When you start reading the bible for the first time from page one, you’ll quickly see: This is a large book. Is there a better way?
The bible says about itself:
2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
All. Not just the red letters. Not just the easy parts all! When you open the bible you find a book with 750,000 Words, all inspired by God. But where do you start?
It almost seems like one of those times, when you are standing a brunch buffet, you just woke up, so your appetite is still in bed, and the food is too much. You simply don’t know where to start.
Here is your quick guide on how to start reading the bible.
HOW to start reading the bible
Imagine, you are standing in front of the most beautiful beach. If you don’t have eyes for the beauty, you’ll only see boring bland sand and salty water. The same is for the beauty of the bible: Way more important than which passage to start with, is your perception of what you have in front of you. What’s the attitude the bible commends as being the best for growth? It’s appetite. Peter writes about it like this:
1. Peter 2:2-3 (NLT) 2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
He basically says: When you start reading the bible, eat it like babies drink milk. As a father of four, I’ve seen a lot of milk drinking in the past few years! This what I could think of:
Babies get excited when they see the milk. They fidget and stretch their arms out! It’s now or never. It’s actually a sign of health, when babies are hungry.
How is your spiritual health? Are you hungry? If you feel craving for everything but the bible think about it this way: God wrote a book. Think of this! Pages of pages of God speaking. Within your hands reach. You can carry it wherever you go. When you open your bible, God is there, speaking. The highest intelligence, the most powerful authority, the most loving person, the One with no beginning and no end is speaking in to your NOW. You depend on this being with every breath. Every hair on your head is counted by Him. He knows you, and still loves you. The bible is a window to this person. You don’t have to read. You get to read. Crave it. Start reading the bible.
Babies are absolutely unapologetic about their HUNGER. You don’t tell a newborn to wait another 20 Minutes for milk.
Now, I think it would be unrealistic to say, we then should be craving for the bible every 3 hours or so. But what I can say is this: As a grown up, I still need to eat every day. As a family, we sometimes plan our food over a week. But we never say: Let’s all binge-eat on Saturday, so we can fast the weak through, only to binge-eat again on Saturday. A healthy way to eat is to eat daily, actually 3 to 5 times a day. Similarly, there has to be a regularity in my reading. Set aside time, so you can read regularly. Follow a plan. Make it a habit. Start reading the bible in smaller portions more often, instead of trying to change your reading habit in one single morning.
keep your expectations high
Milk has so many functions. First it’s water satisfies the baby’s thirst, energizes the baby with it’s sugar and fat. There are white blood cells and even antibodies in it to protect the babies health. Ultimately the proteins and the calcium gives the little body the ability to grow. One of the powerful traits of human milk is the way it changes to meet a baby’s needs as he or she grows.
Expect this from the bible: It will be alive and powerful. Expect it to change over time, to adapt to your situation. Don’t settle for less.
cry out for nourishment
When a baby cries in a restaurant, all eyes are on the poor mother. No one blames a baby for being vocal about it’s hunger. When they don’t have enough, they let us know.
Be the same when it comes to reading. Pray! Cry out. Open your mouth. Not as a religious exercise, but to activate your spirit’s hunger, and to let your father know you mean business. And then start reading the bible.
get a taste
Drinking milk is, apart from breathing and maybe the first cry the first thing that babies do. But once they know the taste of and their needs are met, they never forget. First they only drink milk. But step by step they grow and get a taste for more variety and different tastes.
There are passages, books in the bible that are easier to start with, than others. This brings me to my second point:
WHERE to start reading the bible
get the big picture
The bible, ancient greek for „the books“ is actually a library of 66 books that were written by different people, and groups over a span of 1500 yrs. Although there are so many authors, and a vast variety of literary forms like poetry, letters, songs, ancient ways of history, it’s unity in message is amazing. There are two parts, that the Christian calls the Old Testament (The first part, with 39 books) , and the New Testament (The second part, with 27 books.).
For us Christians, the person of Jesus Christ is the center from which both parts are read. So the Old Testament is the preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ, often called the Messiah, and the New Testament talks about who Jesus was, what He did, what happened because of Him. It’s good to know those things, because the order of the bible is not chronological, as you might think, if you start reading at page 1. It’s actually better to…
start from the center
When you start reading the bible it is actually good to start from the center of everything, the person of Jesus Christ. Get to know Him! I’d start with the Gospel of Mark. Mark is fast paced, short. It’s actually readable in 2 hours. An evening, a rainy Saturday morning. It’s a simple, straight forward account of what Jesus said and did. Then you could read the Gospel of John. If Mark is the action movie, John is the french art movie. A lot of food, amazing dialogues. It’s reflective, deep. It’s not told strictly chronological, but told in themes, a piece of art, describing who Jesus is.
Then there are three trajectories to go, depending on the type of person you are:
be caught up, in what caches you
I’d see three trajectories to continue from there on:
- If you are a lover of systematics: Read Romans. Paul walks you through christian faith.
- If you think pragmatic and like to know what happened next, and you like stories: Read Acts.
- If you are a feelings person, read Psalms. 150 songs who capture the moods of ups and downs of people relating with God.
if you are there, go on. There is so much more to discover.