8 Ways to Get More out of Your Bible

12/03/2007

Are you discouraged with your Bible reading? Find it hard to be consistent? Want to get more out of the Word? Here are a few tips that have helped me to be more consistent and enjoy my devotions more over the years.

1. Prepare the night before

Every night before going to bed, I grind some coffee, put a filter in my Aeropress coffee maker, put my coffee cup on the counter and fill my Hot Shot with water, so all I need to do is push a button to heat the water for my morning cup o’ joe. I make sure everything I need – Bible, marker, journal, Kleenex - is on the stand next to the couch in the den. This saves me having to scramble around wasting time in the morning and I can get reading more quickly.


2. Pray


I usually spend a couple minutes praying before I read. I thank my Father for his love and the gift of sleep, and for protecting my family and me during the night. I also thank him for his gracious invitation for me to enter boldly into his presence through the merits and blood of Jesus. Then I often pray John Piper’s I-O-U'S: “Incline my heart to your testimonies”, Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law
,” “Unite my heart to fear your name,” and “Satisfy me with your love."

3. Same time, same place every day.


Find your best time, when you can concentrate and have the least number of distractions. For me, it’s first thing in the morning. The house is quiet and no one else is up. If I start in on projects or reading the news, I never get to reading the Bible. In the evening I’m too distracted and tired. For some, evening is their best time. The important thing is to find a time when you are least distracted and can concentrate.


I read in the same place every day. As I said earlier, I keep my Bible, marker, journal and prayer notebook on the end-table next to the couch in the den. That way I don’t have to waste time searching through the house for things before I read.


4. Keep track of what you read


After reading, in the back of my journal I write the day, date and the passage I read. That way I don’t have to try to remember where I left off the day before. You can use a bookmark as long as it doesn’t fall out and you lose your place.


5. Write in your Bible


Don’t hesitate to underline, write in the margins, or circle words. Underlining and writing helps us concentrate more on what we’re reading. My favorite marker is a light blue Sanford China Marker. You can underline lightly or darker and it never bleeds through the page.

6. Read consecutively

Don’t skip around or play Bible Roulette. Finish one book before going to another. One way to consistently read through the Bible is to read through Matthew, then Genesis. Then Mark, then Exodus and so on. If you are keeping track of what you’ve read, you’ll eventually work through the whole Bible. Nothing is more discouraging than picking up the Bible and reading at random every day.

7. Use a journal

I’ve used journals for years in my devotions. I like Moleskine lined journals. As you read, write down any verses that stand out to you or any thoughts you have about the passage. Writing slows you down and helps you focus. I usually try to look for one key verse or passage that stands out to me from that day’s reading to record in my journal.


8. Respond to what you’ve read


After recording one key verse or passage in my journal, I usually write a prayer in response. This prayer will sometimes be worship and praise to God for the truth I’ve just read about him or it may be supplication for him to change me to conform with his word. I keep the prayer to one, maybe two pages at the most. It takes me about ten minutes and propels me into my prayer time.

Whether you use these approaches or you have your own, try to build consistent habits of reading the Bible. There’s no better way to fellowship with Jesus and delight in him.

How about you? What have you found that helps you read the Bible more consistently or effectively? We'd love to hear. Thanks!

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM  

25 comments:

Thanks for the comment! I have to say that "connecting God's truth with real life" is a very good description of your blog. I always benefit from reading it.

Something that helps me to read the Bible more effectively is to keep reminding myself to apply it to my own life instead of others'. For example, when reading about the foolishness of sluggards in Proverbs it is easy to think, "I know someone like that! What a fool!"

That's when I need to ask for God's forgiveness of my self-righteousness and ask Him to convict me of this sin in my own life. I can usually find it in my own life when I really look for it.

Stephen Butler said...
December 3, 2007 at 10:00 AM  

Bring some friends with me to like God's word who have more knowledge then I do, friends like Matthew Henry, John Calvin, Charles Hodge, etc.

Lew said...
December 3, 2007 at 11:06 AM  

Sound advice Stephen A. There are thousands of devotional writers out there for all kinds of people, which i think is good and bad. The only Teacher i need for my DAILY devotionals is the Holy Ghost. I ask him what HE wants me to read and then we take it from there. I read very slow, meticulously, and for the last year and a half i have read nothing but the amplified Bible. When i do deep studies i pull from the resources of my library and my elders.....
PS: Theology mixed with the Holy Ghost is nothing short of awesome!
Ben

Youngblood said...
December 3, 2007 at 3:39 PM  

Ben,

Thanks for the encouragement, but this post actually came from my dad. He's much wiser than I am!

December 3, 2007 at 4:22 PM  

Great advice! If I may add, take some time, maybe once a week, to review what you've read recently. See how your daily reading has affected your daily living by keeping short notes of how Scripture was applied during the day and going back over them later on.

JTR Hart said...
December 3, 2007 at 5:32 PM  

Stephen,

Great reminder to seek to apply the word to ourselves instead of others. I think we're all prone to the kind of self-righteousness you described. I know I am. Praise God for the blood of Christ that cleanses us.

Mark

Mark Altrogge said...
December 3, 2007 at 6:50 PM  

Excellent, Lew.

Yes, sometimes a commentary by one of your friends and other godly men can really help open up the Word. Thanks for adding that comment.

Mark

Mark Altrogge said...
December 3, 2007 at 6:52 PM  

Hey Ben,

How true it is that we need the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our hearts. We can't possibly understand the Word of God withoug Him. And since we're reading God's word, reading it slowly and meticulously to get as much out of it as possible is well worth it.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Mark

Mark Altrogge said...
December 3, 2007 at 6:58 PM  

Thanks jtr,

Great advice to review and see how you're applying the Word. How do you keep your notes - do you keep a notebook with you during the day, or jot down notes at night?

Thanks for your comment.

Mark

Mark Altrogge said...
December 3, 2007 at 7:02 PM  

JTR has hit the nail on the head; read it, learn it, understand it. Ezra says of himself in Ezra 7;10;
For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
Read it
Live it
teach it
The true mark of any disciple of Christ.
Can i get an Amen!!
Ben

Youngblood said...
December 3, 2007 at 7:34 PM  

My wife keeps hand-written journals and this practice works great for her. I've picked up one of those PDA-phones that you can type long messages into so that I can have a "journal" with me at all times, anytime I see something I want to write down I can get it down electronically and have the ability to store on a computer and search later on. It seems everybody has a system that works for them right...

JTR Hart said...
December 3, 2007 at 8:09 PM  

Ben, AMEN my friend, AMEN!

Mark Altrogge said...
December 3, 2007 at 11:39 PM  

jtr,

Thanks! Praise God for technology!

Mark Altrogge said...
December 3, 2007 at 11:40 PM  

I'm going to sound very "girltalk" here, but one thing that helps me as a mother of four is to rise early before my children wake up to spend time in God's word. this means going to bed earlier which is often a harder discipline.

thanks for the encouragement, Mark.

laurie said...
December 4, 2007 at 8:55 AM  

Thanks Laurie!

I appreciate your commitment to getting up before your 4 children to read the Word. And I agree, it takes a lot of discipline to get to bed earlier. I certainly could grow in that myself...

Godly mothers are worthy of praise and appreciation!

Mark

Mark Altrogge said...
December 4, 2007 at 9:35 AM  

Something that has helped me - Dale Ralph Davis' book "The Word Became Fresh" - his book deals with how to read Old Testament narrative with an eye to seeing the author's intent. As folks are trying to read through Scripture without pre-made, pre-digested devotional material, it is helpful to think through the genre of literature you're currently studying.

Jeffrey Brannen said...
December 4, 2007 at 12:17 PM  

Memorizing Scripture has been fruitful for me at various times. I don't do it nearly as much as I wish I did, but I think it is a valuable use of "devotional time." The greatest benefit is that I can meditate at different points during the day. It is often helpful in prayer too.

ACF said...
December 4, 2007 at 5:17 PM  

ACF,

I completely agree. For many years I spent the first 10-15 minutes of my devotions memorizing Scripture. I can't commend this practice enough.

Thanks for the comment!

Mark Altrogge said...
December 4, 2007 at 11:23 PM  

Jeffrey,

Thanks for mentioning this book - I haven't heard of it. I want to check it out. Seeing the author's intent is really important for understanding Scripture. Appreciate your comment.

Mark Altrogge said...
December 4, 2007 at 11:25 PM  

Thanks for the insight. I have used for several years now M'Cheyne's Calendar for Daily Readings arranged by Robert Murray M'Cheyne. It has 4 readings for the day and you go through the entire Bible in a year and the Gospels more than once in a year. I look forward to this everyday and it keeps one from being random. I ordered copies of the plan from Mt Zion Bible Church in Pensacola, FL

heath lloyd said...
December 5, 2007 at 11:24 AM  

Thanks for all the great tips! You really laid out an example plan for digging deeper into the Word. I just discovered Bible Study Tools that lets me highlight, journal, and get help from commentaries, lexicons, etc. all for free. It has 29 translations and a split-panel screen so you can read things side-by-side. I could never afford these books nor would I have the time to search through all of them!

I hope you get a chance to check it out! It's been a blessing for me and I want to let others know that they can find tools to understand the Bible without having to go to seminary!

kristie said...
December 5, 2007 at 2:47 PM  

Thanks for your comment Heath,

Programs like that are also excellent ways to keep from aimless reading. I've used similar ones myself.

Mark

Mark Altrogge said...
December 6, 2007 at 1:41 PM  

Thanks Kristie,

I can't wait to check out Bible Study Tools. It sounds great.

Mark

Mark Altrogge said...
December 6, 2007 at 1:42 PM  

Great post and by the way you are on the ESV Blog if you did not already know. Congrats on that. You unseated me. They were gracious enough to comment on my blog last Friday and it got me a lot of traffic.

RC

RC said...
December 10, 2007 at 4:11 PM  

Thanks RC,

I'm just grateful anyone would even read our blog.

Mark Altrogge said...
December 10, 2007 at 11:49 PM  

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