Happy October! This month we’ll be looking at our third core value: Knowing and Obeying God’s Word is Fundamental to All True Success.
There is a lot involved in really studying the Bible. There’s an entire discipline called hermaneutics (that’s from the Greek word for interpretation) that’s all about the correct way to study God’s Word. It’s important to follow these rules and we’ll look at them in later posts, but knowing the 8 basic principles of hermaneutics doesn’t do you any good unless you’re doing one very simple thing.
Read the Bible
Before we get too caught up in how to tell when God is being literal and when He’s speaking figuratively, we need to be reading the Bible. Before we start worrying about knowing the historical background of the minor prophets, we need to be reading them. Before we make studying Scripture super complicated, we need to grasp a simple fact. The best way to study the Bible is to read it.
As an English major I love studying books. Since the Bible is such an important book, I wanted to make sure I was doing a good job of studying it. I tracked down books and articles of all kinds on how to interpret Scripture and apply it to your life. Some of these books were really good. In later posts, I’ll probably be recommending some of them to you. But try not to get carried away, like I did.
It took me a while to catch the irony here, but I got so busy reading books on how to read the Bible that I wasn’t reading my Bible. Time I usually set aside for time in the Word was instead being spent on books like “How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth.” And then one day it hit me: in order to be reading the Bible for all its worth, you have to be reading the Bible.
Sounds simple enough, right? I decided to take a break from hermaneutics and go straight to the source. And then, of course, I over-complicated that.
Choosing a Reading Plan
There are a lot of great reading plans out there. By this point, I feel as though I have tried most of them. The most common plan is some variation of reading an Old Testament passage and a New Testament passage every day. Reading the Bible in a year seems to be most people’s goal, though others prefer a more relaxed pace of every two to four years.
Reading plans range from the very simple to the needlessly complex. Reading one chapter a day is a perfectly fine plan. At the height of my Bible-reading research, I really liked the looks of the Bible Eater Plan. It’s still a fine plan, but I think now I’d put it in the needlessly complex category. Someone put a great deal of thought and effort into figuring that plan out, and I appreciate that. But if I put half as much effort into reading the Bible as I did into finding the perfect reading plan, I’d have the whole thing memorized by now.
The plan I follow now isn’t a plan at all. I sit down and I read my Bible. Some days I read ten or more chapters. Other days I struggle to get through one. And, I confess, there are days that I don’t read at all. It doesn’t throw me off my plan, though. The next day I just open my Bible to the last place I left off and I’m right back on track.
Feel free to start with any book of the Bible. Lots of people recommend John. I’m partial to Romans, myself. Leviticus probably isn’t a great starting point, but hey, do what you want. Jump around, get a feel for things, find out what works best for you. Let the Holy Spirit prompt you. If you really bog down in one book, take a break and read another one for a little while. Plans are supposed to be helpful tools, not absolute rules.
We really don’t have any excuse to not be reading our Bibles. (Don’t have one? Come to church, we’ll give you one!) We can read it for free on our phones and tablets. There are audio versions we can listen to on our morning commute or while doing housework.
Yes, there are certain things that are helpful to have to get the most out of your Bible reading time. A study Bible is ridiculously useful. But they can be a little pricey. A plain Bible is more than enough to get you started. The footnotes in a study Bible can help answer questions, but they are not the inspired Word of God. The actual Biblical text is.
Likewise, a notebook and pen are good to have on hand so you can jot down any questions you need to look up later or flashes of inspiration that God gives you. But they’re not required. A routine will help you form the habit of reading daily, but just because it’s the wrong time of day or you’re in the wrong spot shouldn’t stop you. It doesn’t matter if conditions aren’t ideal or you’re not sure what everything you’re reading means. The only thing that matters is that God wants to speak to you through His Word. You just have to start reading.