This is absolutely the best Bible reading plan I’ve ever come across. OK, maybe I’m oversold on it, but I have been following it with delight for 20 years and love it just as much today as when I first began. I call it at times the “sticky tab” method, the “refrigerator” method, or the B4 vitamin method. The Bible is truly a miracle book, but we won’t swim in its depths, just because we opened the cover. To avoid the problems, it takes a plan.
First, the Problems
The problem I used to have with most Bible reading plans is that I would get behind and feel guilty. Then, what do you do? Skip over the section you didn’t read (and feel more guilt), or try to make up for lost time by speeding through the missed sections?
Many plans are so ambitious you have to read fast just to keep up with them. Watch out: speed kills! It kills our living connection to the text. You may get information, but you won’t get much revelation, or intimacy with Jesus out of your reading.
Even if I managed to keep up, I often lost interest, because the plan didn’t grow out of my interest or needs. For me, the regimented plans inadvertently turned reading the Bible into an assignment, or a chore—as if it were just another thing to check off on my way through a busy day. But the Bible is our living, breathing connection with our God! We don’t ever want it to get old and cold.
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As I prayed, here’s what came to me. One observation concerned how we ordinarily plan our meals. The other is how the church has been taught to feed upon the Word. I call it the “refrigerator method” for following a reading plan that satisfies your spiritual hunger.
1) We don’t go to the refrigerator asking “Now, what would I like to eat for supper?” and say “It’s Tuesday, so we have to have meatloaf and this and that.” No. We look to see what’s available, check in with our appetite and desires, and come up with a working idea. We then take that idea and balance it out by making sure the main food groups are included. Right? This way our taste buds stay interested, but our body also gets what it needs.
2) The church as a whole for two thousand years has been following a Lectionary (a Bible reading plan). These Holy Spirit inspired selections lead everyone in church on Sunday through what I call the four basic food groups of the Bible: an OT book, a Psalm, a NT epistle, and a Gospel. This gives us our four basic Bible “food” groups for a balanced spiritual diet.
Now, the Plan
Sticky tabs are key to this plan (hence, the “sticky tab method”). It’s such an easy, graceful way to keep up with where we left off. How many you choose to use determines whether you are walking through the Word at a B1, B2, B3 or B4 level. Even this can shift from day to day.
B1: I keep a sticky tab in Psalms and Proverbs on a loop. First thing every day, I pick up where I left off the day before. Typically, I only read a portion (most Psalms are bite size, but I always break up the longer ones). I never read for distance or speed. This is where I “jump-start” my heart with these champions at prayer and praise. They help launch my conversation with the Lord.
When I eventually finish Psalms, I keep moving the sticky tab through Proverbs (about a half a chapter a day at most) since the practical wisdom is vital for daily life. At the end of Proverbs I circle back around to Psalm 1 and keep going! After this short-reading/long-meditation period, if I still have time (usually I do), I move on to step two…
B2: I keep a second sticky tab in the Gospels and simply walk through them at a leisurely pace. This is where I am led to encounter Jesus again and again by His words and His ways. He is endlessly fascinating! I want to make sure that I am really taking in who He is, what He is up to, and what He wants me to be about.
If Psalms and Proverbs are the appetizer course, Jesus is the main entre! I read Matthew through John then back around again. I never have a sense of “been there, done that” about it because I am not trying to read a book (and get to the end of it), but explore a Person (and get deeper into relationship).
B3 and B4: These are the “books of interest.” B3 is a sticky tab on a book in the NT other than a gospel. B4 is one in the OT other than Psalms and Proverbs. Here is where I ask: What am I hungry for? What haven’t I tasted in a long time? What should I eat that I’ve been avoiding? These sections are the veggies and fruit that round out the meal. They’re necessary, so if I see myself skipping that part of the meal (for lack of time), I pray for grace to read more the next day.
Grace, Not Guilt
Only on really “good” mornings do I read from all four basic food groups. Usually I read from the first three. If I’m in a pinch, I read the first two. Depending on how tightly time is squeezing me, I may only read the first one. In this relaxed, steady way I manage to read through all of scripture, with special concentrations where I believe it is needed the most. That freedom to set the pace myself and do my own exploring is a genuine grace.
I have never grown tired of this Bible reading plan. Best of all, I have never felt guilty that I was somehow falling behind. I pray and let the Spirit lead me at a pace that He sees is right for me. If this sounds right for you, why not try it? The great thing about this plan is that you cannot fail with it. You set the pace! As the Lord works with you and you work with Him, you’ll have time for the right portions.
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