Tuesday, March 15, 2016

5 Pointers On Reading The Bible For The First Time

There are many good plans on how to read the Bible. This one is aimed for those who have decided to get serious about reading the Bible, but may not know where to start. But before starting the reading plan, first consider these 5 pointers.

First, get a Bible. I'm serious. And even though there are many electronic Bibles available, go old school at first and get a book version. There's nothing wrong with electronic versions, I use several of them myself as well as paper versions. But there's just something about paper pages and a hand-held book, at least for the new reader. Paper versions can be very convenient, don't require batteries, and are easy to highlight or make notes in. Just remember this....if buying a book version, be cautious about the print size. If your eyesight is like mine you will need a large print.

Make sure you choose a translation that's right for you. That means don't just buy the cheapest one, or use an old one that's on the shelf. Buy a new one. Go to a Christian book store or go online to Amazon. Get a middle of the road translation, one that is easy to read but not too watered down. I recommend the New International Version (NIV), or the New Living Translation (NLT), or the New King James Version (NKJV). There are other good ones as well, but for starters, stay away from the King James Version (KJV) because it's too hard to read, and the Message version because it's too watered down. 

The Bible records the ongoing drama of God's relationship with humanity. There a 2 major divisions to the Bible: The Old Testament and The New Testament. Both are ancient writings, inspired by the Spirit of God, and written over many centuries, by many different authors. Basically the Old Testament begins with creation, the ancient Patriarchs, and chronicles the establishment and history of the God's chosen nation, Israel, its laws, its judges, prophets, and kings. The Old Testament culminates and is fulfilled in The New Testament (God's new covenant with man), which is about the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, who comes to earth, willfully dies for our sins, resurrects from the dead, ascends into Heaven, and is still with us in Spirit today. The New Testament chronicles the life of Jesus, as well as letters containing the teachings and writings of several authors, written to Christians. It contains 4 Gospels (recording the life of Christ), a history book (Acts) that records the founding and expansion of the early church, letters to Christians (Epistles), and a book of prophecy of the end times (Revelation). The Bible’s story is continuous, and is still played out in us, and through us. God’s plan of rescuing humanity reaches from creation, throughout the Old and New Testaments into today, and into eternity.  

It's good to get into a Bible reading routine. That means set apart a certain time of the day - whatever works for you. And try to be consistent. Like everything else, unless you plan a Bible reading time, it will never happen. As far as what time of day, everyone is different so it's totally up to you.

Here's a suggestion: Start with the New Testament first. That's because the New Testament is the new covenant that God's offers to us today, through Jesus. It's a covenant sealed by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and offers forgiveness of sins, a loving father-child relationship with God, the promised Holy Spirit in our lives, a new life in Christ, and ultimately our resurrection from the dead into eternal life with the Lord in paradise. The New Testament shows us how to be Christ Followers, and how to life a Christian life.

I credit the reading plan below to a great app that I highly recommend called "The Books Of The Bible", distributed by Zondervan. Buy this if you can. I bought it on Amazon for my Kindle reader. 

This plan starts with the Gospel of Luke then Acts. That's because these 2 books are written by the same author, and are essentially one continuous overview of the early church. Then from Acts, Paul's Epistles (letters to Christians) are added, in the order in which they were most likely written, unlike most Bibles where Paul's letters are organized roughly in order of length or size instead. This historical order more closely follows Paul's life and his ministry timeline. The other Gospels are added later and grouped with the other books that are somewhat related. The plan ends with Revelation, which is an apocalyptic, very symbolic book describing the vision John had regarding the end times.

Start at the top of the list, and work down. Read at your own pace. Take your time. Don't speed read, but slow down and don't try to accomplish too much at once. 

1st and 2nd Thessalonians
1st and 2nd Corinthians
1st Timothy 
2nd Timothy
!st and 2nd Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John

Once you are finished with the New Testament, then you can begin in the Old Testament, starting with Genesis and Exodus. Then skip Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (they deal with Mosaic law). You can come back to those later. Instead, read Joshua right through to the Psalms and Proverbs. Then add the other books ending with the Prophets. 

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  (Romans 2:12)