I belong to several Christian women's groups on social media. Last week someone posted that she wants to read the Bible more and was looking for some suggestions about how to get started. The responses were very interesting. I realized that while the woman posting said she wants to "read" the Bible, the responses indicated a difference between reading and studying the Bible.
Both reading and studying have tremendous value. Since a strong faith and understanding of God positively impacts all of our relationships, I thought addressing that difference here might be a good idea.
I'll start with reading since that was the word she used.
Reading the Bible involves sitting down to read various parts of the Bible. It involves understanding how the Bible tells the story of creation, Jesus our Savior, and the eternal future for believers. There are several great ways to do this:
Sit down and play Bible roulette (randomly open the Bible, close your eyes, point your finger somewhere on the page, and start reading). Lots of people do this and it's fine, though not a terribly organized way to go about it. On stressful days, though, this might be all you can manage and that's completely okay!
Read a chronological Bible. I've been reading the Bible for years and still found the daily chronological BIble a game-changer in my understanding of the history of my faith. This is the one I use. It's best when started in January. I miss a day, I'll go back and read to get caught up. If I miss more than a day or two, I skim what I missed and read the current day. I know some friends who get discouraged when they miss days and then guilt keeps them from continuing. It's a process - just keep going.
A third strategy for reading the Bible is to ask people what their favorite books are and give them a try. Mine are: Old Testament - Ruth; Gospel - Luke; New Testament - Philippians. Once you learn about each book in the Bible, you'll know which one to read for each circumstance you find yourself in. The Word of God is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12) - it changes with us as our experiences change. The best way to get there, though, is to begin reading somewhere.
No matter the method for choosing your content, here are some helpful steps:
Set aside regular time for reading. I find early morning or before bed works best for me.
Begin by praying about what you are going to read.
Read slowly. If you have a study Bible, sometimes read the corresponding explanations. That will help improve your understanding immensely.
Stop and ask God what He wants you to learn or understand from the reading. Some days you'll stop at just a few verses. Other days you'll read entire chapters.
Take notes if that's your thing.
Reflect on what you read throughout the day to find occasions to apply the content. That will help you remember it better and help you to see how practical the Bible is in your life.
Studying the Bible involves a deep exploration into the history, meaning, and application of Scripture to lead a life more in line with God's Word. There are as many different ways to study the Bible as there are authors. I'm listing a few of my favorites, but do some exploring! The options are endless.
I started my Bible study journey with Max Lucado. I still do some of his, but I find they are an outstanding place to get started.
Jennie Allen is one of my favorite Bible study authors, but beware! She has you dig deep into your soul and carves out the bad to make room for God's best in you. It's tough work!
My single favorite Bible study author is Priscilla Shirer. She does an amazing job of weaving deep Biblical understanding with application. I highly suggest all of her studies - I've done them personally! You can't go wrong reading her books, too.
Finally, I'm putting together a YouTube video for doing your own study of the Bible, not directed by someone else. God truly gives us all we need to explore His Word for ourselves. Stay tuned for that!
So, do you prefer to read or study?
If you choose one of the suggestions above, let me know in the comments what you choose and how it's going!
Finally, please feel free to ask questions below!