Spending time in God’s Word is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a follower of Jesus can integrate into their daily life. Through its rich Scriptures, the Word speaks truth, life, and wisdom to God’s people, providing the strength to get through the trials and temptations of life, as well as the conviction needed to learn how to walk in the Spirit as we mature in Christ.
If you are new at reading the Bible, or simply want to improve the depth of your study time in the Word, I’ve compiled this resource page to encourage you on your way. First, I will share a few things that may be helpful to new believers taking their first journey into the Bible for regular reading. Second, I share a few ideas and techniques I have incorporated into my study and devotion routines. Lastly, I will offer you a wealth of resources for you to further explore and pray about—hopefully resulting in an exciting new awe of God’s infallible Word!
Before you explore, please take a moment to pray for the Spirit’s guidance—only he knows how to invigorate your desire to grow in this area.
If you are reading the bible for the very first time, my suggestion would be to begin reading the four New Testament Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. These are the eye-witness accounts of those who lived alongside Jesus.
As you journey through the Gospels, you might consider checking into a bible reading plan that can help introduce you to other books of the Bible. A reading plan can be a helpful way to introduce a little more structure to your devotions, acting as a tour guide—taking you places you might not have journeyed otherwise.
Here are some recommendations for easy-to-print reading plans you can consider:
- Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan
- 5 x 5 x 5 Bible Reading Plan
- For more reading plan options, please click here.
Depending on your preferences, and if you enjoy drawing or doodling, you may consider looking into getting a journaling bible, which provides ample margin space for taking notes, writing thoughts, and drawing whatever you may be inspired to sketch out. You can click here to view Crossway’s offering of journaling bibles, and click here to download an excerpt to see what the interior formatting looks like.
Whatever path you take, I strongly recommend using a notebook or journal to catalog your thoughts, questions, and convictions as you read. Partner with a fellow believer who can help you address issues that arise as you read.
Here are some helpful articles that may be an encouragement to you on your Bible reading journey:
- Tips for Reading the Bible for the First Time (faithstreet.com)
- 9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading the Bible (relevantmagazine.com)
- Three Tips for Better Bible Reading (desiringgod.org)
Last, but not least, my biggest recommendation to those who are just getting started in their Bible reading is this: meet Jesus first. Your first priority as a new believer should be to seek to learn more about who Christ is—biblical knowledge and wisdom will come later. As with any new relationship, you have got to spent time knowing the actual person and not just knowing about them through second-hand experiences. Here are two book recommendations that helped me to better grasp the divinity and person-hood of Christ as a new believer (affiliate links):
- Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus by John Eldredge
- More Than a Carpenter by Josh D. McDowell
P.S. Don’t forget to pray! Ask God to guide you and reveal himself to you through his Scriptures—it’s a blessed request he delights to answer.
My personal habits for Bible reading have developed since I first began as a doubtful seeker. These days, I use a variety of methods to read, study, and meditate upon the Scriptures. These aren’t anything formal, and probably not things handed down in a seminary course, but here’s how it looks:
- Doodle Meditation: I love to doodle scripture verses in my journal that are really hitting my heart hard or providing a huge amount of comfort or encouragement to me at that moment. It’s not anything fancy—I’ve developed my own cursive-style of hand-lettering to make it look fun, but I’ve also noticed that as I take the time to doodle the verse, I’m mulling over about it in my mind (a.k.a. meditating). By incorporating the visual that I’ve drawn with the thinking that occurs while drawing it, I have actually memorized many of the scriptures I have doodled. (click for example)
- Open-and-Pray: Sometimes I don’t feel led to any particular book, passage, or verse, but I really know I need to be refreshed through the Word. So, I will open the pages of the Bible and pray for the Spirit to guide me where he wants me to go. Then, I’ll thumb through until my eye gets caught up on something, and I know it’s where he wants me to be. Sometimes it won’t make sense at first, but after reading it over and over again, I’ll begin to understand why he put me there and what he wants to show me through it. Not the most scholarly approach, but it has led to many fruitful study times, usually in places I would not have picked to go.
- Map-Making: This particular method has really benefited me over the past year as I began to seek a deeper understanding and study of God’s Word. The margins of my bible don’t provide a lot of room, and being a “visual” person, I like to have space to spread out and see my thoughts all together on one piece of paper. I use crayola easel pad paper to open up a Scripture verse or passage, collecting all of my questions, revelations, insights, and applications in one spot. I make sections for various items I want to explore, such as context, the perspective of the people in the passage, God’s attributes as revealed in the passage, interesting or important words/questions, cross references, and anything else that strikes me during the reading. It’s typically a pretty organic process—there have been a few times I’ve gotten stuck and haven’t finished my map. However, the majority of the time I have found such excitement and encouragement through excavating what is only the surface of the riches to be found in the Word. (click for example)
- Guided Devotional Journaling: If I am involved in a group study or going through curriculum development of my own, I will also that material to obtain Scripture references to reflect upon. For this, I will typically read the verse(s), ask God to enlighten it for me, and write out how the verse is speaking to my heart. Usually, this will result in a prayer of confession, repentance, petition, and thankfulness. I use the same journal for my doodles, devotions, and other misc. thoughts.
Keep in mind, these are techniques and methods that I greatly enjoy and help me to store up God’s Word in my heart. Yet, you may find none of this attractive or appealing—every believer is unique, with different talents and giftings! There is nothing more personal and vulnerable than spending honest time allowing God’s Word to examine your heart, which means that you will grow to develop your own preferences of experiencing such humbling transformation. These are simply ideas to help spawn your own journey of discovery as you press into a more fruitful relationship with Christ and a deeper understanding of the gospel.
You may have reached a point in your walk where your daily devotional readings are tasting more like breadcrumbs than loaves—perhaps you are desiring to feed yourself more! I recall a time when my own zest for discovery and a deeper understanding of God’s Word was simply too strong to ignore. It was at this crossroads that I reached out to my Pastors for tips on how I might take my Bible studies to a new level. I would recommend that you also reach out to the Elders or Pastors in your church for recommendations on how you can take steps on growing in this discipline. It may be that involvement in a discipleship or equip group is something that helps to satisfy your desire.
Below you will find a collection of resources that may assist you in your pursuit of going deeper in your understanding of the beauty and power of the gospel. I pray they bless you!
- How to Read the Bible for Yourself | Blog (desiringgod.org)
- Primer on Reading the Bible | Blog (desiringgod.org)
- 10 Tips from Grudem on Bible Interpretation | Blog (thegospelcoalition.org)
- What I’ve Learned About the Bible | Blog (thegospelcoalition.org)
- The Inductive Method of Bible Study | Blog (biblestudytools.com)
- 10 Powerful Truths to Remember Before Reading the Bible | Blog (churchleaders.com)
- A Peculiar Glory by John Piper | Book (free pdf download | hardcover book)
- How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee | Book (amazon)
- Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Our Heart and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin | Book (amazon)
- How to Study Your Bible: The Lasting Rewards of the Inductive Method by Kay Arthur | Book (amazon)
- Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods: 12 Ways You Can Unlock God’s Word by Rick Warren | Book (amazon)
- “Look at the Book” Video Series by John Piper | (web videos | podcast)
- Why Read the Bible? Video with Don Carson | (desiringgod.org)
- Kathy Keller on Reading the Bible Every Day | (youtube.com)
- Tim Keller on Interpreting the Bible | (youtube.com)
- Jen Wilkin Practical Tools for Studying and Teaching the Word | (youtube.com)
- R.C. Sproul: How to Study the Bible | (youtube.com)
Finding Great Spoil
Now that you’ve been given these resources, let me be the first to remind you that spending time in the Bible is a great joy! Psalm 119:162 says, “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.” (click for podcast episode on Psalm 119:162) If you approach your Bible reading/study/meditation time as a duty or task, you’re excluding yourself from the enriching joy and privilege that comes from holding God’s very words in your hands. Consider this moving video of Chinese Christians receiving a copy of the Bible for the very first time:
Here are some Scriptures that speak to the beauty of the Word:
- All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)
- For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
- The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7–11)
- How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9–11)
- And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
- Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)
I pray that you continue to grow more and more enamored with the revelation of the gospel of Christ through your time spent in relationship with the Lord!