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How to Read the Bible With Purpose

Do you have those people in your life who send you a text message that immediately makes you smile or literally laugh out loud? Even without a selfie or voice memo, it’s as though you can see the facial expression or hear the voice of the person who sent it. You’ve spent so much time with them and know them so well that the message is clear.

But then there are those who aren’t as close. Maybe a new dating relationship, or a person you’ve just met, or even someone you’ve known for a long time, but still don’t know very well. There just hasn’t been enough time together to establish a deep level of understanding and communication. Text messages with that person can quickly be misinterpreted or cause confusion, and lead to an inappropriate response.

Now take a moment to think about which of these two scenarios is most reflective of your relationship with God. Do you know him so well that you recognize his voice? Or does he feel like someone you’ve known about for a while but aren’t that close to yet?

It’s impossible for two people to build a relationship without spending time getting to know each other, talking and listening. The Bible is the word of God. And just like spending time with a friend, reading the Bible deepens our relationship by teaching us who Jesus is and allowing us an avenue to hear him speak.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all scripture is God-breathed, meaning he has an intent for every word. The scriptures are for the teaching and equipping of his people to do his work.

If reading the Bible isn’t a habit already, it may seem like a daunting challenge. Maybe you were regularly reading before but life got busy. Or you just didn’t feel like it one or two days, and things just kind of fell off. Perhaps some practical steps can help, if you’re just getting started or need to get back on track.

Pick a Version

If you’ve ever opened a Bible app and wondered why there are so many versions and what they all mean, you’re not alone. The Bible has been translated many times over hundreds of years from the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. The various translations adhere to the original text in different ways. As you navigate between them, it’s important to understand the objectives of each.

Most translations present the scriptures in a way that falls somewhere on a spectrum that includes word-for-word, thought-for-thought, and paraphrased. Word-for-word translations, such as the King James Version (KJV) or English Standard Version (ESV), are most literally aligned with the original text. Translations like the New International Version (NIV) or New Living Translation (NLT) examine words from the original biblical language and translate the same thought in English. Paraphrased versions, such as the Message Bible (MSG), aim to describe the meaning of the original words and make scripture more understandable.

Pick a Guide

Once you’ve found a translation that works for you, choose a guide or plan to help zero in on main points and explain difficult passages. Look for sources that can fill in knowledge gaps about historical facts or context. Find resources that will help you start to commit verses to memory.

Often, the Bible is quoted or referenced using one isolated scripture relevant to the topic at hand. But when reading, it’s important to gain understanding of the context of a full passage in order to interpret and apply it accurately. Using a guide can help to understand the big picture without getting overwhelmed.

Pray and Reflect

As you sit down to open the Bible, take a moment first to pray. Ask God to remove all distractions and to give you wisdom and revelation as you read. The Bible says that the word of God is alive and powerful. Ask God to make his word alive for you in a new way.

Take time to reflect on the things you’ve read so that they become planted. SOAP notes are a good way to process as you go along. Write down the Scriptures that stick out to you, note any truths or principles you Observe in them, think of the practical Application in your life, and then turn the thoughts into Prayer.

Share and Discuss

At VOUS, we know the importance of community in all aspects of our faith walk. That even includes reading the word of God. Engaging in healthy conversations may serve as helpful reminders of things you’ve read, or may give new life applications. The perspectives of others might also challenge you to dig deeper.

Jesus wants our relationship with him to be the closest, most intimate relationship in our lives. He has already called us his friend. So be a good friend and spend time getting to know him. Read his word and listen to him as he speaks. The more you engage with the word of God, the more you’ll desire it. Because unlike any other friend, the words of Jesus have the ability to give life, restore hope, and truly change hearts.

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