How To Read The Bible

My favorite ways to approach and glean truth from scripture.

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January 31, 2022

Emily Boone

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How To Read The Bible

That heading might sound totally weird – of course, anyone can read the bible. But how do you read the bible and actually receive something from the text and understand what is even going on? As a lifetime believer and bible reader, I still struggle with this and I am constantly learning how to read the bible better, especially when I’m in seasons where I’m just feeling dry or honestly, kind of bored or stagnant in my faith.That is humbling to admit, but it is a reality for so many of us who want to grow in our faith! Going through seasons of lackluster is very real, and so that’s kind of where I’m coming from with this blog post. Lately I’ve found myself in one such a season, and I realized this is probably super common! Or perhaps you’ve always kind of struggled with reading the bible because you’ve never really been taught how to or maybe you’re new to it. If that’s the case, then hopefully this blog post will help you, too!

The Bible Is A Massive Text!

First things first, it’s always good to remind myself to look at the bible from a bird’s eye view occasionally. The span of the bible begins with the creation of the world and ends with a book of prophecy of things that haven’t even happened yet. So it’s big, haha. That’s a lot of ground and history to cover. And in our English bible, each portion is broken up into separate categories. The photo below is super helpful – it’s notes I took in my own bible when I was learning about how all of the books are organized.

It’s really easy to get discouraged from reading the bible just because of it’s sheer size. Where to even start?! It’s really helpful for me to look at this photo above and remind myself what category each book falls into – that makes diving into reading one super helpful to know what kind of book it is. Basically, all of the books are broken into the Old Testament (before Jesus) and the New Testament (stories of Jesus’ life and after he resurrects into heaven). And then within each Testament are other categories. For the OT, there’s the books of the Law (the Pentateuch), history books, literature books (my fav!), and major and minor prophets. For the NT, there’s the four Gospels (accounts of the life of Jesus) history, letters, and prophecy. So now when you pick a book to read and study, you can know what kind of book it is which will really help as you try to decipher what’s going on in the text.

Understanding Context

When reading the bible, sometimes it’s easy to skip to thinking about how the stories can apply directly to our lives. Of course that’s not a bad thing to do, that’s what helps us transform! But knowing the context in which each book/story/character takes place makes that application and understanding soooo much deeper and more fun and interesting. This can be intimidating to try to learn, but it doesn’t have to be! What has really helped me as I study scripture is to have resources nearby where I can remind myself what is the context of each story. You don’t have to be a bible scholar to know this and learn! Chuck Swindoll did a series of books Kenton and I really like. This one on the life of Moses is great, but he did a bunch on other characters too. Bible Project videos can also be super helpful with this. They do videos about all kinds of topics, but they also do overviews of books of the bible which help with context study and tying overarching themes together from different books of the bible.

Reading Supplements

This is something I’m relying on a lot right now! I am really enjoying having a daily devotional in addition to my scripture reading in the morning. It just makes my quiet time a little more dynamic and when I feel like I’m too distracted to connect deeply with scripture, reading a prompt in a daily devo really helps to get me in the right head space and redirect my thoughts. My all time favorite is My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It is beautiful and challenging and full of depth. I also like New Morning Mercies by David Paul Tripp and Great Verses Through The Bible by EB Meyer. Honestly, that last one is out of print and getting a copy might be tough, but if you ever see one on Amazon or in a book store or estate sale, grab it! It is one of my favorites. I also like to add in reading excerpts of a non-fiction either Christian or secular book to add to my morning learning. Right now I’m reading through a self improvement book (12 Rules For Life) and while I’m always careful to run any idea against scripture before really adopting that idea, it’s cool to see how some things I read in books like this will align with what I’m studying in scripture. For instance, in 12 Rules For Life I am currently reading the chapter on vision and comparison, and so many of the ideas ended up tying back to what I’d read in both My Utmost For His Highest and in the Sermon on the Mount that same day. Pretty cool! I also really love Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal. It’s beautiful.

Creating A Space For Study

This might be one of my favorite things about reading the bible as I’m such a home-body and I just love cozy spaces and nesting. Creating a special space dedicated to reading the bible makes reading the bible easier to repeat and more enjoyable. My space is a little desk next to our bed. It looks out at the bird feeder outside our window, and while the space is functional, it’s also pretty, which is important for me. I have a pen cup filled my favorites, some skin and make up products nearby that just make me happy, and all the books I like to have when I study organized neatly in a vintage jug. Sitting at that desk every morning is very centering, even if all my mind can do is stare out the window that day and just watch the birds. I also love that my bible reading space is different than my work space. For me, that’s pretty important. Keeping them separate has been a move for the better in the last few years.

Just Dive In!

Finally, if you’re still apprehensive, the best thing you can do is just dive in! And when you do, simply pray for God to meet you in the scriptures and show you something there. He loves to meet with us, so that is a great prayer to pray before reading! It also helps to expect to be encouraged and renewed when you go to the scriptures. If you’re already convinced you won’t get anything out of it, how do you think you’d ever learn something good? Your heart and mind are already closed off. So being expectant and looking for that nudge from God is a great approach to reading scripture – even if this is your first time! And especially if it’s not! Like I said, I’ve been reading the bible essentially my whole life, and it’s easy to get into a rhythm of just reading to read. But when I come to the bible with expectancy, I’m rarely disappointed. 🙂

So I hope this encouraged you if you’ve been hoping to have a more established practice of reading scripture! It is definitely a journey, but I find there’s always something new I haven’t seen before. And while I’m the farthest thing from an expert, if you have specific questions about any of this feel free to DM me on Insta or comment below! Happy reading!

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