This time of year, many begin a daily Bible reading plan. This year I have created my own plan in which I read two sections in the Old Testament (i.e. Genesis 1-2 and Psalm 1) and a section from the New Testament (Luke 1). The schedule will go through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice. Many of our church family is on the same plan, so this past Sunday night I preached a sermon entitled, “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth.”
This sermon was not a summary of the book with the same name by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart (which every serious Bible student and reader should read). The sermon consisted of 12 suggestions on how to get the most out of reading your Bible daily. These suggestions are not complicated or very academic. They are simple, practical, and easy-to-remember tips for growing through Bible reading.
- Get a good translation – I prefer the English standard version. The old KJV is not a good reading Bible because of the archaic language. Paraphrases are no good because they are the thoughts of one or a few people. The ESV, the NASB, and the HCSB are three of the best translations.
- Have a plan – while you could be benefitted by reading random passages everyday, a plan keeps you on a schedule and can help you get through the Bible in one year. Whether you go straight through with four chapters a day, three from the OT and one from the NT, or some other schedule – plans give you structure.
- Pray – prayer should always accompany Bible reading and study.
- Know what you are reading – Genre (poetry vs. narrative), style (John writes differently than Paul), purpose (the letter to Philemon has a very specific story and purpose), and timeline (Ezra and Nehemiah are after the Babylonian captivity) are important in helping you understand what you read. A simple introduction to the bible can help with these things.
- Read like a child – children get excited about these stories. The more we read, the more calloused we become to them. Read it fresh!
- Read like an adult – make the connections (i.e. Melchizedek in Genesis 15, Psalm 110, and Hebrews) and read the “boring” sections.
- Ask questions – when you ask questions, you will better understand and remember what you have read.
- Context is key – always make sure you know “the rest of the story.”
- Reread – if you don’t understand something, reread it. If something excites, confuses, or upsets you, reread it.
- Find a friend – you are going to notice things you have never noticed before. Find someone who you can share these things with; someone who can keep you excited about reading your Bible.
- Stick with it – it is easy to get behind or bogged down in the less exciting sections. Think about how much you will have learned at the end of the year. Think how satisfying it will be to have read the entire Bible in one year.
- Apply what you read – the Bible is not just some academic book that we read simply for knowledge’s sake. It is a guidebook, a field-manual for life. Learn it, live it!
I hope these tips help you get the most out of your Bible. Remember, the first step is just picking up your Bible. In 15-20 minutes a day, you can read the whole Bible in one year! I challenge you!