Mima returned Jade’s gaze as she accepted from her friend’s hand the first Bible she had ever laid eye or hand on. It wasn’t that she had never heard of the Bible, but this was the first time that she paid it any attention.
Mima nodded back at Jade, slipped the book in her bag and headed to the parking lot. She closed the car door behind her but left the engine off. She pulled out the leather-bound Bible and whistled long and hard.
Where should she begin?
If you didn’t grow up learning Bible verses in Sunday school, reading a blog which uses so many Bible verses may feel confusing, intimidating or irrelevant. This week, I want to acknowledge my readers who may feel this way and avoid being the friend who sends you off with a Bible and no clue of what to do with it.
It’s a collection
The Bible is a compilation of 66 books written by various authors and from various times – starting with the book of “Genesis” and ending with “Revelation”. Generally, you’ll find a Table of contents in the front of your Bible, listing the 66 books.
How do I read this collection (6 guidelines on where and how to start)?
- You may want to start by reading “the Gospel of John” (sometimes just called “John”): Many people recommend starting with this book. It is one of the four books (along with Matthew, Mark and Luke) that tell of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It focuses on who Jesus said he was. And that’s really good because, by learning who Jesus is, we learn who God is.
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son [that is Jesus], who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
- You can read the Bible from cover to cover: This will give you a good idea of the overarching storyline and message of the Bible. That said, you don’t need to always and only ever read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations.
- You can read the Bible with the help of a devotional or reading program: These are books that pick out certain verses or passages from the Bible for you to read each day, and/or provide a supplementary text to read. These passages may be arranged by topic, or they may take you through the Bible or a book of the Bible in chronological order. If your devotional only gets you to read one or two small verses a day, I encourage you to read the whole chapter surrounding those verses so that you know you aren’t reading them out of context (see next point).
- You should read the Bible in context: Its 66 books were written by 40 men, give or take (some of the authors remain unknown or uncertain) – all of whom were inspired by God. These men came from different backgrounds, with different cultural contexts and had different audiences in mind. Some books are poetry, some are historical records and some are personal letters. For this reason, it is important to understand some context surrounding each book of the Bible. Many Bibles (called study Bibles) have built-in notes and commentary offering insights. You can also buy Bible commentaries, or find information online.
- You cannot read the Bible successfully and with God’s blessing without the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit comes to live in the lives of every “believer”/”Christian” – that is, every person who has put their trust in Jesus to save them from their sins. When the Holy Spirit lives in a person’s life, He guides their thoughts and helps them to understand what they are reading, and to be transformed by it.
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught us by the [Holy] Spirit , explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
-1 Corinthians 2:13-14
- You should not read the Bible once then cross it off your list: The Bible is the inspired Word of God which transforms lives. You may read the same verse many times, yet each time God can teach you something new. This is because God is alive and active, and so is His Word, the Bible. As discussed in the last point, the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and lives of God’s children as they read.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Let’s tie it up with some discussion
- Are you familiar with that feeling; holding a Bible in your hands and having zero ideas what to do with it?
- Have you read the Bible before? Which book did you read from? What was it about?
- Do you know of any particularly helpful commentaries or reading programs?
Resources for deeper digging
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