Where Do I Start Reading the Bible?
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Whether you’ve been a Bible reader for a while or not, this question probably crosses your mind at least occasionally: “Where do I start reading the Bible?”
This might be an especially important question when
- You’ve never read the Bible
- You’re a new believer
- You’re in a super busy season, such as having newborn twins and a full-time job
- Your faith is feeling weak
- You used to read the Bible regularly, but it’s been a while
For whatever reason, “Where do I start reading the Bible” is a question plaguing your thoughts. The good news is, that very question means you’re on the right path. Keep reading for some ideas on answers that could work for you.
Before getting to the where it is important to get a handle on a few basics.
Key Principles to Know Before You Start to Read the Bible
First, where you read the Bible is less important than the fact that you are reading the Bible. Don’t let your inability to read three chapters a day stop you. If all you can manage is 5 verses you’re still ahead of anyone who doesn’t open the Word daily.
Second, don’t focus on how much you’re able to read every day. Instead, focus on being consistent. Five verses every day for a month will be about 150 verses – or a small book. In fact, 150 verses is more than the total number of verses in 28 books of the Bible!
But if you focus on reading at least three chapters but only read when you “have the time” you’ll probably find yourself skipping more days than you hit. Let’s say you only “have time” once a week. You’ll read approximately 100 verses in a month (a chapter averages about 25 verses).
By being consistent, you’ll read 50% more than you would be focusing on reading more when you have the time.
Third, start in the New Testament. More on this is covered below, but if you’ve never read the Bible or haven’t read much of it, hang out in the New Testament for at least several months before dipping into the Old Testament. Here are a few reasons why:
- New Testament books are generally shorter than Old Testament book.
- They are also generally easier to understand.
- The New Testament has an obvious focus on Jesus – and you read the Bible to know Jesus.
- It is easier to read just a few verses in the New Testament and walk away with a personal and powerful application to your life.
- You will gain confidence in your ability to read and understand the Bible as you cover several New Testament books.
Finally, when you miss a day or two of reading the Bible (and you will) don’t waste time kicking yourself. Just get right back into the Word. Jesus will be right there waiting for you.
So, Where Do I Start Reading the Bible?
The answer is surprisingly simple: start anywhere! Just start. But if you read the key principles above, you’ll want to start in the New Testament. Anywhere in the New Testament is simply easier than anywhere in the Old Testament.
It’s not that you want reading the Bible to always be easy. But when you’re just getting started, easy will help you create a habit you’ll stick with. And remember, consistency is far more important than having a quick start and then not following through.
Often, believers will choose to read through the Bible in one year. I’ve done so several times and it is a great habit. It can also quickly overwhelm anyone who is new to the Bible or even anyone with a crazy busy life.
Reading through the Bible in one year will give you a great overview of all of Scripture. But there is also great value in reading smaller portions of the Word and letting it soak deep into your soul.
There is one exception to the “focus on the New Testament” guideline: reading the Psalms and Proverbs.
The book of Psalms contains 150 chapters (or psalms) and Proverbs contains 31 chapters. A powerful habit to adopt it reading three psalms and one chapter of Proverbs every day. In this way, you will read through both books in one month.
If you follow the Psalms and Proverbs plan every month for a year, you’ll read enough for the worship of God and the wisdom to God to penetrate deep inside your heart, soul, spirit, thoughts, attitudes, and relationships. It is truly life-changing!
So, the first answer is to reading (1) anywhere in the New Testament or (2) through Psalms and Proverbs in a month. But perhaps you want a little more specific guidance. If so, read on.
A More Detailed Plan of Where to Start Reading the Bible
Before getting into a more detailed plan, remember the key principles:
- Reading anything is better than reading nothing.
- Be consistent.
- Stick with the New Testament for several months if you’re new to the Bible.
- When you miss a day, just start right back up again. Don’t waste time beating yourself up for not being perfect. Trust me – God already knows that about all of us!
Now, remember the general guidelines to follow in making your Bible reading plan:
- Stick to the New Testament (am I repeating myself?).
- Read through the Psalms (three per day) and Proverbs (1 chapter each day) in one month.
If you want a more detailed plan, three different plans are listed below. These are designed for three types of readers, but you can choose whichever fits your life best. Of course, you can always make your own plan too. But these three plans may help you get started – and that’s what matters when you’re just starting.
Before explaining the three plans, remember that these are designed for those who are just starting to read the Bible or who are getting restarted. Deeper, more robust plans will be covered in another post.
For the Brand-New Beginner
Knowing Jesus is the point of the Bible. You should be reading it to know Him – not just to learn some facts. Because Jesus is the entire point of the Bible, the Brand-New Beginner needs to start with a gospel.
My suggestion for what Brand-New Beginners should read is the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel of John, a more common suggestion, would be my second choice. Here’s why I’d choose Mark:
- Mark is the shortest Gospel.
- Because it is short, Mark provides readers with a burst of “I can do this” energy and motivation from the beginning.
- Mark is the gospel of action. There aren’t any super long sermons, such as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, or prayers, like the High Priestly Prayer in John.
- Mark hits all the best-known parts of Jesus’ life and ministry. It will feel familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of Jesus.
- Anyone who has absolutely no knowledge of Jesus will find a thorough and easy-to-understand overview of His life, ministry, teaching, death, and resurrection.
The Brand-New Beginner plan is pretty simple:
- Read 5 – 10 verses in Mark every day.
- Then write down one thing you learned and one way you can live out what you learned. That’s two sentences.
That’s it – the whole plan. Don’t worry about how long it will take you. Remember, you’re focused on consistency, not volume. As for where you write your two sentences? An index card, a notes app, a journal, or a sticky note. It doesn’t matter – just right it down so you can reread it at least once. Plus, the act of writing helps you to remember.
For the “I’m Just So Busy” Believer
You have been a believer for a while. You used to read the Word regularly. Maybe before kids or before your promotion. Maybe you’re recently divorced or your husband is deployed or your mom has cancer.
For whatever reason, this season of your life is overwhelming you, and the Bible is getting shoved aside. You keep promising yourself you’ll do better, and get back into the habit. But life.
Before going over the plan, remember this: You are greatly loved and Jesus knows everything you are going through right now.
That’s not an excuse for continuing to ignore time in God’s Word. Instead, it’s an encouragement to remind you that He is waiting for you in the pages of your Bible. Waiting to give you the wisdom, peace, direction, discernment, joy, and faith that your spirit is thirsting for.
The “I’m Just So Busy” plan focuses on epistles. Reading some of the shorter epistles will do a few things for you:
- Because the epistles are packed with spirit-reviving truth and practical wisdom, you can get so much out of only a few verses. Sometimes you may only need to read two or three verses to feel Jesus speaking healing and peace to you.
- The richness of the epistles means you truly can fill your spirit and prepare for the day in only a few minutes.
- As you become reacquainted with the amazing blessings that come from even the shortest time in God’s Word, your hunger for the Word will grow. And you’ll begin to find time for drinking deeper of that Living Water.
- As you complete first one book, then another, and another, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to make God’s Word a priority in your life again. Making the Bible a priority will whet your thirst for more and more and more.
The “I’m Just So Busy” Plan:
- Beginning with Philippians, read these epistles in this order:
- Philippians – because it will increase your joy as you focus on Jesus.
- Colossians – because it will teach you so much about who Jesus is and how much He loves you.
- Ephesians – because it will teach you how important the church is and encourage you to draw strength from relationships with other believers.
- James – because it will show you how to live wisely no matter what your circumstances are
- 1 Peter – because you will be reminded of what great blessings are yours in Christ, and that this season of struggle is only temporary.
- Read 3-10 verses every day. Focus on fewer, but with clear teaching to hold onto throughout the day.
- Write down one thing you learned and one way you can live out what you learned.
Again, don’t focus on trying to finish any book by a certain deadline – or all those books by such-and-such a dayte. Instead, focus on spending time with Jesus and taking one thought with you into each day.
One final encouragement: do all you can to eliminate anything you can in a “too busy” season. Learn to to slow down and let the Word minister to you.
For the “It’s Just Too Much” Believer
You know who you are. You’ve served the Lord for years. You’ve tried to live a godly life. You’ve poured your life into others. And in return, it feels like you just get beat up over and over again.
Maybe it’s a spouse who abandoned you or children who’ve turned their backs on the faith. Maybe it’s being overlook time and time again for a promotion you feel you deserve and the pay raise you really need. Maybe it’s a debilitating chronic disease that’s stealing your youth, health, and joy. Or dozens, hundreds of other things.
Whatever life is handing you right now, it just feels like too much. Dear friend, I know exactly how you feel. I know how lonely, desperate, and unseen you feel. And I’m here to tell you as clearly as I can that your answers still lie within the pages of your Bible – just like they always have.
I’ve been right where you are. Some days I still am. But someone else has been there as well. Someone who wrote some of the most beautiful passages of Scripture: David. With even a cursory reading of the Psalms, you know that David had been in the depths of despair many times. Soak in his words as you cling to the hope you can only just barely feel.
And, because whatever you’re facing will require wisdom to face, you need to be in God’s Book of Wisdom: Proverbs.
I’ve read through the Bible many times.I’ve studied many of the books in both the Old and New Testaments. But when I’m ready to call it quits, when it all feels like just too much, I always return to the Psalms and Proverbs. Often I’ll also add reading a gospel to that plan. But not always – simply because that would take more energy than I have left to give.
When I do this – when I soak in the Psalms and Proverbs – miraculaously, the “too much” in my life shifts from my shoulders to His, from my respnsbility to His, from my burden to His. And I can finally, once again, breathe deep and breathe freely.
The “It’s Just Too Much” plan:
- Read at least one psalm, but as many as three, every morning. Start with Psalm 1 and work your way through the book.
- Write down at least one thing you learned about God and pray that back to Him. For example, if you learned He’s your Shield and Protector, pray, “Lord, I thank You and praise You for being my Shield and my Protector. I know this means that I will not be destroyed by what I am facing. But You will have the victory in my life for Your glory and my good.”
- Read one chapter of Proverbs every evening.
- Write out one verse from that chapter on an index card or sticky note to carry with you through the next day.
- As you begin to gain your spiritual strength back, continue reading Psalms and Proverbs, but add 5-10 verses from the Gospel of John every morning. Again, focus on what you learn about God and Jesus and use that in your prayer and worship time.
A few additional thoughts to consider.
First, you may want to read some of the longer psalms over two or more days. Since you’re focused on consistency, this is not a problem.
Second, don’t underestimate the power of praise and worship. Unlike the first two plans, this one doesn’t include writing a sentene on how you can live out God’s Word because the living it out part will be the same every day: praise and worship. Then more praise and worship. Then some more.
Worship is to your desperate spirit what a gentle soaking rain is to parched fields. Nothing grows in parched fields and plants begin to die. But that soaking rain rescues them and brings bountiful harvests. Your spirit needs the soing rain of worship. Focus only on that and you’ll soon see revived growth, a softened heart, sprouting seeds, and a bountiful harvest.
Now That You Know Where to Start Reading the Bible
The question now is, “What will you do?” You have choice to make.
- You can choose comfortable, familiar ignorance.
- You can choose to put everything else before God’s Word.
- You can choose bitterness and despair and give up.
- Or you can choose to build a habit of Bible reading that will change your life in all the right ways.
It’s your choice. Just remember, as you (I pray) choose Jesus and His Word, you will sooner or later fail to be perfect. It’s called being human. Starting again after you’ve missed a day, a week, or a month is how you grow in grace and strength.
Don’t let your failures define you – in this arena or any other area of life. Instead, use your setbacks to motivate yourself to keep persevering. The only difference between those who grow strong in their faith and those who don’t is this: the strong ones kept getting back up after falling.
You will fall. You will fail. How you respond to those falls defines what your faith will look like a year or ten years from now. And your faith will define what your life looks like. Giving up is easy. Getting up time and again is hard. Choose the hard way, the narrow road. Choose Jesus.