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How to Read the Bible for REAL

People reading the bible

Is the idea of studying scripture intimidating? Where do we start? How can we lead our kids in this when we’re not confident in our own ability? Kara lines out a few practical steps to knowing God better through the reading of His Word.


For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4


“What has God been teaching you through Scripture?” This is a question we ask all of our applicants in the interview process to be a T Bar M Coach. It’s great hearing stories from staff who are growing nearer to God through the reading of His Word. All to often however, it reveals college students who profess faith in Jesus yet are either disengaged with God’s Word or are interpreting it inaccurately. At times, I’m dumbfounded, but then, I am reminded of my own struggle to spend purposeful time studying Scripture.

When we are superficial about our Bible reading, everyone within our influence is affected. If we claim to follow God, are we committed to knowing Him through His Word? After asking Him to reveal His truth to our feeble hearts and minds let’s… 

  1. Read within context. Often we come to time in God’s Word without purpose, perspective or direction and expect to walk away with profound “a-ha” revelations.  Understanding is not easily achieved when we flip through the pages of our Bible hoping the Spirit will lead us to something good. However, when we approach a passage of Scripture with purpose taking into account it’s authorship, audience, style and historical and cultural context, we have a greater chance of comprehending what it says. Instead of reading Scripture blindly, let’s do the legwork to know the context of what we’re reading.
  2. Read to understand. Have you ever read a passage of Scripture, yet cannot attest to what it actually says or means? Understanding Scripture is hard work, and requires repetitive reading and study for detail. Before we can understand how to apply a passage to our lives, we must first comprehend what it says, and then interpret what it means. To understand a passage, we read it over and over. Are there certain words or phrases repeated? Does it make several points in a row? Are there words you don’t understand? Make note of your observations. Keep a dictionary close by, read the same passage in different Bible translations, and utilize the cross-references listed in the bottom of your Bible. When you have exhausted your observation, check your understanding, by paraphrasing what a passage says and means in your own words.
  3. Read about God. The Bible is a book about God, but so often we read the Bible through an ‘all about me’ lens. When we read God’s Word ‘to feel better’ or ‘get direction’, we treat the Bible as if it is written about us, instead of how it reveals who God is. Reading the Bible with a self-focused lens can limit our understanding of it. Before we apply a passage to our own lives, let’s apply it to our knowledge of God. Ask, “What does this passage say about God? Who is He? What has He done?” As our study of Scripture enhances our understanding of God’s character, we can then ask, “How does this knowledge of God change my view of self? How should I respond?” God is the game-changer, and it is in our understanding of who He is, where our lives are transformed.

God has made Himself known to us through His Word, and if it is knowing God that changes us, then we ought to get serious about studying His Word.

For more on achieving Bible literacy, gather some friends and read Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word.

Camper Corner

What makes reading God’s Word confusing? Understanding Scripture takes time and work, but it’s worth it! Write down these questions on a note card to keep with your Bible. Then, each time you read a passage of Scripture, journal your responses. Who wrote this? Who did they write it to? How does it fit in the Bible story? What does it say? What does it mean? What does it teach me about God? What does this knowledge of God mean about me? What should I do in response?  

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