2019 may be well into its second month, but in the spirit of the Lunar New Year, this writer proposes making a solid Bible-reading plan for the rest of the year.
Benjamin Franklin (1705-1790) was one of the founding fathers of the United States of America and as a polymath, his expertise stretched across an extraordinarily disparate range of disciplines. He was at once a scientist, inventor, politician and author and as a man of letters, Franklin’s quotes were considered as ingenious as his many inventions.
Among the most famous of these were, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”; “Never ruin an apology with an excuse” and “A penny saved is a penny earned”. My favorite is “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
People typically apply Franklin’s quote to their business plans, career aspirations and even their wedding plans. But aside from 50-page dossiers, working your way up the remuneration ladder or entering a lifestyle of committed monogamy, how about applying this wisdom to your Christian walk and better yet, your daily Bible reading?
The Christian Bible is a deeply complex book. Even with the help of study notes, concordances and modern interactive translations, the Bible’s narrative is still non-linear, steeped in allegorical content and can be interpreted in many different ways. As Christians, we have all been called to read God’s handbook for life but with what we know of His word, what is the best way to read it? With a yearly Bible plan, of course!
So what exactly is a yearly Bible reading plan and how do we benefit from using one? As with all plans, a yearly Bible reading plan will keep you accountable and on track to complete reading the Bible in one calendar year. Why is this such a big deal? Well, when you take on a tome that has 66 books, covering thousands of years, we need all the help we can get!
TIME FOR S.O.A.P.
Back in 2001, I got saved in a church in Auckland, New Zealand. During that time, my church embarked on a then-newly devised yearly Bible reading program. Every month, we were given a Bible bookmark which outlined the chapters and verses to read. Then from the pulpit, we were encouraged to do our daily S.O.A.P in our quiet time.
Far from being caught up in any rabid cult of supreme cleanliness and righteous hygiene, doing your S.O.A.P meant washing yourself in the Word of God: Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. The S.O.A.P. Bible reading program was so helpful for me in reading the Word that I’ve stuck to the same plan, with slight modifications here and there, for the last 18 years!
Here’s how it works. Unlike other yearly reading plans that simply focus on completing the Bible in a year, the S.O.A.P reading plan brings this to another level as you not only read, but also write about what you have learned from the daily Scriptures.
Each day, as you read your assigned three or four Bible chapters, you are encouraged to find a Scripture that really speaks to you. Once you find your (Scripture), you write down your (Observation)s of that Scripture detailing the information you gained from it. Next, you write down how you can use (Application) this Scripture in your life. Finally, you thank God in (Prayer) for the revelation you have received reading His word.
Here’s an example from my S.O.A.P reading:
Scripture: Proverbs [25:21-22] MSG “If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he’s thirsty, bring him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and GOD will look after you.”
Observation: Generosity on any level is a blessing to others. Whether it’s your enemy, your best friend, or even a family member, being generous to another person is one of the small joys of life. How is this so? God has made it so by the feeling we get by being generous. It’s a great feeling and God wants us to continue in that feeling. Generosity isn’t just about money as you can be generous with your time, also.
Application: Are we generous because we want to gain something from someone or do we do it out of love for another? If we truly love our neighbor then we will be truly generous to them. There should never be a need to receive anything in return because we know that God is the provider of all our needs. Our response must come from a generous heart because we believe in a generous God.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord Jesus, for being so generous to me. You have placed so many wonderful things in my life that I am truly grateful for. I feel blessed in my coming and blessed in my going because of You. In Jesus name, Amen!
Now, as you can read from my bible reading, I’m certainly no apologist or biblical scholar. What I have written is simple and to the point, which is the whole idea of the S.O.A.P reading plan. It allows you to conveniently and concisely get your revelatory thoughts down on the page and complete your daily Bible reading within 30 to 45 minutes.
WHERE TO GET A BIBLE-READING PLAN?
You can easily use City Harvest Church’s classic Bible-reading plan, available for download from its website. If you are looking for variety, you can check out the You Version website and app. Under its “Find a Plan” section, you can pick from countless yearly Bible reading plans from the Canonical (i.e. reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation) to Chronological (i.e. reading the Bible according to timeline) and more.
I, for one, would be completely lost without my yearly reading plan. In the very few instances where I have tried to do something different, I have always become ill-disciplined and wound up reading the same Bible passages, again and again. I believe the discipline you gain from completing the Bible in a year directly feeds your confidence in understanding God’s Word. I have found this to be so when I read the Old Testament for the first time. Over time, as I repeatedly stumbled over confusing passages, God revealed to me their deeper meaning—it was only through the discipline of daily Bible reading that I was able to gain this revelation. It makes you think about why we read the Bible and how we only get out what we put into it.
So, before you put your yearly action plans in place, consider the very Word that will guide you through this year. With the daily disciplined practice of reading God’s Word, you will find your life plans enlightened in new and often revelatory ways. After all, who better to lead your life than the One who wrote the plan for it in the first place?