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Text-Driven Discipleship: Devotional Bible Reading




In continuing our Text-Driven Discipleship series, today we're discussing the need for daily bible reading, also called devotional bible reading. The Bible is the sustenance that every believer lives off of. Therefore, having a good Bible reading plan is essential to the life of a believer. In yesterday’s Text-Driven Podcast episode (Episode 155), we discussed how devotional Bible reading is different from Bible study because the purpose of devotional reading is to read and think about what is read. Therefore, it does not require or entail using commentaries or study notes. Building on that helpful podcast episode, today's article will present a realistic Bible reading plan that will lead a believer to grow constantly and consistently.


Floor and Ceiling

To begin, let me use an illustration of how devotional Bible reading works. Bible reading is very similar to weightlifting. Every person who goes to the gym will have different starting points and different initial goals. The first thing that a new weightlifter has to figure out is what their "floor" is. A "floor" is the lowest weight at ten reps that still activates the muscle. Once a weightlifter knows their personal "floor," he can begin to organize his workout plan. The second thing a weightlifter will need to know is their "ceiling." A weightlifter's "ceiling" is the highest weight he can lift for one rep with good form. The goal of the "floor" and the "ceiling" is to both rise consistently so that both are higher than when the weightlifter began. The weightlifter grows his "floor" and "ceiling" by excelling in lifting the weight levels in between. The scientific term for this is "progressive overload." Progressive overload is the only way for muscles to grow.


The same is true in devotional Bible reading. Every Bible reader, whether new or experienced, must know his "floor" and "ceiling" of Bible reading. The "floor" for Bible reading is the least number of verses a person can read, where the reader's mind is activated in thinking. The "floor" for an experienced Bible reader may be a chapter of Scripture because a few verses could be glided through easily. The "floor" for a new Bible reader may just be a few verses. The "ceiling" of Bible reading is the most verses a person can read while remaining engaged. Some people may be able to read ten chapters without their minds wandering, while others' minds wander after about ten verses. The best way to discover your "floor" and "ceiling" is by trial and error through the plans suggested in the next section.


Nonetheless, the best Bible reading plan is one that you actually use.

Reading Plans

Each of the plans suggested below could be either your "floor" or your "ceiling." Once you discover what your "floor" and "ceiling" are, you should decide on the plan that falls in between those two and then seek to grow to the next "weight level." Nonetheless, the best Bible reading plan is one that you actually use.


The Bar

The simplest Bible reading plan is reading one verse a day. This plan may be where someone must begin their journey in Bible reading. A way to do this reading plan would be to read one verse in Proverbs a day or follow a ministry like DateTheWord.com, which publishes verse-of-the-day devotionals. If you've never read Scripture before, a verse-of-the-day reading plan will help you get familiar with the different books of the Bible, begin to give you spiritual nourishment, and help you establish a daily Bible reading habit.


The 25-Pound

The next level is reading a paragraph or a section of the Bible at a time. This Bible reading plan avoids the sporadic jumping around the Bible reading plan and moves toward a systematic but slow reading through the Bible. The best way to start this plan is to begin in Philippians and read 8-12 verses daily. Once you finish Philippians, move into Colossians, and keep moving book-by-book through the New Testament.


The Plate

The joke in weightlifting culture is, "Anything under a plate (a 45-pound weight) doesn't count." The first goal of every weightlifter is to be able to do a lift with a 45-pound "plate." The "plate" of Bible reading is a chapter of Scripture. A chapter of Scripture is where the reader will read a passage in its complete context and, therefore, have a better understanding of it. While reading less than a chapter certainly still "counts," the goal for those who start on the Bar plan or the 25-pound plan is to move towards being able to read one chapter of Scripture daily. Reading one chapter of Scripture daily uses the same outline as the 25-pound reading plan, but instead of 8-12 verses, you read a whole chapter daily and work through the New Testament. Once you reach the end of Revelation, you return to Matthew and then systematically work through each New Testament book one chapter at a time.


The Two Plates

The next level of Bible reading is adding a second chapter of daily Bible reading. One way to do this would be to add a second chapter to your New Testament reading plan, but a better way to do this would be to start reading books in the Old Testament. A great book to start with is 1 Samuel. You may need to start with reading 8-12 verses, but you'll likely be able to read a chapter from the Old Testament daily fairly quickly. Once you finish Malachi, return to Genesis. The Two-Plate reading plan gives you the foundation to work systematically through both the Old and New Testaments simultaneously.


The Two Plates Plus Cardio

The next level of Bible reading is adding to the Two-Plates reading plan (above) a book of the Bible that you read a chapter daily from, but you read it on a loop. The book of Proverbs is a fantastic book to read on a loop. Simply read a chapter a day from Proverbs (you can even associate each chapter with the date) and return to the first chapter when you finish the 31st chapter. You can also do this with any book of the Bible, and it will help you gain a greater understanding of that specific book of the Bible. Psalm 119 is also a great chapter to read on a loop. Instead of a chapter at a time, read a Hebrew letter a day. How many times should you read a book of a loop? We believe that seven times is a good number. Once you've read through a book seven times, reading one chapter a day, choose another book to read through on a loop.


The Multiple Lifts

The next level of devotional Bible reading is reading in multiple areas of each Testament. In this plan, you would read one chapter in Matthew, then add the reading of a chapter in Romans. This plan creates two systematic readings through the New Testament. You can also do this within the Old Testament. If you're reading a chapter in Job daily, you can begin reading a chapter in Genesis daily. Now, you have two systematic readings through the Old Testament.


Continual Progressive Overload

The next levels of devotional Bible reading are simply adding more chapters and more loops to your Bible reading. Eventually, you may find that the amount of Scripture you're reading isn't limited by your ability to engage but, instead, the amount of time you have to read. If this is the case, split your Bible reading time in half and read your New Testament chapters and loops in the morning and read your Old Testament chapters and loops in the evening. To continually grow in your devotional Bible reading, you may add special month-long plans, like reading five Psalms daily for 30 days. As you continue to add chapters, loops, and special plans, begin to evaluate that you're not going above your “ceiling.” This ceiling evaluation will ensure that don’t stop engaging with the Scriptures as you read.


The goal of devotional Bible reading isn't to say that you've read Scripture daily but to continually grow spiritually.

Conclusion

The goal of devotional Bible reading isn't to say that you've read Scripture daily but to continually grow spiritually. I can't tell you where to start because every person is unique in their spiritual and reading background. There may be circumstances that prevent you from being able to add more chapters. That doesn't make you less spiritual than a person who can read more at a time. There's no shame in needing to start simple and there's no pride in being able to read a ton of chapters. Simply seek to grow constantly and consistently. And if you miss a day of Bible reading, just pick back up where you left off. Figure out what plan works for you, seek to stretch yourself to grow, and find joy in reading Scripture daily.





Written by Klayton Carson


The "Text-Driven Discipleship" series is also on the Text-Driven Podcast. You can listen to the Text-Driven Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or at www.textdriven.org/podcasts. New episodes are released every Monday, just in time for your morning commute.


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