Read the Bible With a Pen and a Few Good Questions

30 May

There are many ways to read the Bible. Some are better than others. The worst is probably the “Fortune Cookie Method.” When I read in this way I am approaching the Bible without regard to its context, looking only for what it would say to me and my particular life situation. Only slightly better is the “Skim Method.” Here I read quickly and without much thought, trying to mark off the accomplishment of having read my Bible but not really giving much effort to understanding what I am reading. There are better ways to read the Bible.

First, we should read the Bible prayerfully. Since the Bible is God’s Word, and God’s Word is truth, and Jesus has promised that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, we should ask the Spirit of God to open our eyes as we read the Scriptures to comprehend and see connections and applications in the Scripture we are reading for that day.

Second, we should read the Bible systematically. This is not to say that we must finish the Bible in a year or read 6 chapters a day or read from Genesis through Revelation, but we should read in a way that carries us through whole books of the Bible at least. One reason for this is that our understanding of one passage is often influenced by what we read elsewhere in the book. So if you read chapters in isolation from books you may miss the whole point of the chapter you read. Imagine what confusion that might cause if you did it with a novel or a non-fiction book about history or science.  In addition, reading systematically is a way we can avoid only reading the parts of the Bible we most enjoy. There is great blessing in the Psalms but if its the only book I ever read in the Bible I am missing out on much of what God wants me to see in His Word.

Finally, we should read the Bible to know, feel and walk in its message. Our first step in Bible reading should be to seek to understand what we are reading. This will be easier in some parts of the Bible than others. We must also remember that we will never understand the Bible completely. If you are having trouble understanding the Bible, a Bible with good study notes may be helpful. Just make sure you give real time to reading through the text yourself before you go to the notes. Second, in reading, let your heart be engaged. Praise God for the good things you see in His Word. Thank Him for the things He is teaching you. Let your heart be moved by His great works. Finally, be mindful of the ways God is calling you to walk in the things you have read. If you read a passage about forgiveness, consider your own heart and whether there is anyone to whom you need to extend forgiveness.

One of the ways I have found most helpful in reading the Bible with a view toward remembering what I have read and applying it in everyday life is to read with a pen and a few good questions. After having read through the passage a time or two, I take a piece of paper and briefly summarize what the passage said. Then I ask some key questions. What does the passage teach me about God? What does the passage teach me about the world? What does the passage teach me about the gospel? What does the passage teach me about the church? How does this passage connect to other passages in the Bible? Finally, after having briefly answered these questions, I answer the question of how this passage could be applied into my life today. I find this way of reading to be very rewarding. It works well with a chapter or with a smaller passage. It may not work for everyone, but I hope you’ll give it a try. I will be posting a free, printable question sheet on our church website for anyone who is interested.

May God bless you as you read His Word with head, heart and hand.

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