Recently, I read the amazing story of Mary Jones, a young girl who wanted nothing more than to have a Bible of her own. Born in 1864, the Welsh girl saved money for six years until she had enough money to purchase a Bible. Then at age 16, she walked 50 miles roundtrip and barefoot to the only location where a Bibles were for sale. Once purchased, hers was the only Bible in the county.
We are living in a strange time. We have more access to the Bible than ever before in history, but somehow, we are less apt to read it. To say that Biblical illiteracy is an epidemic is an overstatement. According to a recent poll in the UK, more than 30% of people polled thought that Harry Potter might have been a story in the Bible. Really?
Maybe we have too much access to the Bible? They say “familiarity breeds contempt.” It could be that God's word is so ubiquitous that we simply take it for granted.
Or perhaps we don't read the Bible because we don't understand it or just don't know where to start reading. Both of these issues can be solved simply enough.
Here are three simple suggestions to help you start reading your Bible today.
1–Choose A Good Version
The Bible comes in many different “versions,” sort of the way ice cream comes in different flavors. Because the Bible was originally written in three different languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, it must be translated into English. Translators then decide how much translating is necessary for the Bible to makes sense to readers. Versions like the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the English Standard Version (ESV) stick closer to words in the original language, while versions like the Contemporary English Version (CEV) and the New International Version (NIV) translate ideas more than words.
My suggestion for beginners is the New International Readers Version, which is easy to read and understand. Later, when you are ready for deeper Bible study you can pick another version like the NIV or ESV.
2–Start In The Right Place
The worst thing you can do is try to read through the Bible from beginning to end. Here's why: you probably won't make it. You're sure to get bogged down in Leviticus or Numbers and you'll never make it to the super interesting and fascinating books like Joshua and Judges, or the inspirational book of Psalms.
The Bible is not really designed to be read from beginning to end anyway. Remember, the Bible is a collection of many books, 66 in all and it's not even in chronological order.
If it's your first time reading the Bible, here's my suggestion: Read one chapter of Proverbs every day for a month. It's easy to do because there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, and there are usually about 30-31 days in a month. Look at the calendar and whatever day it is, read that chapter in Proverbs.
Once you're done with that, jump over to the New Testament, and start reading in the book of John. One chapter per day is plenty to start.
After John, read the book of James. After James, read Ecclesiastes. If you get that far, email me and we'll talk about where to go next. But here's my hunch; if you do get that far you'll begin to figure out how and where to read on your own.
3–Don't Be Afraid To Ask Questions
There's no shame in saying, “I just don't understand this stuff.” Remember, the Bible is a collection of ancient books, many written well over 2,500 years ago. Plus, there's plenty of historical and geographical information to consider when trying to understand the text. A good study Bible can help with this and there are plenty of websites* that offer helpful insights as you read through God's word.
I also suggest keeping a notebook or journal while you read. When you get to a section of the Bible you don't understand, mark down the chapter and verse number along with a question mark. Send these questions to your pastor, your small group leader, or just talk them through with a trusted Christian friend.
Most importantly, ask God to give you guidance and understanding. Psalm 25:4 says, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation.”