5 Tips for Beginning to Read the Bible Consistently

img_2764As Keith indicated in his sermon last week, we have any number of reasons to love the Bible. In its pages, we find truth that comes from God himself, truth that brings light and life to our lives through Jesus. Even so, the Bible is a big book, and it can be challenging to read, particularly when you’re first starting out. With that in mind, here are five tips to help you on your way to reading (and benefitting from) the Bible on a consistent basis.

1. Use a reading plan.

The advantage of a plan is that it’s a plan! You won’t have to worry about what you’re supposed to read if you have one. And the good news is there are plenty of helpful reading plans available online. In fact, you can find a couple on The Crossing’s mobile app. For more options, check out Biblegateway.com. Some are more ambitious than others, but any one of them will be a great way to read the Bible consistently.

2. Read the gospels.

The biblical story—and it really is one big overarching story—is centered around Jesus and what he accomplished. All of the Old Testament points forward to him, and all of the New Testament flows from him. And it’s in the gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—that we find the most extensive accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Reading a chapter a day in the gospels (another plan!) will give you tracks to run on for some time. And it will dive you right into the crux of the most important story ever told. You can start with any one of the four.

3. Read the Psalms.

The Psalms—the songbook of the Bible—are meant to help us worship. They use vivid images and memorable language, and they speak to full range of the human experience. They also teach us how to respond to God wherever we find ourselves within that experience. For these reasons and more, they’re a great place to spend devotional time reading the Bible. And again, you can approach this in a manageable way: a psalm or so a day will give you a lot to think (and even pray) about.

4. Get a good study Bible.

One of the reasons why the Bible can be frustrating is that we’re unfamiliar with things like the culture(s) in which it was originally written (the historical context), how parts of it relate to the whole (the literary context), and the kinds of literature (genre) that we find within its pages. A good study Bible can help tremendously with all these things. It will have background and historical information for every biblical book, a brief commentary that will often help you navigate passages that you don’t understand, and various other features (articles, maps, cross-references, etc.) that will enrich your reading. If you’ve never had one before, you might start with NIV Study Bible or the ESV Study Bible. Both are good translations put together by top notch scholars who hold to the reliability and authority of God’s word. And you can get both electronically in various formats. Try any of the options above while reading the accompanying commentary in a study Bible.

5. Read a book that in some way combines Bible reading with devotional content.

Thankfully, several trusted pastors and scholars have produced books that offer biblical readings accompanied by brief devotional teaching to help you get more out of what you’re reading. Good contemporary examples include New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp and For the Love of God by D. A. Carson. And Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening is a classic.

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Let me end with two things that are important to remember as we think about reading the Bible consistently. First, if you don’t understand everything you read, or you don’t see how it immediately applies to your life, it doesn’t mean that what you’re reading isn’t benefitting you in some way. Second, when it comes to reading God’s word, something is almost always better than nothing. Maybe the “somethings” are small, but they tend to bear fruit over time.

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