If you’re just starting to read the Bible for the first time (or the first time in a long time), it can be really intimidating. People toss around all these unfamiliar acronyms and terms, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Please don’t worry about it–any time is a good time to start studying God’s Word! These easy tips for beginners will help you know where to start when reading the Bible.
It’s not hard to see why many are intimidated by the Bible. After all, its 66 books span cultures and genres, contain plenty of head-scratching content, and oh—offer us the words of the God of the universe! Shaking in your proverbial boots, yet?
Bible intimidation is often exacerbated by the looming feeling that we really ought to be reading it. After all, if the God of the universe makes Himself known, it seems wise to read up. Or, for those who grew up in church culture, guilt may play a factor, and they may feel smothered and paralyzed beneath the well-intended pressure to “stay in the Word!” What’s a woman supposed to do when she’s convinced she should read the Bible, yet she has no idea where to start?
First, take comfort in this: God revealed Himself through His Word because He wants to be known! His Word is not the ultimate intimidation but the ultimate invitation to hear His thoughts, consider His ways, and learn His story. Blessedly, this is not a God who is cold and removed but rather is so personally invested in His creation that He decided to make Himself known to them by wrapping His holy thoughts in human language.
Moreover, not only did God deem to make Himself known to His creation, He made Himself known through His creation! Though He could have inscribed His words in the sky Himself, He instead chose to send His Spirit to men and write through their pens. Only a God who desires to be known by humans would involve them in His Word in this way. Only a God who cares for His creation would invite their participation in His story. Can you imagine?
This is the God of the Bible: the limitless Yahweh, whose power and holiness extends beyond our wildest dreams yet whose tender affection for people startles even the most seasoned saints.
Sister, the God of the Universe already knows you (Psalm 139:1), and He invites you to know Him, too. We catch a glimpse of the significance of this when we receive a coveted party invitation in the mail and respond with delight:
“Me? I’m invited?!”
Whether you’re a Bible study beginner, or a woman desiring to accept the invitation anew, here are four Bible study ideas to get you started.
1. GET FAMILIAR WITH JESUS BY READING THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
‘Gospel’ means “good news,” and the Bible contains four of them that record the phenomenally Good News of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel of John is a beloved book, beautifully written by one of Jesus’ closest friends to intrigue readers with the person of Jesus. In fact, John begins by poetically proclaiming that Jesus is God and calling Him ‘The Word’. How fascinating to read God’s words and consider how Jesus is not only God but also God’s ultimate language!
Only a God who desires to be known by humans would wrap Himself in their flesh, communicating God’s thoughts and ways with His every move. That’s why getting familiar with Jesus is an incredible first step in Bible reading! Get a front-row seat to observing the person of Jesus by reading a chapter of John every day, paying attention to what Jesus says, what He does, and what He’s like. Each time you read, write down one thing you learn about Jesus. You may be surprised by the list you create!
John ends his book with a compelling cliff-hanger: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NIV).
Though we can’t know the stories John didn’t include in his book, we can direct our curiosity to the rest of the Bible, because all of it offers beautiful truths about Jesus.
2. STUDY AND MEMORIZE PSALM 23
The calming imagery of Psalm 23 has captivated hearts for generations. But this is not merely a feel-good passage—it’s a powerhouse display of how Yahweh, the limitless God of the universe, shepherds His people by restoring their souls, walking with them through the darkest times, and ushering them into His house forever. ‘Psalm’ means “song,” and you can imagine how meaningful it would be to ‘sing’ this over yourself and others in moments of darkness and difficulty!
To tuck away this song in your heart, consider studying it slowly—savoring each word. Read the passage once a day for a week, and each time, look up a new word you notice. You can use a regular online English dictionary, or you can dabble with a website like BibleHub.com, which has an interlinear tool that compares the words of a passage in both the English translation and the original language—a fascinating way to deepen your understanding of a word. (Click here to see the interlinear tool at work for Psalm 23.)
Of course, if the original language pursuit feels intimidating or overwhelming, that’s okay—just stick with a regular dictionary. After all, you have your whole life to learn new study skills and master various Bible resources.
As you slowly study Psalm 23, seek to memorize a verse at a time until you’ve mastered all six verses. Use whatever memorization tricks worked for you in school, or ask friends what works for them. Some like to write the first letter of each word in an easy-to-reference place, some prefer to create memorable motions to accompany the words, and some simply repeat the passage over and over again until it’s embedded in the brain. Try a few things and see what works for you.
If you struggle to understand the passage or memorize it as quickly as you originally planned, don’t feel shame. Your Teacher is not grading your work, but He knows your heart and is honored by your efforts. Entrust your frustrations to Him and ask Him to shepherd you as you seek to know Him through His Word. Even if it takes six years to memorize the six verses, it will be worth it to carry this song in your heart!
3. READ THROUGH THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Bible is divided into two major sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. This can be confusing or overwhelming to a new Bible reader, so consider reading the New Testament before you venture into the Old Testament.
Bible teacher Paige Brown compares the Old Testament to a dark storehouse filled with treasures, and the New Testament to a spotlight we take into the storehouse to uncover what’s really there. Both sections are beautiful, valuable, and essential, but you’ll likely feel better equipped to see the treasures of the Old Testament when you’re armed with the New Testament’s illumination.
Do an internet search for “New Testament reading plan” and choose something that fits your schedule. Or, simply flip to the book of Matthew and begin to read a bit every day until you get to the last page.
Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to invite a friend to read with you or ask a trusted pastor or seasoned believer to be ‘on call’ for any questions you might have. Of course, no one has all the answers except God Himself, but it’s helpful and encouraging to wrestle through the confusing parts with someone else.
4. BEGIN TO LEARN ‘BEST PRACTICES’
Reading God’s Word is always a good idea, but you’ll soon begin to discover that reading the Bible requires care. After all, we can inadvertently misunderstand the Bible when we take its words out of context or create rules for ourselves or others that God didn’t intend.
It’s not hard to see how this would make Bible reading a less-than-joyful experience because we would not be seeing God as He actually is!
When you feel ready, begin to collect ‘best practices’ for Bible reading by investigating tried-and-true approaches like inductive study. There are so many great, accessible resources out there that can train you to become a discerning student of the Bible!
You may also consider investing in a study Bible, which contains features that are designed to train you to read the Bible with integrity. For example, study Bibles often offer context information for each book, so you’ll know who wrote it, to whom they were writing, the genre of the book, etc. Study Bibles also contain cross-references, which tell you other places in the Bible where you can look to better understand the passage you’re currently studying.
As you learn, don’t learn alone! The Bible especially shines when it’s shared. Attend a local Bible study, ask friends to study with you, and take notes during your pastor’s sermon each Sunday. You will learn so much from other Christians, and they will learn from you, too!
As you study and learn to study better, make it a habit to always have something ‘on-deck’ to study next. This protects you from stall-out and helps you prioritize knowing God through His Word. If you’re ever stuck knowing what to do next, reference this list, ask a friend to give you an idea, or find out what books your pastor will be preaching from in the future.
The Bible can certainly be intimidating, and in a way, that’s okay. It makes sense to humbly approach this book, aware that God reveals Himself on its pages. However, we do not have to feel ashamed of our limitedness before Him!
Instead, we get to feel gloriously small, in awe of His magnitude rather than fixated on ourselves. We are able to respond with that fizzy excitement we experience when we receive an unexpected invitation to a fantastic party,
“I’m invited? I can’t wait!”
Which of the tips Caroline mentioned appeals to you the most as you dive into Scripture? From your own experience of reading God’s Word, where would you recommend a new believer start in their Bible reading journey?
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