Thursday, August 21, 2008

How To Read the Bible

Numerous studies have shown that self-professing Christians today do not have a biblical worldview. We don’t live by kingdom values. We live by the standards of the kingdom of the world. To a large extent, this can be traced to a failure on the part of professing Christians to spend time studying the Bible. Oftentimes, a professing Christian will try to read the Bible, but they don’t understand it, or aren’t sure if what it’s saying is actually what they are supposed to do. So they give up.

Please allow me to offer some tips on how to really study the Bible effectively so that you get the most out of your time and also learn how to apply what you learn to your life. Transformation, after all, is the objective—to become more like Jesus!

First, every Christian should own (and read) the book, “How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth.” This book is crammed full of practical wisdom on how to get the most out of your reading of different parts of the Bible.

Second, the authors of “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth”, Fee and Stuart, recommend using the TNIV or the NRSV as the most reliable versions to study with. I would like to suggest, that if you’re going to get a new copy of one of these Bibles, please spend the extra cash and buy the “Study” or “Life Application” versions of these. They’ll have some comments on each page to help you understand what the text means.

Thirdly, if you are studying the New Testament, then I highly recommend Tom Wright’s “For Everyone” series. Wright is a leading New Testament scholar, but does a knockout job of bringing culture, context, hermeneutics and application to everyone…not just scholarly minds. He hasn’t finished the series yet, but you can get started with the series. Go to this site to see which books are currently available.

Fourthly, if you are studying the gospels, then get a copy of the book, “The Upside-Down Kingdom.” This book is absolutely brilliant and is rich with additional cultural and contextual thoughts that bring the text to life and help us to see how Jesus’ words carry over to today. The way I use it is to turn to the back of the book where there is a “Scripture Index.” You can look up whichever verses you are studying and it will take you to the page or pages where the author addresses that particular verse.

Lastly, if you choose to study the book of Luke (as we are at The Well), then be aware that Dr. Gregory Boyd has spent the last 2.5 years slowly teaching his way through Luke at his church, Woodland Hills. Boyd’s insights are profound. You can listen to his entire sermon or you can download the Covenant Study Guide or the Individual Study Guide and you’ll find a written summary of the teaching with several questions for reflection and application. It’s a little challenging to find the Lukan text you’re searching for, but with some trial and error, searching through the Sermon Archives it can be done.

I hope that if you’ve struggled with studying the Bible, that you’ll give these things a try. God certainly doesn’t want the Scriptures to be a mystery to us. He wants us to dig deep and uncover the richness of the Scriptures and the way to abundant life that we find within them.

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