I was sixteen when I first started going along to a Christian youth group, having never really been involved in Church, or had any kind of faith background at all. I’d started going along to a Sunday night youth group, and when they began a new Bible study in small groups, once I had been there for a few weeks, I realized that I might need to find myself a Bible. I had no idea what I was doing but I had seen some of my friends making pretty notes and highlighting theirs, so I was keen: I went into Waterstones on the way home from college, found the Religion section and picked up one of the first Bibles on the shelf.
It sat in my bag for a couple of days – but when the time finally came for that small group Bible study, I was ready. I dug out my pencilcase, got my Bible out… and tried to read along with the passage that was being read out, in a Bible that made absolutely no sense. In picking up the first Bible that I saw, with no idea of what I was looking for, I’d bought myself a King James Version – one of the old-school translations, with lots of thees and thous and thys – not a language that this sixteen year old Basingstoke kid was used to.
When I was baptized later that year, a friend bought me a little NIV Bible – a gorgeous little black zippy thing, with language that I could understand, and a cover that was going to protect it from being thrown around in my bag. I think this was the point that I actually began to read the Bible for myself, in a this is what I believe now, I’d better get to know some of it kind of way.
It’s now almost ten years later, and reading the Bible is still one of the things that I am learning more about all the time. It absolutely isn’t something I’ve got completely sorted – but it has become one of the most important things in my walk with God. I’ve found a rhythm that means that it is a part of my day, and I notice the difference when it isn’t. It’s not a task or a chore, but a way of spending time with my God and letting him speak to me – something that I don’t really want to do without.
A little while ago, we chatted a bit on our Instagram about how we read the Bible in a way that works for us, and some of the bits of wisdom that we have found helpful as time has gone by – a lot of questions came up around this, and it’s something that people seemed to find really helpful. So, here are some of our thoughts around how to read the Bible for all it’s worth (or how we do it, anyway):
Start your day with God:
This is something that I’ve only started doing regularly this year, really: we all read the Bible at church, or in a home group – but a real relationship with God cannot rely on those times to feed us: that is what makes us a Sunday Christian. It’s actually a habit that I really learned to put in place during a really difficult time: when I am stressed, or sad, or finding life a bit tough, I tend to wake up super early, before anyone should be awake, with that list of things to be anxious about at the front of my mind from the word go. I could have curled up in a ball and felt sorry for myself (and did, lots of times) – but the thing that I found more helpful here would be to get up, make a cup of tea, and go back to bed with my Bible and my journal – a way of changing my perspective, calming that anxious feeling and helping me focus before I even got out of bed.
When things are going great, this is still something I need to do: I can’t look at my phone without seeing multiple requests for help, things to do, people to see and demands on my time. That to-do list will always seem like the most demanding thing – and yet this time with God in the morning, even if it’s only a few minutes, slows me down before I have a chance to try and get up to do it all in my own strength.
A friend of mine had some great wisdom on this: “I don’t have any strength for myself”, she says “so if I don’t start by getting some of His strength, and patience, and grace – there isn’t any point”.
What do We Do?
As long as you’re reading through the Bible in a way that works for you, I’m not sure it matters what plan you’re following. The Soul Survivor Bible in One Year is a great place to start, or the YouVersion Bible app comes with loads of great plans to work your way through. We’ve found a cool way of dividing the Bible, so that we work through something slightly different each day – we’ve split the Bible into six:
- Sunday: Genesis-Deuteronomy
- Monday: OT History (Joshua-Job)
- Tuesday: Poetry (Psalms-Song of Solomon)
- Wednesday: Prophets (Isaiah-Malachi)
- Thursday: NT History (Matthew-Acts)
- Friday and Saturday: Letters (Romans-Revelation)
…And then we just read a little bit more on each day. So on the first Sunday, we’d read a chapter (or more) from Genesis; on Monday we’d read a chapter from Joshua, and so on. Writing stuff down and highlighting things as we go means that we don’t forget where we’re up to, and the variety means we get something different to dwell on each day; but this is just what works for us. Find a plan, or a way of reading that works for you, and go for it.
How to Read:
I process by writing, so reading the Bible with a journal next to me is the most helpful way of doing things. Here’s what I do:
- Read the chapter/passage that I’m going to read that day.
- As things jump out at me, underline them as I go: this could be a line, a word or a verse. In my Bible, I underline things that have jumped out at me, and then I highlight the verses that are truths that I can remember and stand on.
- Write something: I look back over what I’ve read, and I make a few notes on some of the things that have stood out to me. One way of doing this is the SOAP method (Click through to find out more about that) – but really it’s just about making a note of anything that God is saying to you through what you’re reading. Think about what you can see, what it says about who God is, and how this applies to your life and circumstances.
- I use biblehub.com to read commentaries on the passage, look up what the original language meant, look at different translations and find parallel scriptures – I’ve found this site is a really helpful tool in diving in deeper to what the word says.
This is what we do: but, however it is that you do it, getting into the Bible is a huge part of a life with God. In a world that is set on telling us who we are and how much we are worth, this is our gateway to hear it straight from God.
We’ve got loads more on this topic to come, but I would love to know: how do you read your Bible? What have you found helpful in this?