Years ago I was given a piece of advice that has proved to be more valuable in my life than anything else: Read through the Bible once a year.
There are so many reasons why this is a good idea (wisdom, knowledge, spiritual growth, love for and awe of God), but in terms of apologetics, it’s important to have a good grasp of the whole of the Bible—how things fit together, how one part explains another, and where you can find which piece of information in order to answer a person’s questions. Reading through the Bible regularly will give you the basics you need to work through some of the more difficult issues to explain (suffering, slavery, war against the Canaanites, judgment, etc.) in light of all the necessary information. And when a person objects to the God of the Bible based on a verse that was taken out of context, you’ll immediately recognize the problem and be able to correct it.
If you need to get started in this habit by following a one-year plan, then by all means do so. However, the best way to do this is to read as large a chunk at one time as you can manage. One book in one or two sittings is ideal. I can remember the first time I read through the Bible. I used a one-year plan and read such a little amount per day that I couldn’t keep track of the story. Characters would be referred to later on in one of the longer books and I wouldn’t remember who they were. I had no understanding of the overall history of Israel even after finishing. It wasn’t until a class assignment forced me to read the entire Old Testament in four months (and therefore, in large portions per sitting) that the text opened up to me as a full, meaningful, unified story.
Here’s the suggestion: Set aside a two-hour block (or a couple one-hour blocks) per week and read the Bible as you would any other book (i.e., not just a few sentences at a time). The first few years, read to get the overall picture—don’t let the details slow you down. (Feel free to set up other times during the week to meditate on smaller portions, if you wish.) This will get easier and easier over time, as more of the larger pieces fall into place for you and everything makes more sense. Don’t give up! After a few years, you’ll be in a better position to start thinking carefully through everything, and you’ll find that many of your questions have already been answered; but you have to learn your times tables before you can do calculus, so start putting the time in now.
How long will this take you each year? Well, the Bible on CD runs 76 hours. That’s 38 weeks at two hours a week or 25 weeks at three hours. That’s nothing! Completely doable. Then, once you master this habit, add on an extra reading of the New Testament each year—only 18 hours! I want these numbers to give you motivating hope. It never occurred to me (before I was forced) to think such a thing was possible for me, but it is. You can do this, and I promise you that if you stick with it, making this commitment will be a turning point for you.