If 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?”
- 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.
- 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).
- 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?”
- 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?