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15 Steps to Improve Your Bible Reading

by Tim Yates
The number one tool God uses to form my spiritual life is the Bible. He uses His Word to mold me and shape me into His image. The Scriptures are compared to food and bring spiritual nourishment. Jesus claimed, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Peter said, “As newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby”

(1 Pet. 2:2). The Bible is the believer’s spiritual food. Job affirmed, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). Throughout the Scriptures, the Bible is compared to food (milk, meat, bread). Therefore, it is critical for the believer to know how to feed himself. How do I become a self-feeder? Let me share with you 15 simple steps to improve your Bible reading.

Step #1: First of all, choose a Bible that feels comfortable. I rarely purchase a Bible online. I want to see it, feel it and hold it. I want the font size to be at least an 11. Some might even need a larger print. Furthermore, make sure you purchase a readable hard copy translation. I prefer the New King James, the English Standard Version, the New Living Translation and the Christian Standard Version of the Bible. After you read through one translation rotate to different translation in your next reading routine. Trust me, this will greatly broaden your understanding of the Scripture.  

Step #2: Use a systematic plan. For instance, I highly recommend reading the Bible through once a year (Genesis through Revelation). You can read four chapters per day and read the Bible through in one year. You can also read a certain number of pages per day. For example, I have an ESV Bible with 1,042 pages. If you divide 1,042 pages by 365 days you find that you only have to read three pages a day to read the entire Bible through in a year. If you read merely six pages per day you can read the Bible through twice in one year. Get a plan and stick with your plan. Consistency is the key, because as we see in Hebrews 5:12-14, consistency compounds.

Step #3: Have a set time to read your Bible each day. For instance, if you are a morning person, then read your Bible in the morning. If you’re a night person, read your Bible at night. Discover when you’re most alert and attentive. Intentionality begins with having a set time to read the Bible every day. Also, don’t forget to write the date just above the chapter when you begin your daily reading. This will help you measure your consistency.    

Step #4: Remove all distractions. Turn off the television, radio, and cell phones. To have a “quiet time,” you need to be in a quiet place. Although this is a challenge for many believers, it is nonetheless very important. Purposely unplug yourself from all the crazy interruptions and let God speak to you through the reading of His Word. Readers, beware! Noise pollution will hinder the process.    

Step #5: Ask the Holy Spirit to be your teacher. Intentionally pray Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.” The word “open” means to uncover and only the Holy Spirit can help you dig up those spiritual nuggets in the text. Purposely depend on the Holy Spirit. We do a great disservice to ourselves when we ignore the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in Bible reading.

Step #6: Mark your Bible. Learn to use highlighters. Pastor Johnny Hunt said, “If you mark your Bible, your Bible will mark you.” I have found this to be true in my own life. Circle key words, underline important verses, and highlight the verses that give you special encouragement. Make the time and effort to mark up your Bible. I promise you will be glad you did.    

Step #7: Read the Bible in context. The first rule of hermeneutics is “context is king.”  Read the biblical text within the historical-cultural setting. Don’t Americanize the Bible and don’t read with a 21st century-mindset. We need to remember there is a great distance both in time and culture between the here and now and when the text was originally written. Furthermore, don’t pull verses out of context and try to develop a belief system. Those who use the Bible as a “telephone book of texts” are guilty of hermeneutical malpractice. Ask yourself, “Who was the text originally written to?” Jews, Gentiles, or Samaritans? Did the author address an individual, a king, or a specific nation? It is crucial for the student of Scripture to know exactly whom the original author addressed.  As you read the text, try to recast and reconstruct the historical setting.

Step #8: Read the Bible out loud to yourself. The dual effect is incredible. The synergy of reading and hearing the Word will improve retention. Paul said, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). I love to read my Bible out loud in my morning devotions. Also, learn to put yourself in the story and identify with the main character in the text. Change your voice tone, depending on the person speaking in the story (dramatized reading). This will deepen your retention and understanding.  

Step #9: Pray as you read through the Bible each morning. For example, if the text identifies a specific sin, immediately stop reading and confess that sin. If the text gives a special promise, embrace the promise and pray that promise. Also, pray the prayers in the Bible. There are hundreds of prayers in the Bible. Make sure you pray those prayers. Praying the prayers of the Bible will greatly enrich your devotional life. Adding this one step will help your prayer life. Just try it.    

Step #10: Look for recurring words. Repeated words or phrases usually point to a common theme. Marking (highlighting/underlining) repetitive words is a game-changer in reading comprehension. Furthermore, look for rhythms and patterns. Slowly read two or three words at a time or read each verse by one phrase at a time. Your comprehension will deepen, and the overall impact of Scripture will be more profound.  

Step #11: Look for specific commands to obey. Use a yellow highlighter and highlight each command and ask the Lord to help you obey these biblical commands. Train your eyes to look for imperatives.

Step #12: Look for Promises to Claim. Thankfully, the Word of God is chocked full of promises. As you do your daily Bible reading, look for promises to claim, promises that give hope, encouragement, and life. The promises of God are like a fresh breath of air. They sustain you when life knocks you down. One of the most joyful experiences in the Christian life is when a believer discovers a particular promise in the Bible. I highly recommend you mark all the promises of God in your Bible with a yellow highlighter.

Step #13: Look up and define obscure words. One of the most important things you can do as you study the Scripture is to learn how to define keywords. For all practical intents and purposes, do not use the Webster Dictionary. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew (O.T.), Greek (N.T.), and a small portion of Daniel was written in Aramaic. Therefore, an English dictionary will be of little value when you begin to study specific words and phrases in the biblical text. So let me recommend a couple of easy resources that will enhance your Bible study. For instance, I recommend you use Blue Letter Bible on your computer or laptop.  This electronic resource is free and simple to use. You will have a ton of resources at your disposal (at the click of a mouse). I also recommend you use the NET Bible.  This incredible resource is free and user friendly. The NET Bible also has a lot of resources. I highly encourage you to learn how to navigate through these resources. These two simple tools will help you look up the key words in the text.

Step #14: Look for Jesus on every page of Scripture. For instance, when you read through the Gospel of John, look for specific descriptions of Christ. Just in the first five verses of chapter one, Jesus is described as “the Word, God, Creator, Life and Light” (Jn. 1:1-5). Furthermore, chapter one portrays Him as “God in the flesh” (vv. 14, 18), “the Lamb of God” (vv. 29, 36), “the Son of God” (vv. 34), “Christ and Messiah” (vv. 41), “Rabbi and Teacher” (vv. 38, 49) and the “Son of Man” (v. 51). By merely reading the first chapter of the Gospel of John, you will discover that Jesus is God in human flesh. It is crucial we look for Jesus on the pages of Scripture. Christology, Lordship, and the deity of Christ are fundamental to our Christian faith. We can only move toward Christlikeness as we become acquainted with the Person of Jesus Christ.

Step #15: Meditation and deeper application. After I finish reading my set number of pages, I go back and look at the verses I highlighted in yellow. I pick one and then take a picture of it on my cell phone and review that verse throughout the day. It helps me meditate, memorize, and take the verse deeper into my spiritual life.

The most important tool in shaping my spiritual life is the Bible. Nevertheless, I must intentionally pick up “The Book” every day and read it for my spiritual nourishment. I encourage you to begin adding some of these simple steps to your daily routine, and hopefully, your Bible reading will become more productive. Who knows? Maybe just doing one of these simple steps will transform your life. At least try one of the steps. They really are simple.
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