Suggestions on How to Read the Bible
I started my journey with God’s Word way back in August of 1973. While I’d had some sort of conversion experience over three years earlier, I didn’t really grow. In fact, one would be very hard pressed to identify me as a true believer during that season of my life.
But the Lord patiently and lovingly pursued me, a reluctant young man who really wanted to be a true Christian. But there was no power in me to pull it off, and I knew it—in that condition I finally surrendered to Jesus. The result: I was baptized with the Holy Spirit, and things began changing in my life. Radically changing.
One evening my friend Stan and I were hanging out, and he said, “Hey, how about if we read the Bible?” “Sounds good to me,” I said. He suggested, “Let’s read Galatians!” I said “Fine. What’s a Galatian?” Obviously, I was virtually ignorant of the Bible … but that night I had a new start. It didn’t take long for me to develop the habit of daily Bible reading, a habit that really got me going in my growth as a Christian.
So I began reading the Bible all the way through, from cover to cover, year after year. It never gets old. Oh, I’ve been through plenty of dry times in my Bible reading, I think that’s somewhat normal. I had to learn to approach Bible reading in new ways, from different angles. Keep it fresh.
I remember one year in my pastorate in Monterey, CA. It had been my custom to encourage the fellowship to accept the challenge of reading through the entire Bible that year. A gentleman who was in the church (a very respected believer with a fruitful ministry) came up to me after that morning’s service and admitted that before that year, he’d never read through the entire Bible. But now he excitedly told me that he’d done it that very year, as a result of my challenge. I’ll never forget his words to me: “Bill, I cannot even begin to tell you the changes that God has worked in my life this past year, and I owe it all to the reading of God’s Word!” Those words were music to my ears, like Handel’s Messiah to my soul.
So here are some things I’ve learned about reading the Bible. Perhaps this may be helpful to some of you.
1. I’ve learned that reading the Bible is a relational encounter with God.
Through the Bible, God speaks to us. Therefore, I read as a listener, as a learner, as God’s child. I desire connection with God as I read, and God desires the same connection (infinitely more I do).
2. I’ve learned that the Bible reveals Jesus, and Jesus illuminates the Bible.
The message of Jesus is told throughout the Bible, Genesis – Revelation. And Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, shines His light on the Bible to my heart. I cannot truly get what God wants to give me through His Word without Jesus.
3. I’ve discovered the blessing of reading the Bible out loud.
Reading the Bible out loud slows everything down for me. It helps me focus. When the words are in my head only, my mind can more easily wander. When they come out of my mouth, it’s easier to stay on track. I see the words (the eye gate), and I hear the words (the ear gate).
Not only that, but if I’m reading aloud, I’m closer to being in a conversational mode with the Lord. It’s easy to pause, and just talk to the Lord about what I’m reading. Confession happens, there can be a faith commitment to a promise He’s made, or I might pray for strength to obey something I’ve been commanded.
Frequently, I’ll address Jesus directly as I’m reading the gospels. Instead of reading “Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee,” I’ll read “Some time after this, You crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.” It personalizes the narrative, and brings me into fellowship with Jesus.
4. I’ve used a Bible reading plan to help me with discipline.
There are many great plans out there, but I’m the kind of guy that likes to order the same thing at a restaurant! So if it works for me, I typically stay with it.
Having said that, I prefer a plan that has me in the gospels every day, and that is designed for a 25 day per month reading schedule. I want to be in the gospels every day because it’s all about Jesus, and I want to know Him better. And the 25 day plans allow me some catch up days, as well as the ability to linger on a passage and not read as many chapters on that specific day.
The good folks at The Navigators (www.navigators.org) have great plans, which are the ones I’ve used. But like I said, there are many great plans out there, usually available for free by download.
I print out the plan I’ve chosen, and then fold it up and keep it in my Bible. Then when I’m done for the year, I either start all over with the same plan I used, or with a new one that looks like a winner.
5. I like to read the Bible from one translation every year.
I do this primarily for the purpose of Bible memorization and familiarity. I find that by reading in in the same version I study from I am committing more Bible to memory than I even realize. That’s how it works for me, anyway.
One other note on this suggestion: it’s usually a good idea to read the Bible with the same translation used in your church … especially if your church is a Bible teaching church that teaches through the books of the Bible. Again, this is very helpful for Bible memorization and familiarity.
So please let me encourage you to try it out! Accept the challenge, and read through the Bible this year! It’s not hard, really … if one averages 85 verses a day, he/she will have read through the entire Bible in one year.
Some will protest by saying they don’t read well enough. My response: I’ve met plenty of believers over the years that have actually greatly improved their reading skills by reading the Bible! Also, there are many audio Bibles available online or via smartphone apps. By reading along with the audio Bible, you’re reading God’s Word!
At the end of 2017 (or even during the year) please write me and let me know how it went. Your testimony will be powerful, and encouraging to others to read!