Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reading the Bible 101

Living in the 21st century, we have more access to the Bible than any other time in history. There is an abundance of Bibles, whether it be in the form of a book, an app, or even a website. Yet, it seems that Bible literacy is at an all-time low. Whereas the struggle during the Reformation was the inability to read the Bible, the struggle now seems to be the lack of desire to read the Bible. The real problem is that we have an aversion to reading the Bible. I believe that the primary reason why we have an aversion to reading the Scriptures is the lens in which we read it through.

Primarily, most people read the Bible as if it was written about themselves. This lens, or method, in which people read the Bible can be called the "Road-Map to Life" lens. When reading the Bible with such lens, you tend to believe that the Bible is about you. The event of David and Goliath becomes a story about you and how your faith must be like David in order to overcome your hardships. The story of Moses becomes a story about how you must persevere in spite of all odds. While seemingly valid, this doesn't hold up very well. Since God didn't write the Bible about us, looking for ourselves in the narrative of the Bible is going to lead nowhere. For example, the Bible doesn't say which school to pick, who to marry, or what career path you should take. Therefore, looking for the answers for those things in the Bible is going to create frustration.

The other lens which we can look at the Bible through is the lens that sees the Bible as being primarily about God. The event of David and Goliath becomes a real story, that is allegorical. Jesus is David defeating Goliath on behalf of his people. Jesus is the Moses that leads us out of slavery. This lens forces us to see that the Bible is primarily about the nature of God and who He is. 

With that in mind, here are some tools to help read the Bible on a regular basis. Maybe it'll help, maybe it won't. But this is what I do that helps and I want to share it with you. You're going to need:

1.) Bible: Pretty self-explanatory but you're gonna need one. In fact, I suggest a physical Bible over an app. Translation doesn't really matter but I highly suggest the English Standard Version which provides an accurate translation with readability.

2.) Pen & Highlighter: As you read you're going to see verses or phrases that stick out to you. I believe that's the Holy Spirit that illuminates the Word for you. Underline/highlight them but restrain yourself. The temptation is to highlight most of the Bible, and I strongly advise that you don't do that. Hi-light what sticks out to you at the moment.

3.) Reading Plan: You're going to need one so you can read in context with other portions of the Bible. You can create one yourself or get one online. I suggest picking on that you can follow through on. This is very important, else you're gonna open up the Bible and see the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah. Or the hanging of Judas.

4.) Journal: Journal as you read the Bible. It'll keep track of your spiritual progress and it really helps to get thoughts on paper.
  1. Start with prayer - Ask God to illuminate the Word and to seek Him in the Word.
  2. Read the Bible - Don't attempt to read the whole book of Genesis in one day. You will fail. Read small bite-sized portions to start off and let it grow bit by bit. 
  3. Journaling - Write out the verse that stuck out the most to you as you read. Then write down any observations. Then write a specific application that details how the passage applies to your daily life.
  4. End in Prayer - Write it out. By starting and ending in prayer, the goal is to mitigate the sole growth of knowledge and to grow in relationship with God.
Matthew 6:33 - But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

*Most of the content here is from Matt Chandler's Sermon "How to Study the Bible," with my own thoughts added on. 

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