Friday, April 11, 2014

How To Read Your Bible

My son at 3 weeks old- had to take picture because it looked like he was reading the Bible with me.

Some people may look at the title of this post and say, "How to read your Bible...duh, you read it!?" But I bet there are some people reading this, who are like me, and struggle with reading their Bibles.

Since I was saved, and probably before that actually, I was told that I needed to read my Bible everyday.  So like I always do when starting a book, I began at the beginning in Genesis.  It didn't take long for that to stop and for me to try picking verses at random.  But then I never knew how much to read.  When I was a teenager I was given a Teen Study Bible.  It was great.  It had little explanations on some pages, and separate pages that explained everyday issues and what the Bible said about them.  It even had a listing in the back of all the books of the Bible and their chapters with boxes beside them so you could check them off as you read them.

But I struggled with trying to read my Bible every day.  I would skip a day, then a day became 2, then a week and before long I wasn't reading my Bible except at church.  And there was such a guilt about not reading it.  So I tried over and over with devotional books and just reading verses to make Bible reading a part of my every day life.  But it didn't work, because my heart wasn't in it.

Now, I fully believe I was a Christian, but early on, reading my bible was just about doing it.  It was about checking it off the list of things I had done for the Lord. And it was meaningless.  Now some would argue that any time spent in the word isn't meaningless.  And to that I would say, perhaps... but is it any different than going through the motions of going to church, and going just to go. Sure you may hear or read something that ignites a fire, but if your heart isn't actually in it, then I'd say it's doubtful that anything will touch your heart through those activities, because they are just that- activities.

So, fast forward in my life to when I became completely in love with Jesus.  He became more real to me and I wanted to know more and more about him. So I began actually reading my Bible to see what God had to say about Jesus, not just because I was "supposed" to. But even then, I struggled and still do at times, with maintaining a daily Bible time.  A few years ago as a church, we set out to read the Bible through in a year.  And for the first 4 or so months I did my readings each week but then I skipped days and got behind and finally finished reading the Bible through in a year and 8 months- but I did it!  The plan we used didn't just go from beginning to end, each day you were reading a few chapters from a different book of the Bible.  I liked this method, because some books are quite difficult to take in in large doses, so every day in that book would have been tough. And I learned so much- and read things I believe I had never heard before!

The biggest reason that I was able to stay focused through those first months can be attributed to accountability.  Accountability is so beneficial in the life of a Christian.  We had a group that met each week and discussed what we had read through the week.  It wasn't formal, there were no hand outs with questions.  But each week (even if I skipped days throughout) I tried to have my reading completed, so I could contribute to the discussion and because I was accountable to my group.  And it wasn't always that we wrote things we learned, sometimes we wrote questions we had about what the scriptures meant at that part.  And sharing them with a group was wonderful. It helped me to actually use the little superscript numbers or letters that are referencing other verses that those phrases are in and really start studying the Bible.

Something I learned from this time, was that I like having a set schedule of what to read.  Left on my own, I struggle with reading, because I don't know where to start.  While I was completing the Bible in a Year plan, I discovered Good Morning Girls. (I have written about them a couple of times- here and here.) I tried to do a Bible study with an accountability partner and check in with them each week, but life happened, and neither of us were good accountability for the other and we never finished it. I attribute this to still not fully planning the time I would do this. So I decided to try again.  I looked up their list of previous studies since they were in the middle of one, and decided to study through Luke.  I have now completed 3 studies on my own and am currently doing their "Why Easter Matters" study with an accountability group.  I like the reading plans provided by Good Morning Girls, because they are just a few verses long and I have the opportunity to really meditate on them throughout the day.

I don't fully believe that "How To" lists works for everyone all the time.  What works for one person, may not work for another. But I will tell you the things that have worked for me:

1- Find a plan.  If it's reading through the Bible in a year, reading a Proverb each day of the month, joining a Bible study group, studying your Sunday School or small group lesson, or Good Morning Girls- just having a plan and knowing what you will be reading the next day is a huge key to success.

2- Read a few verses or one chapter at a time.  Some people have great reading comprehension skills, me, not so much.  So by the end of the "Reading the Bible through in a year" plan, I was just trying to read it to finish.  My heart was in it, unlike when I was younger, so I did read things and learn things, but, I prefer a few verses at a time.  I am able to really meditate on the verses and the reading doesn't seem daunting.  If I knew I had to read 5 chapters, I would have to block out some serious time for that.  With a few verses, I take my time and mull them over- it can last an hour or a few minutes.

4- Set a time. It may be that you have time first thing in the morning to study your Bible. Or it may be during lunch break, or you may not be able to read your Bible until late at night after your children are in bed.  Whenever it is doesn't really matter, but having a set time of day that you will do it will really help you "find time" to do it.

3- Establish accountability.  It is not always effective, as I mentioned before, but finding a person or group who will hold you accountable is very helpful.  Even when I wasn't actually meeting with an accountability partner, my husband was still my accountability.  Every few weeks, my husband asks how my Bible reading is going and what I'm studying- and I love his concern for my spiritual well being and how serious he is about his role as the spiritual leader of our family!  But not everyone's husband will be their accountability so find someone else to check in with on a regular basis, if not daily then at least weekly.

4- Want to do it. Some people never struggle to read their Bible everyday; my grandmothers were great examples of this.  But for some it is a real challenge. It's not something we need to do out of a sense of duty or guilt, or even to find out what God wants to tell us about our lives- because actually, the Bible isn't about us, it's all about Jesus and our reading and studying it should be out of a desire to know him and love him more. 

So, how is your reading going?

Do you take time each day to read God's word?

Are you struggling through out of a since of guilt or duty?

I encourage you to pray for God to give you the desire for his word and then to be in his word by whatever means that is for you.

Love in Christ,


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