Scripture tells us that God’s Word is “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12). As Christians, we engage with this living Word as we foster a lifelong relationship with God through reading the Bible. But this is not just like any other activity on our “to-do” list; we don’t want to approach Bible reading as an obligation that requires us to simply go through the motions.
It’s helpful to discover fruitful new ways to approach Scripture so that we can benefit from it. Here are five ways that you can change up your Bible-reading time.
1. Casual reading
Spending time just reading the Bible is like having a casual conversation with a friend. It keeps you connected and allows for spontaneous insights and discoveries. But that doesn’t mean that you need to always start at the front cover and read straight through to the end (unless you want to).
There are all kinds of reading plans available to help you work your way through Scripture. For instance, you can read a little of the New Testament and Old Testament every day to move through the entire Bible in a year (or more). You can also read through the Bible in chronological order. Check out Bible Gateway for many more print and online options.
2. Bible study
The Bible is a collection of ancient writings from an entirely different culture. So it’s important that we put in time into understanding the geography, context, and history of the Bible so that we can comprehend and apply it more accurately.
Resources like the NIV Storyline Bible, the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, the NIV Grace and Truth Study Bible or the NIV Study Bible can provide facts and insights that will make Scripture come alive.
Other tools that can aid your Bible study include:
● Bible dictionaries and concordances
● Topical and book studies
● Bible atlases
3. Bible journaling
Bible journaling is an interactive way of reading Scripture, but it’s much different than study. To put it simply, Bible journaling involves reading your Bible devotionally and taking time to respond to the insights you receive. For many, this means spending time exercising their creativity by responding to God’s Word artistically, either through writing or artwork.
You don’t need a lot of tools to get started. You can start with a pen, some colored pencils, a notebook, and a Bible with big enough margins for documenting your thoughts and artistically rendering your insights.
4. Spiritual reading
Technically all Bible reading is a spiritual exercise, but people approach different kinds of reading with specific goals in mind. With study, they’re after information that will help them understand Scripture better. But sometimes they come to the Bible with a desire to strengthen their immediate connection to God.
For instance, there are times when you want to focus on reading responsively. That’s why it’s helpful to set aside time where you can focus on reading Scripture and responding with prayer. A prayerful reading of the Bible helps you respond to God with questions about what you’re reading as well as confessions and petitions.
It’s also useful to incorporate your imagination into your Bible reading. For instance, in the story of Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14:22–33, it can be helpful to imagine yourself in that scene and from different perspectives. What does it feel like to be Peter in the midst of that storm, taking that step of faith? How did he feel when he started to sink? How would you have felt? Your imagination can give you insights that you wouldn’t get from just studying the information.
Beyond simply reading, committing Scripture to memory is a significant way to get God’s Word into your inner being. The Spirit then uses the verses and passages you’ve committed to memory at surprising times and in delightful ways.
Pastors and leaders like John Piper, Howard Hendricks, Dallas Willard, and Chuck Swindoll all agree that Bible memorization is a key Christian discipline. It helps to both solidify your faith and enable you to share it.
Putting these methods to work
Some of these suggestions might lend themselves more to your personality type than others. By all means, enjoy whichever method you choose. But it’s important to get comfortable with different ways of interacting with Scripture. You’ll definitely find that they each have their own benefits!