Bible
ToolKit

The Ultimate Guide to Reading the Bible

Are you new to the Bible? Perhaps you’re a new believer or have been following Jesus for a bit but aren’t sure how to navigate your Bible. Or maybe you’re simply exploring what it means to follow Jesus and know the Bible has something to do with that. If you fall into any of these categories, this guide is for you.

Through this Bible Toolkit, we’ll walk you through the process of diving into the Word of God, from choosing a Bible to navigating the pages inside to what happens after you close the cover. Let’s dive in!

a note from Katie

If I were sitting next to you right now as you think about reading your Bible, I would want you to know a few things.

First, I would tell you that I am overjoyed you would even consider reading the words in this precious book, because they are truly sacred. The Bible is the tangible Word of God—the God who created the universe, sees all things, and knows your name.

Second, I would tell you that the Bible is the complete and true story of our being and purpose. When you crack this book open, you will find stories full of triumph, wilderness, waiting, and ultimately, a Savior who came in the name of love.

As you hold a copy of the Bible in your hands, I pray that you will feel that love radiating out of its pages. Please know the words inside this book and the simple act of reading them will change your life. The echoes of God’s glory will reach the ends of the earth because of the work he is doing in you.

“You will seek me and find me if you seek me with all your heart”
—Jeremiah 29:13—

Table of Contents

1
Intro to the Bible
What is it and why read it?

2
Barriers to the Bible
Questions you might have before diving into Scripture

3
Bible Translations
Which translation should I choose?

4
What’s Inside
A few things to note before you read the Bible

5
Navigating the Bible
The continuous story of a Savior

6
Reading the Bible
A Quick Guide to ways to read, before you read, and while you read

7
After You Read the Bible
Finding Community

8
When You Don’t Want to Read the Bible
encouragement for the hard days, ruts, and dry spells

9
Take it Farther
Top Resources for Diving into Scripture

10
Download the Toolkit
the free downloadable PDF toolkit

Intro to the Bible

What is the Bible and why read it?

What is the Bible

We believe that the Bible, consisting of 66 books, is the only holy, inspired, trustworthy and true Word of God. We believe there is one God, the Creator of all things, infinitely holy and eternally existent in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible is without error, and is the only final authority in all matters of faith and practice. We believe that the true beauty of the Bible absolutely lies within its pages. Above all else, we are convinced that the words inside of this timeless book will revive our world.

Why Read the Bible

You will discover who God is.

You will hear stories of his greatness and his might.

You will discover that God is deeply intentional and specific with every part of this world. 

You will learn that his love for you burns brighter than any you’ve seen or felt before. 

You will see clearly that he has a call on your life and a plan for this earth that ends in a beautiful victory. 

As you read about God, you will you will be equipped to articulate and share the gospel with others.

As Scripture fills your soul, you will be able to use these words of truth to confront the enemy when he speaks lies into your mind. 

As you read your Bible and start to believe that God is who he says he is, you will begin to put your trust in him in ways you never thought you would—strengthening your faith day by day and spreading the name of Jesus on this earth.

Barriers
to the Bible

Questions you might have before diving into Scripture

In this section, we want to address some questions you might have before even touching the Word of God. These questions might be topics you’re curious about or a barrier that sits between you and the life-giving Word of God. It’s ok to be asking these questions, because it shows you’re searching for the truth. Click a dropdown arrow below to read the answer to whichever question resonates with you.

The Bible was written over a period of about 1,500 years by more than 40 different men of diverse backgrounds. Among this diverse group of writers are kings (David and Solomon), a military general (Joshua), a fisherman (Peter), and even a tent maker (Paul). Some of the books of the Bible were written from prison cells, the wilderness, exile, palaces, and more. There are books of historical narrative, poetry, letters, and eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ time on earth. All of this alone makes the Bible a unique book.

But what truly sets the Bible apart from all other books—including other holy books—is that it has one ultimate author: God. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:21, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Every book of the Bible—though written by many different people in many different places over a long period of time—tells one perfectly unified story because its author is God himself. Every word of the Bible is “breathed out” by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and is therefore holy, without error, and perfectly true.

We're working on a thoughtful answer to this. Check back soon!

The doctrine of which books actually belong in the Bible is called canonicity. We could spend hours diving into this doctrine, but in this Bible Toolkit, we’ll offer a simple answer that we hope will get to the heart of the issue. In his earthly ministry, Jesus affirmed the Old Testament and authorized his apostles to write the New Testament. We believe in the absolute authority of Jesus, and we therefore affirm what he affirmed. 

A study of the four gospel accounts in Scripture reveals Jesus affirmed the whole of the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17-18). He affirmed it as a reliable record of history (cf. Matthew 10:15; 19:3-5; 12:40; 24:38-39) and prophetic accuracy (Matthew 26:54). He affirmed it as sufficient (Luke 16:31), unified (Luke 24:27,44), without error (Matthew 22:29; John 17:17), infallible (John 10:35), and authoritative (Matthew 21:13, 16, 42). History also shows that first century Jews did not consider the Apocryphal writings to be canonical Scripture, and neither did Jesus. He never affirmed or even cited the Apocryphal writings. 

For more information on this topic, see this article.

The Bible—God’s written words to us—is the primary way in which he has chosen to reveal himself to us. It is literally God’s letter to us. Imagine the feeling of receiving a letter in the mail from someone you love dearly. Are you excited to open and read it? Or does it evoke feelings of boredom? Our view of Scripture is directly related to our view of God. When our minds and hearts are aligned with the reality that God is our loving Father who desires to commune with us through his Word, it comes alive! 

A couple practical ways of engaging with Scripture: read a modern translation that you understand well and journal as you read. As you journal, try to answer the following questions:

1. What does this text reveal about God?

2. How am I to live in light of that?

Check out our WHEN article "When the Bible Doesn't Feel Exciting"

For many, many years, secular non-scholars have tried to spread a misconception about the authenticity and truthfulness of Scripture. However, this is simply not true. Of all the manuscripts available to us, the margin of error is less than 1%, and even then, the discrepancies do not in any way give any confusion to the meaning of the text or change the doctrine of Scripture. As a matter of fact, as more manuscripts of Bible texts are discovered, they continue to prove the accuracy of Scripture over and over again. The author of Proverbs is absolutely correct when he says, “Every word of God is true” (Proverbs 30:5).

The Bible is a complex book containing deep, rich truths. But it is not unknowable. In fact, one way the Holy Spirit of God ministers to us is opening our eyes to understand the beauty and truth in the Word of God. God does not withhold good from his children, and that includes the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). If you belong to Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in you, and will “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). There are hard things in Scripture, but we’re never meant to understand them all on our own. A couple tips:

Find a friend to study the Bible with. 

A study Bible is a great help in understanding difficult passages.

Pray! Psalm 119:18 is a wonderful prayer for each time you open the Bible: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”

The Holy Spirit of God authored the Bible. He is willing and ready to help you understand it.

For a highly literal translation, we recommend the ESV. For something a little easier to read without sacrificing accuracy, we recommend the CSB.

Sometimes, the Bible seems like an unclimbable mountain of 66 books divided into 1,189 chapters. We can discourage ourselves by thinking we have to read a certain amount every time we open it, or that we have to read through the Bible at least once every year. Those aren’t bad things—spiritual discipline is very important in the life of the Christian. In fact, a simple 15 minutes of daily reading will get you through the whole Bible in a year. However, even though that’s a small time commitment, many us still find ourselves saying we “don’t have enough time.” If we’re honest with ourselves, however, we would probably admit that we don’t actually need more time; we simply need to better prioritize the time we have.

If we truly believe God is who he says he is and that the Bible truly is God’s Word, we will rearrange our priorities around God, rather than giving him what’s left. Below you will find many practical tips for diving into the Word of God that can spur you on to make space for God's Word.

Check out our WHEN article "When Reading the Bible is Hard to Prioritize"

Bible Translations

Which Translation Should I Choose?

If you don’t already own a Bible, one of the first steps towards diving into Scripture is to choose your translation. The question you need to ask yourself is, “Do I want to prioritize readability or accuracy?” Your answer to this question will land you at a particular place in the spectrum of Bible translations, which we'll dive into below.

How to Choose Your Translation

ESV, CSB, NLT—all these names can feel like a jumble of letters, but behind each of them is a specific approach to translating the original texts of the Bible into English that provides a variety of options when choosing your Bible translation. Below are three main points along the spectrum of Bible translations.

Word-for-Word Accuracy

Goal: To carefully translate each word from the original language to the closest equivalent in the English language.

Pros: Very literal

Cons: A bit more difficult to understand

Recommended For: In-depth study and personal development

Translations in this Category: NASB, ESV, NET, KJV, NKJV

ESV Sample Verse: For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

Choose my ESV

in the middle

Goal: To strike a balance between a more literal and paraphrase translation

Pros: Easier to understand while still preserving the feel of the original language

Cons: Not as identical as the original text

Recommended For: A balance between categories

Translations in this Category: CSB

CSB Sample Verse: For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

Choose my CSB

Thought-for-Thought Readability

Goal: To consider how the original audience would have understood the text, and render the same thought to its current reader

Pros: Easier to read

Cons: Not always as accurate to the original text

Recommended For: Someone new to the Bible, group studies

Translations in this Category: NIV, NLT, CEB, NIRV, GNT, MSG

NLT Sample Verse: For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

More on Translations

What's Inside

a few things to note before you read the Bible

Now that you’ve got an idea of your preferred translation, you’re ready to open up the Bible! And to be honest, even though this seems simple, sometimes this is the hardest step. Whether the thought of opening this huge book feels overwhelming, or whether you simply don’t want to, we can promise that the words inside will change your life. Remember this: one sentence of God’s Word read over your life has more power than any self-help book or motivational quote.

Navigating the Bible

The Continuous Story of a Savior

The Bible is broken into two big sections: the Old Testament (before Jesus’ ministry on Earth) and the New Testament (from Jesus’ life on Earth, and beyond). Together, these sections hold a total of 66 individual books inspired by God and written by more than 40 different individuals throughout history—all telling one complete account of who God is and what he has done. These individual books are broken up into chapters and verses to help locate where exactly you are reading in this grand story. Below is a breakdown of each section of the Bible. Print out our guide here to take alongside you as you learn.

The Story of the Bible

Old Testament

The Story of the Bible

New Testament

Deep Dive into the Bible

There is much more than what we feature here. In our free downloadable PDF guide, we’ll dive even deeper into sections and individual books! Download and print the guide here!

Reading the Bible

A Quick Guide to Ways to Read, Before You Read, and While You Read

Now that you know your way around the Bible, it’s time to open it up and actually read! Our hope is that your time with God is not only a time to study and learn Scripture, but also a time to love and adore God and his character—to sit, rest, learn his ways and his true character. To know and to love someone takes time, practice and consistency. We hope these helpful tips can help you step into the unforced rhythms of grace and draw you closer to the Lord’s heart.

Ways to Read the Bible

Bible reading typically happens in one of two ways, explained below.

Chronological

Choose a book of the Bible and read through it from beginning to end. It is helpful to find study questions or commentary as you take this bare-bones approach.

Start in John

Guided Study

Follow along with a Bible study that points out different Scriptures for you to read each day. Bible studies typically include commentary and references that relate to a specific topic or guide you through a book.

Find a Study

Suggested Place to Start

If you are reading the Word for the first time, we suggest you start with John, a book at the beginning of the New Testament that details the life of Jesus. To get you started, here is a reading plan of the book of John. Our hope is that this guide will help you ask good questions and look at Scripture a little bit deeper.

Before You Read the Bible

Have a Plan: Having a plan to work through a specific book of the Bible encourages routine and consistency. Knowing exactly where you’re headed before you begin helps build structure and discipline into your daily time with God.

Schedule a Time: Start your day with reading the Word if you can! Choose a specific time to help build consistency into your daily rhythms, and note that time in your reminders, calendar, or planner.

Set the Scene: Prepare your environment to provide a space to focus. Remember, this does not have to be perfect! What is most important is that you show up before the Lord.

- Put your phone on airplane mode to eliminate distractions

- Set a timer if you have a time limit

- Find a consistent, distraction-free reading space 

- Don’t get caught up with aesthetics. Our time with God does not have to be Instagram worthy—God’s presence is everywhere!

Start with Prayer: Always begin with prayer. When you open the Bible, ask God to teach you exactly what you need through his Word. Ask him to calm your mind and give you focus and attention to hear what he has to say. Pray that your time reading the Word would spark worship in your heart.

Open Your Bible

—pause to open your Bible right now—

While You Read the Bible

The Bible tells us to dwell on the Word. Jesus himself says in John 15:5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Here are some practical ways to abide in Jesus as you read Scripture.

Journal Alongside Scripture
Journaling alongside the Word looks different for everyone, but here are some ways to begin.
Before
: Lay your joys and concerns before Jesus by journaling initial thoughts or prayers.
During: Copy down meaningful verses in a journal or directly in your Bible while you read.
After: Summarize what you just read and any application you’re taking with you.

Memorize Scripture
Choose a core verse or phrase from your reading to memorize. 

Pray Scripture
Turn Scripture into a guide for prayer by praying the words over yourself or someone else. 

Supplement Scripture
Look up materials online to reference alongside your reading. Use StudyLight to access dozens of commentaries on any given verse.

Start Reading

—pause and actually read Scripture right here, right now—

After You Read the Bible

Finding Community

We hope we’ve equipped you well to dive into the Word of God on your own. But what happens after you close the pages of this book? After reading the Word, don’t let the words simply stay on the page. Instead, allow God to work in your heart to bring these words to life in your everyday. One of the first steps we encourage is to seek out community.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
—Hebrews 10:24-25—

After you Read

Seek Individuals

After you Read

Seek a Church

When You Don't Want to Read the Bible

Encouragement for the Hard Days, Ruts, and Dry Spells

WHAT IF I FIND MYSELF IN A RUT OR DRY SPELL?

Even if you follow these steps, reading the Bible may not always be easy. The reality of life on earth is that ruts and dry spells can threaten to interrupt our time with Jesus, but pushing past these moments to stay rooted in the Word of God is worth it. Below are some specific ways to do this.

Quick Tips to Pushing Past a Rut

Lean into Community: Text a friend who knows Jesus or reach out to someone at church to meet up. Sometimes simply hearing someone else’s story will stir excitement in you as you hear how God is working right here and now.

Find a New Study: We are big believers in the idea that getting your hands on something new and beautiful stirs your heart to want to jump in, so seek out a fresh perspective from an online study or grab a new devotional to fuel fresh passion!

Start in the Psalms: When you are in a rough spot in life or are overwhelmed by long passages of Scripture, the Psalms is the perfect place to start. Read one a day to intentionally point your heart towards the Lord in worship.

Read our WHEN articles: We’ve compiled a variety of responses to this topic from writers in our local community. Find relevant Scripture and action steps here.

a note

If your emotions don’t line up with what you think you should be feeling when reading the Word, remind yourself that the Bible holds THE truth—the good news—for this world. And if it is THE truth, it is fully capable of stirring the best emotions in you, even if you don’t feel them right now.

So realize that your disengagement or lack of excitement is not a result of the Bible losing any of its power or beauty, but rather simply a reflection of this broken world that clouds the beauty of the truth.

Give yourself grace for these off days when reading the Word is more of a discipline than a delight. And know that these pages are always always capable of stirring life in you because the words on them are living and active and pointing you to the One Who is the Way, the Truth, and Life himself. So take heart and seek His life in these pages.

Submit a Prayer Request

As you take these brave and bold steps towards walking out truth, we would love to pray for you! Submit your prayer request below...

Take it a Step Farther

Top Tools and Resources for Diving into Scripture

You did it! You’re diving into the life-giving words of Scripture and getting to know the person of Jesus. As you continue this journey, we would like to supply you with resources and tools that are helpful for reading your Bible and navigating what it means to live life with Jesus as Lord. Below are some of our favorites.

Recommended Resources

WHEN Articles

from Hosanna Revival

for the one searching for Scripture's truth in response to common questions

Start Reading

The Bible Handbook

by Daily Grace Co

for the one wanting a simple and aesthetic introduction to each book of the Bible

Choose This Tool

Search the Word

by Daily Grace Co

for the one wanting a simple and practical explanation of how to study God's Word

Choose this Tool

Women in the Word

by Jen Wilkin

for the one wanting to be empowered to study the Bible in depth on her own

Choose this Book

Seamless

by Angie Smith

for the one wanting a big-picture look at the continuous story through all of Scripture

Choose this Book

Even Better than Eden

by Nancy Guthrie

for the one wanting a flyover view of 9 themes running throughout Scripture

Choose this Book

Help Me Teach the Bible

—a podcast—
by Nancy Guthrie & TGC

for the one wanting to learn from pastors and teachers on how to pass on truth

Start Listening

Journeywomen Podcast

—a podcast—
by Hunter Beless

for the one wanting to be encouraged to carry the truth into her everyday

Start Listening

Compelled

—a podcast—
by Paul Hastings

for the one wanting to hear the incredible testimonies of others who have come to Christ

start listening

Download the Bible Toolkit

the free downloadable toolkit PDF

Free Download

The Bible Toolkit PDF

download pdf