Here’s a common question I hear:
I want to read the Bible. Where do I start?
So I asked my mom to write her answer to this question. (Because she’s amazing. And super wise. And I wish she could meet all of you. So. Here goes. A blog from my mom about how to study the Bible, and where to start. :))
Where do I start reading the Bible?
By Pati Robison (mi madre)
2 Tim 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…”
John 17:3: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
So you want to get to know your Bible better, but maybe (like many others) you have no idea where to start. Should you read straight through from the beginning? Start in the gospels? Close your eyes and read whatever verse you put your finger on?
In Which Category Are You?
Before answering this question, may I suggest that there is more than one category of beginning Bible reader.
A truly new student of the Bible has little or no familiarity with its stories.
The other type of reader has a history of Bible knowledge but may have neglected the practice of reading it for a period of time.
Each reader may want to approach God’s word in a different way, yet both paths lead to the same goal: knowing God.
John 17:3 states that true eternal life is to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ” the One God sent to us. Since Jesus is Himself called the Word of God (John 1:1-14) it makes sense that reading His word is a great path toward knowing Him!
Category 1: Brand New to the Bible
For the “Category One” Bible reader, I suggest a good literal Bible storybook to start you off. This should follow the Bible stories accurately and literally. One such is the Egermeier Bible Story Book.
Why a Bible story book? The goal is to gain familiarity with the larger concepts in the Bible. The Bible is meant to be read in context. Each individual story relates to the others. An accurate story Bible will familiarize you with the context of the whole book.
Another aspect of these stories is the awe they inspire. The incredibility of Christ’s stories and the simplicity of His love for people inspires awe. Awe of Christ, also called the fear of the Lord, will lead you toward the goal of eternal life: knowing God. Reading of Christ’s life in a simple way enables you to focus on His amazing greatness and love.
Category Two Readers Join the Journey Here
Your next step is to read one of the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Those of you in the second Bible reader category, familiar yet long absent from the Bible, can join the journey at this point.
Many Bible lovers encourage newcomers to begin reading in John’s gospel. This is great for those with a bit of Bible background, but John can be a bit cryptic at the beginning. True beginners may need to continue with an historical account. For this reason I recommend reading Luke and Acts sequentially.
Read through the Gospels and Acts with the goal of getting to know the God of the universe.
Set aside a time each day, and ask God to reveal himself to you as you read.
But HOW Do I Read?
Now let’s change the focus from where to read, and talk a little bit about how to read your Bible.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Since the Bible is truth and it is alive, it will change you. You cannot encounter God’s living words and remain unchanged.
As you read, God will be right with you. He’ll reveal to you things that must change if you want to know Him. He’ll show you how much He loves you. He’ll give you understanding and direction.
The “U Do The Job” Reading Technique
I suggest you keep a notebook and consider the following acronym: U Do The Job.
U is for Underline.
As you read, underline things.
These may be things that stand out to you, or things you don’t understand. They may be something really beautiful, or something you want to remember in the future. Don’t stop your reading, just underline as you go.
D is for Define.
When you have finished a chapter or a section of reading, go back and look over the things you’ve underlined. Define for yourself the reason for underlining each section.
You may want to memorize a portion of the Bible (more about that later). You may need to use a good dictionary to define some of the words (Noah Webster’s 1820 Dictionary is great).
Cross-referencing the verse to find other verses about the same topic will also help you to define the words.
T is for Think and Talk.
Think about the verses you read, especially those you underlined. Spend some time considering them. Write them on a note card on your bathroom mirror, in your purse, on your computer homepage. The point is to spend some of your free time thinking about these things.
Share your thoughts with Christian friends and mentors. Talk about what God is showing you. Get input to help you understand what you are reading. Bible commentaries, written by experts who have spent a lifetime studying the Bible, are also an excellent way to get input about specific verses.
J is for Journal.
Spend a half hour a couple of times a week writing out your thoughts about your bible reading. You’ve spent some time thinking about them. Now write down your thoughts. This will help you to record and remember what God has done and is doing in your life.
Journaling sounds like a chore, but it is well worth the effort. It is a revelatory way to focus intently on the verse or verses that you are studying.
Once you start writing, God will bring thoughts and ideas as you write. Often when I finish writing about a certain verse I am amazed at what God has shown me through the writing process. I come away with greater understanding and fresh new thoughts that hadn’t occurred to me before writing!
Start journaling by writing the verse down at the top of the page. Next rewrite the verse in your own words one or more times. Draw from your definitions and cross-references in the Define step. Finally, write any thoughts you’ve had about the verse and any that come to you as you write. Now put it away and read it over in a few weeks.
The process of U Do The Job is more accurately termed Bible STUDY.
At this stage a literal translation of the Bible is recommended. Two such are the ESV Study Bible and the Recovery Life Bible. Both have sections explaining the basic tenets of Christianity among their study guides. A good dictionary with biblical definitions as well as secular word meanings is also optional (www.blueletterbible.com and http://www.biblegateway.com are two online sites with Bible dictionaries).
Hiding His Word in Your Heart
Lastly let’s talk about Bible memory. Memorizing individual Bible verses has many benefits. I prefer to memorize Bible verses in context, though.
When memorizing a section of 5-10 verses or a whole chapter of the Bible, you get a picture of the author’s flow of thoughts. You notice similarities and differences in multiple verses. You begin to understand the reason a particular section was written.
In order to truly memorize a longer section of scripture, you must review it repeatedly for a longer period of time. This ingrains the words and ideas into your mind. Often after several days or weeks of working on a portion of scripture, the meaning suddenly becomes much clearer.
Now I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened as you study God’s Word, in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.
I pray that the perception of your mind would be made clear by God’s Holy Spirit as you read, so that you will know the confidence that comes with knowing our gracious God.
I pray that His light would shine into your heart to give you the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.
May you realize and understand God’s kindness toward you in granting you repentance.
I pray that He would strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your innermost being.
May all of your darkness turn to light in Him as you walk into the plan of Him who works everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.
To God be the glory!!
(Ephesians 1:18, 2 Corinthians 4:6, Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians, 3:16, Romans 2:4)