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Reflecting on the Horner Bible Reading Plan: Bible Reading as a Way of Life

February 11, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s been almost a year since I began using the Horner Bible Reading Plan, a ten-list genre plan.

Officially I am on day 330, though at this point that number is meaningless. My list of readings now barely resembles what the actual “day 330” would be. As others have also noted, though, the plan is very adaptable and flexible. Most importantly, the Horner Bible Reading Plan helped me get “out of the box” of standard once-a-year Bible reading plans, to read the Bible much more frequently and to read it more naturally, like any other favorite book. Just as I tend to read several different books at the same time, going back and forth between them, so here I follow along with several different stories and doctrinal books, keeping up with each one while often finding parallels and similar themes.

For the first several months I kept close to Horner’s original plan (only exception: I split the history and prophets into two shorter lists, for 12 chapters a day) and read through Proverbs, Acts, and the Job-Ecclesiastes-Song of Solomon lists several times. Then, like others who have continued with this system, I began modifications to read through certain books more frequently for special emphasis: for instance, adding Revelation to the “Acts” list. After twice completing the 150-day Psalms list, I rearranged the wisdom lists to read the Psalms more frequently (two Psalms per day). After completing the Pentateuch list in 187 days, I shortened it for the next time by reading 2 chapters at a time.

Grant Horner emphasizes using the same Bible, as a way to really get familiar with “your” Bible, to know where everything is on each page. Perhaps after several years of this system I will reach that point, but in this last year I explored many different reading techniques. I began with the NIV translation, the only version I then owned in print-versions, using a hardcover “NIV Topical Study Bible” with its somewhat larger print (as compared to my other Bible, the NIV Study Bible). Along the way I found the topical notes, interspersed throughout the pages, a distraction. Last summer I looked into Bible software programs, e-Sword and “The Word,” and for several months read the ESV, but on a computer screen and using software bookmarks. But on weekends, with limited access to the home PC, often I would switch back to NIV (the NIV Study Bible. Switching back and forth between the Bible software on two different PCs (one at work, one at home), and then switching to the NIV print Bible on weekends, meant more time keeping up with bookmarks. More recently, I purchased an ESV Large Print Bible, and now use it regularly; it is much simpler, one book and one set of bookmarks.

Horner also emphasizes “just reading” without any pauses for further study. I generally do so, yet often I read the footnotes. When I read on the computer program, the numerous small reference symbols (which show other scripture references when you mouse-over them) tended to distract. Though this is strictly a “reading” plan, the readings have prompted further study, and now the S. Lewis Johnson book study series provide a nice extension to several of my readings — such as the series I’m currently listening to, the book of Acts. Now as I re-read Genesis again (starting the third time through the Pentateuch) I remember many of his observations from that series, which I completed recently.

The continual reading and cycling back through each list brings more familiarity, and often I am only a few days or less than a month away from a particular passage. Earlier this month, for instance, I read Hebrews 10, which includes a quote from Psalm 40; less than a week later I read Psalm 40, and recognized the verses from the Hebrews passage. A guest speaker at church last night referenced 1 Peter 2 — which I had only read the day before.

God’s word is such a treasure, and I enjoy my reading time each day, in which I remember great treasures and find words of comfort as well as exhortation. Reading the Bible in this manner is just a part of everyday life, as I continue each selection from the previous day —
not a “task” to complete a certain reading for each day in the year. I could never return to the limited diet of such task-structured plans.

A Look at Some Free Bible Software

August 4, 2009 Leave a comment

I recently discovered two great, free bible programs: e-Sword and TheWord. These programs have actually been around for awhile; I started hearing about e-Sword on some Christian message boards, and since have downloaded and tried them out.

Both programs have a basic program which includes KJV and basic functionality, and many optional modules to add additional Bible versions, commentaries, dictionaries and more. E-Sword appears to have more overall modules, including several available for a small fee in addition to the many free modules. TheWord does not have any maps yet, though I noticed it has a category for that in the download section; no doubt they will add map modules in the future. In both cases, the free modules are often public domain material, such as Spurgeon devotionals, Matthew Henry commentary and Scofield reference notes.

TheWord has an importer utility that can import and convert e-Sword modules. However, it only works with earlier versions of e-Sword. The current version of e-Sword, version 9 (just released this May), has its databases completely redone in new formats. Also, earlier versions of e-Sword apparently had the ability to show Bible text in paragraph format, in addition to the verse-line format. That feature was accidentally omitted from the current version, and when I inquired about it, they acknowledged this mistake and said it would be added back to the next version.

Paragraph format text, along with footnotes and the “headers” included in a translation, are important features to me, and for this TheWord is the winner. TheWord allows you to display the text in either verse-line or paragraph format. You can also adjust the settings to show the footnotes at the bottom of the chapter, or in-stream at the verse, or as numbers that show the footnote when you move your mouse over the number. TheWord also displays the text with many small blue-colored links throughout — cross-references based on similar words and/or ideas in some other part of the Bible. These also display in pop-up windows when I move my mouse over the link.

E-Sword has one great feature, but the lack of paragraph formatted text makes it of limited value. The “bible reading plan” option allows you to create one or more “reading plans.” You can define each reading plan to all of the Bible, or any specific books. The default option is one chapter a day, though you can change it to other time periods. Using this feature, I was able to set up 12 reading plans, one for each list I read in my modified Horner Bible Reading plan. When you select each list from the drop-down, it shows the full text for the first day’s chapter. A check-box at the top of the screen allows you to mark a reading as completed, so the next day when you access the list, it shows the correct chapter. (Obviously it helps to set up the reading plan when you actually start reading the chapters. In my case, I was in the middle of several of the lists, and it takes quite a bit of time to go through each day’s reading and “check it off” to get to where I’m actually reading.)

Given the format limitations of E-Sword, however, I found an even better way to quickly access my 12 daily readings in TheWord. I already have an Excel file “calendar” that lists all the chapter readings. A one-time save to CSV format, then loading the CSV file into Wordpad and removing the commas, gives a basic text file with each day’s readings, line by line. With TheWord running in another window, I just go into the wordpad file, and highlight and copy each scripture reference on the schedule — for instance, highlight “Isaiah 1” and copy to clipboard. TheWord displays a pop-up window in Wordpad (or whatever program you’re using to copy to the clipboard), with the full text displayed, and a link to “go” to the full view in TheWord. It only takes a few seconds to highlight, copy, then click “go” and I’m reading the full chapter, with my paragraph formatting, in TheWord. I also maximize the text window for easier reading.

TheWord also has a way to import text files (stored in rtf format), and create book entries from these. I tested it out with the transcripts from some S. Lewis Johnson messages, one message per file. Each file (transcript) is considered a chapter in the “book” and you can easily link to any of the chapters, or search for text anywhere in the book. Once the first few chapters of the book are setup, you can easily modify the chapter names, and add new chapters anywhere in the sequence. So if one had the time and desire, with TheWord you could add all of SLJ’s transcripts (or any other pastor or book series transcripts available online) as various books (each book having all the transcripts in a sermon series), to have all of the material easily accessible and searchable.

TheWord is available for free download at: http://www.theword.gr