I came to a startling and saddening realization this past Sunday: there are people who have been in church all their lives who have no idea how to make sense of the Bible. If the Bible is truly God’s word, as Christians have believed for 2000 years, how is it our churches have neglected such an important task as to teach the people how to understand it?
So I wrote this for our church’s Adult Ed class and decided to post it here too. May it be a blessing.
“Take and read…” – St. Augustine
The goal in reading the Bible is to get to know God better – to know not just more about Him but to get to know Him.
Try to spend a little time every day reading God’s word. Find a place where you can be alone and undisturbed. Most Bible teachers recommend starting with 15 minutes a day, and setting a regular time and place so it becomes a habit. Many people use a bedroom or family room, some like to go outdoors, some like to find a chapel or church that’s open. The important thing is to have time for just you and God.
What to read? You might want to work your way through a book of the Bible such as Psalms or Matthew or one of Paul’s letters. You may choose to use a study guide. It’s up to you. I recommend reading no more than one chapter a day otherwise it can get overwhelming.
Before you begin – pray. Ask God to help you understand what you are about to read. Ask Him to guide your thinking. After you read, pray again and thank God for His word. This is also a good time to ask Him for whatever you need for the day, for healing for friends and family, and any other needs you know about.
While you read – ask yourself:
- What does the passage mean?
- What is God trying to say?
- Examine the details and be like a reporter – who, what, when, where, and why?
- Look up any words (people, places, or things) you don’t understand. A Bible dictionary can be helpful, but any dictionary can be a start.
- Does this passage remind you of any other passages in scripture?
- Can you repeat or re-write the passage in your own words? (that is, paraphrase it)
- How does the passage make you feel? Does it make you think of anything you haven’t thought before? Share your answers to these questions with God.
- Is there anything in the passage you might apply to your life? Is there anything in the passage that you have observed in the world around you? Talk to God about this too.
Some people find it helpful to keep a notebook and write down some of the answers to these questions. Some also like to write down what they pray for so they can keep track of God’s answers to prayers when they come.
Bible Helps – If you like
Comparing other versions of the bible, such as the Good News Bible or The Message
Concordance – other places in the Bible where the words you’re reading can be found
Bible dictionary or encyclopedia – for word definitions and historical info
Bible commentaries – summaries by Bible experts. Tend to reflect the author’s church background.
The church – Adult Ed and sermons. Use Adult Ed as your time to learn, ask questions, and practice interpreting what you read.
For sermons – I find it helpful when listening to sermons to see if I can predict what the preacher will say based on the scripture verses read. How close does he come to what I expected? Did he say more or less than I expected? Did I hear anything new that helps me understand the verses better?