Are there times when you read the Bible and you don't understand what it's saying? Or maybe you read the Bible and soak it in like a sponge and understand everything completely?
I'm going to be honest and say I definitely can relate to the first scenario.
The Bible uses a lot of words that we hardly ever use. Also, the culture can be hard to understand because we definitely don't really live the way people did in biblical times. We have our iPhones and microwaves and they had nothing like it. So I think it goes without saying that the Bible isn't the easiest book to understand. However, since this is the most important book on the planet, we should strive our best to understand it as much as possible.
We can't expect to sit down and read a passage in the Bible once and know exactly what it means. It's not that simple. We must take the time to really study God's word so that we can find the truth in it. A lot of times we like to take the things we read at face value, but with the Bible we must be able to read in between the lines in order to find the truth.
I think God made it this way not by accident, but on purpose so that we would be motivated to draw closer to Him. To sacrifice our time to read His word with an open heart can make our faith and understanding of who God is grow tremendously. Are you motivated to really delve into God's word to find His truth?
If you are, there are a few tips that will really help you understand the Bible instead of just simply reading it. Lately, it's been on my heart to share these tips because I realize that so many people miss out on God's truth due to the fact that they aren't sure where to begin in studying His word.
- Remove ALL distractions...this includes TV, music (unless music helps you concentrate), etc. If you have kids, maybe spend time in the Word while they are sleeping or at a friend's.
- Have a special time/spot when/where you read your Bible with a notepad and pencil. Mine is in the morning right when I get up, on the couch (so I don't fall asleep AND with the TV turned off) with a cup of coffee. Yum.
- Before you read your Bible, begin with an open heart. Say a prayer asking God to reveal His truth to you. Ask for motivation and excitement to learn more.
- Now you can start! Decide on what you are going to read whether it be just a passage, chapter or full book. Don't get carried away though- you may want to start small so you can spend more time understanding completely what you read.
- Find out the audience and author of the book. For instance, the apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to the church of Corinth. You can even try to find out the purpose of the book. This gives you an idea of what these people may be facing and how they can relate to you. This is so important!!
- Now the fun part - read! Don't rush. Take your time. Read at least 3 times, but the more the better ;) If you are only reading a passage or chapter, make sure you take the chance to read the chapter before and after. This gives you an idea of what the author is talking about and keeps you from "cherry picking". You can pick a verse out and read it without any context clues and it will look a whole lot different that if you read it in context. The Bible isn't just verses put together randomly, each verse works together in an order that is important.
- When you come to a word you don't understand, look it up in a dictionary or concordance or better yet, look it up in the Hebrew or Greek language. These were the languages that the Bible was first written in. This is huge because words have different meanings than we think. For example, in a lot of places in the Bible the word "sick" refers to "sin" or "love" can be translated to a brotherly love or romantic love. Check out www.blueletterbible.org for the Hebrew & Greek meanings - it's awesome!!!
- Use cross references. Some study Bibles give you other verses that may give you more information about what you are reading. Also, don't be afraid to use different translations. I use NASB, NIV, and the Message
- Use the internet or other books to find commentaries and cultural facts (think - who, what, when, where, how, why), but be careful not to believe what the author believes. Keep it in mind and form your own beliefs based on your own studies. Also, always keep in mind the Bible as a whole. Figure out if something is literal or figurative.
- Write down any questions you may have for your mentor or pastor. Feel free to make notes in your Bible. Highlight, underline, write...whatever you prefer! Also, write down what you feel like God is teaching you through His word. End your time with prayer, asking God for you to live out His word and continue to learn more about Him.
These are just some tips that help me. Study His word, don't just read. We can get in a lot of trouble when we read the Bible without any attention to author, purpose, culture and etc. Don't miss out on the truth!
If you are reading along in the year-long-reading-plan, here is the schedule for the week:
Yesterday - Rev 20-22
Today - Gen 1-3
Wednesday - Gen 4-7
Thursday - Gen 8-11
Friday - Gen 12-15
Saturday - Gen 16-18
Don't forget our verse...
Matthew 5:16 - "Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven."
Do you have any Bible study methods you like to use?