How to Read the Bible and Enjoy It

I remember the first time I tried to read the Bible for myself. I found my grandfather’s copy on a shelf in his living room. I was nine years old.

A Guy Reading the Bible - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/ArtisticCaptures, Image #5606277.jpg

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/ArtisticCaptures

I sat down on the floor, cross-legged, with the Bible on my lap. I opened it slowly … reverently … and began to read.

  • I was fascinated by God’s creation of the heavens, earth, and man in Genesis 1–2.
  • I was swept into the drama of man’s temptation and fall in Genesis 3.
  • I was saddened by Cain’s murder of Abel in Genesis 4.

I felt like I had discovered a lost book—the key to the universe! I was captivated.

Then I hit the “begats” in Genesis 5.

Oh boy.

My eyes glazed over.

I closed the Bible, stood up, and slipped it back on the shelf. I didn’t pick it up again for another ten years.

So many people have told me they’ve had similar experiences. They know they should read the Bible; they just don’t know how to begin.

Even if you are not a Christian—or don’t consider yourself a spiritually-inclined person—the Bible is worth reading. Without question, it has had a greater impact on Western civilization than any other book published.

You can’t understand great literature, common metaphors, or cultural allusions without a basic knowledge of these ancient texts. (I use the plural because the Bible is actually a collection of books.)

But how do you start? The Bible is, after all, a big book! I have read it through several times. In fact, my goal is to read it through every year, though it some times takes a little longer.

This has served me well in so many ways. I find myself referring to the stories and sayings again and again. The best part is they have become the foundation and raw material for everything I do.

In this post, I thought I’d share how I read the bible. It’s not the only way to do it, of course. But I thought this might be helpful to you if you want to read it all the way through and partake of its treasures on a regular basis.

  1. Read at a set time each day. As I learned a long time ago, what gets scheduled gets done. I read the Bible first thing each morning, so I don’t get side-tracked by something else.
  2. Distinguish between reading and study. When I am reading, I don’t try to do word studies, read commentaries, or chase cross-references. While this can be valuable, I consider it Bible study—something I reserve for other times. The goal for my reading is breadth not depth.
  3. Use a balanced, Bible reading plan. This is key. I read from four passages each day: Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. This way, if I hit a dry patch in one section, I can usually get something out of another. Innumerable plans are available. This year I am using the One Year Bible.
  4. Read in an easy-to-understand translation. Some may disagree, but a paraphrase is fine for Bible reading (not study). The key is to use a translation that helps you to understand what you are reading. I usually read in a different translation each year, just so the text doesn’t become so familiar I stop paying attention.
  5. Highlight or underline as you read. Maybe the thought of marking in a Bible scandalizes you. I hope not. It helps me focus my attention and get back to those passages that I find particularly meaningful. I read on a Kindle, so I also have access to those highlights in the cloud and in Evernote.
  6. Identify at least one key take away. Personally, my goal in Bible reading is not merely to increase my knowledge; I want to change my life (see James 1: 22–25). This begins by paying attention to what I am reading and marking those passages that seem particularly relevant to my current circumstances. When I am finished reading, I go back over my highlights and pick one to record in my journal, along with my response to it.
  7. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. This is difficult for me. I am a recovering achiever and a perfectionist. But it is essential if you are going to make progress. The truth is you are going to miss some days. It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Just pick up the next day and keep moving.

The key, I think, is to keep the process simple. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. Don’t get hung up on what you don’t understand.

Like Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

Questions: If you aren’t a Bible reader, what’s keeping you from it? If you are, what advice would you offer others? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • mim

    Thank you for for this, really needed some gidance

  • Chuck Barker

    What was your thought on using the Twain quote?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Just what I said in the previous paragraph—don’t get hung up on the parts of the bible you don’t understand. In other words, don’t let that keep you from reading and enjoying the bible. Thanks.

  • http://www.MorrisMatters.com/ Dwayne Morris

    Tip 1: Choose consistency over perfection. Too many people start strong and then life happens and throws them off schedule so they give up. As long as you commit to the discipline, missing days aren’t fatal. Just pick it up the next day. I dare say, every-other-day is better than no days.

    Tip 2: I love the SOAP method! Developed by a pastor in Hawaii (Wayne Cordeiro), it mimics the pattern you outline here. If you’ll allow me, I can share a link that explains this method and includes a video: http://www.morrismatters.com/bible-study-soap/

  • Dodson Family Story

    Thanks for the post! When you spend daily time in God’s Word it helps you to develop a love for it even more. It’s the best way to start of your day, in my opinion. These are great steps to follow, very practical!

  • marie

    i love reading the bible and i feel fulfilled and blessed after every reading. my advice to my dear friends…..just handle the Bible like food and you will realize you cant stay without reading it.

  • http://deathofhallyu.blogspot.com/ Death of Hallyu

    I searched for “How to Read and Enjoy Harry Potter” on Google and didn’t get a single article. It’s quote thought-provoking that I can find many articles like yours, however.

  • Becky Brath

    Michael….. can I use these tips for my church newsletter….referencing you of course.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, you are welcome to. Here is my formal policy. Thanks.

  • http://www.MarianneClements.org/ Marianne Clements

    I just released a book that I believe is a great resource to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Bible. It’s called “The Bible in 7 Pieces: A Short & Simple Overview of a Long & Complex Book”.

    I would like to share the FREE Ebook with all of you. It’s available for a limited time only, so download it now (http://eepurl.com/FTXq1). You can also order the paperback from my website (www.MarianneClements.org) or from Amazon. Note: You get freebies when you order from my website.

  • http://www.nathanmagnuson.com/ Nathan Magnuson

    Good thoughts, Michael. This will be my third time going thru the One Year Bible reading plan. I’m doing it with some friends and each day we try to capture one key thought and put it into a 160 character SMS message to each other. I also keep mine in Evernote. Great for the takeaway part. Here’s my list so far: http://bit.ly/LkpCEr

  • Daniel Bratianu

    I read the Bible regularly.I recommend others to start reading the Bible with the Book of Proverbs,then the Gospel of John.