How I Read My Bible

Posted by on Aug 12, 2012 in Uncategorized, Writing | 28 Comments

I get a frequent amount of emails about “where to start” when reading the bible. Let’s be honest, it’s a daunting book. Most people want to be really proactive and they start reading it front-to-back but usually fall asleep by Leviticus. I thought I’d take sometime to offer some practical things I use to study the bible in hopes that it’ll push us all deeper into intimacy with our creator.

 

1. Take time to pause and ask God to speak before you open the bible.

One of the worst things someone can do is start reading the bible without ever acknowledge the One who speaks in it. The bible is such a big book we can make it say whatever we want. Want to be really rich and greedy with your money? There’s a verse for that. Wan’t to get an unbiblical divorce? There’s a verse for that. Before we ever open the scriptures we need to acknowledge God as God and us as not. We need to place the scriptures above us, letting them inform us, rather than putting them below us, letting us inform them. Also I dare you to ask God to reveal Himself to you before you open it. He is there and He will. This little nugget transformed my bible reading. Every morning it’s a simple prayer, but I usually just say, “God, reveal yourself to me in these pages. Show me what you want to show me, teach me what you want to teach me, and let me close it having heard from you.”


2. Get a plan

Really early on in my Christian walk I loved to read the Scriptures but had no idea how. It intimidated me. Sometimes I would just open it to wherever and start reading with little to no context of the passage at all. It’s the Christian version of a wigi board. One of the most helpful things is I got myself a reading plan that walked me through certain passages of the scripture everyday. The one I usually do now has me reading a section from the Psalms, OT, & NT everyday. I included a link below to an amazing article that highlights a ton of reading plans. Take a look and find one that works best for you. The biggest thing with a reading plan, is don’t use it as a morality check but use it as a structure to push you closer to God. If you miss a day(s), which you will, keep it moving. It’s not about finishing the bible in a year, it’s about having a structure that frees you up to dig into God more. For the reading plans click here.


3. Switch it up


One of my favorite things to do is listen to the bible on audio. My favorite audio bible is the Bible Experience. It is a dramatized version of the bible that doesn’t just read the verses but includes sounds and dramatization to fit the context. So when Jesus is entering Jeruslem you can hear donkeys, people walking on dirt, etc. It really brings it to life (Check it out here). For me it really helps to switch up my plan also. When I read at the exact same time the exact same way everyday it seems to make it a little stale. Read it sometimes in your head. Read it outloud. Read it inside. Read it outside. Listen to it while working out, driving, etc. A really interesting thing to do is copy and paste books of the bible into Microsoft Word and take out all the chapter and verse numbers. Not knowing exactly what verse you are in makes your mind read it much more like a letter or story. It’s fun and refreshing.


4. Journal about what you’ve learned


For me I have a moleskin that I write everything in (They seriously are the best. See for yourself here). Write what God just taught you. Write things that stuck out. Write questions you have for God. Write prayers. Write anything. It not only helps you retain more, but for a lot of us writing is a way of actually processing what we just read.

 

By no means is this complete, exhaustive, or exclusive. This are just some things I’ve used in my personal reading. Do whatever connects you to God the closest and fits your personality.


Other Resources I’ve Found Helpful When Studying The Bible:

How To Study The Bible (a Sermon By Matt Chandler)

Net Bible (A great bible study website)

How to Study The Bible (a Book by Watchman Nee)


What would you add? What do you do for your bible time?


28 Comments

  1. Laura
    August 12, 2012

    Thank you so much for sharing–very helpful!!

    Reply
    • kenneth
      September 6, 2012

      I agree with you Laura, this post is very helpful. For people wanting more details on how to study the Bible, they should checkout out Bible Study Corner

      Reply
  2. Nicole Wiley
    August 12, 2012

    I’ve noticed that any time I try planning my reading or limiting the amount per day I don’t want to read, it begins to feel like homework. Recently I have been reading the bible when I feel like it and find myself enjoying it! How would I fit journaling in that?

    Reply
    • Maddy
      August 13, 2012

      I do that also & was wondering the same thing! After talking about it with a friend, we thought that when something really stands out, inspires you, or if you are reading the Bible in a certain mindset (need to be cheered up or more grateful…), is when it might be best to actually plan & journal good verses, prayers, and your thoughts. That’s what we plan to do! Hope this helps.

      Reply
      • Nicole
        August 15, 2012

        Thanks :)

        Reply
  3. Cody Roberson
    August 12, 2012

    Which books do you recommend baby Christians read first to kick start the in-depth study?

    Reply
    • jeffbethke
      August 13, 2012

      anything by nav press is really good! amazon some of their workbooks!

      Reply
    • geveli
      August 13, 2012

      you gotta get Classic Christianity by Bob George. its a phenominal book. im half way through. i feel i am very new in the Lord, even tho ive been a christian all my life. He talks about typical Christians and touches on a ton of common misconceptions. he speaks with conviction but does so in a gentle way. highly highly recommend my brother!

      Reply
  4. Cameron Fisk
    August 12, 2012

    Sometimes I read the Gospels backward. That is, I start with the last chapter and read it through, then I go to the second to last chapter, and so forth. I know this sounds like the context would completely be lost, but for books that you’re familiar with, it’s amazing because this method really elucidates things that often go overlooked.

    Reply
  5. Becky
    August 12, 2012

    Great resources. I suggest someone new to studying the Word start with Matthew and continue to through the gospels, to get to know Jesus better. Romans is the perfect out line of our faith for the beginning Christian. I also love the reading aloud app “faith comes by hearing”. It is like the Bible Experience, when it works that is.

    Reply
  6. Shelli N.
    August 13, 2012

    I journal( you can fit this into any bible study type, but I decided I wasn’t reading enough OT and decided to write about how I can relate to events and people, and how I can use their lessons in my life) I use study guides from various places when going through harder books for me, like Leviticus, to better understand OT customs. I also make family trees to keep track of who’s who and to have a sort- of timeline to refer to.

    Reply
  7. Ann & the Dog
    August 13, 2012

    Downloading the Bible onto my phone has been a real help. I’ve tried reading the Bible before, but I’ve never gotten as far as I have this time. I’m able to make time when it’s quiet. I can read before I get out of bed. I can read before I go to sleep. I can read under the hair dryer at the salon.

    I chose to read The Message chronologically. I know it’s not the most technically correct, but when I get to a passage that I think is too modernized, I can flip over to another version & grasp a deeper meaning. PLUS – by reading it in the order it happened, I get a better appreciation & understanding of God’s Word and sometimes read ahead because I find the story so interesting. In any case, I’m 46% through and it’s more than I’ve ever done.

    I feel more grounded reading His Word daily. I’m already making plans for what version I’ll read when I’ve finished this one.

    Reply
  8. Hope
    August 13, 2012

    Doing it in community always helps for me. Having someone or a group of people to go back to and discuss what I have read and learned helps me to process His truth.

    Reply
    • jeffbethke
      August 13, 2012

      hope thats huge! :) i was going to include that but thought I’d maybe do a part two later on community bible study

      Reply
  9. Ann Marie
    August 13, 2012

    When I first started reading the bible I was completely overwhelmed. I too didn’t know where to start. I also found it hard to understand at times. If I come across something that is not getting through to me I switch bibles. I take out my bible for teens. If I still am missing something key I go to a children’s bible. It is the same verses, but of course, is written in a way that “even a child can understand”. When I go back to my adult bible and read it again it suddenly makes sense. I am not ashamed to admit that I do not understand every verse in the bible nor am I ashamed to admit I have to go to a teen or children’s bible to “get it”. I just want to get the most out of God’s word and draw closer to Him. This method really works for me.

    Reply
    • Kati
      August 13, 2012

      What a great idea!! I tell my new-to-Christianity friends to pick up a children’s bible to get a general feel for the stories and ideas presented in the bible. I love your idea! I am reading the bible for the first time all the way through and I can only do NLT. It’s the only one I can really understand. I’m hoping as I mature I can do a version closer to how it was written back then!

      Reply
  10. Nina
    August 13, 2012

    So beautiful. Thank you!

    Reply
  11. Julie (@InciteFaith)
    August 13, 2012

    Thank you so much for this post. Your response was a lot more thorough than what I have received in the past. Appreciate you.

    Reply
  12. Kati
    August 13, 2012

    Great ideas! When I first started reading the bible I did the gospels first. Just to get an idea of exactly who Jesus was and is. It was a great way to jump into it! Thanks for your wisdom, Jeff!!

    Reply
  13. H
    August 13, 2012

    Re: placing the scriptures above us, it really helps me to remember above all while I’m reading that God loves me, because otherwise I come to passages like the seven things God hates or the letters to the churches in Revelation and basically go into panic mode thinking I’m damned now, whereas if I read it through the lens of love I think that I need to work through things with God, and let Him help me to be a better, kinder person with a closer relationship to Him. To be fair I’m still working on this, and I still find verses that make me feel nervous/angry/unloved, but I find it a useful principle.

    Reply
  14. Ana
    August 13, 2012

    Nice article. With me, however, it seems that God always leads me to discover different kind of bibles. So I buy the new version of bible (for example: now I am reading “the message”, after this I will buy “life application study bible” after that NLT and so on). It makes it exciting for me, and I like to compare all different versions, and it also helps to understand some scriptures better and makes me look forward to reading…

    Reply
  15. Jeremy Weeks
    August 13, 2012

    I listen to sermons while I work and that really helps me grasp his word. Also helps the time go by faster. Haha. Thanks for the audio Bible suggestion. I have been planning to find one that is intresting and I wont zone out. Also my room mate and I have been going through from the beginning and each reading 5 chapters to the other out loud. Its nice to hear someone else read other than yourself

    Reply
  16. Kaury
    August 14, 2012

    #4 is my favorite: “Journal about what you’ve learned”. I think this is going to help me a lot when time to study the bible. Thanks for sharing bro and God Bless You!

    Reply
    • jeffbethke
      August 14, 2012

      hope so kaury! journaling has helped me a ton!

      Reply
  17. Lyndon
    August 15, 2012

    Great blog, Jeff!
    What I have found has helped me in my daily reading is to turn on the audio in the YouVersion app on my phone, and have it read to me as I read along in my physical bible.
    I find that this helps me in two ways. One, it controls the pace so it is not too fast and, secondly, I am more likely not to ‘skip’ through certain scriptures.
    Very helpful.

    Reply
  18. Amalia
    August 15, 2012

    Hey Jeff,
    Thanks for this posting, I needed this!

    Reply
  19. Brittney
    August 16, 2012

    Thank you so much for this blog, Jeff! I have been struggling with self discipline and making time to read my Bible more and pray more. You always have a way with uncovering Parr of the trail for me! Thank you! I love writing, so I think I will also try the journaling method while reading/listening to my Bible! Thanks again brother in Christ!

    Reply
  20. kenneth
    September 6, 2012

    This is a great post Jeff. I had this problem for a long time. The Site called Bible Study Corner has a free book on how to study the Bible.
    http://www.biblestudycorner.com/
    Bible Study Corner

    Reply

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