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December is often the time when people begin thinking about their devotional ambitions and plans for the following year. As in the field of weight loss, it isn’t really about “finding the right plan” as much as it is about having a plan and sticking to it. Any devotional approach that has you breathing in Scripture and breathing out prayer is a good one. That being said, here are 5 good reasons to consider using the RMM Bible Reading Plan in 2018.

You get to read the New Testament twice

The standard 1 year version of the RMM Bible Reading Plan takes you through the Old Testament once and the Psalms and New Testament twice over the course of a year. That allows you to “see the big picture” while also soaking in the parts of the Bible that seem to minister most directly to the soul.

The Apostle Paul said that the church is being built: “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20 ESV).

The prophets look forward to Christ, the apostles look back on Christ and all together their collective witness forms the essence and foundation of our faith. The RMM Plan does a great job of covering the length and breadth of that foundation with a particular focus on the heart and centre.

You get to read the Psalms twice

As I mentioned above the full 1 year plan lets you double up on the New Testament and the Psalms. The first set of readings runs from April 1 through July 13 and the second runs from August 4 – November 15. That means that in 207 out of the 365 days in the year, you’ll be able to start your day by breathing in one of the historic prayers of the church.

The Psalms used to be the most familiar part of the Bible.  For a thousand years of Christian history the average believer was likely to possess only 1 book of the Bible – the Book of Psalms.  It was the prayer book and the hymn book of the church. The Book of Psalms has been called “The Bible In Miniature” – more than any other single book of the Bible it reflects upon the plotline of the whole.

I like to breathe in a Psalm before breathing out a prayer. Praying the Psalms stretches my emotional and spiritual bandwidth. It takes me to higher heights of gratitude, praise and adoration and it brings me down to deeper depths of lament, confession and desperation than I would otherwise be capable of on my own.

You get to see how the Bible fits together

The RMM Bible Reading Plan is organized around a 4 column system. The plan was originally developed by Scottish pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne, hence the short form ‘RMM’, and it was initially intended to supply two readings a day for family worship and two readings a day for private devotion. While some people continue to use it this way, most contemporary users read all 4 readings at a single sitting. This format was intended by M’Cheyne to highlight the internal unity of the Scriptures to the reader. Many Christians have a very partial and disjointed understanding of the Bible. They know certain stories very well but they don’t understand how all the pieces fit together. M’Cheyne designed this plan to help the individual reader see and appreciate the larger story.

Christians and leaders understood the importance of that in former generations. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones for example said famously:

“The message of this Book is really but one – two Testaments, one Book, one message.  And the purpose of the Bible is really to deal with just one thing and that one thing is man in his relationship to God.” [1]

The RMM Plan is designed to help readers see the singular message of the Scriptures. By having you read from 4 parts of the Bible simultaneously you learn to spot the inner relationships and overall continuity of the text.

For example, on November 27th we find this reading in the 4th column:

When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:29–32 ESV)

Here Jesus refers to his own life, death and resurrection through the lens of the prophet Jonah. Having just completed the Book of Jonah in column 3, the reader is very well prepared to understand what Jesus means by this particular allusion. The RMM Plan was designed to facilitate these sorts of experiences.

You get to read at your own pace

There are 26 verses in an average chapter of the Bible. The average Bible reader will take approximately 3 minutes to read an average length chapter. That means the full 4 columns associated with the standard 1 year plan will take you about 12 -15 minutes to read. Of course, if you’re like me and you like to stop and think about the things that you are reading, it could take you a great deal longer than that.

One of the benefits of the RMM Bible Reading Plan is that you can break it down into more manageable chunks. In the 2 year version of the plan, you read the first 2 columns in year 1 and the second 2 columns in year 2. If you begin using the plan in this way in 2018, you will read through the Old Testament from Genesis to 2 Chronicles and through the entire New Testament and Book of Psalms. In 2019, you will read the rest of the Old Testament and again read the whole New Testament and Psalms.

While you will lose some of the benefits referred to above in #3, many people prefer this pace and find that it is easier to start and to maintain.

You get to be part of a Bible reading community

There is a weight loss program that advertises frequently on my local radio station; the closing line of the advertisement is always the same: “If you could do it yourself, you would have done it already”.

As with weight loss, so with reading the Bible.

Everything is harder on your own and therefore one of the chief benefits of using the RMM Bible Reading plan is the opportunity to take advantage of all of the associated groups and resources.

When we first began encouraging our church to use the plan back in 2012, many of our people fell in love with D.A. Carson’s wonderful 2 volume devotional called “For The Love Of God”. In this wonderful resource Carson opens, explains and applies one of the daily readings in about 300-500 words. The resource has subsequently been turned into a daily blog which you can access here.

In 2017, in partnership with The Gospel Coalition Canada I began a daily podcast called Into the Word that follows the 2 year version of the RMM plan. In 2018, I’ll be podcasting through the first two columns starting with the Book of Genesis on January 1st. In each episode of the podcast, we read and explain the whole text of the chapter in 15 minutes or less. If you are interested in that, you can find it here on the TGC Canada website or here through SoundCloud. The podcast is also available on iTunes and there is a discussion and encouragement group that you can find on Facebook.

Whatever plan you decide to use, I hope it becomes a lifelong habit. Even better, I hope it becomes a life-giving delight. The words of God are a gift to humankind:

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalms 19:10–11 ESV)

Blessed are all those who meditate upon them.

Thanks be to God!

Paul Carter

N.B. To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here; to listen on SoundCloud see here. You can also find it on iTunes.

[1] Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones, The Disease Man Cannot Cure in Old Testament Evangelistic Sermons (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2013), 113.