If you have been around followers of Jesus or church life for any length of time, you probably know that Christians are encouraged to read the Bible. In the Scriptures, we encounter Christ and learn of what it means to be in right relationship with God and we receive instructions about how to live and grow spiritually. But how do we read the Bible? Where do we start? Do we simply open it up to a random spot and start reading?
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Here are five approaches I have taken to reading the Bible on a regular basis.
- Read the Bible through in a year. About every 5-10 years, I try to read the Bible from cover to cover. Usually I have some sort of reading plan that has me in different parts of the Bible. There are many “through the Bible in a year” Bibles that you can find at a Christian bookstore that has a reading plan built in. On January 1 (or Day 1), you may read Genesis 1-3, Matthew 1, and a Psalm and a few verses in Proverbs. Following this plan will get you through the entire Bible in 12 months. Or, there are Chronological Bibles that try to lay out the text in proper order of sequence (as best we know the timing of the actual writing or events). The benefit of this type of approach is that you are exposed to the entire Bible and get to see the big picture of all it contains within a year’s reading.
- Read the entire Old Testament once, the New Testament twice, and the Psalms twice in 2-4 years. My favorite Bible reading companion is D. A. Carson’s For the Love of God (Volume One and Volume Two). Each day includes four different passages of Scripture that gets you through the Old Testament, the New Testament twice, and the Psalms twice. Volume One offers comments from Dr. Carson on one of the first two readings, and Volume Two gives commentary on either the third or fourth reading. A two-year plan means that you are reading both the first two passages listed the first year, and the third and fourth passage listed the second year. A four-year plan means that you are reading only one of the passages listed per day. The wonder of this resource is that Dr. Carson has an amazing ability to offer insights on the text, place it within the framework of the storyline of the Bible, and also offer practical application for today. All this on a single page. The benefit of this approach is that it helps you read through the entire Bible in 2-4 years and gain insight from one of today’s top Bible scholars.
- Read the Bible with the aid of a Bible study resource or curriculum. Currently, I am using two Bible study aids to help me engage the text of scripture. I am working through our church’s Foundations Curriculum on Spiritual Practices and also through an InterVarsity Press small group guide on selected Psalms written by Eugene Peterson. Both of these resources help me engage the text and ask reflective questions which call me to respond in writing. There is something about reflecting on a Bible text and writing a response that engages me in a different way than simply reading it. Also, I am gaining insights and challenges from the author of the resource as we both engage the same text of Scripture.
- Study a book of the Bible. Often, I will read through a specific book of the Bible from beginning to end, usually going slow enough through it that I am reading either a section of a chapter, or no more than a full chapter at a time. I often do this with some type of inexpensive journal where I am writing reflections on the text, or at times simply copying the text I am reading (this may sound strange, but I think we process a text differently when we write it down). The advantage to this approach is that you can delve more deeply and really try to understand and apply a specific book of the Bible.
- Reading the Bible with the aid of a devotional. Our church provides a daily devotional we call JourneyOn Today. You can find it on our web site and we even have a mobile app for that. Most mornings, this is the first thing I read. Typically it includes a passage of Scripture followed by a devotional written by one of our members or staff. Usually, they come in series where there is a theme that will tie in the different days over a period of time. Of course, you can find various types of devotionals in a Christian bookstore or even on the web. It can be nice to read a text often within the framework of a theme and hear the reflections and thoughts of another brother or sister in Christ. Often, they will have an insight or application of the text that is appropriate but that I had not considered. It can be beneficial to read the reflections of others on a given text.
As you can see, there are multiple approaches you can take to reading the Bible. Here are only five. The most important thing is that you find a way that is beneficial to you and that you will practice on a consistent basis. We read the Word of God because in these pages we encounter the God of the Word.