Ten Tips for Reading the Bible in 2013



bibleIf you are like me at the new year you evaluate your Bible reading habits, there are a variety of tools out there both for online and offline reading. Last Sunday at my church we were given a Bible reading plan to use as well. Whatever reading plan you use here or if you use none at all, here are ten tips that have helped me when approaching reading the Bible.

  1. I read a lot and I have made a commitment that I will not read anything before I read the Bible. I would encourage you to make it a priority to start your day. I am not legalistic about that so if you’re a night owl stick to that, but I know for me anything that gets put off for later has a greater tendency not to get done. The key is consistency, so pick a time that works for you.
  2. Pick a plan that is realistic for you. I’d rather see you start reading a few verses a day and become consistent with that than to take up a “read the Bible in three months” challenge and crash and burn.
  3. Pick a time where you won’t be distracted – this is why earlier in the morning is a good time for me, but do whatever works for you. Just make sure you have some time where you won’t be distracted by your kids, cell phone, pet, email, coworkers, etc.
  4. Use an actual translation and not a paraphrase of the Bible. The Message and The New Living Translation, among others, may be good supplements as you read, but they should never be used as your primary Bible. They are a paraphrase and not always a faithful translation from the original language the Bible was written in. I recommend that you use a translation such as the New King James Version, English Standard Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible or New American Standard Bible.
  5. Set aside the study notes. If you have a study Bible it is easy to get distracted by the notes. I encourage you to read through the text first and then perhaps read the notes later if you like, but you shouldn’t read somebody else’s interpretation of the text before you read the text itself.
  6. As you read ask, “What does this tell me about God?” What characteristic or attribute can you seen in the passage you are reading?  Also ask, “what does this passage tell me about me as a human being and my nature?”
  7. Ask how does this passage fit with God’s over all narrative? The Bible is one story from Genesis to Revelation? It’s the story of creation, fall and redemption. As you read the Bible remember that you should interpret scripture with scripture. Far too often people will grasp a single verse in the Bible and make it say something that is contradictory to what the Bible in whole says.
  8. Pray and ask God to guide you and speak to you as you read. Pray that He would awaken you and make you alive to His Word. The Word of God is living and active, (Hebrews 4:12).
  9. Also pray for God to show you how to apply His word. Reading is good, but we’re also supposed to be putting it into practice. James exhorts us to “be doers of the word and not hearers only,” (James 1:22, ESV). If we don’t do this we’re told we are deceiving ourselves. Ask yourself “is there anything I need to know, stop, change or do?”
  10. When I first became a Christian I had a ton of question as I read (I still have questions – we always will). One thing that helped me was to write questions down as I read and pray over them and then discuss them with people who can help sharpen me. I encourage you to do the same.

What are some practices and tips that I don’t have that have helped you?

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  • http://twitter.com/kevinsubra Kevin Subra

    Great tips, Shane! (The only let down – I thought you knew everything. Bummer…). ;>D I tell people that no discipline has helped me to grow more than reading through the entire Bible regularly (and that’s from someone with a degree in Biblical studies!).

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      I would certainly encourage that, and that is something I try to do every year. My point is I’d rather see consistency than to get overwhelmed. A one-year plan is pretty manageable.

      • http://twitter.com/kevinsubra Kevin Subra

        I encourage people to read *at least* one chapter a day. That still takes people through the Bible in just over 3 years. Reading through the Bible exposes us to God in a way that sermons do not, and cannot. Consistency is good, as long as it is not so pieced out that we lose the context of what we are reading. Broader reading (i.e. more chapters) gives us a different, better context (at least, in my experience). Again, good words!

      • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

        I agree.

  • Doug McHone

    Don’t be afraid to ask for accountability. I didn’t read the Bible faithfully until I had others who were counting on me. I would send them a weekly email with the scheduled readings as well as my thoughts of each day. If I stopped, most of them would have as well. So they were all counting on me to continue. That was the year of my conversion. And it all started with a father who wouldn’t stop pestering me and a New Year’s Resolution.

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      Absolutely accountability is a great thing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/davidkeys David L. Keys

    Good advice, Shane. I would include the NIV (preferably ’84) and NLT (not the original Living Bible) as valid translations. The NIV Study Bible and ESV Study Bible have some notes that are very helpful, but the reader should be clear that those notes are not part of the inspired text. Some notes may even be very sectarian and controversial, so before you buy a study Bible find who wrote the notes. If anyone wants an online Bible reading plan, I recommend YouVersion.com which has many plans and many translations available. A new Christian should probably start with one of the gospels rather than start with Genesis.

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      My preference is a more word for word translation which is why I left out NIV. I agree that the NLT is far better than The Living Bible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/les99 Lester Nazareth

    I agree with you Shane. A one year plan is what Im going for. I’ve made it a point to start reading the Bible before anything else in my day. What I’d like to add is perhaps coming back to what you read in the morning at night to see what you have been able to gather throughout the day (/what God has shown you through prayer) about it and whether you have a better understanding.

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.krol2 Peter Krol

    Thanks for the helpful post. It’s nice to see such sensible suggestions!
    One thought on #4: I agree that a word-for-word translation is best for serious study of the Bible. However, there are times when it can be helpful to read large portions of Scripture to keep the big picture in mind. At such times, I think paraphrases such as The Message or the NLT can be very helpful, as they often capture the general sense of the text quite well – and they are more interesting to read in large doses. What do you think?

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      You are very welcome. I’m not opposed to using the NLT for extensive reading, but it shouldn’t be your only Bible. Not a fan of *The Message*at all.

  • John B. Hefmier

    Great suggestions, Shane. Thanks for sharing, and Happy New 2013!!