The Bible. It’s like the encyclopedia. Everyone has seen one. People know what it is. They may even have some vague idea of it’s contents, but nobody wants to sit down and read it. Right?
When I talk to people about the Bible I always get the same kinds of reactions:
- Guilt - "I know I should read it but…."
- Defensiveness - "I would read it but I can’t understand it!"
- "The Divinci Code" Technique - "wasn’t it just written by some guys like a long time after Jesus died…"
For me, reading and studying the Bible is the single most enjoyable, life changing, encouraging, relevant, fascinating thing that I do in my day. The Bible is my doorway into the mind of the one who created me. It’s full of great advice, practical promises, and stories about men and women who were just like me trying to find their way through this maze we call "a life of faith".
I think EVERYONE should read the Bible. So I want to give you some practical help for those who are having trouble making Bible reading a regular part of their lives:
Find a Bible you can understand:
There are LOTS of versions of the Bible out there. Find one that talks like you talk. There is no need to stick to out of date translations of the Bible and try and read words you’ve never seen before. The Bible was not written for scholars. The Bible was written for everyday people to read and understand. Most of the men God inspired to write the scriptures had very little formal education. The problem is that they did not speak English they spoke Hebrew Aramaic and Greek, so people who have studied those languages have to interpret the Bible into English for us. The good news is that there are more translations of the Bible available for us to read today then there ever have been and some of those are written for the most entry level reader to open and understand! Go to a local book store and pull some off the shelves. Find one that sounds like you and buy it. The different Bible translations are also available on Kindle, Nook and iBooks or you can go to one of the MANY online Bible websites and read for free from them!
The New Living Bible has long been a favorite for those seeking a more readable Bible.
The Message version by Eugene Peterson is one of my favorite Bibles to read. It is more of a paraphrase than a word to word translation so not the best version for deep study but for daily reading it is a refreshing and accessible Bible.
Listen instead of reading:
If reading is not your thing try listening. One of my favorite ways to take in scripture is as I drive to work! If you have a smart phone there are multiple apps that enable you to listen to the Bible as an audio book. Your local library also has the Bible on audio book CDs you can borrow. Check out this website for more Audio Bible ideas https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/
Find a time and a place that work and be consistent:
I have four kids. If I tried to read the Bible with them running around me screaming and being crazy there is no way I could EVER get anything out of it. Find a time and a place when you can have some peace and quiet and where you will be comfortable. Grab some coffee, or a glass or water and read. You are going to want to try and make a habit out of reading at the same time and place if at all possible. During your lunch break, right before bed, immediately when you wake up, find a rhythm you can fall into and stick with it.
Make a Plan:
The Bible is a huge book, actually it is 66 not so huge books collected into one volume, but opening it can be seriously daunting. Where do you start? How much should you read? The truth is it doesn’t matter where you start! So make a plan. There are hundreds of reading plans out there to choose from. Most Bibles actually have one or two reading plans in the front or the back of the Bible. I recommend a plan which has some of the Old Testament and some of the New and maybe Psalms and Proverbs in there as well. It helps in this ADD generation not to spend too much time in one spot. Here are some links to a few different Bible reading plans:
There are even apps where you can get on a reading plan with someone else and they can help keep you accountable! Which brings me to my next tip.
We were not meant to do this journey alone. Disciplines like Bible reading are always easier when we share them with someone else! When you know that you are going to have to tell your partner you did not read today it adds some positive peer pressure that just might be what you need to keep going. It is also great to have someone you can talk to about what you just read. Was there something that really spoke to you? Was there a part of the reading you did not understand? Mention it to your partner they may benefit from your experience or have answers for you that you had not thought of. As noted above there are actually Bible apps that can put the two of you on the same reading plan and keep track of where you are.
Turn on the Tunes:
I always have music playing when I read the Bible. Music is the language of the emotions. When I read with music playing it helps me to be emotionally aware. It also helps to lock me into concentration mode so I am not so easily distracted. I always choose music that does not have any words in it or at least words in a language I understand. Classical music works beautifully or I love Bethel Music’s Without Words albums or some Post Rock gorgeousness from This Will Destroy You or Explosions in the sky. Opera in Italian or Sigur Ros in Icelandic both have words but I don’t speak the language so I it doesn’t pull my attention away. Anything that can play in the background and not be intrusive on your reading is just fine.
Read until you have something to take away:
When I spend time in the Bible I am always looking for my “nugget” for the day. I may not remember everything I read. I may not be impacted by every sentence, but I do not want to leave the scriptures without having something to take away. I am not reading this book just to read it. I am reading it to be changed, as it says in Romans 12:2 to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. So it is my pattern to read the Bible until I have some thought, or challenge, that I can carry with me for the rest of the day. As you read allow the Holy Spirit to speak through His word to your heart.
Invite God into your reading:
Of all the things I can say today this one might be the most important - the Bible is more than a book. The Bible is the most important, and reliable way that God speaks to human beings. It is his communication to us about who He is, who We are, and what it means to be a follower of His. When I open my Bible I invite God into that moment. I say a simple prayer as I open the book, app, whatever. "Please come and talk with me today". Then, as I read I involve God in my reading. If I come upon a passage I do not understand; I ask Him to make it clear. If I realize that my thoughts, feelings, words or actions do match what I am reading; I ask for forgiveness and help to change. If I read a promise that I have not seen fulfilled in my life; I ask for faith to believe that what Gods word says is true. In John 5:39-40 Jesus told the Pharisees "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." I am not interested in reading Gods word without finding God Himself, and I would encourage you to feel the same way.
I hope and pray that these pointers help you in some way to deeply enjoy a life in Gods word!