“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Think about that. The Bible is God-breathed (Hebrews 4:12 tells us it is alive). When you read it, you are reading the active, living words of God Almighty. And it is useful for every area of our lives.
Yet, we often feel overwhelmed, intimidated, undereducated, (insert your reason here) when we approach scripture. We feel like we do not know how to read the Bible or how to get anything out of it. That attitude ultimately leads to many of us not reading it at all. God has revealed Himself to us at this time in history through the Bible, so no excuse is good enough to neglect reading it. Okay then, how should we read and study the Bible in such a way that it impacts our lives?
These are 7 practical ways that help me approach my time reading the Bible with an open and wanting heart.
Approach the Bible:
1. Thoughtfully – God gave us the greatest computer ever – the brain, so use it! Ask questions about what you are reading…Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Do I agree with what it says? How do I apply this to my life?
2. Repeatedly – Bruce Lee once said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Keep reading scripture, even passages you are familiar with. It seems like every time I read a familiar verse, I get something new from it, and it keeps me coming back to read it again and again. God’s word is alive and active and will continue to be at work in you.
3. Patiently – Most great things in life happen over time (weeds grow up overnight, but a tree takes years to develop; fast food vs. a home-cooked meal). Set aside time to read scripture in a place where you will not be rushed. If your mind is worried about the time, you will find that you are not getting anything from your reading.
4. Prayerfully – Pray as you open scripture, and use scripture as prayer. Many passages are actually great prayers that you can lift up to God.
5. Imaginatively – Rephrase scripture in your own words (I used to have my students change Psalm 23 from “The Lord is my Shepherd” to another title that may fit them – “The Lord is my coach”.)
6. Meditatively – Eugene Peterson describes what meditation looks like in “Eat This Book”. He describes that the Hebrew word “hagah” is translated as “meditate”. It’s the same word used in Isaiah 31:4 when a lion is described as “standing over its prey growling and savoring its kill”. Meditation, therefore, is compared to the believer reading the Word and fighting for it like a lion over its prey. When you read scripture, do you fight and wrestle with it, protect it from being consumed by others, and savor your time in it?
7. Acquisitively – This means “to seek and acquire and own”. In my mind, it is what Psalm 119:11 is speaking of when it says “I have hidden your word in my heart”.
Another thing to consider, beyond these ways to approach your time reading the Bible, is also how you logistically structure that time. I always make space to do 3 things –read, reflect, (w)rite. (I put the “w” in parenthesis because I can talk about the 3 R’s instead of the RRW!) Some days I spend 20 minutes, other days it might be an hour or more. Each of the seven approaches listed above will differently impact my reading, reflecting, and writing, but this combined approach and structure helps me not feel overwhelmed when approaching scripture.
One other piece of advice I might pass along. Our Senior Pastor Tommy Politz was leading a class I am taking and he said something that stood out to me last week. We were talking about reading scripture, and he compared reading the Bible to watching Netflix. He said, “You know how we binge-watch tv shows on Netflix? Well, sometimes I think we should ‘binge-read’ the Bible. Instead of reading small portions at a time, sometimes we should just sit down and read large portions of scripture at one time.” Think of it like a puzzle. Instead of looking at small pieces all of the time and only getting a tiny glimpse of what the author wrote, you are taking in the whole puzzle and seeing the beautiful picture in its entirety. Set aside the time to read large portions of scripture and see how God reveals himself to you.
The Creator of the Universe is wanting to talk to you through His Word…what are you waiting for?! It’s time for some “binge-reading”!