A Flexible Bible Reading Plan


It was September 2009 when I bought my first real Bible. I found it at Goodwill for $2- probably the best bargain ever.

It was September 2010 when I decided I was applying to an inductive Bible school for the 2011-2012 school year. God had changed my life, changed my heart, and through a series of circumstances he showed me that what I needed in my life more than anything was more of God- more of his character, his love, his truth, as revealed perfectly in his written word. I had a heart for God, but I had finally realized that as a young Christian I desperately needed more wisdom than I was getting from my everyday life. Something had to change.

There was only one problem- I’d never actually read the Bible. OK, that’s not totally true: I highly valued Scripture verses that I saw online, and soaked up the words we read from Scripture in church and small group, and even tried to read some myself. However, I probably hovered around Psalms and Luke the most, and flittered around the Epistles, searching for verses I could apply to my life. Overall, I thought I was doing pretty good. But I still had the feeling that I wasn’t properly prepared for this Bible school, where we would be reading through each book of the Bible five times in the midst of our studies. So one night I listened to a podcast from SBS International (the organization behind my Bible school) called “How to Read the Bible”.

I found the message from Ron Smith very inspiring, and it totally changed the way I think about Bible reading. To me, reading through the Bible in a lifetime would have been a good goal, but he made it sound like it was so easy to read through the Bible multiple times a year! I decided that I wanted to try reading through the Bible before I started school in the fall, if not just to show myself that I would be able to handle my studies. So I decided to try one of the methods of Bible study he proposed- and it rocked my world, and set me on a path of deep love, affection and respect for the entire counsel of God. At almost the same time, my future husband was reading through the Bible for the first time as well, in a totally different way, but with similar results in his soul. The method I used is really different from what Chance described in his post “90 Day Bible Reading Plan (Chronological Order)”. But I found that it really worked for me, so I wanted to share it in case you have a mind that works like mine and not like Chance’s, or just want to mix up your routine of Bible reading.

So here’s what I did (it’s pretty simple): I listed out the books of the Bible from shortest to longest in my journal (here’s one list, although I’m not sure if it’s 100% correct it serves its purpose). I simply would pull out my list, see what needed to be read, evaluate how much time I had to read that day, and get started! The reason you list the books by length is so that you can try to read as many whole books at once as you can, depending on how much time you have. That way, if you have a short amount of time before bed you can read 3 John, and you have a free Saturday you can read Acts. Then just cross one book off the list, mark off the day you completed it, and move to the next book!

To me, there are a few beautiful things about this plan:

1) You are reading whole books at a time.

One of the main principles of inductive Bible study is realizing that each book of the Bible was written as a whole letter or story by a specific author to a specific audience. Therefore, the best way to understand the Bible is not to pick apart at certain verses, but to read whole books the way that they were originally delivered and intended to be read. Reading whole books helps you get the whole thrust of the author’s argument, to see how he balances certain ideas or concepts, to see what his intended impact on his audience was. The books of the Bible, and in fact the Bible as a whole, are not a bunch of pearls, but rather a whole, beautiful necklace. Most people understand that the historical books of the Old Testament or the Gospels should be read as a whole, because they are narratives. But it is equally important to read the Epistles of the New Testament as whole letters and not as fragments, lest we lose track of the author’s intent and begin to take statements out of context. So to me, any Bible program that emphasizes whole book reading is a good and valuable thing! Yes, some of the books of the Bible are long and take a while to read at once, but I found that when I started with some shorter books, God worked in my heart so that I really began to desire to read the Bible more and more. That made the longer books more desirable and easier to read! Of course, I couldn’t read every book at once (for example, Psalms), so I tried to make a schedule for that week, and read 10 or 20 Psalms a day. *Side note: a great way to read through books of the Bible in one sitting is to read them out loud! 1 Timothy 4:13 says, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture…” and I have found that reading a book of the Bible out loud with a friend is an amazing way to grow in friendship, discipleship, and mutual affection for Christ!

2) The flexibility.

I find that lots of people start a chronological reading plan, or start reading from Genesis 1, and slowly get burnt out around Leviticus. As I said before, I was a new Christian and not used to reading the Bible, and I really enjoyed reading some of the shorter epistles and the gospels first to get my feet wet. The first “long” book I read was Acts, which absolutely blew my mind! Then I added in some shorter Old Testament books like Ruth and Esther, and some of the minor prophets. The wisdom literature, like Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, was easy to understand and enjoy. Finally, I started reading the Old Testament history starting with Genesis and ending with 1 Chronicles. By that time I felt much more comfortable with my Bible and was excited to learn more about the history of God’s people. Now that I am more familiar with my Bible, this plan allows me to choose whatever I feel like reading that day, and hopefully the Spirit will move me to read books at a certain time. This is what I would call “a plan for life”- it is flexible enough to be the way I read my Bible every year without needing to mix it up!

3) The sense of accomplishment.

This is superficial, but if you’re a list maker, then you will get a kick out of crossing a book or two off your list. Sometimes, you need the little things to keep you motivated!

I hope that you will try this method if it is appealing to you with it’s simplicity. I was able to read through the Bible in about 5 months while working full time and maintaining a regularly normal lifestyle (although your TV watching habits may change dramatically- I went from watching multiple shows a day to now watching basically no TV, all starting back to when I started reading the Bible…) Even if it takes you longer to read through the Bible, the timing is not the most important thing- it is that you are consistently getting in God’s word as it was meant to be read, and hearing the Spirit speak into your life through the living word. “For 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.” {Hebrews 4:12} Nothing can bring correction, conviction, repentance, wisdom, affection for God, praise for Christ like God’s word. Whatever way you read it, just read it!

You can also check out 90 day bible reading plan(chronological order)

With love in Christ,

Mary Austin