If you could regularly have the best and tastiest food– like continually having great food right from Food Network (all without hurting your health or gaining extra pounds!), of course you would want to know about it and eat it! Not only would this food not “hurt” your health, but it would actually make you all-around healthier. You would probably think it sounds too good to be true! I don’t think you or I would say, “No, I want something that tastes bad.” Or, “I think I am too busy and will just do without food altogether.” No, we would want to eat this food, relish in it, and tell others about it!
This is similar to how I feel about the bible. Yet, I can miss the satisfying richness of the bible, and personally neglect reading it. There are many reasons this could be the case:
- It can be overwhelming knowing where to start, like having a huge feast with too many options. “Should I eat the fruit? Do I stick with what is familiar? Or do I go straight to the dessert?” We can get lost in just the sheer size of it. Often, recommended smaller “snack-sized” portions are better for getting started.
- On the other hand, my schedule is too full, and I find it is difficult to have it as a regular part of my routine. Then it is seems easier in the chaos to just ‘”get fed” from others– through teaching at church, showing up to a bible study, or listening to a podcast.
- There are times it can seem dry or uninteresting.
Whatever the obstacle, it is worth finding a way to start and just “try” something. It helps when someone reminds me of the value of God’s word, but it is even better when I discover the depth of its wisdom and purpose for myself. It then becomes a source of life, direction and a reminder of God’s gracious ways and love. Then I wonder, “How can I do without it!” God’s word is like an incredible feast, which I don’t want to miss. However, sometimes I am not sure where to start.
A starting place
This resource serves as a guide for a “starting place” for reading your bible on your own or with another person.” It also may just give you a fresh new idea or a new habit to start. As a follower of Christ we need ample time in the word, for it is a fundamental tool God uses for growth, maturity, knowledge, wisdom and personal change in our life. It is also something meant to be sought after, mediated on, shared and passed on.
Things to keep in mind
- The first thing I would say, is don’t get so caught up in the “right” plan, as much as finding a way to have it a regular part of your “diet.”
- Second, even if you don’t understand something, don’t have much time, or you find the bible dry, keep reading. You will find you can discover things about God, His character and what He is up to. It is worth persevering in these “habits” for what it can become in the future. The word of God is living, new, fascinating, and beautiful. You shouldn’t find reading it to be uninteresting, unhelpful, dead, boring, or a duty for long. The spirit illuminates it and the more we read, the more “a-ha” moments we will have. It is worth it!
- Third, you can read the word for yourself and learn to study it on your own. Often we feel convinced that we need a “bible study book,” a devotional or a podcast to make it meaningful. Yes, we do need direction and good teaching, but we also can absorb it, read it, study it, and delight in it on our own. I would even encourage you to not turn to these other sources for a period of time and learn to study it on your own (of course with a few resources when you don’t understand something). Find someone who is a step ahead, who can give you more specific clear direction, and you won’t regret it.
There are so many different plans and ways to read the bible. I will hi-light three different ways that are meaningful, simple and varied. They range from a shorter type to a more in-depth time commitment. I have done different ways at different times in my life, or even for different times of the week. Each can be done with just your bible, journal, and possibly, a few resources. First, we need a plan of how we are going to do this. Hopefully, one (or all) of the three ways will help.
Plan 1: 20-30 minutes, 3 parts of the bible
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 199:105
This is a way of reading the bible for about 20 minutes in 3 different areas of the bible at a regular time each day. I see this plan as a little like “breakfast” (ok, maybe for you it is more like lunch!). Some of us can’t image going without breakfast or coffee in the morning. This is how I see this time– as a necessity and a needed part of my regular routine. It may be difficult at first to get the routine, but I bet it will surprise you how it becomes something you enjoy!
- Reading the bible each day for about 20 minutes
- Reading from 3 parts of the Bible (From Psalms or Proverbs, an Old Testament chapter and a New Testament chapter)
- During this time you want to find a place where you can set aside distractions and just read. It is not a time for analyzing or digging deeper, but just a time to prayerfully read the bible.
- It helps you to get into different parts of the bible.
- It gives you is a “wide-angle-lens” type of reading. As you read different parts, you are able to stand back and see the whole.
- It helps you read the entire bible.
- If you do this over time, you will see your understanding of the bigger picture growing, and the repeated details standing out. Often we don’t think about the impact that the word will have in our life 5-10 years from now, but I guarantee you that you will see the difference in the future and will be glad for this type of reading.
- Often the time becomes something you will look forward to and anticipate.
- Find a regular time and spot for this time in the word. I like to arrange to get up 20-30 minutes early. Maybe for you, it is over lunch– but have it be regular.
- Read a Psalm, a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from the New Testament.
- Read first from the Psalms or Proverbs. Start with Psalm 1 and then each day read a Psalm each time. Once you are finished with Psalms, enter into Proverbs, reading a section at a time.
- Read one chapter from the Old Testament– starting with Genesis 1. The goal is not to hurry through and check it off, but to read it thoughtfully.
- Read one chapter from the New Testament– starting with the book of Matthew and read a chapter at each sitting.
- I start this time with a short prayer, aligning myself with God and recognizing He is over all. I end with a short prayer of asking God to use His word in my life to change and grow me. I will briefly hand over to Him anything for the day ahead.
- The hope behind this is to fill our minds with scripture and allow it to “light” our path each day.
- It is also important to be in the entire bible for understanding our faith better. I think we grow a more beautiful view of the gospel, as we are able to see it in light of the bigger picture.
- During this type of reading, you are absorbing the word and allowing God’s spirit to work in your life through it. It is as if we are turning on a light and allowing it to illuminate our path.
- We read in faith, knowing we can trust that God uses His very word to lead us and guide us.
God has used this type of bible reading tremendously in my life. I so enjoy this time in the morning.
Plan 2: 1 Gospel and 2 questions
I rejoice in Your word, as one who finds great spoil. Psalm 119:162
This is simple way of reading a gospel, whether alone or with another person. It is one of the best ways I know to focus on Jesus. I think it makes the bible so personal. It is a great thing to do with a person you are discipling/mentoring or with someone who is just learning about Christianity.
- Picking a gospel and reading just a “scene,” paragraph or chapter at a time
- Reading with these two questions in mind:
What is Jesus like? (Or what is revealed about Jesus?)
How do others respond to Jesus and interact with Him?
- The goal is not to hurry through it, but to absorb, observe, and watch what happens.
You are a spectator watching a story unfold
- It keeps things simple and focused.
- It keeps the focus on Jesus.
- It is a helpful way to discuss the word and talk about Jesus with someone. It is ideal for a discipleship/mentoring time. It is ok if over time you don’t end up getting through the whole gospel, but it does keep the word as part of the time.
- It is also a good thing to do with someone who wants to learn more about Christianity. This allows Jesus to shine and be the focus.
- Pick a gospel. I would suggest starting with Matthew of John.
- Read one scene at a time. Think of the gospel as a movie made up of scenes. Focus on one scene at a time.
- Take your time as you do this: focusing on the person of Jesus Christ, and allowing yourself to absorb what you are reading.
- Use a journal to record any thoughts or observations.
- As you read, ask these two questions- Journal to record
What is Jesus like? (Or what is revealed about Jesus?)
How do others respond to Jesus and interact with Him?
- If you are doing it with someone else, take turns reading aloud. Then simply discuss the two questions. Look for opportunities to share what is revealed to you with someone else during the day.
- This is to help us keep our focus on Jesus and grow in pointing people to Him.
- I enjoy this so much and often what I read sticks with me. I find I want to share it with someone else.
- This type of reading is more like dessert. We have a smaller portion, but it is very rich. When we see Jesus, we just want more! In addition, it is so good we want to share what we have seen with others.
- It just helps us for knowing Jesus and walking with Him. He is worthy of my life and I want to be like Him.
Plan 3: 1 Book, 3 parts- Studying a passage or book of the bible more in-depth
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrew 4:12
This is a bible study for taking a passage or a book of the bible and digging more deeply. It is worth taking the time to learn to do. This is more a like a big meal, and not a snack, for we take more time to read, examine and pray, so that we can understand it better and apply it more accurately in our lives.
- Here we focus our lens and look more at the fine detail
- The three parts of this bible study:
- Decide on a book of the bible
- If you take time to learn to study a book of the bible in this way, you will definitely notice your understanding of the bible growing over the years.
- The benefits are in the future, but also immediate. For in this study you will find application for your life right now.
- It helps you to study different parts of the bible more in-depth.
- This is helpful in the summer, or other times as well,, in order to give some type of structure to studying the bible.
- You will see growth in your life.
- You will grow in your overall understanding of the word, the gospel and God.
- Pick a short book of the bible if this is your first time to do this. A good place to start would be in 1Peter, Colossians, or Nehemiah and Jonah in the Old Testament.
- Have a journal or notebook with you.
- Plan on having a good amount of time once a week set aside to be able to spend longer for this type of studying. In college, I would use a time in-between classes once a week to be able to digest more.
- Once you pick the book, spend time reading it the first week. Just read it a few times without writing anything down. You are trying to get an overall picture.
- Take small portions to study at a time (a paragraph is good, which should be marked off in your bible).
- Look at the first few verses so you understand the author and audience.
- For each paragraph or section do the following three things:
1. Observation- What does it say?
This is probably the most crucial part– taking time to observe well before you do anything else. Here you are just looking at what the text “plainly” says. You are not attempting to figure out meaning or application.
- Who are the key players? If this were a play, who would the performers be?
- Where does this take place? What is the setting?
- What seems to be going on generally?
- Repetition- Are any words repeated in this section or from throughout the book?
- Key words- What are important words to note?
- Lists- Is there any lists to notice?
- Contrasts or Comparisons- Is anything being contrasted or compared?
- God- What do you observe about God (God the Father, the Son, or the Spirit)?
- Kind of literature- (you may need to check your resources for this) What kind of literature does this appear to be? (Historical, Poetry, a narrative…)
2. Interpretation- What does it mean?
As you observe well you are better able to find the author’s intended meaning. This is your goal–
“What does the author mean?
“Why did He write this?”
3. Application- How does this connect to my life?
- What application do you want to make personally?
- What is something specific and measurable you can do?
- Here is an acronym for applying the section (SPECK)-
S- Sin to avoid
P- Promise to claim
E- Example to follow
C- Commands to obey
K- Knowledge to have?
- What do you learn about God that deepens your love, trust and dependence?
In my bible study recently we practiced these three things (observation, interpretation, and application) with a painting in my house. It sounds funny, but it did help us for getting a better understanding of how this works. I asked, “What do you observe about the painting?” They said things like, “There is a lot of green plants, and it is on a quaint street. The signs are in French. A lady is sitting down drinking from a coffee cup. It is during the day,” and so on went the observations.
Next, I asked, “Why do you think the painter painted this?” We of course were not sure. However, the girls said, “The feeling of the painting was pleasant, and enjoyable. The painter seemed to want to paint a place that he is fond of.”
Lastly, I asked them, “Now what? What do you walk away with from the painting?” The first thing I thought of was, “This is where I want to be.” I want to visit this place, drink coffee there and live there. Afterwards, we all thought this was the painter’s intention: to paint a painting that gives us a longing to be where he painted.
The bible is a great feast that we get to partake. Sometimes I have snack-size portions– 5 minutes before heading out the door or with my family at dinner. Other times I have a “meal-sized” portion- an hour between other things going on. Sometimes, it is a spontaneous reading, when I find time has opened up in my schedule. In each way, I can take time to “chew” on it. Most of the time, I really enjoy having it as a part of my regular routine, just like I do with breakfast. I do this, not because I have to or because I need to check it off. I don’t do it because this is what, “a good Christian does.” I have found that I need it. It is like my daily bread and I don’t want to do without it.
Consider sharing this with friends if this was helpful!