Perhaps you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to start reading your Bible or to read it more often. Great! But how do you get started? And how do you stick to your resolution without just going through the motions?
As I noted in this article, a great place to start reading the Bible is with the gospels of Mark and John. Mark is a fast-paced account of what Jesus did and John focuses on what Jesus said and claimed about himself. From there, move on to Acts, the sequel to Luke’s gospel. Acts sets up the letters of Paul, Peter and others that follow in the New Testament. Read Romans next for a grace-focused collection of the basic teachings of Christianity.
Now you’re ready to start moving through the rest of the Bible. Begin with Genesis and Exodus, the first two books of the Old Testament. Reading these will help you begin to see how Jesus fits into God’s overarching story. As you continue, consider reading the Psalms concurrently as a sort of preface to your times in God’s living Word. And try to vary between Old Testament and New Testament books as you move through the rest of the Bible.
When you’re ready to look more closely at particular passages, here are five steps that will help you understand what the passage is saying, what it means, and what it means for your life.
1. Be expectant.
As you approach the Bible, pray that God would meet you so you experience God Himself in His Word; speak to you as a friend to a friend; teach you His truth; surprise you with some new insight or discovery; and transform you over time into the image of Jesus.
2. Get honest with God.
As you approach God in expectant prayer, take time also to think through what the last few days have been like for you. Share honestly with God what and how you are feeling as you approach your time with Him. Share your struggles and joys. Ask Him to speak, over time, to issues in your life.
3. Read the passage carefully. Write down what you see.
First, take note of who is there, what is happening, when it is happening and where and how it is happening. As you read, make note of those words, phrases or ideas that connect the parts of the passage together by repeating, contrasting, being similar, going from the general to the particular, or stating a cause that leads to an effect.
If the passage you’re studying is a story, imagine yourself as a character in the story. If it is a letter or law section, imagine what it might have felt like to get the letter or hear the law. If it is poetry, let the power of the poem and its images sweep over you.
Be sure to write down any questions the passage raises for you. What words, phrases, or concepts don’t make sense? Does the passage turn in any unexpected ways? What intrigues you?
For more tips on how to start reading the Bible and resources to get you started, go to urbana.org.