Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Bible Reading 101

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Bible reading, like any other activity we do in life, has to fit with how we move and think. Otherwise, we don’t do it. Dancer, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print available at iCanvasART and Framed Canvas Art.

Christianity is all about being honest, and if most of us were honest with one another — say, about reading the Bible — more of us than we think would have conversations like this:

“I know I should read the Bible, but I really don’t. It bores me. It’s too hard to read.

“But I do listen to the sermon every Sunday.

“And I have a devotional that gives me a verse or two at the top, and then explains it. I do that, and it’s okay.

“Do you think God’s mad at me?”

He’s Not Mad at Us

We spend a lot of time worrying about if God is mad at us. In a Father/Child relationship on earth, this would be considered dysfunctional, but within Christianity, it is the unfortunate norm.

No, God isn’t mad at you because you don’t read the Bible, but He does want you to read it for the simple reason that you can’t know who He is and what He’s like unless you get to know Him through this Book He gave us. If you’re not into reading it on a regular basis, let’s make it easier:

Get Your Sleep

1) You don’t have to get up at 4 a.m. I know, I know, we’re “supposed” to set aside a designated Quiet Time, but if that hasn’t worked for you by now, then it probably never will. That’s not how you operate.

Me? I sit down and just read the thing, generally at night, usually with people milling about the room. We’re all quietly reading or writing or drawing or doing homework. Without my arranging it this way, an evening reading of the Bible has become part of my life, simply because I haven’t made a big deal out of it.

It’s a Book

2) Just read it. Once you mention “Bible Study,” people will foist all sorts of books on you instructing you how to do this inductively, or deductively, or whatever -ely they come up with. While you may choose, someday, to sit down with notebook and highlighter and markers and do all sorts of cross referencing and note-taking, this is not someday.

Reading is supposed to be a pleasurable activity. When it isn’t, we don’t do it. Seaside Story, original painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed open edition print available at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, Light in the Box, and Framed Canvas Art

Yes, it’s important to grow and study Scripture deeply, but if you don’t even start because the process sounds too difficult and time-consuming, then the end result is that you’re not reading the Bible at all.

Pick a book, any book, preferably one that is fairly straightforward and easy to read: Genesis, for example, reads like a story, while Isaiah, or Job, are filled with poetry and symbolism — a bit more difficult, that. Start, literally, at the beginning and read Genesis, as if you were reading a story. Then move on to Exodus as the story continues, and feel free to skip past all the instructions for building a tent-style tabernacle. Jump around. It’s not a sin.

Notes Help

3) A Study Bible is nice — one with notes below and introductions to the individual books, giving you an idea of when the action took place and where, who wrote the book, and why. Cross referencing verses take you to passages that relate to one another.

Try to avoid Bibles with notes and commentary written by a single (or multiple, actually) celebrity Christian, since you’ll effectively be learning from one man’s (or woman’s) perspective, and that’s never been God’s intention. And even when the notes are written by a composite team (I use the 1985 New International Study Bible), remember that while the Bible is inerrant, the notes are not.

Archaic, or Contemporary?

4) Speaking of Bibles, get something you can understand. There are many people out there who swear by the King James Version, but I’m not one of them. My daily e-mail features a Bible verse in KJV, and most of the time I have to look up the verse in my NIV to figure out what is being said.

I don’t speak, or write, in thees and thous, and faced with a Book full of them, I wouldn’t read it either. At the same time, the KJV comes highly recommended for its accuracy to the original, which is more than can be said for new, cool editions replacing God the Father and Jesus the Son with gender-neutral and politically correct language in the name of making the book “easier to read.”

To some extent, the Bible will never be “easier to read,” and if you dumb it down to the third grade level, you will lose nuances, meaning, and accuracy. In your average bookstore, you’ll find a wide variety of versions. Spend a little time with each version’s introduction, researching who put it together, and, as in item 3, stay away from products with a celebrity Christian on the front.

It’s Not All About You, or Me

5) Don’t worry about applying everything you read to your personal life. While the Bible is our guide to living, not every single verse is applicable to your life and situation, and if you only read it to find these verses, you’ll miss a lot.

Read the history in the Old Testament; steep yourself in the language of the Psalms; listen, truly listen to Jesus’ words in the Gospels. What you need will come back to you when you need it.

It’s True. Really.

6) Blow your mind. Approach the Bible with this thought: “This stuff is true. It’s not symbolic, it’s not a bunch of stories, it’s not incompatible with real life, because it is real life.”

The historical elements in the Bible — the parting of the Red Sea, Elijah raising the widow’s son from the dead, Jesus feeding 5,000 people — really happened, and for many of these miracles, there is not natural explanation other than that they are miracles.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to read the Bible, and when we’re stuck on that thought, we move nowhere, and read nothing. Do what works for you, but do something.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage believers to seek God, and not worry about other people’s methods for doing so. God’s ear is inclined to our cry, and He’s not the one making everything so difficult.

Posts similar to this one are

Reading the Bible Makes Me Fall Asleep

Reading through the Bible in a Year (YAWN)

False Leaders, Speaking in Our Name

  • Sarah Coller

    Absolutely! I’ve been thinking of this all week…and have enjoyed the time I do spend in the Word so much more. The kids and I did a fun study on Gideon the other day and tomorrow we are SKIPPING right over to Samson! WOO HOOO!!! Freedom!!! Ha! :)

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Sarah — I know who you are and I read your excellent work, and I thank you for your honest, good statement. You know, it’s those of us in the “maturity” stage that have the hardest time sometimes, because we’re supposed to know all this already, and when we don’t, we spend so much time telling ourselves that we’re supposed to know all this, already, that we don’t get around to the business of learning it. How good good good good that we serve a God so gracious and loving that He does NOT respond to our aching cry, “But you’re supposed to know all this already!”

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, Jennifer. I was reading the Bible the other night and came across a difficult passage I had encountered before. My first temptation was to head down to my study Bible downstairs and see what the experts had to say about it, but I already knew, and I didn’t like what they had to say (it was conventional, and limiting). So I read, and read, and reread the passage, then told myself that God would explain it to me in good time. Then I read the next passage, and its immediacy with the first made some things clear to me that I had never noticed before. How exhilarating!

  • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

    This was absolutely delightful to read. I used to struggle reading the Bible. However, I find that as I press into it, it becomes more and more alive to me.

    You’re right about Bible studies, sometimes they can spark a complete excitement about scripture. I think it’s also important to not look at it like it’s a race. It’s okay to read a couple passages and really think about them, pray about them and ask God how they apply to your life. God gave the Bible as a map/guide/compass for our lives, we need to use it as such.

    Thanks so much for sharing (and for linking up to the SHINE Blog Hop).

    Wishing you a lovely day.

  • Sarah Coller

    I consider myself a “mature Christian”—and I am floored and freed by this article. Thank you so much, Carolyn, for putting this out here in every day language for the every day person. I’m making dinner so I don’t have a lot of time to really tell you how much this means to me…but you get it, I’m sure. :) Blessings—and thanks so much, again, for linking up with my Homemaking Party! I hope many of my readers get a look at this article!

  • Pingback: When Reading the Bible Bores You | This Woman Writes by Carolyn Henderson

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