You CAN understand what the Bible says.
Are you still nervous about reading the Bible on your own? Do you feel insecure, fearful you’ll come to a false interpretation? Worried you need someone to explain it to you?
Fear no more. While understanding the Bible is a life-long process, the Bible can be meaningful and understandable right now.
Hugh Elmer Brown, of the Chicago Sunday Tribune, attributes this quote to Mark Twain:
“It is not the things which I do not understand in the Bible which trouble me, but the things which I do understand.”Quote Investigator, https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/09/22/bible/
So let’s get started. Let’s open this wonderful Book and see what we CAN understand.
Prayer is the first step.
Humbly admit to God you don’t understand everything. That’s all right. God does not expect us to understand all of the Bible. If we did have full knowledge and wisdom, we would be equal to God and that pinnacle is reserved only for Him.
Then ask God to give you wisdom to understand what His Word says. Ask him to guide you into all truth. Tell Him you don’t want to misinterpret what He says.
Finding a structure of daily Bible reading is the next step.
In my last post, I gave several options for a daily Bible reading plan. I’d love to hear back from you as to which method or combination of methods you use to read the Bible.
Regardless of your chosen method, maybe you are still discouraged. You read, but your brain doesn’t seem engaged. The passage doesn’t make sense. An hour later, you can’t remember what you’ve read. You don’t want to be like one of those people the book of James talks about, you know, the kind that takes a cursory look into the mirror and then walks away, forgetting what was seen. And yet . . . you do.
How do you move from listening (reading) to retention? Active engagement? How do you make God’s Word stick?
A Trick From College
Economics was a tough class in college for me. It was good. I enjoyed the information. But grasping the concepts so I could explain them on a test was not easy. All I wanted to do when I sat down with my economics text was take a nap. So, as I did with several detail dense courses, I asked questions. I read the chapter title and browsed the sub-headings. As I scanned the chapter, I asked, “What is this about? What does this mean? What will the author talk about?” Those anticipatory questions piqued my curiosity and enabled me to pay attention to what I was reading. I got a hard-earned A in the class.
That works for Bible reading too.
The idea is to pause and prepare before you begin to read. Start with the name of the book:
- Who is this person?
- Why did they write the book?
- What does this person want me to know about God?
- What does this term mean?
You may need to read book introductions found in study bibles for some of the answers. Move from there to check an outline of the book in the introduction or scan subheadings.
- What is the theme of this book?
- How does this theme fit into the rest of the Bible?
- Why is this important for me to know?
- What do these unfamiliar words mean? How will the author explain those words?
- How do these themes reflect the culture of the time this was written? How does it apply to the culture I live in today?
As you read, jot down the answers you find to your questions.
Anticipatory questions is one segment of how to engage in your Bible reading. The best way to read the Bible is to ask yourself questions before, during, and after you read. Some call this Inductive Bible Study. Others call it Discovery Bible Study.
Check out this link for more about Inductive Bible Study:
Let’s make this simple.
If all that detail is too in depth for you, here are three easy questions you can use every day about the chapter you read:
- What does it say?
- What does it mean?
- What does it mean to me?
Even these questions have a drawback. Let’s be very honest. There are some chapters in the Bible that won’t have an everyday application for you. Those chapters need to be understood within the context of the entire book. Others, especially chapters in the Old Testament, need to be understood within the cultural context, of what God wanted the Israelites to do at that time. I like to add this question:
Who is this passage talking to?
Discovering God’s Heart
Because not every chapter has a direct application to my daily life, I like the bible study method my daughter, Christine, has developed. Christine chose to hold a different lens to the Scripture. For her, the big question is, What does this passage tell me about God?
- What did God do?
- What did He say?
- What is God like?
- What does God intend to accomplish?
I like this method, because it gets my mind off me and focuses on God. Once I discover who God is and how He operates, I’m better equipped to understand what He wants from me and how I should respond. As I’m filled with awe at my latest discovery of who He is, I burst forth in thanksgiving and praise. I want to follow him, obey Him, and trust Him. Proclaiming His greatness seems like a natural overflow. As I realize the depth of His love for me, I long to humbly accept the free gift of grace He offers.
If I’m looking for a biblical application – that’s what God wants from me most of all.
For a printable of the daily bible reading plan, “Discovering God’s Heart,” click here.