5 Steps to Help You Read Your Bible
A couple of weeks ago I preached a sermon on depression and anxiety and in the sermon I encouraged folks to reach out to me who need help reading the Bible. There were folks who took me up on that and I am grateful they did so. Some of these folks were new believers. Others have been Christians for a long time. Both needed very practical advice on how to approach various spiritual disciplines.
Since then, my wheels have been turning about how best to provide some very tangible and accessible resources to those of you who do not know how to read and study the Word profitably. I've been thinking through practical ways to help you pray consistently, or be involved in the body of Christ well and regularly. Therefore, I'm going to walk you through some ways to begin to implement these spiritual disciplines into your life. And if along the way you have questions, please reach out to me.
As Christians we are good at telling folks they need to be in the Word and they need to be praying, but we are bad at showing them how to do these things. We are bad at giving them good resources to get started. Today, I am going to just give you some practical helps on how to read your Bible. And I am going to assume that many of you reading this haven't developed a good regular rhythm that works for you. Hopefully, this will help you some.
Establish Your Schedule
I will be firm here. You need to have a set time every day that prohibits interruptions. You need to establish this before you move any further. Some of this requires that you know yourself. Some of you function best late at night. Some of you function well early in the morning. Some of you are mothers and need to utilize nap time. Wherever you are in life, recognize the space where you will be uninterrupted and commit to it. Sacrifice sleep because of it. Whatever you do, don't make excuses.
I am not an early bird or a night person. Honestly, I prefer to be in bed by 9 and I could sleep until 9 if I didn't push myself. I have a cozy, comfy bed, don't judge me. However, I do not sleep in until 9 (and I usually don't go to bed until around 10:30). I wake at 5:15 a.m. My alarm goes off, I sluggishly roll out of bed, my coffee brews, and I approach the Holy God of the Universe who made it possible for the sun to rise that morning. At 5:15 a.m. my phone is silent. My responsibilities haven't consumed my thoughts yet. My son is asleep. I hear the birds chirping outside, but that is as noisy as it gets. It's peaceful and I love it. That is my committed scheduled time. I must stick to it or I won't spend time with the Lord for an extended period of time the rest of the day and my entire day feels off.
Before I read the Scripture for the day, I pray for the Lord to calm my wandering mind. I pray for the Holy Spirit to help me understand what I'm about to read. I pray that my reading will lead to worshipping my Triune God. I am approaching a Holy Book. The Book was brought into existence by the Creator of all things. You must remember that when you approach the Scripture. You need help. You need the Holy Spirit. So, humble yourself and declare your dependency upon the Lord.
Quality Not Quantity
Now, there is a benefit in reading the Bible cover to cover in a year, but if you've never established good habits with reading the Scripture, don't start here. If you have a hard time understanding Scripture, don't start here either. I once read where theologian Wayne Grudem would read the same passage every single day until he began to grasp it. This really encouraged me. If a scholar and theologian to the magnitude of Grudem approached his devotional reading this way, then certainly it's ok for me to work through the Scriptures slowly. Read with the goal of fellowshipping with God. Do not read with the goal of speed reading through chunks of Scripture so that you can say you've read lots of Scripture. Seek to understand. Seek to apply what you're reading to your life. Seek to be humbled. Seek to find Jesus in what you're reading.
Adopt a Bible Reading Plan
Now, with that said, have a plan. Don't just open your Bible and begin reading. You can find some of the best Bible reading plans available here. Pick the one that meets you where you are. Don't bite off more than you can chew. If you aren't in the habit of reading the Word, don't try to read the Bible in a year. I would suggest a plan that has you read a section from the Old Testament and a section from the New Testament on a daily basis.
Use a Pen
I read with a pen in hand. I underline passages that stick out to me. I write in the margins of my Bible. I write questions regarding parts I do not understand. I don't stop my reading and look up answers to my questions right then and there (I'll explain more about that in my next post), but I jot down my questions so that I can go back later to answer them. Having a pen in hand makes me an active reader and is a great way to keep my mind focused on what I'm reading. I also journal certain parts of Scripture that I want to meditate on for the day. For instance, I am slowly working my way through Ephesians 1. Because of that, I have Ephesians 1 printed out on a piece of paper that I read as I walk from place to place. I recite the Scripture out loud, I even commit it to memory. I am amazed at how my understanding of the Scripture increases when I connect my devotional readings to the rest of my day. So use ink.
Read Books on How to Read the Bible
Read good books on how to read the Bible. I'd like to suggest some very practical ones to you. Even read these books as a part of your devotional time after your Bible reading if you can (or download them on audio book format).
This is a great, accessible book on how to read your Old Testament.
This book takes you by the hand and shows you how to approach every book of the Bible one at a time.
This book equips you with the needed tools to rightly understand the Scripture.
A very helpful guide on how to see Christ in all of Scripture.
That is enough for now. I'll continue this series of posts next week.