Do you have a reading plan? That is, do you put some thought into what you read and when you read it or do you read like you eat at a buffet: because it is there and it looks good?
I try to have a reading plan. The one I currently follow I find hasn’t turned out to be as effective for me as I thought it would be. Right now, my reading plan is:
- This includes first and foremost reading the Bible. I read the Bible every day, following the ESV reading plan, whereby the end of the year I’ll have read the Old Testament once, the Psalms and New Testament twice. I’ve been following that plan for a number of years. This will not be changing.
- I’ve started also reading D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God which is available on the Gospel Coalition. I just read Carson’s commentary on the Scripture that day. Probably only about 33% of the time do I even read the chapter he is referencing. I’m more interested in his thoughts on the Scripture. This will change.
- Finally, every day I try to read a short passage from some devotional work. For example, currently that is John Owen’s the Mortification of Sin. This is going to change.
- Every day I try to read a chapter from some book that encourages improvement in some area: fatherhood, being a husband, pastor, better listener, whatever. While this has led to me reading some very helpful books, and I hope some positive change in my life, this is going to change too!
- What’s life without a little fun? Finally, I try to allow myself to read a “pleasure” book on a regular basis. This may be fiction or non-fiction–just so long as it is something that I want to read for the sake of reading it.
Last week, a friend shared this article by Eugene Peterson on his relationship with John Calvin’s theology. He shared the article with it because in an off-hand way, Peterson mentions that he reads Calvin’s Institutes every year. Now, this kind of fed my overactive guilt complex. For years I have been trying to read Calvin’s Institutes in a year. Shamefully, I have never actually read the entire Institutes. I’ve read Volume I or most of Volume I several times but I’ve never gone the distance and finished both volumes (the Ford Lewis Battles translation). It is actually fairly manageable if you plan to read it over the course of an entire year. If you read approximately 5 pages a day, in a year you will have read both volumes. I’ve tried to do this for many years. I start well, but something always comes up and then suddenly I’m behind and before you know it a month has passed and the amount of reading I need to do to catch up is too daunting.
Just as Calvinism is more than the doctrines of grace, it is also more than Calvin’s Institutes. Nevertheless, it feels wrong to name myself Reformed and to not have read the second most important work of the Reformed faith (the first, of course, being the Bible). But, my goal for 2015 is to read the entire Institutes of the Christian Religion. To do so, I think I’m going to have to revamp my reading plan.
Here is my new plan:
- I will continue to follow the ESV reading plan I currently use.
- Rather than also trying to read a devotional work, improvement and pleasure reading I’m going to scrap that plan, at least for this coming year. Instead, I’m just going to focus my attention on one book, whatever it might be. I’ll try to put variety in it, a book of the Bible in-depth, some work of improvement, and also works of pleasure.
- Institutes of the Christian Religion. I’m going to embark on this quest yet again. 5 pages a day. If something happens, which it inevitably does, and I fall behind, my hope is to put then put aside whatever I’m currently reading at the moment until I’m caught up with the Institutes.
So, we’ll see what happens. Wish me luck. Keep me accountable.