Reading 101

Discovering God’s Word 

Do you find the Bible intimidating? Have you procrastinated on making Bible reading an integral part of your daily life? Or perhaps it has become more of a duty than a joy?

Throughout history, and in some parts of the world even today, the Bible has been a treasured resource that is not easily come by. In contrast, for many of us in contemporary Western societies, the Word of God is abundantly available.

Sadly, it is taken for granted more often than not.

Yet for those who desire nearness to God and who want to draw closer in their relationship with Jesus, reading and understanding His Word is a necessary part GirlWBibleof the process. Studying the Bible will help you explore and understand the character of God, understand His will, and experience His presence and promises. Bible study will also help you learn how to live out your life to its maximum potential in light of eternity.

Click here if you are not sure if you have a relationship with Christ.

Beginning the Journey

Many people find the Bible intimidating or difficult to understand, but it does not have to be this way. Reading the entire Bible does take time and patience, but you can take some simple first steps to begin experiencing how the Word of God can open the eyes of your heart, help you grow in your love for God, and relate to others in new ways. Even small steps are beneficial—the Holy Spirit will come alongside you and help to bring understanding of the Word and encouragement to you in your circumstances as you make the effort to read and remember Scripture.

You can also learn how to use tools for examining the Scriptures more deeply, giving you the ability to spend more productive time mining its many hidden treasures—truths  that can bring great joy and spiritual insight, and deepen your relationship with your Creator.

The ultimate goal of getting into the Word of God is to encounter Jesus—the Word in human form.

We want to encourage you to begin or enhance your journey as a believer. There is no single best method of accomplishing this goal—different styles and methods work best for different people. Just be encouraged to begin what is actually the most important pursuit in all of life—to know and to do the will of God, and to seek Him and His wisdom in all things.

While there are many approaches to pursuing more structured and intentional Bible reading and many tools available for study, here is at least one roadmap for those who have no idea where to begin. We hope this helps you to take first steps towards making the Word into a regular and significant aspect of your everyday life.

1.       Get Started on a Reading Plan

bible-guide-qdvq4i-475x1024Is there any particular book in the Bible that you’ve always been curious about? If the process seems a bit overwhelming, you can start off with one of the shorter books from the New Testament, such as 1 John or James. Many recommend that new believers start off by reading the Gospel of John.

Others who are more adventurous or structure-oriented may want to start off at the beginning of the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, and then work towards completing the entire Bible over a one-year, two-year or even a three-year period of time. Wherever you choose to start, don’t be overly concerned about the speed of your journey. What is most important is that you understand what you are reading and can begin to apply biblical principles to your own life.  As you read, you will discover God’s character and nature, and His involvement in the lives of man throughout history to a greater degree.

In the long run, a healthy Bible reading and study plan should include regular exposure to both the Old and New Testaments, and especially the Gospels. It should be each believer’s aim to gain an understanding of all of Scripture over time. (If you are not yet a believer, click here to learn more about exploring the Person of Christ.)

You don’t necessarily need to go out and buy a new Bible—it may mean dusting off an old one, or finding a translation that is easy to read. We suggest the New International Version (NIV), the Contemporary English Version (CEV), and the New Living Translation (NLT).

2.       Pray Before You Read

Because the Bible was written by persons inspired by the Holy Spirit, there is no One better to help you understand what you are reading! Take a bit of time to pray before you begin each of your Bible reading and study sessions. In response, God will open up your understanding and reveal things that may otherwise remain difficult for you to comprehend or relate to if you read from a purely human perspective (Jeremiah 33:3; Psalm 51:6; Proverbs 2:1-6). God promises to provide wisdom and understanding when we ask.

3.       Focus on One Book at a Time

Once you’ve decided on a book of the Bible that you want to focus on, commit to spending time reading the book right through at least twice. You may want to spend perhaps a week doing this. Look for recurring themes or messages that emerge as you read the book several times over. If you take much longer than this, it may be more difficult for you to recognize the recurring themes. There may be one specific message, or there may be several things that you see being repeated for emphasis. Underline or make notes next to any of the verses or themes that seem to resonate with you. Do not be afraid to write in your Bible. If you choose not to write in it, have a blank notebook or journal handy to write your notes in as you read.

Ask God if there is anything He desires to say to you through the passages or verses that He desires you to apply in your own life. There is one method called the “SOAP” method that many find helpful:SOAP_header

S – Take a note of the Scripture verse and what it is saying.

O – Write down your observations about what you are reading. (Is it surprising or shocking? Is it heart-warming? Are the responses of persons you are reading about similar or different to the way you would react if you were in their shoes?)

A – How might this relate to experiences you are having in your own life? What circumstances are you currently facing to which those verses or themes may apply?

P – Pray or write down a prayer to God asking Him to help you fully understand and apply what you are reading to your own life, or to take a specific action in response to what you have read.

4.       Dig In Deeper

Once you’ve read the book through several times (at least twice), try reading it once again, even more slowly, line by line, verse by verse. Ask God for an even deeper understanding of what you are reading.  No matter how long you have been reading your Bible, even for seasoned Bible readers, there will always be new truths to uncover. God always has something new to reveal through His Word for a heart that is searching.

You can also explore Bible study tools, such as a Bible dictionary, to help you dissect the Scripture verses further. Words translated from the original Hebrew or Greek languages often lose some of their original “flavour,” so using a Bible dictionary can help you study what seems like a familiar passage and discover a new angle or perspective on the same text.

Bible commentaries, such as the Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary or Scofield Reference Notes, are two of many trusted resources for gaining further insight on various Bible verses and passages. As you may already be aware, there are many resources available online for Bible study, but as with all things found on the Internet, not all resources are Biblically pure, accurate or reliable. If in doubt, contact a pastor or trusted Christian friend for a confirmation on your choice of Bible study tools.

5.       Put What You Read Into Practice

Once you’ve spent the time reading and studying God’s Word, the challenge you will likely face is living out the principles authentically in each situation you encounter when you get out into the “real world.” For example, you may have read some verses about having no fear, and resolved to trust God in every circumstance based on a Scripture verse you just read. Yet shortly afterwards, something may occur that sparks the exact opposite reaction, challenging your trust in God. Or, you may be faced with a situation where you hesitate to obey God’s leading. If you’ve prayed about what you’ve read (e.g. following the SOAP method), trust that God will help you to follow through on putting His Word into practice in your life. He will give you the faith and the courage you need to obey His leading, and in the process you will experience His presence and answers to your prayers in powerful and identifiable ways.

This is the real goal of reading and studying the Word.
6.       Don’t Be Hard On Yourself!

Remember, the goal is not to read the Bible as quickly or as many times as possible—it’s to encounter and discover God, to learn how to live for Him, and to get closer to Him.

Once you’ve finished the first book you’ve chosen, pick another one and follow the same pattern you did before. Eventually, you want to cover some of the longer books of the Bible as well, and explore both the Old and the New Testaments (many of us tend to default to just reading the New Testament and perhaps the book of Psalms, as they are easier to understand, and there is often less drama!).

There are many tools online for developing a structured approach to covering the entire Bible, but to start things off,  feel free to read whatever interests you most—you want to remain engaged and encouraged through this entire process!

Click here to read more about various resources for Bible study that you may find helpful. 

Click here for blog posts about the difference reading God’s Word makes.

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