I have gotten so many emails over the years that have asked me about how I study my Bible, and I have not done a great job about writing about it. I love a new year because there’s something so refreshing about a proverbial do-over, so I was thinking this would be a good time to share a couple things that have helped me over the years.
I have been a Christian for exactly ten years (as of yesterday :)). When I first started reading the Bible I was stressed out because I’m an academic by nature and I couldn’t figure out how to cram it all in in an efficient way. Seriously. I know that sounds pitiful but I nearly gave up on reading because it seemed so overwhelming. One day I swallowed my pride, walked into a local bookstore, and bought myself a children’s Bible. That turned out to be one of the smartest things I ever did because it made it digestible in a way that the big-girl Bible’s didn’t. It helped me understand the chronology of the Bible, as well as the key people and places along the way.
Honest to goodness I really recommend starting here if you have never read the Bible before, and just take it at a slow pace until you get your bearings a little.
After awhile I started to graduate to the tissue-paper Bible and I went to the store again to get one. For the record, this can also be an overwhelming process, as there are approximately 1,200,346,568 or so versions and they all look good. Everyone has a different opinion about this but I tend to like to read from the ESV version but memorize from the NIV version. Don’t laugh at me, but I’m kind of quirky about the way the Bible feels in my hands…I’m not a huge fan of the magnet-over-the-top kind because it feels all uneven when I’m reading.
I’m a fan of leather as far as the cover goes because they’re really durable. My all time favorite Bible is the Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible in the NIV version, because it makes it super easy to look in the back and find the original Hebrew or Greek (which often really changes the way you understand the passage). I also love to be able to see where else these words show up so I can compare them. In addition, it is fat and brings instant credibility if you are at Starbucks studying. For extra points, feel free to nod incessantly and whisper something about Aramaic. Or say “Pentateuch.” People never see that coming.
For those of you who love Beth Moore the way I do (let’s take a moment, shall we? Ahh, better now.) you will be happy to know that she endorses this particular Bible and that her daughters read it. Incidentally, Melissa is pretty much the smartest person I have ever met in real life and I’m pretty sure she read the Bible in English just to humor us peons in India. At one point she said something about a present-participle something or other in Greek and I stared at the wall because I’m a writer and I’m not convinced I know what that is in English. But I nodded and scrunched my face up like I was considering the implications, which is key.
I must say I am a huge fan of The One Year Chronological Bible (NIV) because it goes, well, chronologically.
This post may have been a bad idea.
Anyway, it is really great because you can see how things really happened and not necessarily in the order of the Bible. For example, if there is a story in more than one Gospel, they will appear together instead of by book. It has really helped me understand who was a contemporary of whom and it really changes the story when you see it laid out like that.
I want to tell you about some books that I love, but I really want to emphasize that these are not a substitute for Scripture. You have to be in the Word, first and foremost. The rest of it helps bring clarity and encourage you to keep pressing on, but the life-giving power God’s Word has is incomparable.
Here are some really quick tips that have helped me when I read Scripture:
1. Always pray before you begin to read, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you go and bring the
Word to life in a way that inspires you to live it out. I promise He will do it!!!
2. Have a pen or highlighter and something to write on in the event that you see something you want to
process a little more later. I have a couple different journals for different things but one I like to use I
just created myself. I took a cheap-o notebook from Target and stuck homemade tabs throughout it for
different books of the Bible. That way when I am reading Genesis, I just take notes on that book and
it’s great for recording things you might not always remember, like lineage etc. I mostly use this one
for facts and I have another journal for thoughts, prayers, anything that jumps out at me.
3. I like to have some other books handy in case I want to look up a reference for more information. It’s
great to have a Bible dictionary, Hebrew or Greek dictionary, and any other aids that help, such as
maps, timelines etc.
4. I try to pick a time when I don’t think I will be disturbed (moms, I hear you laughing and I realize how
ridiculous this sounds!!!) such as morning or while the girls are in gymnastics class etc. I think there is
a lot to be said for starting off your day with a quiet time, and to the end that this is possible I highly
5. I like to have candles, chocolates, and a personal masseuse on hand when I dig in. I think that’s in the
6. I have to be disciplined about not reading the Bible with an agenda. It is so easy for me to slip into
academic mode and try to analyze what I’m reading, and it takes a good amount of self-restraint for me
to simply let the Word of God speak to me. There is a great book called Experiencing the Depths of
Jesus Christ that ministered to me as I learned how to truly meditate on the Word. It gave me peace to
stop thinking about reading Scripture like it was a goal to get through it. I love the peace that comes
from choosing a short verse and just letting myself read it over and over, processing the way the Lord
illuminates it for me when I do.
If you are interested in reading a book that will give you the basics about the Bible, there are two I highly recommend and I’m sure I have talked about them on my blog before because for all my years of searching they are still two of my favorites. The first is more basic and is called The Bare Bones Bible Handbook and the second is What the Bible is All About (so good). They both go on sale several times a year at Lifeway, and I have seen them each as cheap as $5.
Brace yourself, because I’m about to drop some profound advice.
The most important thing about reading your Bible is actually opening it up and doing it.
I’m fantastic about making plans and having the best of intentions, but the power isn’t released in the wanting to do it. God says His Word will not return to Him void, and I can testify that it has been true for me. God never fails to meet me there, but I have to show up myself.
I know this is all kind of basic information but I wanted to share something in the hopes that if you all have other questions I can go from there. My passion is making the Bible feel accessible to people who feel intimidated by it, and I would love to answer anything I can to encourage you to experience it for yourself.
Please feel free to comment here with any suggestions, questions, or comments and I’ll do my best to answer them! I’m so excited to here from those of you who have book recommendations, advice, or methods that have been helpful to you.
See you soon!!! (Now go read :))