Help To Better Read The Bible

For years I’ve read the Bible and rarely enjoyed it. Most of my devotional times were done out of duty, instead of out of passion to know God more. More recently, my passion and Bible reading have come together and I wanted to share a few tips regarding how I now read the Bible. Most people after becoming a Christian are told to start reading the Bible but rarely are people coached on how to read the Bible. Hopefully this helps bridge that gap.

Also, check here for more “Help To Better” articles, including ones on prayer, fasting and marriage.

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The Bible is about God, not about us. We are not the heroes of the Bible, Jesus is. (He’s the better David, Adam, etc.) While the Bible does contain practical wisdom for our life, it is primarily a book that tells us who God is and what He like.

Mark Driscoll writes:

Luke records, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Talk about the most epic Bible study ever.

Importantly, we learn from this story how Jesus taught the Bible. There’s morality in the Bible, but it’s not primarily about morality. There’s religion, tradition, history, and miracles in the Bible, but it’s not primarily about those things. What Jesus teaches us is that the Bible is primarily about him.

Since the Bible is the only sure way we have to know God better, we should give it the time and focus it deserves.

Schedule time to read the Bible

Schedule time to read the Bible. If you don’t schedule time, you will never read it regularly. I encourage reading in the morning before the normal routines of the day have started. This gives you the least burdened and distracted mind to read the Bible with. If also done after breakfast and a shower, it becomes the most awake your mind is while reading the Bible.

Get a good & markable Bible

There are two kinds of Bible translations:

  1. Word-for-word.
    This is where the Bible was translated as close to word-to-word as possible. This translation type usually prefers the literal meaning of the words rather than the emotion/thought of the whole sentence or paragraph.
  2. Thought-for-thought.
    This is where the Bible was translated to convey the emotion and the thought behind the writings. Many of these use modern-day verbiage. Since they may (or may not) be 100% exactly right, we also term these as paraphrased translations.

There are many versions of the Bible out there — get one that you can understand but is not paraphrased. Some Bibles have questionable things in their translation which are debated among pastors and scholars. Recently it was agreed and decided that the English Standard Bible (ESV) is one of the most accurate translations English people can get. Other good versions include New International Version (NIV), New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the Revised Standard Bible (RSV). Feel free to get a paraphrased Bible (like The Message), but do the majority of study with a word-for-word translation.

Also, I highly encourage to buy a paper Bible. I am not against digital Bibles on phones, computers and tablets but a written Bible can be well highlighted and noted. If you use a digital Bible, either (1) use one that does highlighting and note-keeping or (2) use a journal to keep notes of what you read and learn. Two digital resources that do this are:

  1. http://www.youversion.com
  2. http://www.esvonline.com

Accounts are free and sync to all devices.

Get a Bible study plan

Just as you should know and plan when to read, you should also plan what to read. There are many plans on reading the Bible. I simply pick a book of the Bible and start reading it until I’m done and then I pick another one. The key is to stop from playing “Bible roulette” where you open the Bible to a random place and find something that either “speaks to you” or that you like. As believers, we ought to be familiar with the whole Bible, not just the popular and most well-known sections. I encourage you to read the Bible all the way through at least once. It doesn’t have to be in 3 months or 6 months, but the whole narrative of the Bible should be seen in context.

Youversion.com is a great resource for Bible study plans.

Pray while reading

Since God wrote the book, human understanding will only take you so far. We need divine revelation to understand what God wrote about Himself and the way He made everything. Pray what you’re reading whenever possible (“God, let this be true of me”) and pray about what you’re reading (“What does this mean Lord?”). I also often pray the acronym “I.O.U.S.”:

  • Incline my heart to you, not to prideful gain or any false motive. (Psalm 119:36)
  • Open my eyes to behold wonderful things in your Word. (Psalm 119:18)
  • Unite my heart to fear your name. (Psalm 86:11)
  • Satisfy me with you steadfast love. (Psalm 90:14)

Here are some short prayers you can pray using those verses:

  • Incline my heart to you, not to prideful gain or any false motive.
    That is, focus my affections and desires upon you, and eradicate everything in me that would oppose such a focus.
  • Open my eyes to behold wonderful things in your Word.
    That is, let your light shine and show me what you have willed to communicate through the biblical authors.
  • Unite my heart to fear your name.
    That is, enthrall me with who you are.
  • Satisfy me with your steadfast love.
    That is, fulfill me with the fact that your covenant love has been poured out on me through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(taken from http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/one-way-to-avoid-vain-repetition)

Memorize the Bible

I encourage scripture memorization regularly. Why? Because scripture interprets itself. The Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance the other verses you have read and will use them to show you what the current passage that you are reading means. This will cause a few things to happen:

  1. Hides the Word in your heart to guard you against sin.
    Speaking to temptation what God says about it and the sin behind it is one of the best ways to get (and stay) free from sin.
  2. Saves time.
    Remember a verse and where it is helps you save time from searching your Bible trying to find it.
  3. Builds a solid theological foundation in your heart and mind.
    The more you read and retain, the more you recognize error/heresy and are able to guard yourself from deception/

Brush up on your English.

This is the most ignored yet one of the most important things. Someone once said, “The problem isn’t that the American church doesn’t know Hebrew or Greek. It’s that they don’t know English.” If you are reading a word-for-word translation (particularly the ESV Bible), much attention was put into correcting translating the text into English, even up to where the commas and periods should go. Brush up on some basic english and grammar skills so that you don’t read/interpret scripture wrong. “Therefore”, “by” and “for” are very important words in the Bible. Personally, I always stop and find out and remember what those words are linking to.

Example:
The “therefore” in Romans 12:1, in context, is a follow-up to the doxology in Romans 11:33-36. Basically what Paul is saying is “In view of this great God….present your bodies…”

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