People have recently been asking me what the best Bible to read is… and my answer is two fold. The Bible is a singular story that points to God’s way of saving humanity. From beginning to end, the (true) story lays out in fine detail the way things are supposed to be, the way things currently are (broken), and God’s plan to set them right again. But, one gets into the details is another story! It’s a process of (1) understanding the overview (2) starting to read regularly, and (3) digging in to study.
First, to get the overview, I suggest this incredible story Bible. It may seem silly — but it is essential for understanding God’s overall plan — the “story arc” of what He is doing. For beginners and old timers, my favorite Bible is actually a Children’s Bible called “The Jesus Storybook Bible“. As I read it to my kids, I realized just how correct the theology and understanding of God’s heart this books approach is. You WILL love it, I guarantee. Christianity Today says about this book:
This is artistic license at its best, throughout this wonderful book. God commands Pharaoh to set his people free and the despot reacts with a tantrum, stamping his foot and shouting, “Why should I? … . Don’t want to. WON’T!” The title Lloyd-Jones gives to the classic story of Daniel in the lion’s den is, “Daniel and the Scary Sleepover.”
But Lloyd-Jones’s writing isn’t cutesy. She has a grasp of the profound. How does one explain to a child the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane, and his prayer of surrender to his Father? Lloyd-Jones does it as well as any biblical commentator:
“Papa! Father!” Jesus cried. And he fell to the ground. “Is there any other way to get your children back? To heal their hearts? To get rid of the poison?” … . Violent sobs shook Jesus’ whole body. Then Jesus was quiet. Like a lamb. “I trust you, Papa,” he said. “Whatever you say, I will do.”Jago’s drawings of the scene moved me to tears. I can only imagine what it will be like to sit with the book open to this scene, a child at my side, and try to read it aloud.
The title and subtitle are even better than the book’s delightful illustrations and narrative — because they provide, in one deft stroke, the interpretive key that unlocks the meaning of the whole Bible.
The Jesus Storybook Bible says it all: The Scriptures are not merely a collection of stories designed to teach moral lessons. As Jesus explained to the men walking the road to Emmaus on Resurrection Sunday, the whole Bible is about Jesus. In the words of the subtitle, every story whispers his name.
Secondly, it is important to know what to read. Do NOT begin reading Genesis and try to power your way through the entire Bible. When you get to Leviticus you will be tempted to throw chuck the project… and become Rastafarian (because they have cool music). Start in two places, the Psalms and Gospels. The Gospels will give you an understanding of the details of Jesus life and the Psalms will help you begin to understand the poetry of the Scriptures. Here’s what to read:
1 – A Psalm — Look at the calendar. If it’s the 23rd then go to Psalm 23 (choose the Psalm correlating with the day of the month). Read the psalm and then write in a journal what questions you have, what you like, and what you find challenging.
2 – The Gospel – Pick one of the Gospels (Matthew, Luke, Mark or John) and begin reading. Luke is probably the best for beginners because Luke was a Physician and writes in a logical detailed way. Simply read one chapter each day and write in a journal what questions you have, what you like, and what you find challenging.
If you want a more structured method, I suggest using the following from Ann Graham Lotz
Finally, when you’re ready to really dig into the Scriptures, make sure you have a good study Bible. A good study Bible will give you a behind the scenes look at all the critical issues and ways to bridge the gap from 2,000+ years ago to today. Here are three that I would recommend:
- ESV Study Bible – This is a new version that is fantastic both in its literary form and in scholarship. If you want to dig in… this is the way to go.
- Life Application Study Bible – If you aren’t ready for something quite so deep, this format is great for practicality.
Finally — don’t read alone!! While every person can read by themselves, if you really want to grow then it’s best to read together as a group. Find a community group or a friend who will read and discuss with you. Keep each other accountable to what the text actually says (rather than just springboarding into what you wish it said) — and enjoy the process. And, if you get bogged down… ask for help!! I’m always available!!