I didn’t grow up in church, so when I gave my life to God the Bible was somewhat foreign to me. Sure I knew some of the super famous stories… David and Goliath, Noah built the ark, and Daniel and the lions den, but even what I knew of the famous stories seemed so limited. 20 years ago when I decided to pursue ministry I felt like my starting line was so much further back than some of the others. I had only been a christian for about 2 years and during that 2 years I had a 2 month span where I wasn’t even sure if I believed in God. But, today I feel like I am finally starting to truly understand what I am reading.
As a pastor I have had many conversations with people who simply don’t know how to read the Bible, where to start or how to get anything out of there time in the Word. This writing may be one of the most important writings I have written. It is my hope that you don’t just read this list and log off, but I pray that you read this list and make the decision to pick the Bible up, start reading and get on the journey of discovering God’s Word for yourself.
1. Quality always trumps quantity
It is better for you to read a couple verses and understand it, than for you to read 10 chapters and not even remember what you read an hour later.
2. Remember why you are reading
You are not reading to tick a box or to fulfill some Christian duty. You read the Bible to be transformed. The Bible tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. If your mind is going to be truly renewed from your time being in the word, you can’t turn it off after you close the book. Take some time after you read to think about what you read, or maybe even talk to a friend about what you got out of the reading. You could also journal about what you are reading. Many people use a method called SOAP for this. Scripture, Observation, Application & Prayer. Simply put, if you want to get something out of your time in the word, the minutes after are just as important as the minutes spent reading.
3. If you didn’t understand what you just read, read it again. It’s really okay.
Over the last 20 or so years I can’t tell you how many times I have read the same scriptures. We should be students of the Word for a lifetime, not just one time. So if I am going to read the same verse or chapter again a month or year later, what’s wrong with reading that same verse or chapter 1 minute later?
4. Context, context, context
Use a study Bible and before you read a new book, read the introduction to the book. Knowing the context of what you are reading will always give you better clarity of the subject matter. Tools that preachers use to study aren’t just for preachers! Pick up a commentary, read the footnotes, and dive into the Word. You may not be looking up words in a lexicon in the beginning but the more you study and use the tools, the more familiar you will be with the tools.
5. Keep a consistent daily pattern
I get it… the Bible doesn’t make sense… and you don’t have time… and the kids are crazy… and this excuse… and that excuse… What if instead of making an excuse to not read, you made an excuse to read. Maybe you can decide to not jump on social media until after you have read that day? Or, no television until you spent time in the word. And remember, don’t rush it.
6. Eliminate distractions as much as possible
As cool as it may seem to read at your local coffee shop, if you keep getting distracted by the noise and the people then that’s probably not the best place to read. For some, I also realize reading itself is distracting because you are always thinking of something else and you don’t retain what you read. Maybe you should listen to an audio bible as you read? Let your kids go outside to play or wake up earlier. I don’t know what is distracting to you, but I do know one of the biggest distractions today is our phones. Turn it on airplane mode for a minute. That person can call you back and that text probably isn’t that time sensitive anyway. While we are talking about phones, I know it may be cool to post the perfect picture of your bible, coffee and highlighters… but if that takes 20 minutes, and then you get distracted by scrolling for another 10 and then the distraction continues by all of the push notifications of someone liking that post… maybe, just don’t do that.
7. Don’t give up.
It takes 1,000s of hours to become an expert. You will not have the Bible fully figured out after a week. Truly you won’t have it fully figured out in a lifetime. The point is we give up often right before the point of break through.
One more thought: if you are a new Bible reader, where you start reading is important. My 12 year old son, Simon, just read the New Testament with me and some other friends over 1 month. There were parts he didn’t understand. But he got a large overview. When he first picked up his Bible a couple years ago I told him to start in Mark because he likes action and Mark is the action gospel. If you are new to reading the Bible, I would suggest for you to start with one of the gospels.
If you have anything that’s helped you better understand and relate to the Bible, I would love to hear about them in the comments below!
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