Have you ever found yourself staring at your bible completely overwhelmed and not sure where to begin? If you have, then you are in good company, because I can assure you that I have sat in that very. sameeeee. spot. I had a Catholic Bible sitting on my shelf in my bedroom for the longest time, and every time I opened it up, I would wind up closing it only seconds later. I didn't understand anything that it said, and to try and figure it out seemed too time consuming. The words were so complicated, and honestly? It brought a lot more questions than it brought clarity.
When I finally received Christ as my Lord and Savior, I was given a Bible by a lady named Amanda, who was my maid of honor in my wedding. It had my name engraved in it, and it was a God's Girl Bible, which means it really broke down each story for me in ways I could understand. She also volunteered to come alongside me in my walk with God at the beginning and answer any questions that I had. I was so relieved and excited. That's her below!
Reading your Bible sounds like such a simple thing until you realize that you have no idea what to read or how to even begin.
If this is you, I want you to know that I get it, and that I want to be that girl that comes with you on this journey, like Amanda was for me. I am going to be sharing with you a Beginner’s Guide to reading the Bible and some tips you can use to help you better understand and connect with God’s word.
If you are more of an interactive person and you want to watch some videos about how to navigate your faith when you are a new Christian, you can check out my free course below! It's a video series that covers a ton of topics for new believers, and one of those topics is... How To Read The Bible.
So before we begin, I want to take a quick moment to point out what not to do when reading your Bible...
1. The practice of flipping through your bible aimlessly and picking a random passage to read is not really going to be helpful for you. Without properly understanding what you're reading and the context around it or what its intended purpose is, there can be a lot if "What in the world does this even mean?" statements that echo in your mind. Most of the time, randomly picking verses is not the way that God will lead you to a scripture or a verse that you need to hear. It's actually through intentional study of the Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit that God will lead you to specific passages.
2. Neglecting prayer before scripture reading. Prayer allows us to connect with God and the Holy Spirit. Often times, through prayerfully reading scripture, God will reveal things to us that we would have completely missed if we had simply read scripture like a textbook. By engaging in prayer, we treat scripture reading as quality time with God and it becomes a time of deep connection.
3. Reading scripture through a third party. I know it can be easy to feel so overwhelmed by the Bible that we never actually open it and instead only read scripture presented to us through devotionals and books. I love devotionals and books, but they cannot be the sole source of where we engage with God’s Word.
So now that we have an understanding of some of the common pitfalls that can occur when studying your Bible, let's discuss some helpful tips for reading scripture...
1. Find A Good Study Bible
First things first... You actually need a Bible! A great Bible to look for is a study Bible, one that has built in footnotes that help explain specific points. I also love the Bibles that allow space in the margins for taking notes. A space for notes is a great way to share short thoughts that you have about certain passages or to mark what stood out to you. Here are some Bibles that I would definitely recommend to start with...
ESV Study Bible (I've used this one before and it is awesome!)
2. Grab A Journal
You need a journal so you can write down what God is showing you during this time, and also for any questions that you may have. My first journals are tucked away in my bedside drawer now, and they are filled with the sweetest memories. I was falling madly in love with Jesus, and it's all right there for me to read whenever I need to be reminded of how amazing those revelations were. Journaling will allow you to see how far you've grown as well. Make sure to pick out a journal that you find pretty and functional, this way you will be more likely to use it.
I always recommend, as you will see in my free Christian Course called "HIS", that you just answer two questions while you are reading the Word. If you're not sure what to journal about, always fall back to asking yourself these two pivotal questions...
- What Does This Teach Me About God?
- What Does This Teach Me About The Way That I Should Live?
These two questions will bring the Scriptures alive to you. You will begin to understand God's character more, and your life will slowly become transformed to look more like His. It's amazing what those reflective questions can do as you jot your thoughts down. Just watch how God speaks to you!
3. Start With The Gospel
When people begin reading the Bible, they will usually begin in Genesis. While that book is filled with wonderful stories and so many miracles, I never recommend that any new believer starts there because it just increases their frustration of not fully understanding. I always urge the people that are seeking Christianity out, to begin in the Gospel of John. It really does give you a strong foundation and understanding of who God is and what Jesus did for you on the cross.
The Gospel of John is the fourth book of the New Testament, and it's written by Jesus' apostle, John. John was a part of Jesus' inner circle and shares so many stories that will leave you in awe. My favorite thing about this Gospel is that it emphasizes the deity of Christ. Jesus is God, and once you see how that Gospel proves it, you'll never be the same. Start there. Read slow. Be prayerful.
4. Read Commentaries
Commentaries are written by different biblical scholars and pastors in order to dissect and better understand a specific passage of scripture. In these commentaries, they share their thoughts or results of their studies so that others may be able to better comprehend them as well! They often include different historical and biblical contexts and any other information that might add to a greater understating of the passage. A great website for finding a good commentary is Bible Hub or you can grab a physical commentary book by John MacArthur. You can find it by clicking here! I had the physical commentary because I loved writing in the books and highlighting the things I was learning.
One other amazing resource is Look At The Book by John Piper. John Piper makes short videos of certain passages in the Bibles and makes marks all over the screen, and it feels like you're at a real Bible study in-person!
5. Continue To Seek God, Even When You Don't Feel Like It
A lot of times when new believers read scripture, they have this idea that scripture will make them feel better and will make all of their problems go away, but here is the thing; The purpose of scripture is for us to know God more deeply, not for us to feel this emotional high. Keep pressing in, even when you are discouraged, even when you are feeling down, even when hope seems lost.
In reading scripture we will often have that awesome emotional connection or moment of deep revelation, but that can not be your sole purpose in reading your Bible. One of the reasons that this misconception can be so damaging is that it makes us think that if we are not feeling something, then we aren’t close to God or that we are missing something, which is simply not true. Your desire when reading scripture should be to know God more deeply and to become more like Jesus.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock!"
He is waiting for you. Go and experience His freedom.
I know reading your Bible can feel a bit daunting but know that you don’t have to be perfect in the process. You may have days where you struggle to get through even just one verse, and guess what, friend? That's okay! Just try again tomorrow and you will slowly find that the more consistent you are, the more you will desire to be in His Word. You will begin to fall deeply in love with God through his long love letter written to you. The Bible is the most important book that you could ever read and I am so happy that you have a desire to understand it! Start reading and watch how God changes your life through your faithful obedience to Him.