Understanding the Bible
It’s hard to believe it’s already June! Many of us have our sights set on all things summer—vacations, the pool, cookouts, and sunshine-filled days. Even though I am more of a winter girl, there is something restorative about summertime as you watch all that was dead and dormant come back to life. So as we move into summer, we want to take some time to equip you to breathe new life into your spiritual disciplines. In last month’s Ezer Equipped we discussed why our theology matters. This month we are going to continue our conversation by equipping you with practical tools to help you understand the Bible. The Bible is a deep theological well. But we should not rely on others to lead us to the well to drink once a week through sermons or podcasts or even Bible studies produced by others. We must develop the rhythm of drinking deeply and regularly from the life-giving water of God’s Word.
There are lots of reasons we don’t regularly read our Bibles. We’re too busy, too distracted, and too attached to our cell phones and other technology. We are too addicted to our own comfort and entertainment and immediate gratification, preferring to binge-watch our favorite show on Netflix or go to the latest brewery. We don’t read it because when we try to, we struggle to understand what we’re reading, or we don’t see how it applies to our daily lives. Sometimes we struggle because we haven’t established a daily discipline or we lack practical tools, like reading plans or study Bibles. Whatever the reason, let me assure you of this: There are a lot of things I have wasted time on, but I have never wasted time in the Scriptures! I may not always experience a “spiritual high” or have some deep insight or even feel some immediate sense of gratification. But showing up each day by reading, asking questions, and responding to God’s Word is sowing seeds that over time will produce a harvest of righteousness and fruitfulness.
The Bible was never intended to provide us with superficial, feel-good encouragements for our daily life. If our Bible reading consists of picking out verses here and there, we will never develop a well-grounded, substantive faith that can stand in the face of trials, grief, loss, and tragedy or a world that mocks and challenges your belief systems. We need to ask God to help us turn our eyes from worthless things and become more intentional readers of his life-giving Word. It doesn’t matter if you read a whole book of the Bible, one Psalm or one chapter a day, or use a reading plan that takes you through the whole Bible in a year or two years—just read it. Read it in context. Read it as a book—one complete story with an introduction, a narrative arc, conflict, climax, and a resolution.
This summer, choose one or two of the tools provided in this newsletter to help guide you in becoming a student of God’s Word.
by: Matt Rogers and Donny Mathis
Seven Arrows is a practical book that teaches you seven specific questions to ask as you read through any book of the Bible. It is filled with suggestions for where to start your study and what to focus on.
“Reading God’s word is not a magic trick. It is the God-ordained process by which his Spirit conforms his people to increasingly reflect his image. It is not the sole terrain of pastors, seminary students, and theologians. It is the ground we all must travel. You can do it.”
by: Max Anders
Anders helps you understand the structure of the Bible, the history of the Bible and the important doctrines of the Bible in a very easy-to-read format. This is a great starter book for anyone who is new to the Scriptures and a great refresher for those who have been studying for a while.
“If you want to learn architecture, you must first learn how buildings are put together. If you want to learn sailing, you must first learn how ships are put together. And if you want to learn to understand the Bible, you must first learn how the Bible is put together.”
by: Jen Wilkin
In this podcast, the show’s hosts talk with Jen Wilkin about the importance of studying the Scriptures for yourself and some of the errors we make in our Bible reading.
“Our mentality has often been I am going to put my debit card into my Bible and withdraw what I need for today … When we read the Bible that way (looking for warmth and encouragement for the day through a debit card mentality) … we are asking it primarily to encourage us and yet there are large portions of the Scriptures that are ultimately encouraging to us, but maybe not immediately so … Regard it instead as a savings account, instead of a debit account. Instead of asking the Scriptures to give us something every day, trust that over the long term there will be yield on the time spent in the Scriptures.”
Podcast: The Bible Project
by: Timothy Mackie and Jonathan Collins
The Bible Project offers podcasts and animated videos that help make the story of Scripture accessible to everyone. Each animated video provides an overarching view of a book of the Bible with timeline, important characters, and themes. You can watch videos based on certain themes, word-studies, and each book of the Bible. They even have an animated video series on how to read the Bible.
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
- What are some reasons you do not regularly read the Scriptures (e.g. too busy, boring, don’t understand, don’t know where to start)?
- This infographic breaks down how much time it takes to read each book of the Bible and compares it to the amount of time we spend each day watching television, scrolling social media, or reading other books. While we do only have a limited amount of time in each day, we all have time we spend on less significant things that we could reallocate to time spent in the Word. What surprises you about this? How much time per day would you say you spend on entertainment of any form (social media, television, books, hobbies)?
- Are you more of a visual learner or an auditory learner?
- What time of day are you most alert and undistracted? Early morning? Mid-afternoon? Right before bed? How do you normally spend that time?
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned?
Below are some additional resources to help you in your Bible reading:
- Print off this chronological reading plan and put it in your Bible. While this is a one-year plan, do not let that overwhelm you. Just do the next reading, even if it takes you two years.
- Another good reading plan is the M’Cheyne Reading plan. This two-year plan takes you through the Old Testament once, and the New Testament and the Psalms twice.
- Buy a good study Bible. As you read through passages of Scripture, read the corresponding notes. These notes will help you have a more accurate understanding of the intent of the passage. The NLT Illustrated Study Bible is a great resource that provides maps, timelines, and overviews.
- Sign up for Grace Church’s six-week Institute Class, Practical Theology. The class will explore several fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith, such as justification, repentance, and adoption, and how these doctrines are critical to life change in a believer. The class begins on Wednesday, June 12 and will run from 6:30-8:00pm at the Pelham Campus. Click here for more details or to register.
- Attend a two-day course called Biblical Theology Workshop for Women, taught by Nancy Guthrie. The workshop will be hosted on February 20-21, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Greenville.
- Download a good Bible app and listen to the Bible while you are driving, cleaning the house, folding the laundry or grocery shopping. Bible Gateway and YouVersion offer audible versions of the Bible in multiple translations. They also offer a variety of reading plans.
- This summer, Grace Church will study the parables of Jesus. Take this opportunity to read alongside the Sunday sermon series with the She Reads Truth study, The Parables of Jesus.
This resource is adapted from our Ezer Equipped monthly newsletter dedicated to equipping our women with content, from both within and outside of our church, to help us continue to grow as disciple and disciple-makers. To subscribe to the Ezer Equipped newsletter, click here.