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The Bible - How to Read and Study It
July 2015

There are many ways to Read and Study your Bible, this teaching is but one way. Over a long period of dedicated and continual daily Bible reading and study you will develop your own formula, a formula that works the best for you.  The important thing is that it becomes a daily deep-seated habit and desire.  An activity that will only do one thing, enrich your life!  You will find that your daily Bible study will lead you to alternative recourses that will add to the fulfillment, which is only received as you continue to explore the Bibles' unlimited depth.

An explorer discovered an ancient sundial, and recognizing its value, restored it to its original condition. He then put the restored sundial in a museum where it would be shielded from the elements - including the sun! Although he valued it, he never used it. Unfortunately many Christians do the same with the Bible, but for different reasons. They see the Bible as valuable, but as requiring a lot of effort to understand and apply. They often feel they are reading about the long ago and far away. As for interest, they think the Bible can't compete with the internet, newspapers or magazines like Time or Newsweek.

Although most people believe it is the most interesting book ever written, the Bible was not written for interest sake alone!  Its pages are filled with mystery, romance, excitement, laughter, sadness and adventure. Its story is not a mystery, or science fiction, or an action adventure.  It is a living love story between an omnipotent monarch and His long lost soul mate.  It tells of the length and depth of the monarch's love and how far He went, and will go, to find His lost love.  It is a story with everlasting implications and influence.  In all the literature of the world there is no book that has contributed so richly to the up building of character and to the serenity and peace of the human spirit, as the Bible.

Peter V. Deison, in his book "The priority of Knowing God," he tells about Ramad, a man in India who was a member of a gang of robbers. On one occasion, while burglarizing a house, Ramad noticed a small black book containing very thin pages just right for making cigarettes. So he took it.  Each evening he tore out a page, rolled it around some tobacco, and had a smoke.  Noticing that the small words on the pages were in his language, he began to read them before rolling his cigarettes. One evening after reading a page, he knelt on the ground and asked the Lord Jesus to forgive his sins and to save him. He then turned himself in to the police, much to their amazement.  Ramad the bandit became a follower of Jesus Christ. While in the prison where he served his sentence for his crimes, he led many others to the Savior.  What was the book he had been reading?  It was a Bible. The Holy Spirit took "the Gospel of Christ" and for Ramad it became "the power of God unto salvation."

The Bible contains two major divisions. They are the Old and New Testaments. They combine to form one book, that one book is a library of 66 books written by some 40 authors over a period of about 1,500 years. The third chapter of Genesis gives the story line or "golden thread" that runs throughout the 66 books (Genesis 3:15).  All 40 authors, most of them unknowingly kept this "golden thread" in tack.  These authors came from different countries, backgrounds, cultures, upbringings and levels of education.  The occupations of these writers varied from farmers, fishermen and sheepherders, to doctors and lawyers. The writing and compiling of the Bible took over 1,500 years.

The 66 books have since been broken down into 1,189 chapters and 31,173 verse divisions. In one translation someone has computed 773,692 words and 3,566,480 letters. The Bible has been called the greatest masterpiece of literature ever written.  But simultaneously it is also the most revered, criticized, ignored and studied work on the face of the planet.  Scholars, scientists, Holy men, archaeologists, and historians, still use the Bible for it's never failing details of places, event and historical facts.

However, these men just like the learned men of old, often fall into the same deadly trap. They find it easy to get lost in the details of Bible study, and never grasp the life in which it speaks so plainly. We must not allow ourselves as Christians to lose sight of the God in which the details were written about. In John 5:39-40 we read about this exact error. Jesus speaking to the Pharisees rebukes them saying; "you search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which only testify of me. But you are not willing to come to me that you may have eternal life."         

We continually need to remind ourselves that the purpose of the Bible is NOT to make us experts in Mideast culture or in Christian doctrine (as important as both are). The purpose of the Bible is to enable us to know God, to know ourselves, and to equip us not only with knowledge of the past and future but with the ability to live a righteous life today and in the future in order to receive our promised reward.  For that reason it becomes imperative for us to know how to study the Bible.  The proper study of its pages will allow you to glean life giving knowledge, strength and wisdom that can only be found in its testimony of Christ.  Within its pages we will find joy, peace, fulfillment and most important eternal life in Christ!

Now let us look at eight tips on how to read and study your Bible.  First let me make one thing clear.  It is a command of God to do so!  Look at 2nd Timothy 2:15; "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (KJV)"

FIRST: First, you may want to spend time getting to know the basics of the faith.  What it means to be a follower of Christ? The common misconceptions about Christianity can hinder your Bible study and slow your spiritual growth.  The basics of your faith can be summed up by the question "Why." 

1.      Why did Jesus come to earth? 

2.      Why did he have to die on the cross? 

3.      Why did he resurrect from the dead?

SECOND: Choose the Bible that best fits your wants and needs, you may prefer a study Bible one which has study notes on each page, or perhaps your preference may be a devotional Bible.   For some it's important to choose the Bible translation that is most compatible with your reading level.  For example the King James Bible was written on a 14th grade level where others are written on a 8 to 10th grade level like the New American Standard and others like the Good News Bible and God's Word Bible are written on lower levels.  Another thing to consider is getting the same Bible your pastor uses. This makes it easier to follow along during the weekly messages.  It's important to do your research first and then select your Bible. You don't want to spend a lot of money and then discover you made a mistake.

This writer's top three suggestions would be;

1.      The Thompson Chain Reference Bible - New King James Version

2.      The New American Standard Version

3.      The Message Bible

With sincere prayer ask God to help you understand that you are not reading the book solely for information, or because it is an interesting story.  But you are reading it looking for its spiritual life giving revelation, and practical guide to life. Remember the goal is to be conformed into Jesus' image, and likeness.

THIRD: Start your reading with the book of John and then the Psalms or the New Testament from Matthew forward; avoid Revelation the first time through.  Continue to read in small installments until you have completed the book. Then select another book, and read it through to the finish in the same manner. In this way you will not miss any of the life changing messages of God's Word.

FORTH: Outline each chapter. This will help you to stay attentive and thereby remember what you have read. Most Bibles give you the writer's main point for that section. Write it down. Then look for the one or two verses that make that point clearly. Then find supporting arguments.  Write the verses down in your outline (see example at the end of this study). Pray over these points and ask the Lord to make them a reality in your life buy asking God to conform your heart to their messages.

FIFTH: Continue your reading until you come to a verse that you feel God is revealing to you for that day. Make that your verse of the day.  Don't be afraid to mark your Bible. Underline the verse, and while meditating on it let it search every area of your life. God's Holy Spirit will bring its truth to bear upon your heart and mind. Carry that verse with you through the day. It will be as a staff on your journey.  In many a trying hour it will steady, strengthen and inspire you.  It may be advisable for you to tarry on the one verse for several days or even a week until the full implication of its teaching has been brought to bear upon your life.  Do not feel that you must go on every day, tarry until God leads you on.  You may read that verse or section many times before God leads you onward.  Remember the quality of reading is more beneficial than the quantity.

SIXTH: Always preface your reading by praying. Ask that God's Holy Spirit will bring forth truth (Ref. John 16:13) of His Word to bear upon your heart. As you open the Bible to read from the place where you left off the previous day, ask yourself this question: "What is God's message for me today?"  Exclude from your mind every thought of the application of this message to others. This is God's message for you.  The power of concentration and the ability to apply God's message to your own life, and yours alone, will come slowly.  It will increase with your growth in spiritual discipline.  If you preserve your daily reading, you will be given messages that will meet the deepest needs of your life; that will send you forth to face the experiences of the day with head erect and a brave heart.

SEVENTH: When you have allowed God's message of the morning to search your heart, a prayer of thanksgiving for an increase of spiritual strength or a prayer of confession and penitence for your mistakes and failures should be given. Make every day a day of beginnings and of fresh consecration to the service of God. After you have sought and found God's forgiveness for the wrongs of the past, turn your back on these failures, and face the new life which, by the grace of God, is opening up before you.

EIGHTH: Be sure to keep sacred this time of daily reading.  Before long it will begin to bear fruit.  Many texts with which you begin the day will remain fixed in your memory.  They will be a source of strength and guidance to you just when you need them most.

The Bible leads us to God, and teaches us His will for our lives. Yet, few people know how to read this book, or feel that it has any real value for them to do so. This is true even of many Christians.  They feel that to admit that they would be committing a kind of sacrilege.  If they were altogether frank, they would have to concede that they get very little help from the Bible and that they do not read it regularly.  In fact, the Religion News Service (RNS) tells us that the of majority of professing Christians (57 percent) only read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week).  In another poll taken September 7th 2012 "LifeWay research" surveyed more than 2,900 Protestant churchgoers and found that while 90 percent who say that they desire to please and honor Jesus in all they do, only 19 percent personally read the Bible every day.  The Barna Group agrees with this percentage.  Each year, Barna Group partners with the American Bible Society on "State of the Bible," a comprehensive study of Americans' attitudes and behaviors toward the Bible.  What they have found is that 19% of religiously engaged people read the Bible four times a week and believe that it is the actual or inspired word of God.

There are many reasons why one might read the Bible. This study was not written to examine those reasons. This study was written to help those who want to know the loving God of the scriptures and want Him to help change their lives for the better.

Many years ago a wise pastor's wife told a young cold Christian who had mentioned to her that he was really happy the way his life was going; and because of that he really saw no need in getting any more involved with religion than he was. This wise pastor's wife told him, "Son, no matter where you are in your walk with God, He will only bring you higher.  If you think you are on the top rung of the ladder of life, God will show you that there are still more rungs yet to climb and God will help you climb them." That is why this lesson was written.  God wants His people to come up higher!

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