Reading the Bible

The Bible is not the easiest book to read. In fact, it can be extremely difficult for someone new to its contents.

For example, if we read, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11) by itself, we will just see a motivational Bible verse. We would miss the significance behind the promise God makes to His people as they are conquered, captured, and thrown into exile.

If we take the time to look carefully at the Bible, that’s when we begin to understand what God is really saying to us through His Word.

Here is a concise step-by-step guide to reading the Bible for all its worth:

1. Understand the Context
Who wrote it? When? Who was the intended audience? Build a bridge from Biblical times to the 21st Century so that you can understand what the author is saying and why. You can do this by consulting a good Study Bible, or by researching what experts have said about the passage you are currently reading.

2. Read Carefully
Howard Hendrix once said that we must read the Bible like we are reading a love letter: word-by-word, and over-and-over again. If you read the book of John as carefully as you read your note from Susie down the street, you’ll have a better understanding of who Jesus is than you ever have before.

3. Make Connections
Right now, you are reading an article on the All About Jesus blog. The whole reason we have this name is because we have come to understand that all of Scripture points to Jesus. Use John 1:1-18 as your framework to understand how God interacts with His people throughout salvation history.

“In the beginning was the Word [The Word refers to Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:1-3)

Now go read Genesis 1 with this passage in mind.

4. Discover the Meaning
You are now prepared to begin drawing out what the text means. Use what you learned about the author, the time period, the audience, and the context of the verses to find out what God is saying to His people. This will also propel you down the path of understanding what it means for us today.

5. Find out Why it Matters
This is the part of the process where all the things you learned moves from your head to your heart. 1 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” We need to discover how the truths of the Old and New Testaments apply to our daily life.

6. Read it Again
If you don’t quite understand what you’re reading, read it again. If it’s still unclear, read it again. Sooner or later, the pieces will fall into place, and you’ll know more about that passage of Scripture than anything you’ve ever read before.

If you are a new Christian and you want to know where to get started, read the article How Can I Know God? by Tim Keller. If you want to learn about how Jesus is at the center of all of Scripture, even the Old Testament, consider listening to this podcast on how to read the Bible through the Jesus Lens. And if you want to find out how to take your Bible reading a step further by memorizing Scripture, you can listen to this podcast on Scripture memorization tactics or read Karen Heimbuck’s 12 Simple Steps For Memorizing God’s Word.

There are countless ways you can connect to God in His Word. What passage will you read next?

If you’re a reader, there may come a point in your life when you realize that you’re in a dry spell and not gobbling up books as you used to. Or maybe you’re not a reader and wish that you were. Either way, reading can often take some discipline. It most of all needs to be a habit, and that’s especially true when it comes to the Bible, the most important book we’ve been given, as the Lord has given it to us as a way to be with Him.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” – Matthew 4:4

But sometimes we need help making the reading of the Word a daily habit. Here are four ideas:

  • Journibles
    Journibles are journals plus Bibles (get it? Journible?), with each one focused on a book, or multiple small books of the Bible. There are pages where you are supposed to write out the scripture passage for the day, and then pages for you to write out your thoughts on the passage. There are a few questions sprinkled along the way to help spark your thinking, too, but mostly it’s a journal dedicated to helping you soak up the Word.
  • The Bible in 90 Days by Ted Cooper Jr.
    For those who want to zip through the Bible, and maybe go through it twice in one year, there’s The Bible in 90 Days. The book gives you 12 pages of the Bible to read each day.
  • YouVersion’s Bible App
    A Bible app can be a great way to make sure you’re spending time in the Word. This app by YouVersion can alert you each day to the passage you’re supposed to read, depending on which plan you sign up for. Checking off each day’s reading is a pleasure of it’s own. It can also adjust the reading plan if you get behind. And let’s not forget how handy it can be to have your daily reading in hand when you’re riding the subway or waiting in line at the doctor’s office.
  • An hourglass and a favorite chair
    A conference speaker that I heard, Elizabeth Fitch, shared this idea. She has a comfy chair with an hourglass on the table next to it, and disciplines herself to sit in the chair each day while the sand sifts, reading the Word and praying.

The Word is how God speaks to us, feeds us, cares for us. It is his daily gift to us, part of our daily bread, that helps sustain us. Let us care for ourselves by caring for this gift He has lovingly bestowed, cultivating a habit of being with Him each day. Not for the purpose of being a “good” Christian, but for our good and His glory.