Bible Reading

As 2023 came to a close, 2024 began with new promises and possibilities. These first few weeks of a new year mark a time when many of us reevaluate the way we did things in the past in order to change and make life better in the future.

It should come as no surprise that the most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, read more, watch less, or simply become a more pleasant person. All of these are good aspirations, but it’s hard to find the perfect goal that you can stick with till the end. Instead, this list of resources are here to help promote practices that will benefit your body, mind, and soul.

However you choose to carry out the new year, it is our prayer that you will draw nearer to Jesus in 2024.

1. Read Through the Bible

Even though most Christians desire to read God’s Word all the way through, most of us simply haven’t been able to do it. The Haven Original book, Christ in All the Scriptures: Reading and Praying Through the Bible in a Year, is designed to help you do just that. It’s an easy‑to‑navigate, hardback book that contains overviews of each book in the Bible and prayers centered on each reading. We would like to challenge you to make 2024 the year you read and pray through God’s Word — and this book will help you do just that, all while finding Jesus on every page of your Bible.

2. Memorize Scripture

Many of us have tried to memorize short Bible verses in Sunday school, but this ambition usually isn’t prevalent among adults. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you,” and Paul also writes in Colossians 3:16 to “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.”

To help you memorize portions of God’s Word, we recommend you listen to this podcast with Aaron House on how to memorize Scripture simply and effectively. You can also get a copy of his book on the topic here.

3. Pray More Consistently

Many of us pray at night as we fall asleep or when we need an immediate helping hand, but God desires that we continually communicate with Him. The trouble is, we so seldom do it.

Sherry Harney wrote a remarkable book on how to make continuous prayer a natural part of our lives rather than something on our daily spiritual checklist. Praying with Eyes Wide Open is a resource for anyone who wants to better understand what prayer is and why we need to do it continually.

4. Take Care of Body & Soul

This wouldn’t be a “New Year’s Day” post if we didn’t have one category on improving our health. But this topic is much more significant than looking better and feeling more energetic. When we take care of our bodies, we are being good stewards of the way we live and serve Christ in this world. Read about the practice of replacing your unhealthy cravings for certain foods with a healthy craving for God with Lysa TerKeurst’s bestselling book Made to Crave. Or simply follow your favorite blog or eating/workout plan to live healthier the life God has given you.

5. Take Care of Your Money

It is no secret that the Bible has a lot to say about how we use the very thing we often feel we can’t get enough of. But that’s the thing–there is always room for us to better handle how we look at the money we earn and what to do with it once we have it.

Dr. Ben Witherington is a New Testament scholar at Asbury Theological Seminary, and he’s paid close attention to what Jesus said and didn’t say about money. Here’s an interview with Dr. Witherington on the topic with links to help you use your money in the coming year the way Jesus would want you to use it. Here’s his book.

You’d think that because I’m a pastor, reading the Bible regularly would be easy.

And by reading, I don’t mean studying, which I do every week for the morning and afternoon services at my church. I mean reading the Bible for the pleasure of hearing again the story of redemption, for the joy of seeing my triune God’s character revealed page by page.

That kind of reading has become more difficult than it used to be. And that is because I am now the father of one extremely active little girl and have a wife who technically works part-time as an ENL teacher (though no teacher works part-time).

That means that all the freedom I never realized I had to simply pick up the Bible any time of day has vanished beneath my daughter’s schedule, my wife’s schedule, and my own limited energy levels. So to all those out there who begin the day thinking, “Today I’m going to read my Bible,” but who find that time slips away from them under the other demands which our Lord has placed in your life, let me say: I understand.

And I think I can help you.

Here is what I have learned to do so that I can read the Bible regularly.

1. I get up at 5:30am.

I do this because that is when my daughter, whom I love with all my heart, is not up and is not likely to be up for at least an hour—and when our Lord is being especially merciful to my wife and I, two hours.

I also do it early because in the evening, I’m too tired to enjoy the Bible (and I really want to enjoy it while I read). I have also found that when I’ve stayed up until midnight to catch my second wind, my daughter’s rise-and-shine approach to each day means I will lose my first wind the next day.

2. I eat breakfast, read a bit of the paper, and pour myself some coffee.

I do this because it wakes me up so that I can actually enjoy the Bible. Sometimes, I’ll skip breakfast and workout for a half-hour because it accomplishes the same thing. My goal is to be alert, so I always drink coffee when I read.

3. I pray briefly and follow my reading plan.

Prayer is of course important because we all want the Lord to bless his word to us. My prayer is usually short, just a sentence or so, asking the Lord to fill me with a great knowledge of him and his word. Then I embark on my reading plan.

I’ve been following the Bible in 90 Days program, but any reading plan will do. I follow a plan because without one I’ve found that I spend a significant portion of my reading time wondering what I want to read rather than just reading.

4. I try to give myself 21 minutes of uninterrupted time.

Why 21 minutes? Because it takes the average person seven minutes to read the average length chapter of the Bible. So, my usual goal when not reading the Bible in 90 days is to read three chapters at a time. Sometimes I get more and sometimes less. When I get interrupted (say my daughter decides that 6:00 a.m. is a great time to get up and my wife is exercising), I will go and take care of my daughter because I know that I can find seven minutes for the remaining chapters throughout the day. During her newborn days, that was actually how I did it: I would use seven minutes of her mid-morning nap to read one chapter and then seven minutes of her afternoon nap to read another, and seven minutes in the evening just before dinner, while I was still awake.

Obviously people’s schedules are different, but I’m certain that if you look at your calendar you have seven minutes in various portions of your day to fit in Bible reading.

My only advice is this: Read it when you’ll be likely to actually enjoy it.

5. I don’t worry if I miss a day or two.

I try to not miss more than two days so that I don’t fall out of the habit, but if it happens, it happens. The reason why I don’t worry is because reading the Bible is a means of grace and communion, not a way that makes the Lord pleased with me. I don’t read the Bible to create communion with the Lord but to grow my communion with him.

That’s why I’ve worked hard to make reading the Bible a priority, not because I have to. But because it encourages my soul and my prayers.

Reading the Bible for a sermon is always geared to the church—What does the Lord have to say to my people? Reading the Bible for myself is geared to my soul—What does the Lord have to say to me?

The message is always the same, but my own posture of listening is different. In sermon preparation, I find I am listening for others; in private reading I find I am listening for myself. Someday those two things may become one. Right now, though, they are not. So I read with the freedom to miss a day because my real goal isn’t to complete a reading schedule (though I like checking off boxes).

So what’s my secret? Is it getting up early? Drinking enough caffeine? Not really. My secret is that my real goal is to listen to the Lord and grow in my love for him—not win his favor by reading his word.

I hope that, too, is why you’re reading the Bible—not to check off a box but to grow in your knowledge and love of the one who first loved you.

Happy reading.

About the Author

Matt Barker is an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and pastor of Grace Reformed in Walkerton, Indiana. He married up to a wonderful wife who gives happiness and wisdom, and has a wonderful daughter who encourages fun and vigilante prayer.

Right now, I’m in the middle of reading the Bible through for the seventh time. My story, though, is a story of a series of failures, not successes.

In my early days as a Christian, the pastor of my church once encouraged everyone to read the Bible with him in a year. And most everyone failed, including myself. At the end of the year, despite my failure, I was at least convicted that I needed to read the Bible cover to cover.

Because every time I read God’s word, especially whole passages and not isolated verses, I understood it in a profound new way. Every time, there’s more for me to take to heart in my life story.

So that year, I picked up my Bible again, and read it in 18 months instead of 12.

Thirteen years later, I was busy as the speaker and leader at Haven Ministries, and something made me recall that my predecessor, Ray Ortlund, used to read a new copy of the Bible through each year—making underlines and jotting down notes.

And again, I was convicted that I needed to read the Bible cover to cover. 

But it didn’t happen until I heard about the Bible in 90 Days program. At first, I laughed. I thought the program was a gimmick. I thought it was something an ad agency came up with. And surely, it couldn’t be a holy way to read the book.

A few months went by and then I met the former agnostic who came up with the Bible in 90 Days. He was a computer programmer who thought, what if I divided God’s word in equal number of verses over a short period of time, and then just pray?

God, if you’re really there, just show yourself to me.

When I heard about how Ted Cooper ended up meeting the God of Creation and his son Jesus Christ, I was convicted yet again about how I not only could do this, but that I needed to do this.

Like all of us, I’m busy. What’s worse, I’m busy in the ministry. So the last six times that I’ve started reading the Bible through in 90 days, I’ve been interrupted by speaking engagements, plane trips to conferences, leading a trip through Israel. It’s not always possible for me to read the Bible every day.

But praise God, that even if it’s May and not March when I finish reading the Bible, that I’ll still finish the Bible in 90 days one more time. (Not consecutive days, OK, but 90 days still!)

Getting that 30,000-foot view of the Bible is worth it. It helps me put specific verses and even theology in context. It answers so many questions I have.

Do you want to read the Bible in 90 days? Or 180 days? Or a year? Sign up, and let us encourage you with weekly overviews, insights, and encouragement from other readers.

Wanting to do this is the first part. But you can’t want it or do it unless the spirit of the Lord helps you. You can’t do it on your own.

Lord, help us to desire to meet you in your word. 

As the leader of the 80-year-old Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” Charles is a former secular journalist, working for United Press International, and a former press secretary for two U.S. senators. After seminary, he started working in the Christian world, coming to Haven as the fourth speaker in 2000. He and his wife Janet are looking forward to their soon-to-be-released book Missing Jesus: Find Your Life in His Great Story

Each year, many Christians and non-Christians set out to read the Bible in a year. Why do they do it? Or rather, to be antagonistic, why shouldn’t they do it? Here are 10 reasons not to read the Bible cover to cover this year.

  1. You don’t want to know how much God loves you.
    The Bible is God’s revealed word to us, like a letter where he writes to us about everything he wants us to know about himself and about what kind of relationship he wants with us. Mostly, he coveys his undying love from the beginning of time.
  2. It may change your heart.
    God’s word doesn’t return void, which means it either hardens us, or softens us toward the Lord. Either way, we are changed and change is scary.
  3. It may ask you to change your behavior.
    I don’t know about you, but I think I’m a pretty good person. Until I read God’s condemnation to those who covet, complain, idolize, and more. Then I realize how much sin I do, how much good I don’t do, and how much I need Jesus’ forgiveness and the Holy Spirit’s daily help.
  4. You prefer self-reliance.
    Reading the Bible may shake you to your very core, showing you how many times those who relied on themselves lost everything and were left with nothing.
  5. You don’t want to grow in your faith.
    Those who pray for patience should be prepared for opportunities to be patient, and those who pray for growth in faith, should prepare for challenges that will produce growth.
  6. You’re afraid of failure.
    If you should fail to read the Bible in a certain time period, then what?
  7. You prefer debates about short verses.
    Reading the Bible beginning to end provides a grand sweep of the history between God and man. In the end, it’s much like buying a coat rack: Each time you study an individual book in depth, you can hang another coat on the rack. And each time you enter a debate, or are confused about a passage, you can better put it in context instead of interpret a verse incorrectly.
  8. You don’t want to understand Bible references in literature, movies, and even the newspaper.
    Once you understand who the characters are and what they did, you’ll be a more comprehensive reader of literature and a winner at trivia games.
  9. It may become a habit that lasts longer than 90 days, or 365 days, or even years.
    If you complete the goal of reading the Bible, you may find that it’s become a daily habit that can’t be shaken. Now I can tell the difference in my attitude and anxiety on days when I don’t read the Bible compared to days when I do.
  10. God may demand your life.
    If you don’t believe you’re a sinner and don’t believe that Jesus died to save you from your sin, the Bible just may change your mind. And if it changes your mind, it means that like the fishermen or tax collectors of the New Testament, God may require you to give up everything and follow him. And that is terrifying. But it’s the best invitation in the world.

In 2023, like many other people, I set out to read the Bible in year. Thanks to my canonical plan on my smartphone’s Bible app, I was able to stay on track for most of the year. But like 90 percent of people, I didn’t hit Revelation by December 31st. Now it’s early January, and I’m determined to finish it anyway. My biggest fear in starting out on this journey was that I would fail. And though I did, in the sense that I didn’t make it in a year, I realize that even the desire to say I had done it was pride. Failure is in quitting altogether.

What I have learned along the way, and how I have grown along the way—namely in patience, calmness of spirit, and knowledge of God’s love—is priceless beyond any bragging rights to having completed a New Year’s resolution for 2023.

If you find that one of these reasons not to read the Bible is one of yours, I challenge you to take a risk and at least hear what God has to say to you—no matter how long it takes.