The Bible is many things to the Christian: it’s their spiritual contract from God, a history of man’s mistakes and God’s success’s, God’s love letter to us, and our personal instruction manual for life. But what good is it if we don’t read it? Even worse – what good are we if we read it and don’t understand it or act on it?
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
John 14:15 – If ye love me, keep my commandments.
I wrote this post with two intentions:
1.) To enforce the importance of purposefully reading God’s Word in a Christian’s life.
2.) To offer some of my own personal advice on reading and understanding the Word much more efficiently.
Speak Louder God!
Many Christians frustrate themselves or wreck their own walk with the Lord because they demand God to talk to them, and when they hear silence they wonder what they are doing wrong or if God even loves them or exists at all. What a rabbit trail from the obvious – God has already spoke to you in 66 books through about 40 different authors on so many subjects it would blow your mind! So before you get filled with doubt or become mad at God for not talking to you, read His letter to you first. I am not at all saying that God’s Spirit does not speak any any more as some teach but that you should not neglect to read and do the Word in search of God’s voice.
Complaints and Misconceptions about the Word of God
It’s so huge I can’t possibly read it all!
It’s not a novel that you must read front to back, just read pick a section and read it. For example you can start reading the Gospels of the New Testament and then just backward to read the Psalms and Proverbs after that.
It’s so huge I don’t know where to start.
Pick a book to read and go from there. My best advice is to slowly move through the New Testament and then read the Old Testament after that. If you are still out of ideas my favorite books are: Matthew, Acts, Ephesians, Colossians, James, 1 John, Romans, Psalms, Proverbs, and Genesis.
It’s so old why should I read it?
Truth is without age, meaning that no matter how old the instructions of God get they still apply to today and have not aged. The timeless Truth in the Bible still leads you to God, changes your life, and it still offers powerful answers even though it may be 3,500 years old as a whole.
It’s so boring with all the lists of people names I can’t even pronounce!
There are only about 25 chapters in the Bible out of 1,189 total chapters that contain genealogies or lists of names so stop making excuses! Besides, they give historical and cultural evidence to the Bible and show how Jesus is related to King David, Judah, Abraham, Noah, and Adam! How is that not cool!?
I never understand what it’s talking about!
To help yourself understand a verse or story simply read the context (what happens before) slowly and think about it, then read what happens after so you get the bigger picture in mind. Also try to place yourself in the shoes of the characters and research the things of that culture that you may not yet understand.
If it’s written by so many authors how is it from God?
God is not limited to who He uses for His work. Despite the various authors and times it was written in God remains the same. These men had real relationships with God and heard His voice. As you read more and more of the Bible you will find the undeniable unity that is present amongst all the scriptures and subjects despite it’s variety and time range.
It’s been passed down through so many translations how is it still original or unchanged?
The Dead Sea Scrolls were one historical find that validated the authenticity of the message in our scriptures. It showed that the scripture we have today have not changed noticeably over 2000 years. The real question is do you think God is not able to preserve a some simple writings inorder that mankind may know the Truth without being deceived by years of compounded errors? He is able to preserve His Word and He has done so thus the Word is our trustworthy map out of sin through Christ and to God.
How Not to Read the Bible
1.)Open the Bible to a random page every time you read and point your finger to a random spot on the page and begin reading.
2.)Read scriptures to back up a certain belief you have or have heard about. Let the scriptures as a whole interpret themselves.
3.)Read as much scripture as you can as fast as you can before falling asleep in order to feel good about yourself. Thus you read yourself to sleep.
Tips on How to Read your Bible
1.)Before you read, pray that God would speak to you and that you would be open to what the Word has to say.
2.)Pick one or two books of the Bible and read it entirely over the course of a few weeks or a month (depending on your reading speed). This will help you gather context within the book and information you would miss if you play the “hit and miss game” of #1. Be orderly with your reading! It also allows you to follow the flow of narrative, stories, topics, and thoughts from the author from one chapter to the next and from one book to the next. Don’t play the hit and miss game! Use a book mark to keep track of where you left off. Also don’t forget about the Old Testament! It’s important too.
3.)Read slowly and think about each word. It’s not a speed reading contest! It will take longer to get through each chapter but the result of understanding and grasping what you are reading is much more important than reading the Bible faster. Many life changing revelations and hard to find answers are skimmed over because people read the Bible to fast.
4.)Be careful not to skim the scriptures for something “good”, it’s all good and it’s all important for you to read in order to understand the bigger points. Actually read, don’t skip sections or skim-read.
5.)Be careful not to “zombie read” as I call it, where you thoughtlessly read while thinking of other things, not even knowing what you are reading. Focus on what you read and if you have to, stop and read that huge chunk over again! Trust me, I’ve had to re-read things over many times. When you finish reading time, ask yourself questions about what you read. Do you understand what you just read? Did you learn anything?
6.)Don’t just read the scripture, pray them. Scriptures such as the Psalms and Proverbs make great individual prayers or even songs. For example if you read “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” You may pray “Father I will trust in You when I walk through dark times, even death. Thank You for staying faithful and being with me always, You are with me and You are my comfort.”
7.)Get a dedicated notebook to have with you when you read the Bible. As you read the Bible, write down in your notebook questions about what you have read and don’t forget to put scripture references so you can look at it later. Don’t worry about always having the answers. When you do learn something new write it down as well and include a scripture reference so later you can go back to it or show it to someone else. I use small cheap journals from Barnes&Noble or Office Depot for this and it’s been an invaluable resource to my spiritual growth and education in the Bible.
8.)It’s not a sin to underline, circle, or write in your Bible. Just don’t go crazy and be careful with pen ink or highlighters because they may blead through the page to the other side. I use pencil so I can erase and it’s not too distracting or noticeable.
9.)Get two different translations like a New King James, and a New Living Translation (Amplified or NASB’s is great too). If you find a portion that you like or that speaks to you make sure and read it in other translations to see the different word choices that are used. Do the same with portions that confuse you – see how other versions or translations word that section of scripture, it may help you understand the meaning.
10.)Read context! Context is the stuff that is written before what you are actually read and it decides the meaning of the present scripture. For example without context one may quote the Bible as saying “There is no God!” which is in Psalm 14. However upon further investigation one will find that with context the scripture says ‘THE fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt…“. When scripture is used without context it may be twisted to say many things that it was not intended to say originally. To understand the New Testament one must also read the Old Testament because it is the context of the New Testament.
11.)Don’t believe that reading or understanding is enough! The gospel is not meant to merely be a textbook so that you can pass your final test. It’s an instruction manual on the action that you as a believer are to take. A believer lives the gospel in thought as well as in action. If you believe but don’t act on it your belief is dead (James 2:17).
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.