Bible Reading Tips for Newbies

For long-term Bible readers, that thick, floppy-covered book is a familiar, comforting friend. They get along with the Bible like a favorite, well-worn pair o’ jeans.

But for your average Joe, let’s face it: the Bible is an unfamiliar mystery – whether he thinks of himself as a Christian or not. Average Joe has “Bible” mentally filed with “thee,” “thou”, “begat,” and that grainy, poorly-produced TV preacher show on channel 109. For average Joe, the Bible might as well be written in Greek (which is how part of it started out, btw).

If this describes you, I’d like to offer you a few tips on how to look the Bible in the eye and say, “You’re mine. I won’t pretend that everything in the Bible is easy to understand. But, if you’re willing to give it a shot this year, dust it off and crack it open for a looksie, here’s a few quick tips that’ll help remove much of the mystery for you.

1. Don’t have a Bible?

No sweat! Read it online or on your mobile phone. You can read any part of the Bible online at Or, you can download the hugely popular, YouVersion app for your mobile or tablet.

2. Confused by translations?

Don’t know your KVJ from ESV from TLB? Not to worry. Translations of the Bible (and their abbreviations) abound, but they’re just that: translations of the original. They contain the same Bible content in slightly different wording, and most modern translations are super-easy to read. For newbies, I’d suggest trying the New International Version (NIV) whether online or in print. It’s written in everyday, common English.

3. Not sure where to start?

Hey, the Bible is one, big book. It contains 66 individual books grouped into two major sections: The Old Testament, and the New Testament. It’s all good, but if you’re looking for a part that’s easy to understand and relate to your life, I’d suggest starting with the first book of the New Testament: The Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew, for short). It tells the story of Jesus’ life from Matthew’s perspective (he’s the tax collector you’ll meet in chapter 9).

4. What’s with all those numbers?

Speaking of chapters, several hundred years ago, the Bible was conveniently divided into chapters and verses. This can help you remember where you left off, and even memorize a line or two. The format is cc:vv – where cc is the chapter number and vv is the verse number. The image below is a screenshot of YouVersion on my iPhone of Matthew 1:1 (chapter one, verse one). Yes – newbies can skim through the genealogy ;-)

YouVersion Screenshot of Matthew 1:1 (NIV)

YouVersion Screenshot of Matthew 1:1 (NIV)

5. Will it hurt?

So, does the thought of actually reading the Bible still seem painfully awkward to you? Trust me, it’s more like reading a novel than getting a shot. Just start at the title and read as long as you have time for, stopping at the end of a chapter, or at least the end of a paragraph. Conveniently enough, the NIV is organized into paragraphs as well as chapters so you have lots of places to stop and insert a bookmark. Think of Matthew as a very short novel. Stop when you need to at the end of a chapter or paragraph. Just make sure you get through all of Matthew before moving on to a different book. You want to hear the whole story, don’t you?

6. So, what’s the story about?

That reader, is the most important question, because the answer is both simple enough for Sunday School, and profound beyond our wildest hopes and dreams.

The simple answer is: It’s about Jesus.

Matthew is about Jesus. The rest of the New Testament is about Jesus. In fact, the whole Bible is about Jesus. But like a diamond, that simple answer has many, many facets to it. Let me offer a few facets of the story that a careful reader will see in Matthew:

  • Fulfillment: Jesus is the Messiah, or Anointed One, whom the Old Testament promised would come to bring about God’s Kingdom.
  • The Gospel: Jesus came announcing a message, the good news that God was offering His favor (e.g. forgiveness, friendship, grace, pardon) to mankind.
  • The Kingdom of God: Jesus is the King of Kings who will judge the whole world.
  • Redemption: Jesus is the Redeemer, who came to rescue guilty people from the just penalty due for their sins.
  • Substitution: Jesus offered His perfect life to God on the cross to ransom the guilty.

Granted, there is a lot more to reading, studying, understanding and applying the Bible to your life. But I believe these tips will get you started. And my prayer is that a good taste of the Bible will make you hungry for more of the book God inspired for your eternal well-being.

As a new Bible-reader, the first verse I learned at age 16 was Matthew 6:33, what’s yours?

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How to Choose Goals Wisely

Have you ever had trouble sticking with your goals?

Yeah, me too, but I came across an idea that might help you…

In The Missing Ingredient in Most Goals, Thomas Nelson Publisher, Michael Hyatt, advises that achieving your long-term goals may require more than just a clearly stated SMART goal. It may even require more than the detailed plans you made for achieving it.

English: Michael S. Hyatt, Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Michael Hyatt

You may need to remind yourself of your motives. Why was that goal was so important to you in the first place? Mr. Hyatt calls them internal motivations and advises that you write them down when you establish a new goal and review them when your passion to achieve wanes. In other words, when you know what you want to do, write down how you will do it, when you’ll do it, and don’t forget to define why you will do it.

Good, useful advice, I say.

Follow Up

So, this made me wonder if Mr. Hyatt had any plans for a follow up post on how to choose one’s goals wisely and pursue them with wise motives.

I commented to that effect on his blog, and his moderator, Justin Wise, replied to me as follows:

“Thanks for getting S.M.A.R.T. with Michael! I’m sure a post like the one you’re suggesting is in the works. Better yet, what if you wrote one yourself and posted a link to it in the comments for us all to enjoy? Thanks Lon!”

Okay, thanks for the invite Justin!

Here’s my average contribution to the conversation. (I’m sure Michael Hyatt’s will be above average if/when he posts a follow up.)


At the very least, I think choosing goals wisely requires you to be honest about the fact that every choice has consequences. And some of them may be unintended. So, don’t try to fool yourself into thinking a goal is an island in your life. It’s not. It’s part of the web that is you, your job, hobbies, family, spiritual life, circle of influence and beyond. The bigger the goal; the bigger the impact to all areas of your life.


Choices mean limitations.

You are a pie. You can slice up your life differently – more of this, less of that –  but you can’t add more pieces. Or, as Elisabeth Elliot has written somewhere, “Choices mean limitations.” In other words, every commitment you make to focus on something implies that you are willing to not focus, or even neglect, something else. Goals take time, effort and focus to achieve. So go ahead and mentally subtract that time, effort and focus from everything else in your life. Then, evaluate. You can’t do it all, have it all, be it all. (Welcome to my average life.) So choose your goals with the limitation principle in mind.


Goals and their motives impact relationships. Yes, your wife may appreciate your bigger biceps and thinner waist. But, that won’t count for much if you’re so focused on sticking to your workout routine that you neglect what’s important to her: like, her goals, for instance. Goals aren’t just about you. They’re about you in relationship to others. Be careful not to sacrifice a someone to chase a something.


Two significant and simultaneous goals are doable. Three is tough. Four is too many. Five is way too many. No one can focus on that many big heavy plates in the air without help. Something will crash. But, “I have so much to work on!” Don’t we all? – then, try staggering your goals. Believe it or not, some things can wait.

Or, if you must have multiple, simultaneous goals, prioritize them. Choose which are big plates (primary) and little plates (secondary). Primary goals should get more of your time and focus–and fewer excuses. Or, try assigning goals to different arenas of your life. I try to have one goal  (big plate or little plate) per year for each arena of life that matters to me: my spiritual growth, relationship with my wife and kids, professional life, intellectual growth, fitness, hobbies, and finances.


Remember this: Every goal has a spiritual and moral dimension. Why? – because it comes from a motive. If there is a God (I believe there is) Who has a plan for our lives (the most significant parts of which He reveals in the Bible), then our goals and especially our motives must be seen in light of His larger plan for us. What we plan to achieve and why we want to achieve it is inevitably connected, in a big or small way, to the fact that we live our lives before Him. And thus, our goals and our motives have long-term spiritual significance.


I think this raises two important questions.

First, “How can I understand God’s plan for my life?” And second, “How can I choose wise goals with wise motives that reflect God’s plan for me?”


The quick answer to the first question is this: Study the Bible – carefully, regularly, humbly with help from wise teachers. Over time, we will gain wisdom.

The answer to the second is: Pray – regularly, humbly, trusting that God is eager to instruct those who readily confess their foolishness. Over time, we will see wise motives driving our goals more and more.


But ultimately, Jesus is the wisdom God offers to us and for us. In Him, we see a wise man whose goals and motives perfectly aligned with God’s plan. By comparison, we see in ourselves wrong motives, foolish choices, and self-focused goals. But again, in Jesus, we see that perfectly wise life lived, and offered up on the cross, to God and for us. By this sacrifice, God promises that in Christ Jesus our frequent foolishness is forgiven, and a new heart (motives) is created which desires (chooses) goals that reflect His plan for us.

So, ultimately how can we choose wise goals wisely?

Through. Christ. Alone.

What are your thoughts about how to choose goals wisely?

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Is Christianity a Superstition?

wooden cross

Did God put Jesus’ Face on this Cross?

I recently saw a news report about a roughly carved wooden cross given as a gift, the bark of which has markings that could resemble a face – maybe even, the face of Jesus. Is it the face of Jesus? Is it a miracle? Or does it just remind us of a face with a beard? It’s one thing to say, “Oh cool, it kind of looks like Jesus.” It’s another to say, “It’s a sign from God.” One is compatible with Christian faith; the other…

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