The Bible is more impressive and influential than any of us is aware. Even those who hold the Bible in high regard do not appreciate it fully. No one does. It continues to inspire and impress. In an age of multiple voices on an array of platforms, the Bible stands alone. Josh and Sean McDowell highlight some of its unique qualities in their classic Evidence That Demands a Verdict:
Even though the Bible’s writings were written…
- and assembled over a vast number of generations, covering approximately 1,400 years
- by people in diverse areas, including Rome in the West, Egypt in the South, and Mesopotamia in the East
- by forty different people
- by people in radically different social classes (King, fisherman, exiled Prince, military leaders, doctor, zealot, etc.)
- using a variety of literary forms and genres
- in three different languages
- on a variety of topics
…all of the Bible points the reader’s attention to one supreme big idea: God created us, loves us, and has provided the way for us to be in a relationship with him for eternity.
The Bible is a big deal. We should read it. But don’t just read for knowledge or even understanding. Read to be transformed. And if that’s your goal, it’s good to have an array of learning resources at your disposal. Mix it up to keep things fresh, to keep you on your toes, and to surprise yourself from time to time.
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Here are 25 ways to read your Bible. Read it…
1) out loud
Reading out loud can sharpen your focus and increase comprehension. Get “out of your head” and hear what you are reading. Use expression and intonation.
What’s the rush? If you’re running late, can you identify another portion of your day you could set aside a few minutes? Slow down your reading, so it gets inside of you and not just in and out.
3) and then read it again
Ever watch a TV show or a movie a second or third time? You always find things you didn’t catch the first time. Read your passage a few times and focus on different things. Try reading in another translation to capture any nuances.
4) with a highlighter
The Bible is God’s word, but it’s also God’s love letter to you. Highlight or circle or underline words and phrases that stick out. Jot down notes or questions or your next step.
5) with a friend
Read aloud or silently with a friend and then discuss what you read. What stood out? What questions do you have? What impression has God placed on your heart? What are you going to do based on what you read?
6) for a big idea
What’s the one thought that sticks out? What’s one thing God wants you to remember? Write it down on a notecard and stick it in your pocket, or write a note on your phone. Review it throughout the day.
7) and reflect on it
Slow down and think about it. Don’t read and leave. Read and sit…or walk and think. Reflect on the big idea or keywords and phrases. What do they tell you about God? Yourself? Others? What does God want you to know or do?
8) and journal your thoughts
Fill up at least a half-page of notes and insights or questions and next steps. Or write a letter to God. Reply to God based upon what you read. How do you think he wants you to respond? Write it out.
9) pray through what you read
Go back to those keywords and phrases or your big idea and let those influence your prayer time. Pray you would be like—or not like—the character in the story. Pray for a greater understanding of a critical concept. Praise God for the attributes that describe him.
10) and memorize a key verse or idea
The Bible is a big deal. But don’t just read for knowledge or even understanding. Read to be transformed.
11) and identify what you learn about God
What did your Bible reading teach you about God’s love or character? What did you learn about how God feels about a topic or how he responds to people?
12) and identify what it says about you
What did you learn about yourself? Did your reading force you to think about how you live or think, or what you say? Did it reveal any blind spots in your life or sin you need to confess?
13) and sit silently for two-plus minutes (or a minute)
The idea of sitting and listening to God is rare in the western world, but it’s invaluable. Choose a simple prayer and offer it to God (for example, Here I am, Lord, or Teach me, or Jesus, I am listening) and listen. When you get distracted, repeat the prayer to help you regain focus. Try for one minute and work your way up to five minutes or more.
14) and watch it
Many video resources reenact the Bible’s story—some word-for-word. You will be viewing a director’s interpretation, but you already have a scene in your head, so see what someone else sees. Plus, there are terrific free resources that explain themes and books of the Bible.
15) on your phone (use an app)
The printed word allows for a more natural way to take notes and experience your reading, but it’s nice to have an abundance of resources and the ability to do Bible searches on your phone. The Bible app (YouVersion) is the standard, but I’m a big advocate for the Bottom Line Bible (full disclosure: it’s my app). It summarizes every chapter, includes a media link for each, as well as a devotion as if God wrote you a letter.
16) while standing on line or waiting for a meeting
Don’t waste your time fuming, or becoming irritated at the people in front of you. Instead, pull out your Bible (much more accessible if on your phone) and review what you read earlier in the day, or review a memory verse, or do some new Bible reading.
17) and write someone a card (or call or send a text) and tell them why you thought of them
God will bring people to your mind as you read. Don’t dismiss that. Take a moment to pray for them and then let them know via card, call, or text.
18) in multiple translations
You likely have a favorite translation, but mix things up and read from a fresh perspective by reading the same passage from a different translation. You might have access to a few different print versions, but the internet or Bible software can provide dozens of others.
19) until God speaks to you
You might have a goal to read a specific portion or multiple chapters, but, instead, wait until you hear from God. It might be after a few verses—or even a few words—or it might require you to read more than you anticipated. God has something to say. Listen to him and then take the time to reflect on it.
20) with expectation (the living God is speaking to you)
Remember, you’re not reading some old book, you’re reading a love letter from the living God. The Bible has lasted for centuries and reveals its relevance every day. Get excited to hear what your heavenly father wants to say to you.
21) and illustrate what you saw, heard, or felt
Keep a notebook near you and some markers or collared pencils and sketch what you read or what it makes you think of. Don’t worry about your artistic ability (or lack thereof). Allow another portion of your brain to engage.
22) through the eyes of one of the characters in the story
Read through your text, and if it’s a narrative account, go back through the reading and imagine what a specific individual in the story might have been thinking or feeling during that time. Let that shape your understanding and how you pray and respond.
23) and identify your next step
The Bible is not merely to inform you. It is to transform you. Read the Bible and think, “So what?” In other words, what’s the best way to respond to what you read? How will it change you? What will you do differently that day?
24) listen to it
Close your eyes and plan an audio version. Most apps (including mine) have audio features. Or google your text with “audio” in the search.
25) in a favorite spot that makes you happy
Research has revealed that reading your Bible four or more times a week heightens the impact and transformative properties of God’s word. Find a place to have coffee with God and make it a regular appointment that you rarely miss.
God loves you and wants to speak to you. He may do so through dreams, songs, people, your church, circumstances, the Bible, or in other ways, but every occurrence must find confirmation from his words in the Bible. The Bible is more than a book. It’s the word of God and meant to be read and lived.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
What’s another way to read the Bible?