What should I read from the Bible today?

Growing up, I thought the Bible was a real nap. I had no idea what the living and breathing Word of God contained. The only good book I had ever seen was my great-grandmother's original King James Bible, the 1611 version, and it made me sleep. I didn't know why Jesus was so important, but I had an inner longing to know God, so I took that cracked blue leather Bible with crumpled pages and read page one of Genesis.

My favorite passage from the entire Bible, chapter 8, contains a lot of uplifting truth in 39 verses. At least once a year, it takes me four or five days to read and absorb it. If you want a simple manual on prayer, go to the Psalms. They teach us how to relate to God in all circumstances.

They express lament, praise, joy and despair. We can find psalms that satisfy our need to grieve, confess sin, ask God to guide us, or express joy and thanks. During a low point in my life, I memorized the first verses of this book to remind me of the many reasons why I had to be grateful. Paul's letter to the Ephesians begins with an inspiring description of the blessings and grace that are ours in Christ, and I always return to it when I need comfort.

If you need wisdom or just a general “How to Make Life” manual, read Proverbs. Solomon's book of short and concise statements gives us a timeless truth for an effective life. That's why many of our grandparents grew up listening to Proverbs read at the breakfast table. In it we find great advice for everything from relationships, marriage and family to work and money.

Proverbs teach us about self-control, wise speech, planning, justice, leadership, success and love. If you have mainly read a translation for many years, look for a new one. After reading the New International Version (NIV) for years, I added the Standard Christian Bible (CSB). A friend recommended that I get my hands on a revised English Bible (REB), an English translation published by the Oxford and Cambridge publishers, so I also use it now.

I have long resorted to the paraphrase of The Message of Eugene Peterson when I am confused by what a passage says. Family verses grow in meaning as one or two words translated differently give me pause. Parallel Bibles, where you see two to four translations side by side, are also great for reading the Bible in this new way. If you ever feel confused about a particular part of the Bible, pray to the Lord for understanding and discernment.

As you read, watch which phrases in the psalm stand out to you, giving you a stronger sense of the author's emotion. Listening to David Suchet on YouTube, reading Johnny Cash from the New Testament on Audible or Streetlights on Spotify is a fun way to mix it up. Because of the content and structure of the Psalms, this is often the book I fall into when I don't know what to read. I have a habit of wanting to choose the right thing, and lately that concern about what I should read has come because of a heavy and anxious heart.

Divided into four volumes and by many of the genres mentioned above, this Bible is free of chapter and verse numbers, providing a perfect reading experience. However, once you begin to hear God more clearly, increase your spiritual strength, and find the kind of encouragement that only God's Word can provide, you don't want to leave your Bible. I spent a summer afternoon reading Mark all at once and I could see more clearly his sense of urgency for the spread of the gospel. When done with a partner or group, this approach to reading the Bible can be very enlightening and meaningful.

The original text didn't have the breaks, so it gives a person an idea of how early Christians would have read the Scriptures. You can download the 150 Days of Psalms reading plan, as well as other plans and studies from my resource library. There are some ways to classify Bible genres, but they usually fall into these categories. On days when I don't know what to read, I've been putting out a reading guide with the psalms and I'm marking them as I go.

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