Reading the Bible

Teaching section

What is the Bible?

Christians find that one of the great ways of developing their discipleship is the practice of daily Bible reading and prayer. The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written by some 40 different authors in three languages over a period of more than a thousand years. It contains a wide variety of literary genres, yet it has an amazing unity of outlook and purpose. This is because it is a uniquely “God-breathed” book (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:21) designed to give the truth about God to people of all ages (Matthew 5:18;Mark 13:31). It is not primarily a history book or a textbook or a handbook of ethics, though it contains elements of all three. It has a single main theme: God’s intervention into our world to rescue us from our self-centeredness. In a word, it is about salvation.

Why read it?

See what it claims to do for us. It is a mirror (James 1:22-25) to show us what we are like. It is a sword to be used in temptation (Ephesians 6:17). It is a hammer to break us down (Jeremiah 23:29). It is sweet as honey, nourishing as milk or meat (Ezekiel 3:3; 1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:12-14). It can cleanse us, guide us, give us peace and wisdom (Psalm 119:9, 105, 165; Proverbs 4:4-6). No wonder we cannot grow without it (Psalm 119:162; Joshua 1:8-9; 2 Timothy 3:14-17). It is a prime way of keeping in touch with the Lord (John 15:7).

How to read it?

Get a Bible you can value: a modern translation is probably best. Get some Bible reading notes to help you (e.g., Daily Bread, or Daily Notes). Later branch out on character studies, word studies, studies of great themes or of a whole book. But keep it regular.

Apply it to yourself. Look for a promise to claim, a command to obey, new light to rejoice in, a warning to heed, a prayer to use, and/or an example to follow. Ask yourself: (a) What did this mean to the original recipients? and (b) How does it apply to me? Then turn what you have found into prayer and thanksgiving.

Verse to learn

Learn Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and light for my path.”

Bible study section

The Bible passage for study is Acts 8:26-40.

  1. What was the traveler doing as he rode along? Why did he need help?
  2. How did Philip help him? What might be the modern equivalent of the help Philip offered?
  3. What effect did his dawning understanding of God’s truth have on the Ethiopian’s life?
  4. What effect should a fresh understanding of the Bible have on us as we expose ourselves to it?
  5. Where does the Holy Spirit come into all this?

At the end of this session there is a practical outline for spending time each day in Bible study and prayer. Try to use this every day for the coming week, in conjunction with the Bible reading notes, and we will discuss next time what we have found helpful and any problems we have encountered.

Prayer time

Take a verse or a phrase from a verse in Acts 8:26-40 and turn it into a prayer, first for yourself and then for a friend.

Bookshelf

William Barclay, Introducing the Bible.

E. Heike and P. Toon, NIV Bible Study Guide

Paul Little, Know Why You Believe

John Stott, Understanding the Bible

Daily Bread and Daily Notes Bible reading notes.

Daily quiet times

Turn to God

Find a quiet place and time when you can be alone, and then try to set aside the business and distractions of the day in order to focus your mind on God, his truth and his goodness. Remember that he loves you and wants to communicate with you, and that he is not trying to make the whole thing difficult! He is with you and only wants to see you open yourself to him.

Turn to the Bible

Using the Bible reading notes you have been given, open the Bible at the passage for the day. Read it through carefully, preferably twice — once to get the feel of it, and once more carefully to pick up the details. Ask yourself what new truths this passage teaches you and what particular relevance it has to your own life. See if there is a promise, a warning, an example, a prayer you could use.

Turn to your notebook

Without spending too much time, jot down in a notebook the main truths and lessons that have struck you from the passage as you think about it and mull it over.

Turn to your notes

At this point — and not sooner — have a look at the Bible reading notes you are using, as they will probably help you with background information, difficult questions, and suggestions for personal application. Read them through, and if necessary make more notes in your notebook.

Turn to prayer

Remember, this is a conversation with a Friend! Turn your heart to God and (silently or out loud) talk over with him the Scripture passage you have been studying, thanking him for new light and praying for help to implement any suggestions for your daily life that you may have received. Then you can turn to other needs, personal matters, family, friends, work, the needs of the church, and other issues on your mind. This may not take long to begin with, but the list of people you care about is likely to grow, so you may need a separate page or two in your notebook to jot down people you don’t want to forget to pray for.

Turn to the day

Choose from the Bible passage a few words you have found helpful, and take them with you into the day. You may find yourself returning to them as the day wears on, and that will lift your eyes to the Lord.

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