When You Fall Behind on Your Bible Reading Plan…

It’s February. And even though I happen to be born in this month, I still will argue it is the worst month of the year. Where I live, in Missouri, it’s cold and dreary. There are few holidays on the horizon. We somehow are still recovering from that feeling that Christmas and New Year brought us. The hopes, dreams, and goals we set for ourselves at the coming of the 2023 are either still being practiced or maybe, you’ve given up on them.

One of these goals might have been reading the Bible in a year or simply reading the Bible each day. And perhaps you have decided that using a Bible reading plan is the best way to go. I am a firm believer in the use of Bible reading plans simply because they allow me to know what I am reading each day of the year rather than having to find passages to read on my own. While these reading plans are great, it can be extremely discouraging if you start a plan and fall a few days, or a week behind. This is especially challenging when you have decided to do a plan which requires four or more chapters of reading each day, like many “Bible-in-a-year” plans.

So what do you do when you fall behind? Some may decide to push themselves and read everything they have missed in a day or two. This is noble, but still very challenging to many who are new and even those who have read their Bibles for years. Many may be tempted to give up, thinking that there is no reason to continue. I hope to offer my advice and just maybe someone will be helped by it.

  • 1. God is not disappointed you fell behind in your Bible reading plan.

For those of us who feel the guilt of not finishing a Bible reading plan or even the guilt of falling behind (that’s me), it may be helpful for you to understand that God does not love you less or think of you less because of your failure to read His Word. He is not staring down with fiery disdain because you stumbled a bit when you got to Leviticus or Chronicles (shudder). Instead, the Lord only desires that you desire Him. He has witnessed my lackluster prayer life for years and yet He still loves when I pray to Him. In the same way, He longs for you to know Him as you read His Word. He wants you to discover more of Him, not to push you out because of the challenge of reading the Bible.

  • 2. Continue to for content and clarity, not to complete your plan on time.

As I wrote above, the tendency for some when they fall behind will be to read everything they have missed in one or two days. I think this is very ambitious and I would not fault anyone for trying. But, we must remember why we are reading the Bible. It is the access we have to the very thoughts of God. It the “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) words of the Living God. This is not the textbook you skimmed in high school or college to get through. The real question you must ask yourself is did I understand something more about the character of God when I read? Did I understand something more about how I should live obediently? Do I love Christ more because of what I read? Many times you will be able to answer one or all of these questions. But, if you finish your plan on time and can’t answer any of these questions, was it really worth it?

  • 3. Bible reading will profit and bless you even if you don’t finish your plan on time.

Returning to the verse I listed above, 2 Timothy 3:16 says that “All Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” I believe that is true whether you made it through all of your Bible reading plan or half of your Bible reading plan. I believe this is true because these are God’s very words. I believe this is true because God wants you to know Him more intimately. But ultimately, I believe this is true because I believe that God will keep His promises. He is faithful, even when we are not.

  • 4. Try listening to the Bible rather than reading it.

There are days when I simply have a harder time finding the time to sit down and read God’s Word than others. For those day, I am glad there are many apps that will read the Bible to me. YouVersion has a great read along feature as well as Dwell Bible. There are others, but those two are my favorite. Is there a guarantee that I will gather more from listening to it, that reading it? Probably not. But again I trust God to use His Word, even the hearing of His Word. We need to remember that much of the New Testament epistles would have been heard from the elders of the churches. If God was willing to use the hearing of His Word then, certainly He can use it today.

  • 5. Challenge yourself – You are capable of doing it!

I think many of us start the year off believing we can’t read through the Bible in a year or two, but we start the plan anyway. When we get behind, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up. But what if we had the mindset that God is using every word in His Word to change us further into His image? What if we believed that God has equipped us in such as way that we can read through His Word in a year? What if we found out that God was going to use this year of Bible reading for the advancement of His Kingdom in tangible ways in your life and in the lives of others? Would you push through the discouragement? I hope you would! Because you can do it! Pray that God would give you the resilience to push deeper.

Bible reading plans are challenging! It’s easy to get discouraged when you fall behind. But don’t let that stop you because God will use His Word in your life. He has promised it! He wants you to push forward! He wants you to know Him! He wants to feed you through His Word! So continue on. You will be glad you did!

Why Family Discipleship?

“Raising kids is an endlessly challenging adventure, and it comes with a never-ending list of responsibilities. One of the grandest of those responsibilities is the call to all parents to be disciple-makers in their homes. A disciple-maker is a follower of Christ helping others to follow Christ. No matter what your household looks like, your family is the primary instrument and environment for discipleship in all the fantastic and flawed ways that it might be worked out.” This is how Matt Chandler and Adam Griffin begin their book on family discipleship. These two pastors clearly believe that family discipleship is vital to the life of the family. They believe this because God believes this and makes it clear in His Word. The primary disciple-makers of their children are their parents. 

It’s for this reason, I want to spend the next couple of weeks promoting resources I have personally found helpful to disciple my son, Wyatt. No, I’m not being sponsored by any of these resources (although, if anyone wants to…just kidding, but seriously), but I personally know the struggle to disciple my own family and my hope is that someone might find these resources useful. 

For today, I want to post a sermon I preached last year around this time about family discipleship. The text is from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. I pray this might give you a foundation for why family discipleship is important. 

God Bless! 

A Personal Case for Bible Reading Plans

It’s that time of year again! Time for New Year’s resolutions.

It’s become somewhat of a joke in our culture. We set a goal to lose 10 pounds in a year only to gain 15. We plan to eat better, but still find ourselves at Chickfila twice a week (let’s be honest, you know those salads aren’t that healthy). But one resolution is a certainty for many Christians and that is reading their Bibles daily. How many times have you tried to read the Bible daily, only to make it a month and then stop? How many of you a goal to read the Bible through in a year only to stop once you get to Leviticus or Numbers? So let me throw my hat in the ring with every other Christian website that has talked about reading your Bible this year. My hope is that you will be convinced not only that reading your Bible daily is worth it, but that one of the best ways to do this is through a Bible reading plan. I think I can use myself as an example.

My History before Reading Plans

Growing up, I was never a big fan of Bible reading plans. This, perhaps, was because I was always told that reading the Bible should never be forced or coerced. Instead, I was told that reading the Bible should be something that I desire to do. Bible reading plans were seen as ‘checking the box,’ ‘rote,’ and ‘mechanical,’ something that was frowned upon in the Christian life. But in my early teens, my reading of the Bible generally consisted of me opening up my Bible to some random spot and starting to read. Because of the way the Bible is layed out, I generally would flip open my Bible somewhere in the Old Testament, maybe something like Isaiah or Jeremiah (you know, the easy books to read…). Bible reading was sporadic and I’m not sure I got too much out of it. As I got older, in my late teens, I started reading larger chunks of the Bible when I could. One summer on a trip from St. Louis to Colorado Springs, I read the New Testament. This method proved to be better and the retention of what I read was greater. Still reading was sporadic.

By the time I was called to ministry in my early twenties, I felt the need to work my way through the Bible. Unfortunately, I did not quite have the tools or perseverance to complete it. I would start in Genesis and read as much as I could one day and then pick up where I left off the next day. Some days I would read one chapter and other days I would read ten. It all depended on how much time I had. Still, problems with reading consistently occurred. Frequently I found myself reading large passages of Scripture in books like Exodus and Leviticus and come away from it wondering what I had just read. Turns out instructions for building the temple and how to slaughter animals isn’t nearly as interesting as you would think. My attempts at reading through the Bible would last longer than it did in my teens. I might get to the book of Deuteronomy or maybe Joshua, but eventually I would tire of reading day after day and eventually stop. My sporadic and incomplete reading would continue through the first few years of my marriage.

My History with Reading Plans

Flash forward to January 1st, 2018. Taylor had given birth to Wyatt just two months previous. We were stressing because he was not growing nearly as fast as we thought. I’m working for a lighting company as their project coordinator, although I desired to be in ministry vocationally. But the lighting company was a great gig because it gave me a lot of time to listen to music and podcasts. At that time there was one podcast I would listen to almost daily called the Ask Pastor John podcast. On it, John Piper would take listeners questions and spend some time answering them. The question that day was about daily Bible reading or reading through the Bible in a year, something I was extremely interested in. Piper mentioned that He has used a Bible reading plan called the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan to read through the Bible in a year for many, many years. Now, say what you will about John Piper, but this is practical advice I have taken to heart. That day I started the Discipleship Journal Reading plan by downloading the day-by-day plan off of the Navigators website and started reading. What I found was that it was easier to follow and easier to read daily than the previous times I had tried to work through the Bible. But again, what I found was that it was difficult to grab my Bible, grab my check sheet and read through the chapters day by day. That is until I discovered that the Bible app I used contained the very same plan. This changed the way I practiced daily Bible reading. With the YouVersion Bible app, I was able to follow this plan with daily reminders on my phone to read my passages for the day. Sure, there were days that I fell behind and had to double read the next day. There were days I didn’t want to read or had to divide the time I read rather than reading it all at once, but at least I was successfully getting through the Bible. At the end of 2018, I found that I had read the whole Bible in a year.

Bible Reading Now

This is a practice that I have continued. I still read through the Bible in a year. I’m currently on my fifth time through. I’m still using my phone to read more often than not. Still using the YouVersion Bible app although there is another app called Dwell that I enjoy using as well. There are still times I fall behind and have to catch up. After reading through the Bible last year with a different plan, I am back to the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan.

Now, let me make a short case for why I like this plan. First, it is a plan that is a read through of the entire Bible. I’ve written on why I like this a little more in depth on another post that you can check out here. Second, the daily readings contain a variety of Scripture. There is always one reading from a gospel, one reading from the rest of the New Testament, one psalm or proverb, and a reading from the Old Testament. Some will not like this because they will feel like they are jumping around, but I enjoy the variety. Third, and most important for those who fall behind, there are always four/five days at the end of each month which are ‘make-up’ days. In other words, if you have missed a day, you can use these five days to catch up on you plan. Fourth, YouVersion and Dwell give the option to listen to the Bible as well reading it. This makes it far more accessible. One year, I found myself listening to the Bible driving to work just as much as I read it off the app. It proved to be another way to get Scripture into my life. Finally, I like having a set pattern to my reading every day. Humans are creatures of habit and I find that the consistent pattern in this plan and many other Bible reading plans helps me refocus my day on Christ. Reading Scripture reminds me we have a God who has revealed Himself to us because He wants us to know who He is. It reminds me that even in the chaos of this world and of my busy life, God has given us His word to set to order our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

So whether or not you choose to use a Bible reading plan this year. Whether or not you decide to read the whole Bible or part of the Bible. Whether you decide to read out of a physical Bible or a digital one, pursue the Lord one day at a time through His Word. I can assure you, you will be better for it!

Below you will find links to the Ask Pastor John episode, the downloadable copy of the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan, and a link to the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan on the YouVersion App. Happy reading!

Ask Pastor John episode

Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan

DJBRP through YouVersion