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Two simple steps for changing the way you read the Bible

how to change the way you read the Bible

I'm just going to come right out and say it: applying the Bible to our lives is overrated. When we apply it to Jesus instead, we unlock unexpected insights that prove to be more valuable than practical application. But learning to read the Bible in this new way can take a little practice, plus a few good tools. Here's what helped me make the transition:

Two simple steps for how to read the Bible with a Jesus-centered approach

First, get a Jesus-Centered Bible.

I mentioned that a few good tools help to shift our focus off ourselves and onto Jesus while reading the Bible. The Jesus-Centered Bible is one of those tools because of its unique features that make focusing on Jesus easier.

But first, if you're thinking, "isn't my Bible already Jesus-centered?" the answer is yes—of course it is. There are references and insights about him all the way from Genesis to Revelation, and you can start digging deeper into them right now.

But if you have trouble spotting his story in the Old Testament (which most of us do), or if the epistles of the New Testament seem like they're as much about the apostles and the early Christians as they are about Jesus, then the Jesus-Centered Bible can help in a way that other Bibles don't. Because it was created exclusively to frame all the books of the Bible with Jesus as the central character, he's easier to spot. Blue letters, for instance, reveal him in the Old Testament, and red letters highlight his name in the entire New Testament (a really simple feature that's surprisingly eye-opening). And throughout all the pages you'll find commentary and questions directly about Jesus. Even the year-long Bible reading plan features chapters that uniquely focus on Jesus.

Sure you can find him in other Bibles, but the Jesus-Centered Bible makes it really hard to miss him. And that's what we want.

>> Related: the surprising thing that happened when I recently quit applying the Bible to my life

Second, get a journal.

Whether you normally journal or not, you're going to want to jot down new insights about Jesus as you read. You can use the journaling method that works best for you, or start with some ideas based on what's worked for me lately. Regarding the latter, here's what I do when I'm reading a Bible chapter.

>> I read through the text once just to get the overview.

>> Then I reread it with a question in mind. My favorite questions to ask while reading come from Rick Lawrence's suggestions in The Jesus-Centered Life. They include:

  • What's one thing for sure I know about Jesus based on what I just read?
  • What did Jesus do/see/say here? What didn't he do/see/say?

>> Then I write my observations. Personally I've found it helpful to write them like I'm having a conversation with Jesus. For instance, from Colossians chapter three I might write:

  • (v1) You raise us to new life with you.
  • (v1) You sit in heaven in a place of honor at God's right hand.
  • (v3) You've hidden our lives with you in God. You're a protector, a guardian.
  • (v4) You're all that matters. Anything that isn't about you doesn't matter.
  • (v11) You forgive us. You're forgiving in nature. You don't hold a grudge.
  • (v15) You offer peace to rule our hearts. You don't offer strife or anxiety. You are the source of peace.
  • (v16) Your message is rich and fills our lives. Your message isn't shallow. It isn't deficient. It's better than the messages from the world/culture.
  • (v17) You appointed us as representatives. You're trusting. You've entrusted your message to us. You believe in us.

Do you notice how focusing on Jesus in this way shifts the entire perspective? After years of writing more "me's" than "you's" in my prayers and journals, this simple tweak has been powerful. In a culture that constantly preaches self-fulfillment, it's refreshing to realize how liberating it is to not put ourselves at the center. Call it a paradox or heavenly wisdom, but Jesus wasn't lying when he said that when we die to ourselves, we'll actually find ourselves. Or, rather, we'll find him, and our lives tucked in with his.

This Jesus-centered approach to reading the Bible sounds simple enough to start, right? Get your Bible and journal today and spend the next 30 days practicing these two steps. Then tell me what happens by commenting below.

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Showing 22 comments
  • Carri

    Love this insight! We need to stop be self centered and be Jesus centered! Thank you for sharing. Do you know if the JCB will be offered in another version other than the NLT? If so do you know when? I really want one but would prefer a different translation. Thanks so much!!!

    • bhodges

      Hi Carri, We do not have plans to do a different translation at this time. The main reason is that translations are proprietary so you have to get permission to use them and then pay royalties to the translation publisher, this makes it very costly to do a Bible in multiple translations. We did apply for other translations during this process.

      We chose the NLT because it is the most understandable and accessible translation and we wanted people who wouldn’t normally feel comfortable picking up and reading a bible to be able to get in there and discover Jesus. We are amazed at how true that became, if you hop on over to Amazon and read the reviews you will see how many people who have never read the bible can’t put this one down! We love that you enjoy other translations and celebrate the fact that God’s word comes alive for you in those translations- YAY JESUS! We’re all in this together and so thankful to be in this with you.


  • Barbara Brown

    I want to ask for prayers for myself,, I have an past that still hurts me today. My late father has said and done things unspeakable through my childhood and adulthood, and 2 years ago this past July, my dad committed suscide and my family has blamed me for what has happened. My past has always held me prisoner and it affects me and I can’t let go of the past. I have received my bible and journal and I’m ashamed to admit that I have not been reading and when I try to my mind seems like I can’t even stay focused on the word of God and know that the devil has some control in this and I feel trapped within myself. I’m sorry to have took up so much your time and I will try to keep reaching up to God and out to you and your ministry. I’m so greatful for you all and I pray to get through this problem. I love you all so much. God Bless you All

    • Stephanie Hillberry

      Thanks for sharing your heart, Barbara, and your prayer request. We’ll pray for you. Keep us updated.–the Lifetree team

      • N Cooper

        Hey Barbara, please look up Bill Johnson on you tube. The War In Your Head is a good start and The Resting Place is another video. Blessings and peace to you. You have a stronghold that needs to broken. No need to carry that curse through another generation. I will pray for you. The Passion Translation is easier to grasp sometimes. Just read a short passage and reread several times if you need to. See the cross reference verses. Focus on praying for other people. Again. I will pray. NCooper.

      • Theresa DeMott

        Barbara, try Celebrate Recovery, it worked for me. God’s blessing’s for your healing

    • Gloria Lewis

      Barbara….i am praying right now in agreement with you that your chains will be broken. You are a mighty child of the Most High God. For if he is for you, who can be against you? The sins of others cannot be taken on ourselves. Only Jesus can bear those sins. It is not your weight to carry. Stand tall daighter of God and stand on the rock of truth and in Jesus’ Holy Name you will be freed.
      Much love,

    • Andra Lance

      Barbara, you are in my prayers as well. Make sure you get into some good Christian fellowship… perhaps a prayer group or bible study. Ask God to give you a verse to stand on, to declare to the enemy when he sends bad thoughts and condemnation your way. When you turned to Jesus, you were born anew… ALL things became new. The past was washed away. You are a new creation and as such, ask God to help you to completely forgive your late father for everything he ever did to hurt you. That does NOT mean that what he did was ok, it just means that as Jesus forgave you, you with God’s help will forgive your dad. While you’re at it forgive your family for blaming you. You must take a stance that you are part of the Kingdom of God, part of the body of Christ, and ask God for His forgiveness to flow through you to all people who have hurt you in the past. This will set you free. And keep standing in this on-purpose forgiveness until it becomes who you really are. Again, you are in my prayers.

  • Susan

    Do you have plans to produce an online Jesus Centered Bible?

    • Stephanie Hillberry

      Hi Susan–we are currently exploring plans for an online version. We’ll keep you updated!

  • Laura

    Thank you for this insight, I’m gonna do this… I’ll let you know where I am in 30days

  • Karen Newham

    Hi Stephanie, in a post above you comment that people who are reading the JCB can’t put it down. I ordered and paid for one that is to be released in Sept. Is this a different one? Very anxious to get the new one as I have two earlier NLT translations but have wanted the newer revised one. I have about 5 other translations but when I just want to sit and read I love the NLT.

    • Stephanie Hillberry

      Hi Karen–the one you ordered for September is exactly the one I’m talking about. I’m excited for you to get it and let me know how you like it!

  • David Dollins

    Excellent thoughts on this subject!

  • jackie mutz

    Hi Stephanie,I am commenting on Barbara’s comment about not being able to concentrate for long.I also have the same problem.My mind is constantly wandering.After reading a few sentances my mind wanders to other things.I do believe this is the evil one who does this.I always seem to go back to my past and am unable to forgive myself.I know Jesus forgives me ,but cannot understand why i cannot forgive myself.My childhood was typical ,but my teen years are when i started acting out for so many years .even to this day i know some things i do are not pleasing to Jesus.I plan on ordering the Jesus centered bible with the Jesus centered life. I am praying for this to help me .I also ask for your prayers to help me as i want more than anything to live a Jesus filled life.God Bless You All.I am looking so forward to receiving the books and truly becoming a child of God.thanks for being here for everyone.jackie

  • Mary Peterson

    I would also be interested in Jesus Centered Bible online when it comes available.


  • Shane

    I can’t wait to see the Online Jesus Centred Bible. Thankyou Heavenly Father for sending Rick Lawrence, Becky Hodges (the Beckonator) and the rest of the JCB Team for introducing me to Jesus in a different way that brings glory to You everyday.

  • Elizabeth Norling

    Do you leave anything out of the New Testament as we now it today?

    • Kami Gilmour


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