Tuesday, September 17, 2013

3 Ways How NOT To Read The Bible

The Bible is incredibly valuable. I can't imagine anyone arguing that point. It would be lunacy. The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written over hundreds of years, by many different men who had God-given ability (literally) to accurately record for posterity what I call the sacred writings. The Bible contains history, law, poetry, prophecy, and revelation from God - revelation of who He is and who we are, and what He's done and continues to do. In addition, it gives us the principles of how we should live, and how to be in a right relationship with God through Christ. 

For those deciding to pick up the Bible for the first time, it can be intimidating. "Where do I start?" "Will I be able to understand it?" "How does it apply to me?"

Perhaps the best way to know how to read the Bible is to first know how NOT to read it. 

1. Do NOT Read The Bible With Skepticism
If you are going to read the Bible, read it with the right attitude - humility. Read it with the intention of trying to learn and understand it. If you don't have a teachable spirit - forget it. If you read the scriptures with skepticism, how will you ever get anything out of it? On the other hand, when you read the Bible with the right attitude, you will gain more faith and understanding every time. So read it with curiosity, with awe and wonder, and as one seeking truth.

2. Do NOT Speed-Read The Bible
Once, I took a speed reading course. It was fantastic in developing the practice of scanning text while maintaining good comprehension. Speed reading works well for things like newspapers or general documents. However, the practice of speed reading should never be used on legal papers, technical documents, and especially.......the Bible!

The Bible should be read SLOWLY! - carefully and thoughtfully. Don't rush it. It's ok to read just a little at a time. Reading a few verses a day is better than reading no verses a day, and better than skimming over the verses. Don't try to quickly glance over it just to fulfill a daily Bible reading schedule. In other words, take your time! When it comes to the Bible, it's comprehension first, not speed. And even if you need to re-read some verses a few times, don't feel alone. That's usually what I need to do.

3. Do NOT Read The Bible Haphazardly
Do not open the Bible with your eyes closed, randomly pick a page, place your finger somewhere on the page, open your eyes and then read the verse, thinking that's where God wants you to read. Instead, read purposefully. Make sure you understand how the Bible is divided up. Basically, there is the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is mostly about the nation that God developed and sustained (Israel) through which a Messiah would come. The New Testament is about the Messiah (Jesus) who came through that nation, His life, His mission, and His teachings.

Here's a good way to mark up your Bible's table of contents.......

It's probably not a good idea to just start on page one of the Bible and read it like a novel. First of all, it's not in pure chronological order, and secondly, you can quickly get bogged down with Old Testament law early on, especially when you get into Leviticus and Deuteronomy. So instead of reading haphazardly and randomly, use a reading plan.

If you were to pick up the Bible for the first time, my advice would be to start with the New Testament, with a Gospel, such as the book of Mark. That will give you a rounded view of the life of Jesus. Then read the book of Acts (the history book of the early church). Then go back and read the gospel of John (John's a bit different than the other 3 gospels).

After John, read the book of Matthew, the book of Luke, and then Galatians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians. After that, read the rest of the Epistles in order, starting with Romans. (Epistles are simply letters written to Christians). Then read the book of Revelation (just remember this one is full of symbolism). If your Bible has a synopsis at the beginning of each book, I definitely recommend that you read that too. It will help you have a clearer understanding of the context of each book.

At that point, you've read the entire New Testament.  Now it's time for the Old Testament. Jump back and read the book of Genesis. Read Exodus next, then all 12 Old Testament history books (see the chart above).

After that, at your own pace and discretion, alternate between the rest of the Old Testament books and re-reading parts of the New Testament (wherever you want), until you've covered the entire Bible.

Once you've accomplished reading the entire Bible, never stop re-reading it, especially focusing on the New Testament. No matter how many times you read a particular verse or chapter, it seems you always gather something new out of it. Besides, the more you read, the more you gain faith, wisdom, and understanding.

As you read the scriptures, always ask questions like "What can I learn about God from this passage?" or "What does God want me to do from this passage?" or "What can I learn about myself from this passage?" Also, when you are reading scripture, know who is writing it, who it's written to, and know the context (what's before the passage and what's after the passage). And remember, it's ok to read slowly and just a little at a time. Don't read in a big hurry. Read with good comprehension.

One thing is for sure....reading the Bible will change your life - for the better. After all, it's not an ordinary book - it's comprised of sacred writings, and delivers supernatural, Holy Spirit inspired insight and direction in our life, which ultimately leads to a way of salvation and eternal life through Christ! So read it with the right attitude, read it carefully, read it daily, and read it with purpose. 

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