The Bible Reading Challenge
Bible reading plans mentioned in this article:
By way of introduction, a few passages from Psalm 119:
1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
12 Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. 14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
23 Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. 24 Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. 28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
81 My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.
92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
I’m writing today to challenge you to return to the Bible this year.
Of course this should surprise no one – an evangelical church’s pastor exhorting his people to read the Bible. Any many of you faithfully do just that. And yet, the year 2020 has exposed us to ourselves, and how we struggle to connect the truth of God’s Word to what we face today – some challenges which our generation has never seen before. For instance:
- In the matter of civil disobedience: when and how can a Christian, and should a Christian say “You’re my president/governor/mayor/etc., but that’s not my law, and I will not obey it”? This is not an easy question, but one that we are increasingly faced with. And yet Christians throughout the centuries have solved this knotty problem by planting their feet firmly on the unchanging foundation of God’s Word.
- On the matter of personal pronouns: many Christians – many of us – now work in environments where people’s pronouns are changing, because they are “changing” their genders. And that corporation or agency is essentially requiring its employees to go along with that, on threat of being shamed or losing their job. How to navigate this unprecedented situation? How to speak? How to act? On what basis? God’s Word gives us sure footing.
These are more public problems. But there are some that sit closer to home:
- If you’re like me, in the last year you’ve discovered again how quickly and easily our affections for Jesus can grow cold. That fire can quickly die down to just smoldering coals. But God’s Word is the kindling the Spirit uses to breathe new oxygen on that fire. For one dear sister in the Lord, she said to me once the only way that she was able to escape an unusually dry season was meditating on the Psalm I quoted above.
- Or we are constantly faced with more practical situations. A couple I know recently adopted a cute dog from the pound. But when they got it home, they realized that this dog was cute but ”nasty” – not good with three little girls in the family. So they sadly, with great hesitation, returned the dog to the pound. It could possibly be put down. But when a friend found out, they criticized the couple harshly on Facebook (why is it always Facebook?), saying that animals have worth too, that we should do all we can for them, etc. The wife of this couple was left racked with guilt and uncertainty. Where to find solid footing, to throw off false guilt, and respond kindly, but resolutely? Yep. God’s Word.
This is not to say that the Bible is God’s answer key for every test life throws at us. But it makes us wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15), by uniting us to Jesus (Romans 6:1-5). Which means we are then united to the One Who is himself the “way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). And the truth will set you free, fully equipped for “every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17) that you will ever face.
And this leads us to the last reason we need, must be in God’s Word. Francis Schaeffer once said that the two most important things the church has to offer is a) sound1 doctrine and b) honest answers to honest questions. But how can we experience either one, and how can give those honest answers, if we ourselves are not drawing from the well where those answers are found?
So I’m challenging you, and myself, to return to God’s Word.
There are many plans out there. For years I’ve followed the M’Cheyne Reading Plan (see link at the top). It calls for 4 chapters a day, both Old and New Testaments – though many days I only read one of the chapters listed.
But some days, it’s zero. And this leads me to the most important rule of any Bible reading plan: FOLLOW THE PLAN LIKE A CHRISTIAN, FOR WHOM ROMANS 8:1 IS STILL TRUE.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
In other words, if you miss a day, believe the gospel. There is no guilt, no condemnation. The next day, simply start with that day’s reading, and it will be good. Go back and catch up if you want, or don’t. It changes nothing of Christ’s work for you on the cross.
Now, the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan is not for everyone. Thus we are presenting another plan to you, one that calls for
- One chapter a day
- Six days a week
- To read through the entire New Testament
- In 44 weeks
Thus there’s lots of “give” in this plan, to take you through the New Testament in one year. You can download that plan at the top, or you can call the church office, and we’ll happily mail you a card. Or you can find them in the seat pockets in church. Take it home.
There’s also a 90-day plan. That’s also linked to above.
Don't Just Read
Now, along with reading that chapter, I invite you to do three other things. And each of these is meant to be brief; none are meant to be onerous or burdensome. You may switch the order of these, too:
- Each time you read, write down 1-3 things that you sense are most important in that chapter. You might just use a 3×5 card.
- Talk about one of those things, with someone else. Maybe your spouse, maybe a Facebook “friend”, a coworker over lunch, etc. Just chat, nothing more. We are commanded in Hebrews 3:13, as long as it is called today, to encourage one another of all that we share in in Christ. This might lead you back to our 1-to-1 Bible Reading practice, that we have talked about before.
- And pray, allowing those things you wrote down to be the priority, the most important thing in your prayer. Pray out of Scripture. This will transform your praying. And because Jesus is risen, probably your life.
Take Up the Challenge as a "Christian"
In all of this, I invite you to take up this challenge, not out of law, but by faith, in the grace of God. I mean out of a belief that God will be true to His Word. What does Psalm 119:165 say again above? Take up this challenge, believing that promise, and watch God work mightily, through His Word, through Christ, in us.
- “Sound”, as in soundness-causing, health-giving.