The most common comment I hear when a person wants to read the Bible consistently is, “Where do I start?” Most believers desire to dig into the word of God, but finding a beginning point can be overwhelming. Do you start in Genesis and read straight through? Do you start in the New Testament? In Paul’s letters? Should you use a devotional?
While devotionals have their place (I’m in the process of writing one that I hope you’ll read!), I always advocate reading the pure, unfiltered word of God. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound near as appealing as something a little more readable and seemingly life applicable. But reading the word of God without any other voices in the mix, just between you and God alone, is indescribable.
Still not sure where to start? Below are five places I personally recommend in beginning a consistent Bible-reading routine. Be sure to check back as I post more tips in digging into the word.
1. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John): These are books chronicling the life of Jesus from four different perspectives. All Scripture points to Jesus, from beginning to end (John 5:39). Since we as Christians are followers of Christ, what better place can we start than reading about the life of the one we are to imitate? Another reason I believe it is critical to begin at the Gospels is this: I’ve noticed a trend across the web where writers quote Jesus to make their point. This can be deceiving, however, if the trend is to pick the more palatable teachings of Jesus without recognizing the hard teachings. It’s imperative for Christians to know our Savior and know him well – all aspects of him that are revealed to us. I’ve personally made a commitment to read the Gospels continually, at least a small section per day, no matter what other portion of Scripture I may be studying.
2. Acts: The early church is fascinating. In the book of Acts, we get to see exactly what early Christians did to reach others with the good news of Jesus. Many of these had walked with Jesus himself. We also see how many gave their lives for the sake of sharing the truth of Jesus to others. We see the interaction with Paul – who formerly persecuted the early Christians – and the early church. We see how they engaged with the pagan culture around them. We see how they dealt with conflict.
3. Genesis: Every word of Scripture rests on the first verse of Genesis. God is creator. If God is creator than we are his creation and subject to his authority, whether we voluntarily submit to him or not. In the New Testament, we see Jesus as a personal Savior, and as such, the tendency can be to make him in our minds smaller than he is. By balancing New Testament readings with those in the Old Testament, such as Genesis, we see that Jesus is the Son of God – a God much bigger than we can comprehend. Reading about this God who holds the nations in his hands helps us to see the grand scheme of things, and more importantly, how we’re not the center of it. He is.
4. 1 and 2 Samuel: First and Second Samuel chronicle the life of King David, whose calling began when he was a humble shepherd boy. We all know the big stories of David like David and Goliath and David and Bathsheba. But there is much more to be learned about this Man After God’s Own Heart, whose throne was a placeholder for Jesus the Messiah, whose kingdom will never end. My favorite way to read the life of David is to read it in a chronological Bible, where his writings in the Psalms are placed in the likely order in which they were written, side by side with the events that inspired the writing.
5. James: James is my favorite “utility” book. If you want to get into immediate life lessons, this is the book to begin with. All five chapters are filled with meaty verses. In fact, I recommend you only read a few verses at a time to fully digest the richness this book provides.
It was definitely hard to narrow down my picks for books to begin reading in the Bible, but hopefully these will provide a good start. There is no better time to begin like the present! In future posts, I will provide more Bible study tips that I’ve learned through the years.
What about you? What book(s) would you recommend to a believer just beginning a regular Bible reading routine?