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Tips for Useful Bible Reading
Reading the Bible for All Its Worth
I write these tips not for the scholar, but for the guy or gal who is not sure where to start, or is wondering if they’re “doing it right.”
If at all possible, read from a physical Bible that you take with you to church and other Bible-necessary occasions. I say this because screens remove some of the tactile feel and the “geographic” nature of reading. By “geographic” I mean, in my Bible I know that Romans 6 is on the right-hand page, on the left-hand column. There’s something helpful about that. Bible apps and iPads have their place, no doubt. But we comprehend more from the tactile experience of a bound book and paper.
If you have time to read only one thing, read the Bible, and stop reading this article, or anything else I’ve written. Goodbye.
You have time for both today? Ok, cool.
Go easy on yourself, and on the Bible. I say this because the Bible was written by certain people on certain occasions that really existed and really happened over a really long period of time. Thus there will be cultural gaps between the original occasion, audience, writer and you. Don’t expect that everything written on the plains of Palestine 6,000 years ago will be easy reading for modern Americans made semi-illiterate by Google. Keep going; you’ll understand, on the by-and-by. The labor to bridge that gap will be worth it.
If you find yourself hungry to learn more about a certain book, feel free to stop your Bible reading program, and dive into that book. Then, when you’ve satiated that hunger, or you’ve discovered more time in your day, come back to the Bible reading program on whatever day you return. For that jazzed-about book - for me, as I write this, it’s Isaiah - you might invest in a good “commentary.” A “commentary” points out important information as you read and enables you to mine the riches in that jazzed-about book. Tyndale produces good ones. So does Crossway. Ask your pastor or elder.
Write something down about what you’ve read. Preferably prayer. When we really pray, according to the priorities that God wants us to pray, it’s because that praying “feathered out” from the Word. When we pray according to what’s important to God, praying becomes rich with the fruit of His excellencies, and it’s sweet. Really sweet.
It’s also interesting to look at your notes later, perhaps on the same day next year, and see how much you’ve learned and grown, and you didn’t even know it. You’ll look back at last year’s notes and say, “Wow, I wrote that? That was good!” And you’ll say, “Huh, I wrote that? God is growing me.” Either way you’ll say, “Praise the Lord.” Cheap grocery store composition notebooks are great for this. Go chronological, so you can look it up by date, or buy one notebook for each book of the Bible.
Most importantly, as you read, remember that the Bible is written with the BIG POINT in the middle - Jesus and his cross. As you read, keep one eye on that center point, thinking about how what you read today anticipates or flows out of that center point. Thus Paul could say to the Corinthians, with his Old Testament scriptures firmly under his arm (emphasis mine):
1 Corinthians 15:3–8 (ESV): 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.