What If You’re Falling Behind In Your Bible Reading Plan?

By this time, many who have ambitiously started the year out on a One-Year-Bible Reading Plan are quickly discovering that it is easy to fall behind.

Reading Bible - Bigstock Images

The thought of reading through the Bible in its entirety over course of just one year can be daunting. It’s basically like reading a series of 66 books in a year (Regardless of the length of the books, that’s quite an accomplishment!).

Some books of the Bible are shorter than others while some are longer, but the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament form the greatest series of books ever written.

Yet, as the length and breadth of the Bible meets the stuff of everyday life, it will take more than the initial inertia of a New Years Resolution to stay on track.

So, what should you do when you find yourself falling behind?

Remember Why You’re Reading Through The Bible

The Bible is unlike any other book you will read this year because it’s a living book.

Martin Luther wrote, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12-13).

The Bible’s message transcends time because its origin is Divine. Written by approximately 40 different authors over the span of 1500 years, it is completely unified in its central story line because it is the Inspired Word of God. Ultimately, GOD is the Author.

If you want to know God’s will, it’s found in God’s Word. If you want to know the way to salvation, the pathway is illuminated by God’s Word.

All of Scripture points us to the Savior, Jesus Christ:

• The OT shows us the need for Christ and foretells and foreshadows the coming of Christ
• The GOSPELS tell of his birth and his life, death, and resurrection
• The ACTS of the Apostles tell of all he continued to do after his ascension, through sending the Holy Spirit
• The EPISTLES display his glory and teach us how to live in light of the glory of Christ.
• REVELATION shows him as the Risen Lamb who reigns supreme as sovereign over all and who will return for his own

The Bible is so infinitely valuable because it leads its readers and its hearers to Jesus! Scripture is totally sufficient to provide us with all we need for salvation and for trusting and obeying God.

Take these encouragements from Psalm 19 to inspire you in your Bible reading:

• Do you need your soul revived? – “the law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul”
• Do you want wisdom? “the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple”
• Do you long for joy? “the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart”
• Do you desire discernment? “the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes”
• Do you want to be rich in your soul? “[the Word of God] is more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold?”
• Do you crave pleasure? “sweeter [are they] than honey and drippings of the honeycomb”
• Do you seek safety? “by them is your servant warned; in keeping them is great reward”

Remember why you’re reading through the Bible. It’s not meant to be a chore; it’s meant to lead you to everlasting joy in Jesus!

Take a Long-Term Approach

Whether you decide to read the Bible in a year or you adopt a more extended plan for Bible reading (e.g. my wife and my son are on a 2-year plan), you will be much more encouraged in this pursuit if you think long-term.

Reading through the Bible is more of a marathon than a sprint.

If you go into the year thinking that the only way to accomplish this goal is by having 365 days of perfectly-ordered mornings where you carve out 15-30 minutes of reading and meditation each day, you will probably be disappointed. Life has a way of throwing us off-track on even the best of our intentions.

Many people give up on their Bible reading plans simply because they missed several days of reading by the time they hit January 15th. Discouraged by what they sense is a complete lack of discipline, they abandon the plan all-together and wait to try again another calendar year.

If you’re behind in your Bible reading, don’t give up on your plan just yet. The accomplishment of any goal is not pretty.

I would like to say that all my Bible reading has taken place on normal days, in the early mornings, in my home, with a cup of coffee in my hand… but if I review the last 20 years, I know that this is simply not the case.

I’ve read large chunks of the Bible on family vacations each year and large chunks over the weekends. I’ve read the Bible in doctors offices on my iPhone, in my car as I wait to meet a friend for lunch, and standing in line at a coffee shop. I’ve listened to Scripture on long runs and even as I brush my teeth in the morning.

This leads me to my final point:

Have A Plan for When You Fall Behind

This past year, I ran my first marathon, and it taught me a lot about life. As I’ve reflected on my marathon training, I see a lot of parallels to the way I’ve approached the Scriptures these past 20 years of following Christ.

For the marathon, I had a detailed training plan and I had specific times set for my training runs, but I often had to reschedule them. And though I maintained every long run but one (due to injury), I did miss several short work outs and many of the long runs were completed creatively. I had to work through a very full calendar, a heavy workload, family commitments, and even injury in order to achieve the goal.

My marathon training reminds me a lot of how I’ve read the Bible over the years. If you fall behind, don’t worry and don’t be discouraged, you can miss a few workouts and still achieve the goal.

Instead of getting discouraged when you fall behind, I would encourage you to plan for it. There will more than likely be times when you are sick or you sleep in and you’re swamped with urgent deadlines.

Rather than giving up on your plan, think through the cracks and crevices of your life when you have the opportunity for a lengthier time to read. In those moments, you can get back on track.

Maybe it’s a Sunday afternoon, a weekday lunch, or a family vacation, but the beauty of taking a long-term approach is that you will be afforded time to catch up and to complete your goal.

And what could be more valuable than having God’s eternal Word stored up in your heart and soul?

“This Book [is] the most valuable thing this world affords…‘God’s sacred Word… is that inestimable treasure that excels all the riches of the earth.” (The preface to the ESV Bible)

May God fill you with His Spirit, wisdom, and grace as you persevere in reading and enjoying His Word!

“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

If you are interested in the Bible Reading Plan I enjoy the most, you can find it here.

Related Article: What’s So Special About the Bible, and Why Should We Read It Regularly?

Trusting God Through Changing Landscapes

iStock_000003913381SailingSunset

We are sitting in our rented beach condo, enjoying a slow, restful morning before the sun peeks it’s warming presence and invites us outdoors. Pandora is playing an Amos Lee station and the melody of a familiar song has sent me into a reflective state.

I must have listened to the song “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac 50-100 times in the fall of 2012 as I traveled weekly for a 3-month stretch, commuting from Knoxville to Nashville.

A ballad of change, parts of the song so aptly describe the fear and the resolve that I was experiencing as I had made the decision to transition from full-time ministry in Knoxville to starting a new job and serving as a pastor bi-vocationally in Nashville, in order to help plant a new church in the Franklin area.

“Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?”

“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too”

That’s exactly how I felt: resolved to push through the fear of change; in a word, I was resolved to “go.”

The realization had set in that I wasn’t getting any younger. My children were getting older, too, and I was absolutely convinced that God was calling me and my family right then to relocate to a new area for the sake of the gospel and to trust Him to make our steps secure.

Pushing Through The Fear, Embracing The Change

Within a matter of months, everything in my life changed. I had a new residence, a new place of employment, a new church to help start, a new circle of friends, a new city to explore, and a new group of people to reach out to.

We moved from eastern time to central time, where the sun sets at 4:30 in the dead of winter and sirens sound in the city to indicate when a tornado could be spinning through.

We had to learn our way around a grocery store again, find a new auto-mechanic (our van has over 175k miles on it), and make first-time visits to a dentist and eye-doctor (I’m thankful that my son’s new baseball coach also happens to be an excellent Optometrist, and one of the guys I see regularly in the line at Starbucks is a local dentist).

The fact is, change is hard. Some change is scary. Some is exciting. But all change brings both life and death, the birth of new things and the loss of others.

No matter how you shake it, new is uncomfortable. Yet, people don’t come to Christ without new conversations. Churches aren’t planted without change (both for the sending and the sent). Growth in any area requires that we stretch ourselves beyond what we are accustomed to normally.

It’s right in the midst of the discomfort that God meets us with His grace.

Psalm 23 reveals to us a God who gently shepherds His people throughout the changing landscapes of life. Sometimes there are “green pastures” and “still waters.” At other times, we find ourselves walking through “the valley of the shadow of death.” Yet, wherever we walk, we have the assurance that “surely goodness and mercy will follow {us} all the days of our lives, and {we} will dwell in the house of The Lord forever.”

If The Lord is calling you to a new normal, keep this encouragement close to your heart:

“Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” – Joshua 1:9

God is with you. By His grace, you can sail through the changing oceans tides and you can handle the seasons of your life. The life that is built on Christ is secure, regardless of the changing landscapes.

EnCourage: Examining The Purpose for Our Words

Hunger

Entering the office on Monday, I encountered a very strange smell. I quickly discovered that the refrigerator door had been left slightly cracked over the weekend and that it had obviously not been cooling its contents properly.

Everything that was supposed to be cold had become quite warm. You know exactly what happens when cheese and dairy gets hot. It molds. It decays. It rots, and then it inevitably stinks. My co-workers and I spent the first half-hour of the day cleaning out a nasty fridge!

The sobering reality of our experience is that our words can have a similar effect as the refrigerator in my office. They can either preserve and sweeten our relationships, or they can corrupt, decay, and rot them. For good or bad, our words have power.

Ephesians 4:29 says,

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Thankfully, God has designed our words to have a preserving, sweetening effect on others. As the people of God, we have the privilege of speaking in ways that build others up. Our little words can actually impart grace!

There have been so many times over the course of my life, when God has used someone’s words to impart grace to me.

    Hope comes through words.

    Comfort flows through words.

    Counsel is given through words.

    Forgiveness is extended through words.

    Grace is imparted to us through words.

God wants to use our little words to encourage, strengthen, comfort, and build up His people.

Those who have been consistently torn down by this world can be built up by God’s Word, through us.

Isn’t it encouraging to know that you can be a means of imparting grace to someone else today?

And even in the midst of our imperfections and the times we fail, we can look to the one who was perfect in all of his communication and never spoke a corrupt word. We look to Jesus and have hope:

“For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment — what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49).

“And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” (John 8:29)

The good news for all of us is that there is a Savior whose words and actions were fully pleasing to God, the Father, and those who are in Christ have been clothed in his righteousness.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:1,14,17)

Tomorrow, we’ll conclude this series by looking at The Potential In Our Words.