Turning to Scripture should be an intuitive response for Christians when we feel anxious about the world we live in. Yet the American Bible Society’s annual State of the Bible 2020 report found an alarming trend: A mere 9 percent of Americans read their Bible each day in 2019—the lowest number in ABS’s decade of research and decreasing more in the first few months of the pandemic. But if 2021 carries even a fragment of the uncertainty we experienced in the past year, we need Scripture for guidance and reassurance even more.
1. Add a new translation to your bookshelf.
If you’ve primarily read one translation for many years, find a new one. After reading the New International Version (NIV) for years, I added the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). Other good translations you can consider are the English Standard Version (ESV), New English Translation (NET), and the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
2. Read Scripture out loud.
While it may seem simple, reading the Bible out loud can actually move us closer to the way Scripture was first presented to its original audiences. Many churches follow this methodology, making their way through the Bible in a three-year period. When we read Scripture aloud, phrases are emphasized and we can better sense the rhythm of a passage (although some cadence does remain lost in translation). Reading Scripture out loud together in a small group also can add to the variety, and hearing different inflections, or even different translations, can generate good discussion about word choice.
3. Listen while driving, cooking, or walking.
This method is especially good for nonreaders or people who have trouble finding a consistent time to read their Bibles each day. It’s amazing how quickly one can progress through the Bible using an audio resource. The internet and Bible apps allow for numerous translations and even accents, which make this method particularly appealing for many people.
4. Take a year to read the Bible chronologically.
This method has had a major impact on my understanding of Scripture. Beloved verses and passages became part of the ongoing story of God’s redemptive plan for all he has created. Reading about the kings alongside the prophets, comparing the accounts of the Gospels, and understanding the happenings of Acts in conjunction with the letters to the churches helped fill gaps in my understanding.
5. Use a commentary or study-aid tools.
Use a new-to-you commentary to aid in researching the passage or book you’re reading. Commentaries go further than a study Bible in offering historical background and cultural context, and they help tie together the narrative of Scripture in a holistic way. Other multimedia resources, such as She (He) Reads Truth, The Gospel Coalition’s free courses, or BibleProject’s videos and studies, can complement our daily reading of the Word.
6. Read a whole book in one sitting.
If reading an entire book of the Bible sounds intimidating, try starting with a shorter book like Philippians. Reading an entire Pauline epistle offers insight into what was happening in the ancient city at the time. It gives us a sense of all the people Paul met in these churches and how similar they are to people who might be in our own churches.
7. Use a Reader’s Bible.
Reader’s Bibles have removed the chapters and verses, so they read more like a novel with one single column and few distractions. Some find this format helps them read for greater lengths of time. The original text didn’t have the breaks, so it gives an individual a feel for how early Christians would have read Scripture. Friends who use a Reader’s Bible comment they especially like reading poetry and prophecy this way.
8. Reflect on a psalm a week.
Rather than read a different psalm each day, select one to read each day for a week. As you read, notice what phrases in the psalm stand out to you, giving you a stronger sense of the author’s emotion.
9. Read the parables of Jesus back to back.
Omitting any text in between, read the parables of Jesus. Let him be the master storyteller that he is. Jesus knew the best way for his audience to understand a spiritual teaching was to tell them a story.
10. Write out whole books.
Writing out passages will help you read the Bible in a new way. You might find that patterns begin to emerge. You might see how words or phrases are repeated for emphasis. Days, months, or even years later, you will have pages to go back to in your own handwriting, further connecting you to Scripture.
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