For 2 whole years even. Never thought I'd say that at the time.) It also helped me think and learn differently.

Don't give up - So you missed a day. Life happens. Just pick it up again wherever you are. 

A Powerful Experience

Let it be known, daily time in God's Word isn't natural to me either. But, by God's grace, from 2010-11 I didn't go a day without. (FYI, we traveled quite extensively during this time, so I made efforts to plan for reading time each day. Even at Disneyland.) This also started to encourage a friend who wanted to spend more time in Scripture, and having someone to share insights with was a helpful motivator. I was studying along with The Daily Office Lectionary, a 2-year plan which was great for me as I read something from Psalms or Proverbs, Old Testament, New Testament and a Gospel every day. This broadened my understanding of how The Bible is one story pointing to Jesus, the Savior who takes away the sins of His people from every race and era.

This was an amazing journey, and one I most certainly don't regret. I pray all this will encourage you on your own journey in God's amazing Word, and that you find incredible joy in spending more time with the Lord.