Saturday, December 31, 2016

Are Bible Reading Plans Legalistic?

It is a question I've asked. Is it legalism to use a Bible reading plan? Shouldn't I enjoy reading my Bible out of sheer love and spontaneous joy with no need of a plan?

I tend to be very structured with my Bible reading for one year, sticking close to a Bible reading plan. But then the next year I don't follow a plan, choosing to just read wherever I want. I don't think either are necessarily wrong and sometimes those "plan-free, spontaneous" years were years with an infant when life needs a little flexibility.

But guess which I like best at the end of the year? Yes. The structured years. That may have something to do with my personality and my love of lists, but the fact is that when I have a plan for my Bible reading, I do it. When I don't have a plan, it is all up to chance and there is a far greater chance that Bible reading will be crowded out of my day.

But is it legalistic to have a Bible reading plan?

I think of it this way. If a friend calls me and says, "We haven't gotten together for a while. How about meeting at the coffeeshop next week on Tuesday at 10:00?"

I don't say, "If you need to schedule a time to meet me, you don't really care about our friendship. You should love me enough to get together spontaneously."

Of course not. I appreciate my friend's effort to invest in our friendship. I will feel loved by her commitment.

If using a Bible reading plan is an asset to my walk with God, if it is the way I show that I'm committed to hearing from God's Word, then I don't think it is legalistic, but love.

Last year as a family, we used the Beginner's Bible Reading plan. This was a perfect fit for our children and I love that they built the habit of waking up with their alarm, grabbing their Bibles, and heading for the living room. In 2017 we plan to read through the New Testament with the children.

For my personal reading, I plan to read the Daily Light devotional which is Scripture arranged by themes in short morning and evening readings.

There are so many Bible reading plans. (This is a great list of Bible reading plans.) I don't believe it matters how much or how little you choose to read, but that you consciously decide to make God's Word a priority in the coming year and have a plan to make your priority a reality.

One of my favorite Bible resources is Power Bible. When Ed bought me a new laptop this past year, one of the first questions I asked was "Can you install Power Bible?" Power Bible is a very economical, easy-to-use computer Bible program. I use it all the time when I'm preparing Bible lessons, studying for Sunday School, or just in personal Bible study. When it is this easy to find a word meaning, do a word search, or check a commentary, I'm much more likely to do it.

What resources encourage your Bible study? Do you have a plan for your Bible reading in 2017?

19 comments :

  1. I"m always hungry for His word, and so I find I naturally find different ways of getting it. I've read thru the Bible 3x in my adult years, in a progressive daily manner, and recommend it to anyone feeling called to do it!
    I pray nearly daily with a friend, and we always start with scripture reading. I also keep my Bible next to my favorite chair, along with devotionals and other such books, that might encourage a fresh perspective.
    Very Happy and Blessed New Year everyone!

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  2. I used Dr. Charles Stanley's study Bible. He has a plan to read the Bible in a year this way: He starts at the beginning of the New and Old testaments and throws in the beginning of Psalms and Proverbs. That way, every day you are reading the New and Old testament and Psalms and Proverbs. It tends to hold my interest better this way. I did this for two years and this year am reading the New Testament and Proverbs on my own. I got the Message Bible which is verryyyy modern. So modern, in fact, I am waiting for the author to translate "Yo, dude. I am Paul." But, the irony of it being this way is, I can actually feel myself paying attention as if I were standing in the crowd. It is amazing in that aspect. I, too, am committed to making daily Bible study a priority this year. Have a wonderful New Year! I enjoy your blog very much.

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  3. Thanks much for the report on using the Beginner's Bible Reading Plan! It makes me happy to hear that you used it through the year and that it was a good fit for you. :-) Blessings on all your Bible reading and parenting in the new year!

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    1. And thank YOU for sharing your plan with us. It really was a perfect fit for our family last year. I loved how it prompted discussion on many different Bible topics and that we read from every book of the Bible.
      Gina

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  4. I plan to use one called Bible reading for Shirkers and Slackers from Ransom Fellowship. I used it before and I really like it.
    Happy New Year Gina!

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    1. I've used that one several times, Regina. I really liked it a lot also!

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  5. In 2016 I used a Chronological Bible Reading app that paired with the ESV version (you can choose any compatible version) to read through the whole Bible chronologically. I loved it and finished it up with time to spare! I agree, having a plan helps me stay on track.

    For 2017, I'm thinking of going back through passages I marked because I did not understand them. I'm also hoping to do some intensive reading of the NT. But I do wish I had a concrete plan! ;)

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    1. My husband has used an app for his Bible reading too and loved it. Since his phone is always with him, he could read whenever and wherever he wanted.
      Gina

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  6. I really like your explanation of why a structured Bible reading plan is a great way to build a friendship with God, and a way that works. Thank you! It encourages me to try for that more than I have been. This year, I found an app called NIV Live: A Bible Experience, where the Bible is read in a dramatized way. It's so interesting to listen to, even genealogies. :) I thought I'd listen to three chapters a day this year, as a different way of reading through the Bible in a year.

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    1. Sometimes hearing or reading the Bible by a different means helps me focus and think about it more deeply. I love that you have a plan to do this in the coming year.
      Gina

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  7. This year I am reading through the books of the Bible in alphabetical order...from Acts to Zephaniah! xx

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    1. Now that is a fun way to read the Bible in a different order!
      Gina

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  8. We own the Reese Chronological Bible and I've read through that one several times and really liked it. This past year I didn't read through the entire Bible, but did 12 different Scripture reading/writing plans (one per month) as well as some 6-week Bible studies.

    This year I am trying something quite different with a devotional book that I've read (but not studied) in the past. It's Charles Swindoll's Come Before Winter. Each day's devotional includes Scripture to study, and I will be meditating on those verses using the SOAP method. This will take me a few months and then I will see where I go from there. I have a Bible study on Colossians that I want to do next.

    As to your question -- are Bible reading plans legalistic? I would say only if we make them so. If we rigidly must read a certain amount each day just so we can check it off or say we've read through the Bible, and we really get little or nothing from the reading, then maybe we are being legalistic about it.

    But if we are using a plan to help us read God's Word daily and to help us get the most benefit from His Word, then no -- not legalistic at all.

    I use a prayer journal in my quiet time and it is the most important tool I have. It helps me to pray most effectively. Yet I know women who resist using a journal because they say it makes one's prayers too cut and dried, not leaving room for the Holy Spirit to guide one as to what to pray for. And so if you look at it that way, I suppose use of a prayer journal could also be considered legalistic. I can only say that I haven't found that to be the case at all. My prayer life is thriving more than ever and I believe the effective use of a prayer journal is one of the biggest reasons for that.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story of how it works for you. I love to hear how others find ways to grow in their relationship with the Lord.
      Gina

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  9. I think your "legalistic" approach is good. You are right in saying that if you don't plan it in, it tends to get crowded out. I am a very disorganized person and need lists and ahead-of-time plans, or nothing good happens, lol! I am sure that once you start reading, even if it was planned out ahead of time, you benefit from it and love it. :) P.S. Your baby is beautiful.

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  10. We're looking forward to trying the beginners Bible reading plan with our family this year. Thanks for sharing. I appreciate the perspective on meeting with God that you shared in your post. I have enjoyed the ideas from the comments too. Sometimes I dislike the push of reading through the Bible in one year, feeling like there's no time to linger. But I've also found when I'm more relaxed it's much more likely to get pushed aside, so it's been good to see other "plan" options that I could try.

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  11. Probably semantics is not what this article is about!:-) But am I wrong in thinking that it is never legalistic for me to do what I know God wants me to do. Simple walking with God and obeying Him. But when I look around at others and think that they also should be doing what I know God wants me to do (thinking of matters that are not directly spoken to in God's Word), then I am legalistic?
    Just some thoughts! I enjoy Bible reading plans, some years use them, some years just read through the Bible at my own speed. I am thinking about making reading through the Bible in entirety one of our children's high school requirements. God bless you!

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    1. Wendy-
      I really appreciated your thoughts on this topic - especially the warning to not look at others and judging them. And I probably shouldn't be looking at others and comparing myself (favorably or negatively) with others either!
      Gina

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  12. Thank you so much. I haven't a Plan to read the bible. We read bible book after bible book as family, after lunch and dinner. Personally I use books of spurgeon about the psalms to study the psalms this month.

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