Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Read the Bible ~ Part 1

When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear Your name, O LORD God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:16 


Frequently I hear, "I want to read the Bible, but I'm not sure how or where to start." Whether you are part of a Bible Study group or using a devotional guide or simply reading these sacred writings, remember these ancient and fresh, living words reveal God's truth and plan for humanity, as well as, are a source of abundant life, strength, encouragement and joy. When reading a Scripture passage consider these components: Observation, Interpretation, Application. (Kay Arthur's "How To Study Your Bible" gives great information.) Ask yourself these questions: Who's present? What's happening? What does this passage mean? How does this apply to my life? These components create an "inductive approach" to studying and understanding, to examining God's word in detail, to discovering meaning in the words. This personal message from God to us allows us to be transformed through the Living Word. (next week I'll break down these components more.) A.W. Tozer's writes, "The word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality." Remember, reading the Bible is a process requiring spiritual discipline for the purpose of developing a more intimate relationship with God. God's word still speaks through the Scriptures. Are you listening?

While there is no one-way to read the Bible, let me offer you some solid choices. The Student Bible, with study notes from Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford, outlines 3 different Reading Plans. Track 1 is a two-week at a time commitment. There are 10 sections, each designed to be read in two week periods, and to give an overview and introduction to both the Old and New Testaments. Track 2, using a 6-month guideline, allows the reader to read at least one chapter from every book in the Bible. Track 3 embraces reading the entire Bible over a 3 year period. There are also guides available that would lead the reader to complete reading the Bible in one year. Remember, whatever path you choose, the purpose of reading the Bible is not about completing a task; rather, the goal is for spiritual development.

Another approach allows for the study of "themes" in the Bible, reading passages throughout the Scriptures such as grace, the nature of God, love, moral commandments, and many, many others. Another way to read would be to read sections or categories such as The Gospels or The Epistles (letters) in the NT; and in the OT, The Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible), the History books (17 of these), Books of Poetry (5 of these), the Prophets (17 of these). No matter the course or track you choose, spending time in God's word is essential for spiritual maturity, but more than this, the word of God is to become part of us, part of our breathing and living and serving, part of each individual's response to God. Let your heart echo Jeremiah, "When Your words came, I ate them...". ~dho