December 27, 2012

How to Pick and Read a Bible

Hi friends, yesterday we focused on God’s faithfulness to us through His Word. Today, I want to share something special with you. My amazing fiance’, Joshua, is passionate about Jesus, and His Word, the Bible. Josh put together these tidbits for finding a Bible that suits you, and helpful tips for reading it.

We pray this blesses you. And if you have any questions, please leave a comment. I’d love to encourage you in reading the Bible and getting to know God better.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Bible Tidbits

First, if you aren’t already, I’d recommend getting plugged in to a good, bible-based, Jesus-centered church, which encourages everyone to read & study the bible.  Don’t get caught up in denominations and all those Christian people that don’t act much like Jesus.  Find a church that will welcome you in, even if you aren’t yet sure how you feel about religion or God.  I know of a few good ones and am more than willing to give you a recommendation if that would help.

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”  ― Saint Augustine of Hippo

“Don’t let Christians get in the way of you getting to know The Christ.” – Me

Hints & Tips for getting a Bible you’ll actually read:

Buying a bible has become more complicated than buying a car.  Here are a few things that I’ve found to be very helpful in my journey.

For your initial purposes in reading the New Testament and getting to know Jesus, which any Christian should probably recommend first, don’t worry about the differences between Catholic and Protestant bibles.  The New Testaments in both are the same.

Though they can be a little bit more expensive, I recommend a good “study bible” versus just a “reference bible”.  A reference bible will only contain the biblical texts, while study bibles include extra information that helps the reader better understand the biblical texts.

My favorites, and some of the most highly recommended study bibles for new readers, are the Life Application NIV Study Bible or Life Application NLT Study Bible (just copy and paste one of these into and you shouldn’t have a problem finding one).  Second to these I would recommend the ESV Study Bible, which is fabulous even though it’s a more literal translation and can sometimes be harder to comprehend.

If you really don’t like reading at all, then I recommend getting a copy of Eugene Peterson’s The Message.  This translation is easy to understand the overall concepts of the texts and teachings.  (Note:  Audio-Book versions of the biblical texts are also available in MP3 format if that’s something that might work best for you.)

If, after hearing all this, you still have questions or are unsure what to get, please reach out to us.

Now that you have a bible, here’s how you should go about reading it:

Please DO NOT open it and try to read it from cover to cover.  Though it is printed this way, it is not meant to be read this way.

First, look at the index and find the New Testament.  Specifically, look for the Gospel of John and start by reading John.

After John, go to the book of Matthew and read the chapters 5, 6 and 7.  This block of text is known as “The Sermon on the Mount” and is one of Jesus’ more famous teachings.  You can read the rest of Matthew at a later time.

Next, to get the most thorough historical account of Jesus and the early church, I recommend reading the book of Luke and the book of Acts(Note:  Acts was written by Luke and is basically Luke: Part 2.)

By now you should have a pretty good understanding of who Jesus is and what the early followers of Jesus did to start “The Church”.  Now I’d recommend reading the book of Romans and the book of James.  These should help you put into perspective what becoming a follower of Jesus entails.

After all this, I would recommend continuing your reading journey and studies in one of two different ways:

1.       Finish reading the rest of the New Testament.  I would go back to read the rest of Matthew and Mark.  Then go through all of the letters or “epistles” that are located between the book of Acts and the book of Revelation.  Most are written by the Apostle Paul, whom you will meet and get to know in the book of Acts.  This will then only leave the book of Revelation, which I recommend reading last.

2.       Go back to Genesis & Exodus, maybe include Deuteronomy, to better understand our origins and all of the cool stories about Abraham and Moses and the early people of Isreal, to then come back to the New Testament as mentioned in #1.  Note:  If you do this, please do not attempt to read Leviticus and/or Numbers at this point.  Trust me here.  You’ll get a short way in to it, set your bible down one day and then realize a bunch of time has passed and it’s covered in dust because it was way too boring and/or difficult to understand.

One last plug would be for the book of Proverbs.  This book is one of my personal favorites.  It was written by Solomon, who is known for being the wisest man in all of human history (aside from Jesus).  It is a collection of wise sayings that people can use to live a better, more Godly and happy life.

After all of this, if you are not yet part of a church where you can take a bible study class or join a small group bible study, then please contact me and we can go through some more options.

Other books that will help explain Jesus, the Gospel or other assorted aspects of true Christian life.

·         A Search for the Spiritual by James Emery White

·         Basic Christianity by John Stott

·         Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

·         Christianity’s Family Tree by Adam Hamilton

·         Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

·         The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller

·         The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns

·         Radical & Radical Together by David Platt

·         Crazy Love by Francis Chan

·         The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

·         Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

·         Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll

·         Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

·         The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

If reading isn’t your thing, or you want to expand on your reading… 

Check out the following websites that have free sermons, videos, webcasts and other materials that you can use to continue on your journey.  These are all sources that I personally use and have come to highly respect.

Bible Gateway –

Online Parallel Bible –

Mecklenburg Community Church’s Internet Campus (my church) –

Mars Hill church based in Seattle, pastured by Mark Driscoll.

Mars Hill’s YouTube channel –

John Piper’s Desiring God –

John Piper’s Desiring God YouTube channel –

David Platt’s teachings at The Church at Brooks Hill –

Dave Ramsey’s radio show –

Also, because serving the Lord, by serving others, is our passion, here is a list of Respectable Charities to Get Involved With:

Compassion International –

World Vision –

Habitat for Humanity – or

A Child’s Place –

Crisis Assistance Ministry –

Second Harvest Food Bank –

Charlotte Rescue Mission –

Charlotte Shelter for Battered Women –

If you aren’t in Charlotte or don’t have a local branch of one of these organizations, please find reputable places like this in your area and get involved:

Local nursing home (low-income or those that don’t have families that visit)

Local homeless shelters, battered woman’s shelters,  soup kitchens, food banks, meals for the poor and/or elderly

Local orphanage / children’s home

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  1. Jackie Smith says:

    I am interested in purchasing CD’s of the Bible….preferably ESV version but will settle for NASB. I have searched Amazon…theirs have to be put on CD after MP3 (I don’t understand it enough to say it…lol). I want a set ready to listen to a/o. I found the NASB at and may have to settle for that version.

    I don’t want the NIV.

    Can you help me find this????

    I am presently suffering from sciatica and having to lie down lots and think I would enjoy the CD’s.
    Thanks….I enjoyed this post!


      Hi Jackie, thanks for such a great question! Above is a link to listen to an audio ESV Bible. It appears to have options for an Audio CD, or you can get an MP3 CD or MP3 download. The Audio CD is the one that will work in almost any CD player, including cars and computers.

      It also appears to have options to get the whole bible or just parts of it, so you can choose the option that is best for you and your price range.

      Hope this helps. Praying for you as you learn more and grow closer to Jesus.

      Samantha and Joshua

  2. Not sure where you have been but I am so glad you are back. I love to visit your blog and even though I don’t know you God has put you on my heart since September. Hope all is well and I look forward to stopping by regularly.

    • Thank you Vicky! You are oh so kind. Hopefully I’ll be back regularly too. Appreciate your thoughtfulness. God bless.

  3. Rokhshie Malone says:

    Hi Samantha,
    I have a Life Application NIV Study Bible from which I do all my reading and studying. Decided to follow your Joshua’s tips and hints and started reading it this year again.
    Question: when do I read Leviticus and Numbers? What about the Psalms? Just finished a Psalm study with Wendy Pope – Psalm 1 thru’ 52. We did one a week, which was really good because it allowed us to discuss it, read it again and study it. In Spring we will continue with the Psalm study beginning with Psalm 53.
    So, can you ask Joshua about reading Leviticus, Numbers and Psalms.
    Thank you. I really enjoy your posts.

    • Hi Rokshie, so glad you commented. And to hear that you’re reading through and studying the Psalms with Wendy Pope. That’s great!

      You’ve asked a great question; one that I will need to get back to you on. I’ll be in touch soon with an answer. Thanks and have a super day.

      • Hi Rokshie,

        I’d suggest reading these after you have a good knowledge of Genesis and Exodus, well after you’ve gone through the Gospels and have really gotten to know Jesus, and when you’re trying to better understand the Jewish traditions and what became the Old Testament Law. This is the same Jewish Law that was upheld during the time of Jesus, until Jesus’ death and the Resurrection, and it will help make sense of some of Jesus’ teachings to the religious leaders of his day (recorded in the gospels). Of course, if you enjoy reading contracts or legal documents, then Leviticus may come easier to you, as its purpose is “A handbook for the priests and Levites outlining their duties in worship, and a guidebook of holy living for the Hebrews” (a.k.a. the Jews or the people of Israel) as noted in my study bible.

        Numbers is quite a bit easier to read than Leviticus, because it’s actually a historical narrative much like Exodus. The book of Numbers tells “the story of how Israel prepared to enter the promised land, how they sinned and were punished, and how they prepared to try again” as noted in my study bible. If you’ve ever heard of the 40 years when God sent the people of Israel wandering around in the desert, eating manna, because of their constant disobedience, this is all recorded in Numbers.

        Though it wasn’t included in the question, I can let you know that Deuteronomy, on a high level, is basically a recap/reminder of the information revealed in the prior books, which ends with the Death of Moses and leads the way to the book of Joshua where the people of Israel are finally allowed to enter the land that God promised them when he raised them out of slavery from Egypt.

        So, if you’re reading the Old Testament for the first time, just trying to get an overview of what it says, I would go through Genesis & Exodus, fast forward to Numbers, and then fast forward again to Joshua. And then at a future date you can go back to better understand Leviticus and Levitical Law and review Deuteronomy. (Note: when it comes to the Kingdom Books, i.e. Judges – Esther, you will want to use a similar approach of “fast forwarding”, but that’s probably better discussed in more detail at another time.)

        I apologize for such a long answer, but that is what came recommended to me and what I felt worked best in my journey.

        As for the second part of the question, when to read the Psalms… I must be honest and say that even in my journey I have not yet finished reading and studying all of the Psalms. As I began this process I felt a certain way towards the Psalms, due to a few assorted reasons (mostly ignorant reasons on my part, but still reasons all the same)…
        1, it’s the longest book of the bible and for that reason alone it always scared me.
        2, It’s almost 100% poetry and song lyrics, and I am not poetic or “artsy” in any way.
        3, and please please please don’t take this the wrong way, but I thought it was just for the girls.

        Now, I’ve come to learn a lot about the Psalms that has changed those 3 opinions and has given me a new found respect for them, but for years I truly held those opinions. I really like the weekly study approach you talked about. I’ve also found that various study bibles will contain references throughout the texts that link the reader to similar context in other books of the bible, and I’ve really enjoyed reading the Psalms in that way. For example, my study bible has a reference in Luke 12:20 that points me to Ps 39:6 and Ps 49:10. So, as I’m reading the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke, I then go and read Psalms 39 and 49. This has helped me get to know the content of the Psalms, particularly in relation to Jesus and/or the gospels, which I find really cool.

        Maybe Samantha can give you better advice on the Psalms, because that’s one area I totally admit I am lacking in. Nonetheless, stay strong in your studies. I’ll be praying for you.

        All In Christ,

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