December 26, 2006

How to Read the Bible...

Below I urged you to consider taking up some plan for reading the Bible daily in 2007. I hope you have done so…and are gung-ho to start next week. If you are, you are a lot more likely to benefit from the reading (and keep at it) if you have, not only a plan for what you are going to read, but how you are going to read. What should I do every day as I’m reading? What am I supposed to get out of this? Good questions. Let me give you a few practical tips for getting the most out of your daily Bible reading…

1. Make an Appointment. Do you usually plan important events in your day? I’ll bet you do. Almost all of us employ alarm clocks, calendars, to-do lists, and Post-it notes to make sure that we get done those important tasks. Should we be any less diligent in making sure we get to our daily Bible reading? Do whatever you must—planning a time, setting aside a space, writing yourself a note—to make sure you get to the word.

2. Have a Plan. Don’t just skip around the Bible. Skipping around makes it too easy to skip a day, a week, a month of reading—because there is no plan or goal. So have a plan of what you want to read, and in what order. See the previous entry for ideas.

3. Pray First. Begin each time of reading by praying that God would open your eyes to see, your mind to understand, your heart to believe, and your will to obey His word. And if you get stumped or distracted in the middle, pray again!

4. Read Slowly. Julia has been reading a children’s book (The Brothers’ Promise, Frances Harbor) where one of the characters says this about reading his Bible: “When I pray, I talk fast because I am speaking to God, but when I read, I read slow, because God is talking to me!” Good wisdom from a fictional character! Give yourself enough time to really hear God! And select your reading plan so that the passage is short enough to do so. For some of you this may only be a chapter a day—that is OK! A slowly read, well-digested piece of bread is better than a whole bowlful of beans eaten so hastily that they do not digest!

5. Read for the Original Meaning. The Bible was not written as a nebulous, ‘What does it mean to you’ kind of book. Every passage has one definite meaning. And the Bible was not written to Americans living in the 21st century. It was written mainly to ancient Jews living in specific religious, political, and cultural contexts. You must not divorce the Scriptures from this original context and just glean something catchy off the top. Just because the LORD told Mary “you’ll conceive in your womb and bear a son” doesn’t mean that He is saying that to you! So, before you ever seek to apply a passage to yourself, ask: What did it mean to those who originally read it? Need help with this? Get Ken Easley’s Holman Quicksource Guide to Understanding the Bible.

6. Apply the ancient meaning to your modern situation. If this passage meant this for the ancient readers…what is it saying to me in 2006-2007? Is the passage…Pinpointing any particular of my sins? Giving commands that apply to me? Teaching things about God I need to understand? Giving promises I need to lay hold of?

7. Look for Jesus. As part of your search for the original meaning and personal application, ask: How does this passage point to Jesus? Does it…Show our sinfulness and need for the Savior? Contain a prophecy of the coming of the Savior? Draw a picture of the Savior (like the ram in the thicket)? Consist of direct teaching about the Savior? Show how we should respond to the Savior? Remember that Jesus taught that all the Scriptures speak of Him!

8. Summarize the entire passage in a sentence or two. If you’ve really gotten the passage, you should be able to summarize it briefly—It’s meaning; It’s personal application; It’s pointing to Jesus—hen you’re through reading.

9. Pray about what you have read. Talk to God about it—especially the personal applications. Praise Him for His character revealed in the passage. Thank Him for how Jesus shines forth in the passage. Confess sins brought to mind by the passage. Ask for His help believing and obeying what you learned from the passage.

Surely there are other things to do…but here are the basics. Happy reading!

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