My high school youth group used the Word of Life program. (Some of you may be familiar with it, the associated WOL Bible Institute or the summer camp in Schroon Lake, NY.) The program employs a wonderful format called DIA — Discipleship In Action. It encourages one-on-one work between leaders and teens, but it also utilizes a system to establish daily “quiet times” or devotions. It’s a great habit-builder … that is, until you graduate from the program.
You see, the program uses (or at least it did twenty years ago when I was teenager) workbooks with specific readings, questions, applications and prayer prompts. I became quite dependant on those workbooks and felt pretty lost when I no longer had them. I knew how to follow the book, but I hadn’t a clue how to study the Bible on my own.
Even in Bible college I had specific assignments and directions to follow for my “personal” pursuit of God. The problem comes when all these guidelines disappear. How do grown-ups maintain consistent times with God?
Some of us are tempted to think that we don’t need a system or a plan for our relationship with God. It’s meant to be organic and natural. Well, that’s true, in some ways, but we should also be intentional. If we truly desire to know God and to know His purposes for us, we need to seek Him. That includes having a regular time of one-on-one interaction with Him and His Word.
There are many, many, many great reading plans available. How do you know which one to choose? Well, it really doesn’t matter. Honestly. All of Scripture is useful for training and teaching. All of it is the Word of God and, as such, all of it can teach you about Him.
A number of people severely questioned my desire to teach on the book of Judges this past fall. Sure, it’s a violent, disgusting book and studying the Gospels or the Psalms seems much more uplifting. But you know what? I learned SO MUCH about God this fall! It amazes me how He can permeate even the most abhorrent histories, redeeming them and training me centuries later. How cool is that?
So, it doesn’t matter which reading plan you pick. Just pick one. God will do the rest.
That said, there are a few things to consider.
- Time Commitment: Few things are more frustrating than setting a goal that cannot be reached. If you work three jobs, have two kids and very little help in managing life, you probably shouldn’t choose a plan that requires you to read for an hour every night. Pick something that is do-able.
- Depth of Content: Try to choose something that will challenge you, but not overwhelm you. If you’re new to Bible study, Revelation is probably not where you should start. If you’ve memorized the entire book of John, choose something a little less familiar this time. You want to grow spiritually, not grow discouraged.
- Personal Needs: If you have a craving, perhaps you should pick something that specifically addresses that topic. For example, if you struggle with pride or forgiveness, a study of passages that deal with those issues could prove very helpful. On the flipside, if you’re a single parent struggling with lust, a study on Song of Solomon is not a good idea. Choose a plan that will meet you where you are and help you get to where you want to be.
- Accountability: How will you stick with it? We usually frown at peer pressure, but sometimes it’s a beautiful thing. If your small group, spouse or best friend is doing a specific plan, why not join them in it? Remember, we will be hosting Read with Me here every Friday. Come check in with us!
Okay, so now you know what you want. Where can you find it? Here are a few places to look:
- Study Bibles: Look in the front or back. The One Year Bible even has check-boxes to easily track your progress.
- Bible Publishers: NavPress offers several different plans, some for immediate download and some in print versions. This is the plan we have used for the Read with Me Challenge the last two years. You can find a few more, also from Discipleship Journal, here.
- Devotional Publishers: The Daily Bread is a well-known daily devotional. They and many other devotional publishers (both in print and online) offer excellent resources for being in the Scriptures on a regular basis.
- App Stores: I posted last week about YouVersion, but I’ll gladly mention it again. This free app is amazing! Okay, so there are a few things I would change about it, like being able to highlight specific words rather than entire verses and being able to access it offline, but for the most part this is a tremendous tool. Using this app on your Kindle Fire, iPad, iPhone, laptop, desktop, Android … nearly anything with an internet connection, you can choose from TONS of reading plans. Choose from topical, whole Bible, partial Bible, youth or devotional plans. You can link with friends online as accountability and encouragement partners. You can take notes, highlight passages and easily re-adjust your schedule if you get ahead or behind. GREAT STUFF.