Denise Hughes is a friend who loves words and the Word. I first met Denise when I guest posted on (in)courage. She’s a teacher at heart and loves to share her passion for writing and digging deep in scripture. Ever feel aimless in your Bible reading? Well, Denise has a remedy for the plight of the random quiet time and stick around — she also has a free gift for us!
When I taught English in high school, at least one Shakespearean play was required reading each semester. By the time my students had reached my class, they’d already been exposed to Shakespeare in earlier grades, and they knew it wasn’t the easiest material to read. So whenever I told my students we were going to read a play by Shakespeare, my announcement was met with equal parts weeping and gnashing of teeth.
To help my students enter the world of Shakespeare, I’d spend a couple of class periods talking about European life in the 1500s, especially in England where Shakespeare wrote and directed his plays. We’d look at pictures of the costumes they wore and the props they used for “special effects” on stage.
We’d also discuss the plotline prior to reading the play. I’d have to explain I wasn’t trying to be a plot spoiler; rather, Shakespeare’s audience already knew the storyline before going to the theater because he mostly took existing stories and recreated them with his own artful spin on the language. The audience came to hear Shakespeare’s unique presentation of the stories they were already familiar with.
In the same way, it’s important for every reader of the Bible to have a grasp of the overarching story in the Bible. We’re supposed to know the ending. Having an accurate overview of the Bible helps us to better understand who God is and the part we play in His story.
I call this the Telescope Approach, seeing the bigger picture of God’s story of redemption throughout the history of humanity. With the Telescope Approach, we either read the Bible “cover to cover” or we read a chronological Bible, which is the entire Bible arranged in the order events actually occurred in history.
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Many Bibles divide the text into 365 readings to help us stay on track and read the whole Bible in a year. I once bought a Bible with 365 readings that included a little bit of Old Testament, a little bit of New Testament, and a few Psalms and Proverbs sprinkled in for good measure—like salt and pepper on your meat and potatoes. It was a nice idea but it didn’t work. At least not for me. The text didn’t flow because the stories were chopped in strange places. I’d start to get into a passage, then it would stop and redirect my reading elsewhere. I found the reading experience frustrating and quit. Then I felt guilty for quitting.
I discovered that, for me, the most promising way to stay in God’s Word daily is to move through the books of the Bible. Not hopscotching my way through, landing on some parts while skipping others. Some seasons have been great. I couldn’t wait to dive into His Word each day. But there have been dry seasons too—times when I skipped a few too many days until I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I last opened my Bible. I don’t think I’m alone either. Most people experience ups and downs in their quiet times.
I’ve noticed, however, that my dry seasons all had one thing in common: I lacked a reading plan. So the antidote for my lapse in daily study is to have a reading plan. That way I’m not coming to the Bible each day wondering what I should read. I’m not flipping and skipping until I find something that strikes my fancy. Nor am I opening up to a random page and starting wherever. Just imagine trying to read Shakespeare that way! As an English teacher, I would never tell my students to open up a Shakespearean play in the middle, read a few lines of verse, and call it good for the day. They’d never learn how the scenes work together for the overall plot. Having a plan remedies this typical plight-of-the-random-quiet-time.
So I’d love to share with you a 365-Day Bible Reading Plan that takes you through the Bible—book by book. But a reading plan is simply a tool to help us stay on track when our daily reading becomes hit and miss. You can always move through a reading plan at your own pace. Don’t ever feel pressured to follow a plan dogmatically. It’s fine to take a one-year plan and move through it in two or three years. The important thing is being in the Word daily.
Being in the Word isn’t a race to the finish line. It’s the water we need while running in the race of life.
Denise is sharing her 365-Day Bible Reading Plan with us today. What a great way to stay focused in daily devotions. It’s a free download that can be started any day of the year. You can download the Deeper Waters 365-Day Bible Reading Plan here.
As an English professor, Denise loves the world of words, where life and literature connect, but she’s most passionate about the one Book with living words—the Word of God. She’s the author of Deeper Waters and the Bible study series Word Writers, and she serves as the Editorial Coordinator at (in)courage by DaySpring. When she’s not teaching in the classroom or at conferences, she’s trying to find shade in Southern California while sharing life with her husband and three kids. You can find Denise at www.DeniseJHughes.com and on Instagram here.