A new year, a new shot at a Bible reading plan

January 1, 2015

It’s that time of year again when we break out our New Year’s resolutions and make our impossible surely-I-can-do-it this year lists. Even though we know they are tough to finish, and even harder to start, we keep coming back for more. For many of us exercise will be on top of the list, but for the Christian we often flock to Bible reading plans. I’ve been there, done that and I’d love to share with you a few reasons why, even though I’ve failed, I’m doing it again.

This year I will embark on the “How to Change Your Mind” Bible plan. The plan is simple:

  1. Choose a book of the Bible.
  2. Read it in its entirety.
  3. Repeat step number two 20 times.
  4. Repeat this process for all books of the Bible.

Here’s why:

1. It’s the Bible

This seems to go without saying but anytime we can plan to get in the Word it’s a good thing. We don’t hope in our plan and we definitely shouldn’t derive prideful satisfaction from completing our plan (all satisfaction isn’t prideful, mind you), but that shouldn’t stop us from pursuing it either. The Bible is living and active. It’s where we learn about our Living Hope. It’s how we hear from our Lord. It’s where we learn how to walk out our faith. We find out more about our Savior and rejoice. The Bible helps lead us to our Savior where we then turn all that reading into worship. Planning to read it is a good pursuit because it is the very words of God.

As Kevin DeYoung wrote in Taking God At His Word:

“When we embrace everything the Bible says about itself, then—and only then—will we believe what we should believe about the word of God, feel what we should feel, and do with the word of God what we ought to do.”

So, one motivation for starting this reading plan is simply to plan to read it because it is the Bible.

2. Saturated in the Word

Like I mentioned before, I’ve started plans and have failed. Many of the plans I’ve tried instruct the reader to skip all over the Bible and digest several passages from several books in one sitting. It’s amazing to me that people are able to sustain such reading—my husband is one of them. I’ve tried and tried again and I simply cannot do it. I get confused and find myself just trying to cram in the verses rather than soak in the truth.

Difficulty using various plans is not the case for everyone, but it has been for me. However, the idea of reading an entire book in a sitting is much more appealing.  I’ve read books at a time before, but never considered reading the entire Bible this way and not consistently (i.e. more than once). I’m excited to read books like Ephesians twenty times! Twenty times! Can you imagine how saturated you’d be in the Word if you read the same thing over and over again? I want my mind to be renewed and refreshed and I believe the Lord will provide such sweet grace as I read.

3. Pray as you read

I haven’t seen a reading plan that also encourages you to pray (I’m not saying they aren’t out there—I simply haven’t seen it). This again is a wonderful reminder that communion with God is active. I don’t want to simply read the Bible, I’d like to ask him to fill me with his Spirit, make the words make sense (illuminate them to me), give me an even greater desire for him, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and enjoy him!

I haven’t come to the Lord with such requests in a long time. In my daily work, which often involves the Scriptures, I’ve become dry and predictable. I pray but not like this…not about his words to me and for me.

4. Failure is an option

Although we don’t want to go into a plan with the expectation to fail, we also don’t want to make it so much about duty that we forget to delight. I am not condemned in the least about my past attempts and failures to complete plans. My goal was always to start reading and reading consistently. Those plans always accomplished that goal, by the grace of God. And when it became too much, I changed. Simple.

Once I get into the larger books, this reading plan will become much more difficult to accomplish. I’ll need to break up readings over a series of days and it may take months to complete reading a book twenty times. Besides being a slow reader, I’m a mom and I work (writing and speaking). I’m not putting unrealistic pressure on myself and neither should you.

Just try. Take the pressure off and enjoy the God of the Bible.

What Bible should I use?

In most cases, the version and type of Bible you use during your reading plan doesn’t matter. Joe Carter suggests using an easy to read Bible for this plan and I agree. The Bible I will be using is unique and seems like a perfect companion to the “How to Change Your Mind” plan. Because the plan requires reading through an entire book, I’ve decided to use the ESV Reader’s Bible which is designed without the added chapter headings, sub-headings, and Bible verses. This style will not only make reading easier with limited distractions, it will also facilitate my desire to simply read.

I’m easily distracted by footnotes and I cross reference often as I read. There is a time and place for that sort of Bible study (and I will no doubt continue to do so as I write) but I’d like to table the study and enjoy the benefits of reading—simply reading—during my allotted Bible reading times.

Enough about planning to read, let’s get started. Let me know if you decide to do this plan too. If not, feel free to suggest your favorite reading plans below.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Quick word about legalism. Reading the Bible only becomes legalistic if you believe that your Bible reading somehow justifies you or adds to your salvation. Please don’t be distracted by the fear of legalism. Just read and ask God to help you realize that your salvation comes only from the finished work of Christ on the cross on your behalf. It is finished! And if you are tempted to think that everyone using a Bible plan is a legalist, please have grace (love) your fellow Christian and don’t place undue burden and accusation. Let’s just enjoy God and his grace together. Read! Enjoy! Be free!

Trillia Newbell

Trillia Newbell is the author of several books including A Great Cloud of Witnesses, Sacred Endurance, If God Is For Us, Fear and Faith,and the children’s books, Creative God, Colorful Us and  God’s Very Good Idea. When she isn’t writing, she’s encouraging and supporting other writers as an Acquisitions Editor at Moody … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24