It has been on my mind for several weeks to write a series of blogs on the subject of the essentials of Christian belief. The intent of these posts is to help new believers in Christ grow deeper in their faith as well as a reminder to mature Christians of some basics of our faith. Most discipleship programs require some knowledge of the Bible to begin with. I believe it is best to start with Bible basics because we live in a biblically illiterate age.
First let’s take some intimidation out of reading scripture. The Bible is a single book composed of sixty-six books written by about forty humans inspired by God. It is divided into Old and New Testaments. The Old testament was written by about thirty authors and covers history, events, and prophecies prior to the birth of Jesus. The New Testament was written by about ten people and covers Jesus work on earth, guidelines for Christian living, and prophecies about the kingdom of heaven. The books of the Bible were written over a span of about 1,500 years. Consider the scriptures like a mosaic. Each verse represents a small part of a bigger picture. The big picture gives us a snapshot of God’s plan for humanity that centers on Jesus as Lord and savior.
Like any book the Bible has an index near the front cover that lists the content. Most books list by chapter but the Bible lists by book names. Be encouraged to use that table of contents to find a book in personal study or a group setting. If you are in church and do not know where to find the book referenced by the preacher just turn to someone else and ask for help. If you can’t find someone to help then find another church to worship in. As a point of fact, if you open your Bible to middle you will find the Psalms.
The Bible is divided into books, chapters, and verses. The name of the book is generally found at the top of the page. The chapter will be denoted as a large bold number. The verse will usually have a small number at the beginning. Think of books, chapters, and verses like addresses of the Bible. As an example Romans 3:23. Romans is the name of the book, like a town name. 3 represents the third chapter, like a street name. 23 represents the verse number, like a house number. Some books, such as Jude, are too small for chapter breaks so generally only the verse is given.
Words that can cause confusion are translations or version of the Bible. To clarify these terms it needs to be understood that the Bible was written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) and was later translated into other languages. From that we get literal translations word for word or phrase for phrase. Great care has been taken by scholars to preserve the meaning of scripture as accurately a possible. Of the multiple translations you will need to decide which one is easiest for your personal reading comfort. Some translations are actually paraphrases (such as the Message Bible) and are more like commentaries. They have value but should not be the main translation for daily reading and study.
The importance of establishing a Bible reading plan is to build on a relationship with God. It is not possible to maintain a healthy human relationship without communicating and the same holds true for spiritual relationships. The Scriptures are God’s written word for us. By reading and thinking about those words God literally speaks into our lives. I know that may sound hokey but once you have experienced it the truth is undeniable. In a future post the value of prayer will be discussed as an additional way of communicating with God.
As a rule of thumb it takes fifteen to twenty minutes a day to read the entire Bible in a year. Probably the most overwhelming task of reading the Bible is where to start. Most people that begin in Genesis (the first book of the Bible) only get a few chapters before giving up. I encourage people to start in New Testament, usually with the book of John or Luke. It is quite acceptable to just read a few verses or a chapter a day to begin with. As you read try to see if there is any thoughts that grab your attention. A verse may encourage, correct, or challenge you. The important thing to strive for is consistency. It may be that you can only read five minutes a day to start but do not be discouraged by that. Write down questions that come to mind and learn about them from other believers or some may answer themselves as you read more. Devotionals are also great resources as they will take a verse or passage of a few verses and explore them for deeper meaning. Your Pastor will be able to recommend a devotional that may be suited to you.
In this age of electronic media we have a valuable tool at our disposal called “the Bible App” also known as “You Version” that is free to anyone. You can download it onto a phone or tablet and have dozens of translations to choose from. With this app you can listen to or read the Bible at your convenience. Some churches set up links through the Bible app to go with the message. You will find reading plans and devotionals available along with other handy stuff. It is not possible to cover all the features in this post but it is easy to use and again it is free.
The last point I want to make is the value of Bible verse memorization. Remembering verses is a great way to help learn the Bible. You will experience times of trials and refreshing. Bible verses that have been committed to memory will be like a comforting blanket. I recommend to memorize the first verse of the Bible. It is Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This is the bedrock my faith foundation is built on. A good exercise would be to try and memorize a new verse a week.
In a nutshell that is the basics of reading the Bible. I hope this is both encouraging and informative. Feel free to ask any questions about this post at Revburtschwab@gmail.com
Rev. Burt Schwab
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