A friend recently thrilled me by telling me she wanted to buy a Bible and read it! She had just accepted Christ as her Savior and wanted to know more about her new king. She asked for a suggestion on a version and a reading plan. I gave her the following answer which I also wish to share with you.
God Bless you and open your mind to His understanding. The fact that you have just accepted Jesus and now want to learn more about him means that God has called you out from the rest of mankind. God chose you– specifically you. He opened your mind, he made you understand. You were chosen for a higher purpose.
““Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”” Jeremiah 1:5
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” Acts 2:38-39
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them,and I will raise them up at the last day.”- Jesus, recorded in John 6:44
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time,gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. ” Ephesians 2:1-9
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.“- Jesus, recorded in Matt 7: 13,14
““For many are invited, but few are chosen.””- Jesus, recorded in Matt 22:14
You are in very special company. You’ve just become an everlasting being who will be perfect one day. You’ve just become a child of God and that entitles you to an incredible amount of power (to do good and help others) and joy in this world. Jesus also promised us, “7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.“ Therefore, although you know next to nothing now about Jesus and your new life with him, God has promised that you will understand if you ask. So… let’s get to the first step. Ask for understanding!
Pray for wisdom and pray for guidance each time you open your Bible. You will never be the same again. The Bible is the most fascinating narrative on the beginning of mankind and our relationship first with God, our Father, in the Old Testament and then with Jesus, God’s Divine Son, in the New Testament. When you pray for understanding,
Ask for the Holy Spirit, which you have already been given upon water baptism and salvation and he will open your mind to the Word of God. This is also a promise.
Bible Structure. So, let’s talk about how the Bible is structured. As mentioned, it is divided into two basic parts- the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament defines the time before Jesus was born and the New Testament defines the time slightly before, during and after the birth of Christ. However, they are not separate at all. The Old Testament foretold everything about God’s plan for mankind- from how God gave him free will to obey, to how God still loved man even after he chose disobedience, formulated a plan to remain connected to humanity through a Chosen People and then, ultimately how God planned to bring mankind back into full redemption to himself through a Messiah whom he would send in the future. The New Testament proves how all God’s prophecies came true in Jesus. However, the New Testament turned every notion on how people understood the Messiah would redeem people to God on end. It also revolutionized who we are as a human species- it elevated us to Children of God, eternal beings full of power, mutual inheritors of the kingdom of God. It made all men & women equal in the eyes of God. It shows that God intended that man should become a fully conscious species, knowing right & wrong, yet choosing right & God through the acceptance of his Son, Jesus Christ. And God would send his own divine Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the full price for all mankind’s sin because God can’t escape his own rules- the penalty for sin is death. This, then, would be how God reconciled man back to himself. The New Testament surprised and astounded all of mankind- it still does. No one could have thought up a savior such as Jesus. Only God could have created such a masterful plan for the creation of his children.
Within the Old Testament and New Testament are whole books, letters, court documents or collections of songs & poems which have been compiled into the larger testament. Each, with the exception of a few (like Psalms and Proverbs) can and should be read in their entirety before moving on to the next book or letter. You will need to buy a study Bible to know who wrote each book or letter and to whom they were intended. This will help you a great deal when you read them. It will put the information into historical context which I find to be extremely helpful. Both books contain prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled. These deal with the End Times. These describe (very similarly to each other) events that must occur before God decides to ‘wrap up the stars’ and the earth and begin a new phase of existence for all mankind. These events are described in great detail and yet, leave enough mystery to keep mankind guessing. I feel that God’s intention is to keep us always vigilant and watchful.
Narratives and Meta-Narratives: Before moving on to the reading plan, I want to mention another important aspect of the Bible that you will eventually notice. God has used the writers to create stories within stories and meanings within meanings and symbols within symbols. There are layers of meaning and they peel, like an onion. Or, you could say that there are narratives and metanarratives. I will give you one such example. In the Old Testament, God compared Israel to a Bride and himself as the Groom. He prophesied of a day when there would be a big wedding ceremony when the Bride and Groom would finally come together and everything would be so happy again. In the New Testament, it is the same. Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church (the new Israel, the New Chosen People) is the Bride. Jesus also spoke of the wedding feast when all who had been invited would come and celebrate together. This would all signify the end of the old earth and the beginning of human kind’s new existence. This is the metanarrative- the over arching story for man. But there is the lower level narrative that is of the utmost importance to God in the Bible. It is marriage. Jesus proclaimed:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ?So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”
The symbols of marriage tell the full story of the Church’s relationship with God and how we are ultimately going to be joined, as one, with him someday. There is a physical and spiritual ‘fit’. The bonding will be natural and complete. There will be a complete ‘oneness’ as a result of the consummation. It will have all the strength of marriage. That is exactly why gay marriage is so sinful- it completely twists and distorts the narrative for why God created the entire earth and how he plans on redeeming it back to himself! Two females and two men literally can’t ‘fit’ together! Only satan would would wish to keep the Church (all of those saved by Christ) from bonding with God- only he would wish for a physical (and thus, spiritual) impossibility. This kind of symbolic narrative, meta-narrative is throughout the Bible. As you mature in Christ, you will begin to see them.
Don’t Be Superstitious About the Bible!! Sound silly? But there are many, many well meaning people who treat the Bible, the actual book, as something holy. They believe, for example, that if you just let the bible fall open randomly, it will be able to fall open to just the right place and point you to the right verse that will apply to your current problem. That is nonsense- it’s a book that tells you about holy things- but the book, itself, is just a book. Or, some believe that the words are magic in some fashion, that the words themselves are holy. For example, they think that if they read a certain verse, the verse, alone, is holy and should be able to impart some ‘feeling’ of holiness upon them. Not so! It’s just the English language trying to tell you about something. Something BIG and wonderful. But in order to understand that big and wonderful thing, you have to read the whole description of it, right? The words, themselves, are nothing. Remember, the Bible can be written in Chinese and Swahili! English isn’t the language it was written in! So, forget the words being holy unto themselves. Again, the Bible is a book that has many words that describe holy things- you must read them like anything else to understand what the author of that letter or book wanted you to know. So… no superstition, ok?? lol. Each book or letter in the Bible must be read, in its entirety, to understand the author’s point. Just like any other book.
Buy “More Than A Carpenter” This is entirely optional. You can buy it here. This is the best book, hands down, for authenticating the Bible as one of the most important and accurate books of antiquity in existence. It goes through all the steps necessary to prove historicity of the Bible. It is short, to the point and fascinating. Every new and old Christian needs one in their home for answering the critics who would deny the Bible as historically accurate. If you throw out the bible, you must throw out every other ancient document as well. This should be read whenever you have time- it shouldn’t take the time out of your Bible study.
Buy a New International Version (NIV) Bible . Also, please invest the extra money to buy a study version. Don’t buy the Kindle Version! You can’t write notes as well, nor can you thumb through and find your notes as easily. Just trust me. Also, you should go ahead and buy a leather bound study bible. It costs a fraction more, but you will regret buying a cheap, paperback or even hardback bible. They will fall apart more easily and the hard back is uncomfortable when snuggling in a couch or bed. The leather bound bible will literally last a lifetime. The one I linked to is basic. You can, of course, order a nicer one with bigger letters, etc. But this one is sufficient for everyone. One of the worst things for a growing Christian is to change Bibles midstream. You lose all your incredible notes from the old one or have to transcribe them! ugh!
I know that there are NIV versions for women, for life application, etc, but don’t buy those because they have less usable information. A study version has cross references (that show how New Testament verses are actually someone quoting an Old Testament verse- or show how an Old Testament prophecy just came true in the New Testament), maps of the ancient world, historical information about the secular world that existed around the events in the Bible, cultural information to help understand some verses in the Bible, and even some interpretation notes for difficult to understand passages. They include copious notes at the bottom of each page explaining all the verses, tell you who wrote every book, when they wrote it, why they wrote it, to whom they wrote it, and give timelines to give you historic perspective for that book or letter. I have one of these Bibles myself and love it. This is the best investment, not cost, you will ever make. Ever.
A note about NIV : there are some who believe that any version other than the Kings James version is somehow ‘evil’- and for some reason, these people are most critical of the NIV Bible. There are many urban legends that surround the NIV. They are all baseless and even superstitious. Any google search for the ‘evil’ of this Bible can be debunked quickly and easily. The main problem some have is what they call ‘missing’ verses. These aren’t missing, they have been accurately placed where they belong based on the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I have read this Bible in its entirety- probably several times, in great depth, by now. It is a wonderful, accurate translation. I have also read a study on how the NIV was produced and I feel very confident that the scholarly procedures used were as professional, if not many times more so, than what King James performed on his version so long ago. The best part of the NIV is that it is a translation that was done from the original documents- unlike the vast majority of translations today, which are merely updated English translations done from the Kings James version. The NIV also takes into account the slight corrections that the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are more ancient than any other surviving Bible documents, indicate. King James didn’t have the Dead Sea Scrolls at his disposal because they were discovered hundreds of years after his reign. Thus, the NIV is a slightly more accurate depiction of the original biblical documents.
Keep a Colored, Sharpened Pencil or Pen Nearby. You will most definitely want to underline and mark the especially meaningful or interesting passages! Create ‘tags’, or subjects that begin to interest you and just write these next to certain passages in colored pencil. You might even get a different color per Subject Tag. For example, I have subject tags, ‘Holy Spirit’, ‘trinity’, ‘end times’, ‘Jesus Prediction’, etc. That way, when you want to find verses on those topics later, you can thumb through and find them faster. Feel free to fold the edges and USE your Bible. By the end of your life, I pray your Bible looks quite ragged.
The reading plan below is built so that you can build up your knowledge of Christianity in such a way that you can see how the New Testament is inexorably linked to the Old. It is formulated in a way that proves to you that Jesus was predicted thousands of years before his birth and thus, should increase your faith in your new Savior. It is also written to give you an understanding of both God’s personality and Christ’s and allows you to ponder Christ’s words, “When you see me, you see the Father.” Seeing the two personalities and yet, understanding that they are One leaves you to think and grow as a Christian. It helps you to understand how you should be as a person. Strong & righteous and yet, gentle as a lamb. It also gives you an accurate historical basis for understanding politics today. You will come to understand just why the Middle East is in turmoil when you read how Abraham chose between his two wives and his two boys. That is what drives everything in politics today- especially Islamic terrorism.
Here is my Suggesting Reading Plan:
- Start with the Book of Matthew in the New Testament. It is beautiful. (story of Christ’s birth, life, work, death, resurrection)
- Read Genesis (story of our creation, separation from God through sin, Noah, how the Israelites parted with today’s Arabs)
- Then read Luke (another eye witness account of Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection)
- Read Exodus (continuing saga of God’s relationship with man/Israel, Moses, God gives 10 commandments (first moral laws), creation of Judges.
- Read John (Another eye witness account of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection)
- Read 1 & 2 Kings (Continuing saga of God’s relationship with Israel/Man, Israel rejects rule of God in favor of rule of man, entire history of kings before God finally destroys Israel.
- Be introduced to Psalm & Proverbs. These are not books to be read. They are collections of songs and wise sayings, respectively. These can be read in any order. They are to be approached in a completely different manner than all other books. You don’t have to start at the very beginning and read to the end. With these, you can open to any page or peruse until you see one that looks good to you. Then, sit back, take a deeeeep breath and read. Then, go back and read it again. Think about each line and sentence and think about what David or Solomon were going through when they wrote those verses. If you bought the study Bible like I recommended, it will probably give you some insight into why it was written and under what circumstances- especially the Psalms. Think about how the promises in them relates to your own life. Every promise God gave to each of his people in the Bible are also given to every man, woman and child on earth. Memorize the verses that comfort you. They hold great power over your life. Recall those proverbs and psalms when you are in need. Believe me, they will sustain you better than food or drink. I want you to read one of these every day if you can. If you can’t, read them as much as possible. These don’t take up the reading time for the rest of the Bible Plan. They are extras, like healthy spiritual snacks!
- Read Isaiah, Jeremiah Ezekiel, Daniel (in that order)- these are the great prophets that foretold of the final destruction of Israel. You will have read about these men in Kings 2, so some of this will be parallel to that history. It’s just more in depth. These men also prophesy about Jesus’ birth and about the End Times, which I believe we are beginning to see. Certainly, the creation of Israel in 1947 is one of the greatest prophecies come true. When you read Ezekiel’s prophecy of how only a tiny amount of his beard hair is tucked into his robe after almost all the Israelites are killed, think about the Holocaust and the resulting creation of Israel by the League of Nations. Be astounded by the accuracy of prophecy.
- Read Acts- see how the Apostles began to spread the church throughout the rest of the world. You will be introduced to one of the most important men of Christianity: Apostle Paul, who is the one God revealed the perfect connection of Christ’s person and work to the Old Testament law and prophecies. His revelations could only come from God- such genius, depth and profundity could not come from any man or men. Apostle Paul will go on to write most of the New Testament.
- (are you still reading your psalms and proverbs??) smiles.
- Read Romans, Corinthians 1&2, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and the rest of the New Testament- but save Revelation for last.
- Go back to the Old Testament to read what you have missed.
- Read anything you missed in the New Testament.
- Last, read Revelation. By now, you are ready to see Revelation as a blessing, not a curse. It is a promise of delivery from what must come. Mankind is incapable of caring for himself. As Jesus said, the path to heaven is narrow and only a few find it. One must ask the question: where are the rest going? Answer: they are all in love with evil. That means that they are destroying governments and this earth- and each other. There is only way mankind can end: self destruction. Revelation is God’s promise to save us out of that. It is both a punishment for the wicked- which, as you grow older, you know they deserve for the evil they do- and it is the greatest promise of hope, love and redemption for the human race.Congrats! You have read the whole Bible.
Each time you read, thank God for the Bible, for Jesus and for your life. Thank God for everything you can even think of- search your mind for all the good things and people in your life. Then, ask God to bless and heal as many people as you know- begin to keep a list of people who need prayer. Then, and only then, ask for what you need of God and beg him to use the words you just read to open your mind to his will in your life and to make you a better person. Then, open your eyes and feel wonderful!
I pray right now that God opens your mind to understanding. I am praying as I write that he sends the Holy Spirit to place his hand upon your head so that when you read, you will understand and thirst for more. Amen. You will never be the same again!
p.s. When you are on Facebook or other social media and want to share the Bible with your friends, use this wonderful online Bible, Bible Gateway , to copy and paste those verses. In fact, this site can even read the Bible to you in a pleasant male voice. Check it out!
** a note for the cynical: no, I don’t earn a commission for the sale of any of these books. God bless you for such thoughts!