According to the Bible, the right way to handle the Bible is to meditate on it. One way that Christian people have sought to conform to that ethic is by reading the Scriptures regularly.
Most Christian people wish they knew more of the Bible and probably feel guilty that they do not read it more. I will probably address feeling guilt over not being consistent in personal devotions at a later time. For now, let’s realize that inconsistency in personal devotions can be linked to one (or more) of the following mistakes that people make regarding Bible-reading.
Mistake #1: Not Scheduling a Time
Having a discipline (which is what regular Bible reading is) starts with having a routine. We all have busy schedules. However, in the midst of our busy-ness, we probably have a routine. Build Bible-reading into your daily routine.
My suggestion is to carve out time in the morning (that may mean getting up a little earlier). For example, I follow the same steps every morning: I get out of bed; I go the kitchen; I brew my first cup of coffee; I sit down at my kitchen table where my Bible and journal are already waiting. (HINT: Your morning routine actually begins the night before.) I build my mornings (even on the weekends) around what will give me time to read the Bible.
Mornings don’t work for some people: I get it. The point is not mornings; the point is a scheduled time. Not making a scheduled time leads to not making any time.
Mistake #2: Not Sticking with a Place
Another mistake is trying to read the Bible “on-the-fly.” Now, don’t get me wrong, doing anything to include Bible-reading into your routine is commendable. However, part of your routine should be the routine place that you read. As I mentioned above, my place is the kitchen table.
A couple of suggestions about your “place:”
- Make sure it’s not busy. Concentration is important for any kind of reading. The Bible is no exception. My kitchen table is not busy before 7:00 am, so it’s ideal for me.
- Make sure it’s well lit. Nothing discourages reading like not being able to see the words on the page. (By the way, I strongly discourage doing your Bible-reading from a screen. I’m sure that’s an article coming too.) It should at least be lit well enough for you to see the words and stay awake.
- Make sure it’s comfortable (but not too comfortable). Kicking back in the cozy recliner may work for you. Personally, I’d be asleep! Wherever your place is should be comfortable enough to accommodate good reading, but not so comfortable that you’re not alert.
Mistake #3: Not Having a Plan
The Bible is a big book. How do you decide what to read each day? If you get up and open your Bible and just read wherever it lands… well, I guess that’s some kind of plan. However, that kind of random reading won’t be very helpful to your actually understanding the Bible in the long run. Your grasp of what the Bible teaches will be pretty disconnected.
I suggest reading the Bible sequentially, that is, in order. Start with Genesis 1:1 and just keep going. Day after day, just pick up where you left off the day before. Many Bible’s have built-in book marks, so you can use that to “save your place” from day to day. Plus, the less thought you have to give to what you’ll be reading will save you time so you can get to reading.
Some other suggested reading plans are:
- Reading a chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the month (Proverbs 1 on the first; Proverbs 2 on the second; etc.).
- Reading a Psalm that corresponds to the day of the month (Psalm 1 on the first; Psalm 2 on the second; etc.). After the first month, just add 30 to each day (Psalm 31 on the first; Psalm 32 on the second; etc.). On months with 31 days, read part of Psalm 119.
Mistake #4: Not Taking Manageable Portions
We all have the friend that goes from zilch exercise to running 10 miles a day. And, we all know how long that friend lasts. Kudos to their ambition; they just need to balance their ambition with a little reality and steady discipline.
Don’t feel like you have to read an entire chapter (I’ll say more about this below), especially if you’re having trouble fitting in an entire chapter. If 10 verses is what you can handle, start there. The goal is not to get through an entire chapter, or three chapters, or even 10 verses. The goal is to get the Bible through you! If you bite off more than you can chew to start, you’ll get discouraged quickly. Start with manageable portions of Scripture.
Mistake #5: Not Giving it Thought
Wil Rice, President of Bill Rice Ranch, says about Bible reading, “Read less; think more.” As I said at the beginning, the Bible’s method for handling the Bible is meditation. If we read through an entire chapter, but we can’t say what we’ve read, we can’t really be meditating on it. Plus, if you’re walking away from the Bible everyday wondering “What was that about?” or “What did I even read?”, you’ll be discouraged.
Let me encourage you to:
- Think before you read. Is there a lingering question from the day before? Is what you’re reading today a continuation of what you read yesterday? Get your bearings for where you are in the Bible.
- Think while you read. Pay attention to words, details, explanations, unusual facts and circumstances–just pay attention. Don’t skip through it just to be through with it. Think about what you’re reading.
- Think after you read. I prefer a journal to capture thoughts from what I’ve read each day. However, writing a verse on a 3 x 5 card and reading it throughout the day is another way to think about what you’ve read.
Being consistent with anything takes discipline. Don’t be discouraged if you miss a day. Be determined to get the Bible through you by making Bible-reading part of your routine.