This post was originally written back in 2019 and my intro said: “Bible reading is such an area of joy and life for me that I hope it can’t help but overflow to you.” In the last two years, however, reading the Bible became a deep struggle for me. That’s another post for another time, but for now I decided to revamp & reshare this series, as much for you as for me. I need these reminders. *Meet with Jesus. It’s important.* That’s what keeps rolling around and around in my mind. Even when we don’t feel like it. Even when it’s hard. Even when we doubt. Still come. It’s that important.
I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, “Seek me in vain.” I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right.Isaiah 45:19
The Word is truth and it is right.
Let’s get one thing straight right from the beginning: we read the Bible to know God. This is the first and greatest and most important foundation for Bible reading. Our study must be all about God Himself. Read to learn Who He is. Read to know Him. Read to know His character. Read to be awed by Him. Read to learn His movements in history. As you read, the main question is always: What does this teach me about God? Of much lesser importance are other questions such as “how can I apply this to my life” or “how does this verse apply to me.”
The Word is near.
Our God is not a far off Being. He is not hidden in a shroud of secrecy. He is not playing cosmic hide-and-seek with you. He has not spoken in secret or out of of darkness or said to you, “Try to seek me but you probably won’t be able to find me.” No! “No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it” (Deuteronomy 30:14-15). What kindness of our God to give us the Scripture so that we may know Him.
The Word is alive.
More than two thousand years of reading and research have not succeeded in exploring its full meaning. Today it is as if it had never been touched, never been seen, as if we had not even begun to read it. Its spirit is too much for one generation to bear. Its words reveal more than we can absorb.Abraham Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism
The Bible is not a piece of ancient, dead literature; it is literally alive. A profound mystery of Bible reading is that, as you read to know God, He is simultaneously meeting with you and communicating with you. Did your brain just explode a little bit? As a friend wrote to me recently: “He just wants to spend time with me everyday. How awesome is that??!!” God wants to be your friend; He wants to be found by you. It is a joy and delight to meet with Him through our study of the Bible. Some days we might come to our reading time out of habit. We choose to come because it is the right thing to do and desire will follow. But may we pray for a desire to truly look forward to when we can sit with Jesus in “the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.1 Thessalonians 2:13
Let’s Get Practical
Your time in the Word doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, just keep it simple: pray, read, and reflect. Spend time in prayer: worshiping God and praying for yourself and others. Then spend time reading, and read at least a chapter (a-verse-a-day is not a study since it divorces the verse from the entire passage and proper context). Which specific reading plan you choose isn’t the most important part–feel free to study through the whole Bible or just stick with one book at a time. But make sure to come with consistency and with an open heart.
That being said, I do think every believer should read through the whole Bible every two to four years–it is so very important to read the entire arc of the Biblical story. Each part of the Bible is inspired and useful for godly living (2 Peter 1:3, 2 Timothy 3:16)–yes, even those hard sections of Lamentations. Consistently reading the whole of Scripture is important for many reasons, including helping us to understand context for other passages. For example, you will see firsthand how the Old Testament prophecies fit into the narrative of the New Testament gospels. Your journey to read all of the Bible can vary through the years: read chronologically or straight through or however you choose. Just keep reading.
A small note of caution about devotionals. I have used a couple over the years, my favorite being My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, but don’t let a devotional become something of a crutch. It is the Bible you need. The Bible stands alone. Charles Spurgeon says, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” You do not need a devotional or a commentary to guide you into truth. The Holy Spirit will do that for you (John 14:26, 16:13)! Always give your first and best time to study of the Word alone. Save the devotionals, which can certainly be encouraging and insightful, for a little reading time after your Bible study or perhaps before bed. They should enhance, not replace, your daily time of studying the Word.
To recap the simple process: pray and read, but don’t stop there. Make sure you also spend time reflecting and pondering. Close your eyes and picture yourself there with Moses or Peter. Give the words you read time to soak into your soul. I reflect best by underlining verses, word patterns, or intriguing names of God. Then I copy passages in a notebook because, for me, writing brings deeper learning and remembrance. If I write it out, then there’s a better chance I will retain what I read.
This process can be accomplished in miniature when you don’t have much time–pray for a few minutes, read a chapter, and then reflect for a couple of minutes on one or two verses. Or the same process can also be extended when you have a longer stretch of time to include more Bible reading, reflection time, journaling, or reading Bible commentaries.
One final note: don’t be afraid of the hard stuff. The Bible is a difficult book to read . . . how can it not be?! It’s a book about the God of the universe who is too mysterious, too expansive for our finite minds. When we press in and “when we grapple with difficult texts or dig into boring background information, it shows our love for Christ, that we’re willing to put time and energy into discerning his words” (Lois Tverberg, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus).
READ THE BIBLE: for Him. We come because He is worthy.
. . . jump to Part 2 . . . read the Bible: for yourself.
Will you join me?
Interested to learn more about how I prayer journal during my time with Jesus? You can read my post on Three Tips on Praying Journaling.