I will show you a Christian who is not.” – Credited to D.L. Moody
If you’ve grown up in the church, as I have, you probably can’t count how many times you’ve been taught to “Read your Bible.” When I was just a sticky-faced, ankle-biting preschooler, I remember my Eager Beaver leaders taught me this. As a pudgy-faced preteen my RA & AWANA guides taught me this. As a zit-faced teenager my youth pastor taught me this. Add to these my parents and Christian school teachers and it’s easy to see that throughout my entire life I have been taught to “Read your Bible.” Some of you have had that same experience. This is a lesson you learned early and often.
As soon as I could read, I tried to do what I was told. However, I spent many years frustrated. I would read the Bible and find my mind wandering from boredom or my head-spinning from confusion. This was because, while, many people taught me TO read my Bible, nobody had taught me HOW to read my Bible. Like an intern on his first day working at a TV station, I knew that there was something powerful and awesome in front me, but I felt overwhelmed and lost.
If you’ve ever felt that way, then…
…this list is for you.
The Word of God is unlike any other book in existence. The Bible is a special book that needs to be read in a special way. Now, that does not mean we need to read it looking for hidden codes or secret messages behind the text (heaven forbid!). It does mean, however, that we should approach the Bible with a special sense of reverence, appreciation, and concentration.
How do we do this? How can we glean more and more from the Scriptures every day? Well, here’s the first installment of 11 Tips for Better Bible Reading. Hope it helps.
1. Pray before you read.
Before you can search your Scriptures, you need to ask the Spirit to search your heart. Confess your sins, specifically and sincerely. Tell God your worries, fears, questions, concerns, problems, and thoughts. He knows them all already. He wants to speak directly and personally to you through the Bible. Ask Him to help you listen and discern what He is saying today through what He has already said years ago. The Bible is not merely an ancient book written by a bunch of dead guys. It is
“living and active…and able to judge the thoughts and intention of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
Pray first, then you are ready to read it and reap!
2. Read your Bible out loud.
I’ve never really liked the soothing idea of having a “quiet time.” Call me old, but to me, “quiet time” eventually turns into “nap time.” Granted, every believer needs time for meditation and reflection on the Scriptures. But, sometimes personal, mental reading is ineffective. When we read “to ourselves” our minds tend to wander and forget the material covered.
However, we tend to comprehend and remember better those things that we 1) see with our eyes, 2) then process with our brains, 3) then read with our lips, 4) then hear with our ears, and 5) finally, process, yet again, with our brains. Clearly, we absorb the Bible on many more levels when we read out loud.
Turn your quiet time into a bit of “noisy time” by reading the Bible this way. It will make a noticeable difference.
3. Stop reading Bible verses. Start reading Bible paragraphs.
The chapters and verses found in your Bible are not inspired. They were added to the Scriptures just a few hundred years ago so that we could all, literally, “be on the same page”. During the Sunday sermon these help, but sometimes, during our Monday readings they can hinder. If you read with a set number of verses in mind to fill your daily quota, you may miss something. Instead of reading verses, read (what I call) “thought-units”, often found in complete paragraphs.
Sometimes, as in Paul’s letters, five verses only cover one actual sentence. Imagine having only one sentence conversations with other people. It would make communication very limited. Imagine, then, how frustrated God must be when we read just a sentence of two.
Explore the mind of God by reading the complete thoughts of God.
Many Bibles today are arranged by paragraphs. Others put the verse numbers in “boldfaced” type to indicate a new paragraph. Look at your Bible to see which you have. Then read these paragraph, “thought-units” and give God ample time to speak to you.
4. Read the same book/section every day for 30 days.
Reading through the Bible in a year is a wonderful plan. However, I often find that with this plan it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. When it comes to reading for comprehension, repetition is the key. If you really want to learn what the book of Ephesians or Ruth is really about, read it every single day for 30 days. Repetition is the key. The more you read it, the more you will see its big picture.
Repetition is the key. Imagine if someone spoke a string of numbers to you like “42, 73, 9, 16, 7, and 31.” Then, minutes later they asked you what the numbers were. Could you remember? Probably not. But if, instead, they said, “25, 25, 25, 25, 25”, and then asked, you would much more easily recall. Why? Repetition is the key. Try it and you may be surprised how the Bible begins to make more sense to you. Besides, what is the key?? (See, it works!!!)
Take my word for it, if you follow these tips you’ll not only be able to, well, read your Bible…more importantly, you will be able to read your Bible well.
Next time, I’ll share the final 7 tips.