5 Tips for Reading the Bible to Find God

5 Tips for Reading the Bible to Find God

Seven years ago, I set out on a journey. This month I reached my destination.

I’ve never been a “read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year” person, although I’ve started such plans more than once, never making it past the first few books of the Old Testament.

Seven years ago, though, I was desperate. A series of life crises and some pretty astounding encounters with grace caused me to take a hard look at my beliefs about God.

At that point, I’d been a Christian for 30 years. I had studied the Bible since my teens and filled a dozen or more journals with conversations I’d had with God. Yet when life fell apart, it was as if I met Him all over again.

The God who showed up in my brokenness was far more welcoming and merciful than I had believed.

Instead of meeting me with condemnation, He lavished acceptance upon me. Instead of expressing disappointment, He showed me His delight over me. Instead of telling me to get up and get back to work, He lifted the burden of a try-harder life and gave rest to my soul.

He surprised me.

He dazzled my weary heart.

And oh, how He drew me to want to know Him better.

So I grabbed my Bible and a journal, picked a reading plan that would allow me to move at my own pace, and asked God to reveal Himself to me. To correct any misconceptions I had about His character. To help me understand who He really is.

I read ever so slowly, jotting down every single thing I noticed about God from Genesis to Revelation. It took seven years and five journals, but without a doubt, this journey through Scripture has been the most life-changing Bible study I’ve ever done.

Maybe you are a “read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year” kind of person. Maybe, like me, you’ve started and given up or gotten distracted. Maybe you gravitate to your favorite verses and chapters, but you’ve never tried reading through the whole big Bible. Or maybe you’re new to Bible study and are looking for a good place to start.

Whatever your normal practice is, I invite you to dive deeply into Scripture with the singular purpose of knowing God more intimately.

Here are my top ­­five tips on looking for God as you journey through His Word:

  1. Find your best reading plan.

Reading the Old and New Testaments simultaneously can keep us from getting bogged down in the harder sections of the Old Testament. (For me, those are the genealogies or the many details of building the Israelite’s tabernacle.)

I highly recommend the “Reading Plan” app by James H. Price.  This app guided me through my seven-year adventure. In the app settings, I chose a “thematic plan,” specifically designed for reading related passages together.

  • Listen for God’s Spirit.

Because the Holy Spirit is our Teacher, helping us understand truths only spiritually discerned, I like to begin my study time with prayer. Sometimes I forget, and God is still faithful to teach me, but praying first reminds me of my need for His wisdom.

  • Choose quality over quantity.

While there’s certainly value in reading large sections of Scripture at a time, I love studying slowly so I have time to think deeply and converse with God about what I’m learning. In the Reading Plan app settings, I set the titles to “reading numbers,” rather than the date, so I didn’t feel behind as I read at my own pace. I also set it to “open to last read” for the same reason.

  • Take lots of notes.

Jot down everything you see about God as you read. You may find these things expressly stated, as in the following verse – “…The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6b). Using bullet points, my notes would look something like this:

  • You are the LORD (which means YHWH, the I Am)
  • You are compassionate
  • You are gracious
  • You are slow in expressing anger
  • You love is abundant
  • Your faithfulness is abundant

In other verses, you may observe God’s character indirectly as you read stories of how He interacts with His creation, as in the book of Jonah, where God both raised up and destroyed a plant to shield Jonah from the sun’s heat. In that instance, I might record:

  • You give and take away
  • You use physical realities to teach us spiritual truths

Included in my “Bible Study Bundle” freebie is a printable entitled, “Who Are You, God?” It’s designed specifically for taking notes on what you learn about God as you journey through His Word. If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, you should have already received this pdf bundle in a welcome email. If you’d like to get a copy, enter your email address below and I’ll send it your way.

You can also use a journal for keeping these notes. I like to record the book and chapter at the top of my journal page, then use bullet points to record individual items underneath.

  • Give yourself grace.

Reading through the Bible is like a marathon, not a sprint. It’s okay for it to take a long time. There may be days you don’t get to your Bible reading. You may take a break to study a specific topic or join a Bible study your friends invited you to participate in. Your reading plan will be there waiting for you when you get back.

There’s no rush, no spiritual “to do list” demanding you check all the boxes.

Bible study is about knowing God and relating to Him over the pages of His Word.

Enjoy Him! Savor your quiet time. He’s not in a hurry and we don’t have to be either.

I hope these ideas are helpful! I’d love to hear how they work for you, as well as your own tips for studying the Bible! Please drop me a comment below!

Beyond Not Hating

It’s not enough to simply “not hate.” Racial reconciliation is going to take more than that.

Dylaan Roof claims he attempted to start a “race war.” But his shooting rampage in Charleston last Wednesday night set off a much different response. It has inspired a movement against hatred, spread not with human weapons, but with supernatural love.

“A lot of people expected us to do something strange and break out in a riot. Well, they just don’t know us. We are people of faith,” said Rev. Goff, interim pastor of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston (USA Today news report on Sunday, June 21, 2015).

A people of faith. Faith prompted the victims to welcome Dylaan into their prayer circle Wednesday night. Faith enabled their families to extend forgiveness as they looked into his unmoved eyes on a monitor at the bail hearing. Faith gives them hope for the future as they walk through the agony of the present.

Faith inspires supernatural love. We can love because we are loved by God. We can forgive because we have been forgiven through the blood of Jesus. This is what the victims’ families in Charleston modeled to a watching nation.

We are all, every human being, made in the image of God (Gen 1:27). We’re all descendants of the first human couple (Gen 3:20). We are all under the curse of sin (Rom 3:23). We’re all greatly loved by God (John 3:16). He is redeeming as His own those from every tribe, tongue, people and nation (Rev 5:9). In the eyes of our Creator, all men and women are deeply loved and are created equal.

There are really only two kinds of people in this world.

There are those without saving faith in Jesus – we’re commissioned to share His good news of salvation with them in love (Mk 16:15). And there are our brothers and sisters in Christ – fellow believers from all different nations, different cultures, different skin colors. Love is to characterize His family. In fact, Jesus said that the world will know we are His by our love for one another (Jn 13:34-35).

So there really is no room for hatred. Not for those outside God’s family. Not for our brothers and sisters in God’s family. Only supernatural love will overcome the evils of racial prejudice.

Supernatural love is an active love. It’s not just choosing not to hate. It goes beyond that into actively welcoming others into our lives – those like us, those different than us.

This love involves seeing others through the eyes of Christ and investing time, energy and compassion into their lives. It embraces humility, realizing that my own life is enriched by experiencing other cultures and by learning from the people around me.

Faith is the foundation for supernatural love. Faith in the Word of God is the basis for how we interact with others. Faith in the love of God is the motivation for how we live our lives. Faith in the promises of God is the hope for enduring pain and choosing love.

As Christians, we know that this world is not our home. Heaven is. One day we will take up residence there in the presence of Jesus with no more tears, no more hate, no more violence, no more racial prejudice.

As Christians, our primary identity is not our nationality or race or denomination. We are members of the household of faith – a family that spans the globe and reaches through time.

As Christians, we have a purpose to fulfill during our time here. We are called to show God to the world by living out His sacrificial love (1 John 4:12).

So let us join with our brothers and sisters in Charleston and choose love. Let us be tools in the hand of God to bring good out of this evil. And may many come to faith in Christ as they see our unity and love for one another.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” Gen 50:20.

How do you express the love of God in your daily life? In what ways have you been enriched by opening your heart to learn from others?