As of today (December 14th), the new year is only 18 days away! What will 2013 bring to each of us, to our families, to our churches, to the nation and beyond? Will the Lord return before the dawning of 2014? None of us knows. Even the next day or two may surprise us! "You do not know what will happen tomorrow," says James (Jas. 4:14).
One thing I do know: We need the regular input of God's Word–for however many days He gives us. The Bible is God's message to us, our source of light and life. It's our life's guidebook, "a lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path" (Ps. 119:1-5).
A comparison: We wouldn't likely want to go without food for a day or more. We know we need daily nourishment. But some who would readily agree with that are slower to accept the vital need of spiritual nourishment. With Job we should say, "I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food" (Job 23:12).
Some may feel that attending church once a week takes care of that, but it really doesn't–for at least a couple of reasons. First, that's too far between spiritual meals to keep us healthy. And second, we need to be digging into God's Word for ourselves, as well as hearing it preached from the pulpit.
There are many Bible reading plans available. It's possible, for example, to read right through the Bible in a year, by reading about three chapters a day. My mother did that each year–for over fifty years. I've done it too. But I prefer to go a bit slower, and "chew" my food well.
For the past year I've been following a plan that takes three years to complete the entire Word of God--meaning the readings average about one chapter a day. But the schedule mixes Old Testament and New Testament books, with some of the Psalms interspersed along the way--so that I won't go two whole years without a New Testament reading.
To give you some idea, by the end of December I will, Lord willing, have read through seven Old Testament books, including Psalms 1-41, and six New Testament books. I hope to keep going in 2013.
The little Our Daily Bread booklets (put out by Radio Bible Class) deal with much shorter passages, and give you some devotional thoughts for each day. That's another fine alternative. In fact, the options are almost endless. I have an "app" on my iPod that offers over 300 different Bible reading plans! Surely there's one there that suits just about everybody.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE HYMN BOOK? The Bible is a treasure beyond compare. But I believe a second source of riches is our hymn book. These books distill the devotional inspiration of many centuries. Not only can the hymns be sung; many of them can be read as fine poetry.
To help you with this, you could make use of my blog Wordwise Hymns. The Almanac section will tell you something that happened in hymn history for each day of the year. For the current Reflections section, I continue to add three new articles each week, further exploring this treasure.
I took a look at three such books on my shelf. Two have over 500 hymns; one has over 800. Plenty of material for the year! I think you'd find it a blessing to read a hymn each day, along with your Bible reading. Why not give it a try?
But here's the thing. Bottom line. Having a plan is one thing; following it is quite another. Look at the number of exercise machines that are for sale. And likely most of them are a help to some extent. But only if you use them and work at it, day by day. It's the same with feeding on the Word of God (or reading hymns). That can only do us good if we regularly dig into these treasures and meditate on them.
My hope and prayer is that each of us will at least make it a habit to read and study the Scriptures on a daily basis in 2013, as well as spending time in prayer. Choose a plan now, and gather the resources you'll need (Bible translations, devotional books or commentaries), so you can start right in on January first. Not only will you benefit if you do this, so will others around you, including your church family. Let's get ready!
THE BEST BIBLE STUDY TOOL I've ever found is a system for recording things I discover in God's Word. If you want to learn more about it, check out the article Best Bible Study Tool.