How to read your Bible

How To Read Your BibleI was raised to know Jesus from a very young age, but it wasn’t until I was 23 that someone took me under their wing and taught me how to study my Bible. Before that, I mostly just randomly opened it up and started reading. Or, I’d start in the beginning and make it as far as I could (like Leviticus) before losing motivation. LEVITICUS IS HARD, Y’ALL.

I knew a lot about Jesus from sitting in church every time the doors were open. I heard 1,000 sermons as a child, attended VBS and Sunday School and even a few prayer rallies. I knew Jesus, and I knew about the Bible… but mostly from osmosis.

Jesus wants so much more than osmosis. He wants us to know his voice. He wants intimacy. He wants to speak to us in the hushed early part of the morning while we sip our cup of coffee. Or at night after the kids go to bed. He wants his words to come to mind during a crisis or a time of great joy. When we speak to our children, our spouse,  our neighbor. When we speak to ourselves.

Especially to ourselves.

I’ve heard the story many times about how bank employees learn to spot counterfeit dollars by handling nothing but REAL money. They get to where they know the real thing so well, that a counterfeit bill just doesn’t FEEL right.

That’s how God’s word is. He wants us to know it so intimately, to know the sound of his voice so clearly, that when we encounter a counterfeit – which comes at us from every direction – it just SOUNDS wrong.

I have the privilege of leading an online bible study for ladies across the country. We’re digging into the first half of Romans, and more than learning Romans, I’m trying to help them learn to hear – and love – God’s voice. To start building an understanding of who God is, why we need him, why he loves us, verse by verse. Chapter by chapter. Book by book.

If you’re a newbie like I was, back at age 23, here are some tips for learning to read your bible:

Don’t start at the beginning.

If you’ve never read your Bible before, you’re probably going to have a hard time starting with the Old Testament. It’s not that the Old Testament isn’t super important. It is. It teaches us so much about God’s character, and it continuously points toward our need for a savior – Jesus. And, it’s also really dense, full of history, and is easy to get stuck in. Read it… but don’t start with it.

I’ve heard Bible scholars say that you could read John and Romans and get a full understanding of who Jesus is and what salvation looks like. I tell people to start with Romans first, to learn about our need for a savior, and to gain a basic understanding of Christian beliefs. Then head to John to meet your savior.

After that, I’d work my way through 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. Then I’d start over and begin at the beginning of the New Testament, and read straight through. That’s me – there are a bazillion ways to skin the cat. The only requirement is that you READ it.

Have a Plan.

As you come close to finishing a book of the Bible, have a plan of what you’re going to read next. It’s easy to get stuck in a transition and lose the rhythm you’ve created. So follow my plan, or one of the MANY available online. (A great resource is YouVersion, a free app download that offers reading plans). You can use a Bible study book to help you as a resource, but don’t let that be your crutch. You don’t want to know some random author’s voice. You want to know God’s voice. So read chapter by chapter, and feel free to use a book as a commentary – but if your’e new to this, avoid a topical resource. Learn to fish… don’t let someone simply feed you.

Take it one chapter at a time.

It’s a great practice to start with just one chapter a day. As you go through, follow these steps:

Read for Understanding

What does the text say? Is any of it hard? Look up the cross-references in the margin of your Bible. These are passages that will give you more context, or more insight, into what you’re reading. Don’t be afraid to make notes in your Bible about what you’re learning.

If you read the whole chapter, finish, and have no idea what you just read… guess what. You’re normal. It happens to me ALL THE TIME. Just read it again. And again. And again. You can also try reading it in another translation (I use this website to look up a passage in various versions to compare).

Gods Character

It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know. It’s hard to love someone you don’t know. It’s hard not to place our own ideas of what a father or a king or a savior looks like, when we haven’t gone back to the original source. In anything you read, first ask yourself what it teaches you about God’s character.


I have to ask myself this question all the time. If what the Bible says is true, then what? If the text tells me that God is a God of love, then how does that change the way you pray to him? The way I worship him? The way I honor him? If he is a God who is just, then what does that mean for my situation? Sometimes what I read in the bible doesn’t FEEL true. Sometimes I don’t WANT what I read to be true. And that’s okay. But if I believe that the Bible is the word of God, and that every word of it is TRUE, then what? What does that mean for my situation today? Can I trust God with this hard thing I’m walking through? Is God big enough for me to wrestle with this hard thing until it finally FEELS true? (The answer is YES!)


This is a big deal. If you’re new to studying the Bible, then remember that the Bible is a complete work of 66 books. You can’t nail all of your beliefs on one verse. If you did, then reading Romans 2:7-8 might teach you that you are saved by works. But then, if you flipped over just one chapter, you would see in Romans 3:21-24 that Paul says we are saved by faith, not works. Then in his letter to the Ephesians, he reinforces that we are saved by faith – not works (Ephesians 2:8-10). So, as you study, write down those truths, but keep reading, just to confirm that you understand the fullness of scripture.

And, when in doubt, that’s when reaching out to someone a little further along in their study is key. If something is confusing, or seems contradictory, that’s when it’s good to seek out “wise counsel.” Basically, just find someone who has studied the Bible and ask them your questions. A church leader. A friend you trust. Then, take what they say, and measure it against scripture.

Always go back to scripture for the final word. That’s our north star. Our authority.

My final encouragement: DON’T. GIVE. UP.

New things are hard. It’s easy to quit. Keep going. It will be worth it. I promise you. There is nothing sweeter than hearing straight from the heart of Jesus. It’s a treasure that brings hope. It’s like water – you need it to LIVE. To truly live. Go spend some time with your creator… and then tell me how it goes.

What’s the point?

Sometimes you don’t know you have a problem until all of the emotions you didn’t know you had come spilling out. That’s what happened to me yesterday. An attempt to take the PERFECT PICTURE of my latest quilt for the blog turned into a big heart-to-heart with Mr. Right.

After trying to explain to him that I had to have the PERFECT PICTURE in the PERFECT outdoor setting because that’s what quilt bloggers do. And if I was ever going to get pinned on pinterest, if I was ever going to gain new followers, if I was ever going to be like THOSE BLOGGERS I read daily who have thousands of followers, if my little shop was ever going to REALLY take off, then I had to have the PERFECT PICTURE.

And that’s when Mr. Right looked at me with those giant brown puppy dog eyes of his, and said, “I think your priorities are a little out of whack.”

This isn’t a popularity contest.

My worth doesn’t come from the number of people who read my blog, or the number of people who buy something in my shop. My worth comes from one place and one place only – Christ.

I have been chosen by God: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.  Then the father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16)

My goal is to become more like Jesus: And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

My job is to show people Jesus’ love on his behalf: As God’s fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. (2 Corinthians 6:1)

I am fearfully and wonderfully made: For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:13-14)

My delight should not come from popularity: Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

I should not waste my time worrying about the approval of the blogosphere: Commit to the LORD whatever you do,  and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:3)

Here is what I know is true:

My worth comes from Christ, and not from the number of sales I make in my shop.

My value comes from Christ, and not the number of people who read my blog.

It is not healthy to seek popularity.

I opened my shop because I love it. This is not my career, this is not my primary source of income. I chose to do this because it was a welcome challenge to this girl who never takes risks.

I blog because I love it. Because I am a writer by nature, with an inherent need to put words on paper and come up with new and creative ways of expressing myself. I write because it stretches my muscles, it challenges me, it’s something I have to do. I blog because I want to encourage other women, to show them that I don’t have it all together, to show them that behind the pretty wreath on my door is a messy house with two imperfect people inside. I blog because it’s so comforting to find out that you’re not the only one who doesn’t have it all together.

The main goal is for you to see how much I love Jesus.

So to my dear friends who read this, thank you. Thanks for supporting me as I continue to blaze a trail that is sometimes filled with potholes and rocks and other times is smooth and wide. I hope to never encourage comparison, or feelings of not being good enough, but instead provide reassurance that every girl has that messy drawer that she doesn’t want anybody to know about. Or for me, a laundry room piled to the ceiling with clothes that need to be folded, and a closet that is most certainly a fire hazard, and a bed that is only made 15 percent of the time (oh mom, please don’t ground me) and a closet full of clothes that fit a little too snugly.

My worth comes from Jesus, from the One who saved me even though I was still a sinner. Who loves me when I feel unpopular, or unsure of the future, or filled with insecurities.

Tuesday Truth: Set Free

I’ve been slowly reading my way through Psalms this year, and this one jumped off the page at me. So many people think that living your life for Jesus is so restricting. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you can’t think about this. That thing is wrong.

To those people, I want to put my hands on both of their shoulders, look them straight in the eye, and tell them that loving Jesus means to be set free. It means gaining hope. It means thriving in a way that only your creator could orchestrate. It means gaining comfort from a loving Father who knows intimately the sorrows we face.

When I am running in the path of Jesus’ commands, THAT is when I am most alive.