I started 2019 with the goal to read the Bible all the way through in ONE year. Before this, I had read a lot of the Bible, but certainly not all of it, and definitely not many books in their entirety. I felt God calling me to this goal when I set my 2019 goals, but I knew I didn’t want to approach it with stress and striving. I think it can, unfortunately, be easy for us to set well-meaning goals for our spiritual life, but then turn them into something else entirely — something striving, stressful, and even boring.
So, I approached reading the whole Bible as something I’m going to do, and it’s ok if it takes me longer than a year. And, it will end up taking me longer than a year! Real talk: the title feels a little off because I won’t end up finishing the whole Bible this year. But, I’m ok with that, it’s a journey, not a goal to hit.
I’m sharing the tools I’ve used for reading the Bible this year - down to the exact Bible I’m using and highlighters I recommend, tips for making your quiet time more consistent, the note-taking style I’ve done this year in my Bible, what I’ve learned, and so much more! If you’re thinking you want to read the Bible through in 2020, or even just start having a consistent quiet time for the first time, this blog post (and the podcast equivalent) is for you! Although this is a business podcast, we are ditching the business stuff today to focus on the faith life stuff, so this podcast episode is for anyone and everyone!
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE NOW:
Why I Set This Goal:
To kick us off, I want to share WHY I set this goal in the first place. I’ve had a consistent quiet time for a while now. Most days of the week, I start my day in prayer and scripture. Usually, I’ll do multiple Bible studies throughout a year. For example, in 2018 I did a study on the book of Matthew, another on the fruits of the spirit, and things like that. I think various studies are a great way to do it! But, ever since I became a Christian in high school, I had a desire to actually read the whole Bible, as a whole thing instead of reading it in pieces. I felt God leading me that this was the year to do that! I wanted to know fully what God has to say, what the story of Jesus coming is, all of it - as told in the Bible. And my prayer through this was that I would know God more because of it. So, that was my WHY simply put. To know God more. And, I know myself well enough to know that I needed to be kinda relaxed with this goal if I wanted it to happen. I didn’t want it to be a stressor of “Oh no, gotta read it all by this deadline!!!” but instead an experience of being with God through reading his Word.
The Tools I Used:
I had two main tools I used for this goal. One is my One Year Bible "Expressions" NLT. I chose to purchase a specific Bible for the “yearly style”, but it is not necessary! You could use any Bible you have, but for me, I wanted it to be dated and the right portion to read already set up for me each day. But, if you go with a Bible that you already have, you can find plenty of free ready plans online that tell you what scripture to read each day to get through it in a year.
Here’s why I loved the Bible I used:
- It’s NLT translation, which is my favorite translation.
- There are margins for taking notes with actual lines for taking notes on every single page. This allowed me to actually take notes directly into the Bible.
- It’s pretty, pink, and there is scripture art in it!
- It gives you some Old Testament, New Testament, Psalm and Proverbs each day. I didn’t want a straight-up chronological Bible personally, but know there are different options available for you! With this Bible, you end up going through Psalms twice and Proverbs, Old Testament, and New Testament once. A little bit of everything each day was awesome for me, and you’re still reading it in order for all the books and the Old Testament and New Testament order.
The next tool is my set of Gel Bible Highlighters. These are just $7.99 on Amazon, and they are amazing! I’ll get into exactly how I used them in a minute. But, I loved using these because they are not real highlighters. Real highlighters in colors like blue and hot pink will destroy your Bible and bleed through! Bible pages are very thin, so these don’t bleed through since they are specifically made for Bibles. The last tool I always have with me during my quiet time is my prayer journal. It’s literally just a random journal from TJ Maxx. I usually go through one per year. I don’t prayer journal every day. I also don’t read the Bible every day. Sometimes my prayer journaling was more of me writing train of thought, like morning pages style, and then that usually turns into a prayer. There are a bunch of ways to do it.
How I Did It:
I set the goal, bought the Bible, and started in December of 2018. For me, this was great! When setting goals, we often make the mistake of setting a goal, being all excited about and then waiting until January 1st to do a thousand things at once, when instead you should just start when you’re excited, So, for me, I was excited, so I started. And I didn’t care about not being aligned on the exact date for the year. I also knew I’d likely get behind, so why not get a head start? If you’re getting excited reading this, know that you don’t have to wait until January 1st to start - start when you get excited!
Here is another idea for starting (rather than waiting until January 1) that comes directly from my mom! She has read the Bible all the way through 8+ times in her life; which is amazing! She used the same Bible through all of those times. She hadn’t read it through in a couple of years and after us talking about it, she actually bought the Bible I use from Amazon to do it again in 2020. She started in November 2019. I just assumed she’d start with January 1st though when she started early. (So, on 11/23 reading January 1st.) Instead of starting on the prompted January 1st section, she started on the actual date of the year she was reading, even though it was a random place in the Bible.
She also shared with me that she likes to write what’s happening in her life that day and what God is doing in her life, in the Bible in the margins and then next time she reads that date a year later, she’ll see what was going on. I think both ways work well just depending on what you want to do. If you are newer to the Bible though, I’d recommend the way I did it of starting at the beginning versus how my mom did it of starting at a random point.
My Highlighting Method:
So, highlighters and note-taking! This might sound weird and will totally be someone’s style and not someone else’s, but I used color-coding with my highlighters. Which, might sound weird or OCD. I am none of those things, except maybe weird. But, for me, it helped me focus on reading and stay engaged with the text. So, all the highlighter colors meant different things for me. You can totally do it exactly how I did or choose what works best for you!
To walk through it, here’s what I had each one correspond to:
- ORANGE: Prophecy, future, history
- YELLOW: Christian living, obedience, fellowship
- BLUE: Salvation, repentance
- GREEN: Wisdom, instructions, commands
- PINK: Prayer, praise, worship
- PURPLE: Who God and Jesus are
- LIGHT ORANGE: Who I am, what God says about me
Some days I would write a lot in the margins and some days nothing at all. For writing, anytime I had big questions about something in the text, I would read articles online (from trusted sources) then often journal what I learned directly into the Bible. Sometimes I would write what I read in a way to simplify or make sense of something. I would write what stands out to me and why. When I started a new book of the Bible, I would read about it online and write what I learned. A lot of different things! Write what you want, don’t feel like you need to be a perfectionist about this! It’s about spending time with God and listening to what He has to tell you through His Word.
For Bible resources, I particularly love Desiring God. I often would just Google the passage I wanted to read about and then put “Desiring God” with it and there was almost always something to read on that website. I also think Well-Watered Women is a great resource. I designed their website and used to do their marketing! They have a TON of content for many topics and scripture passages. They take things to specifically how it applies to your life, whereas Desiring God tends to analyze what it says.
The experience has been wonderful, and I’m not even finished yet! I really have come to know the Lord in new ways. As I said before, I am behind and haven’t yet finished this goal. However, my goal wasn’t really to “hit the goal” in a time frame, but instead to just literally spend time with God in his Word, the whole way through.
Reading books of the Bible all the way through is totally different than the ways I’ve done it previously. It’s especially led to great conversations with my husband. Even though he did not do this goal with me because we tend to stick to our own quiet time routines, he is really knowledgeable about the Bible and we had great conversations. Also, even though I’ve loved my goal of reading the Bible all the way through, I’ve had plenty of days where I didn’t want to read it, where I actually didn’t read it and did skip, and I’ve also had days where I read 3-4 times in one day because I’m so into the text.
And when I think about what really got me the most behind, in case you’re curious to watch for this when you do it, whenever I was traveling and/or hosting someone in our house. Obviously, both of those things throw off your morning, and on these days I often skipped my quiet time altogether or had to shorten it, which often meant just prayer and not reading.
How to Make it a Habit:
Put all of your quiet time things together in one place that is both out of the way and easy to access at any point. Your supplies need to have a HOME in your house, and that home does not need to be your coffee table or all over the place in your kitchen. For me, I keep my Bible, journal, pens/highlighters all in our buffet table in our living room. I do my quiet time in the same spot in our house every day and I just grab that stuff and put it on the couch when I wake up and then put it back in the buffet table when I’m done. Easy!
I prefer to be completely alone for my quiet time. My husband and I each have our own space for it in the house. I would also say make sure it’s NOT where you do your work all day, so not your home office.
No matter when you’ve discovered this blog post, you can start reading God’s word right now. It doesn’t take a new year or a new month or anything specific happening to get started.
Just pick up your Bible and start where you are now. If you want a good place to begin reading the Bible in general, I’d recommend Matthew — the first book of the New Testament.
And to close us out, here are 3 of my favorite quotes from the author, Jen Wilkins, about reading the Bible:
“We must make a study of our God: what he loves, what he hates, how he speaks and acts. We cannot imitate a God whose features and habits we have never learned. We must make a study of him if we want to become like him. We must seek his face.”
“We will not wake up ten years from now and find we have passively taken on the character of God.”
“The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”
So, tell me in the comments — do you have this goal for 2020 too? And remember, you can listen to this blog post as a podcast episode! Go to episode 45 of the Breakthrough Brand Podcast to tune in!