Friday, January 01, 2010

It's that time of year

At this time of year, many Christians' thoughts turn again to reading through the Bible. Most of us have read some of it over and over, but many of us have never succeeded in reading the whole shebang.

Do you remember Rocky and Bullwinkle? Rocky comments: That trick never works and Bullwinkle retorts This time for sure. I think that is how many of us feel in trying to read through the Bible. Even though we believe that it is inspired by God and is good for us, all too often it can feel like eating broccoli, which, we are also told, mostly by our mothers, is good for us.

[Don't tell anyone I said this, but do you know the difference between snot and broccoli?
Kids won't eat broccoli!]

What can we do to succeed this time? Here are a few myths to be knocked out of the way:
1. Nobody said that you have to start on 1st January!
2. Nobody said that you have to do it every day, and that if you miss a day, you've failed.
3. Nobody said that you should start at the beginning, keep going till you get to the end, then stop. That wasn't God, that was the Queen of Hearts in Through the Looking Glass!
4. Nobody said that you should complete the project in a year, or this year.
Here are a few suggestions that may work:
1. Read the Bible like you eat an elephant.
How do you eat a whole elephant?
One bite at a time.
2. Set smaller goals. Don't plan to read all 1189 chapters if you haven't yet read through any of the longer books, such as Isaiah, which has 66 chapters, Jeremiah, which has 52 chapters [and is even longer than Isaiah, because there are several really long chapters] or the book of Psalms, which has 150 individual psalms, one of which has 176 verses, divided into 22 sections.
3. Start with something more manageable, such as reading through some of the little books. If you were to read through all 26 little books, although you would only have read about 10% of the whole, you would have quite a good overview of what the Bible is saying.[Wasn't that thoughtful of our heavenly Father!]
4. Use charts which you can tick off as you go. I like doing this! It gives me a sense of having accomplished something.
5. After reading through all the little books, have a crack at tackling a gospel - Mark is the shortest.
6. Read the Bible itself, at first, without looking up commentaries or study notes. These can be very helpful, but they aren't the Word of God, but merely aids to help you read God's Word.
If you are a Christian [which means you have given up trying to be good enough for God, and are trusting in Jesus alone to save you], God has promised to help you to read and understand his Word - and to do what it says!
When we begin living for Christ, instead of for ourselves, God's Holy Spirit comes to live in us, and guides us. The same Spirit who inspired the writers is with us today to help us to understand what He [and they] wrote.

Nearly forgot.
It is much easier to read a version that is written in the language people speak today, rather than one that is very formal.
The Good News Bible or The New Living Translation are much easier to read than some other popular versions, which may be more useful for later, in depth study.

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