I have a recommendation for you and I believe you will love this. I recommend you read your Bible. If you do not own a Bible, I have one you can have. If you have a smart phone, then I recommend some helpful Bible apps. The Bible by LifeChurch.tv. provides helpful reading plans and encourages you to share passages with other people. Bible.is by Faith Comes By Hearing includes some dramatized and non-dramatized audio versions of the Bible. PrayNow by Concordia Publishing House provides Bible readings and prayers for each day.
The American Bible Society has for five years conducted a State of the Bible survey. The Religious News Service reported on the study. More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline, yet only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis. The survey showed that 88 percent of respondents said they own a Bible, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles. If Americans do read the Bible, the majority (57 percent) read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four times or more a week). I do not know how well these statistics translate into our congregation, but I believe it is likely that there is a desire among our members to read the Bible more frequently. How can I help you pick up one of those 4.4 Bibles you statistically have in your home?
I know that my well meaning invitations to Bible study have frightened a few people from getting more involved at St. Paul Lutheran Church. I understand. I shy away from situations when I expect that I will become embarrassed. I wonder if understanding the Bible has become so assumed by our community that we have not left room for people to make mistakes.
How do you begin studying the Bible? A young man in the Navy was stationed in San Diego, and he bought a Bible at a bookstore. He never had a Bible in his hands growing up. He didn’t know what to do with it. The Bible remained a closed book to this young man until a few months later a Christian chaplain gave him the encouragement to open that Bible. They opened the Bible, and the spirit of God opened for him the words on those pages so that he could trust that Jesus is his savior. While resources will help you understand the words on the pages of your Bible, the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to internally understand the Word of God.
Open your Bible and read with the Spirit of God teaching you. Here is a simple process to start regularly reading the Bible. You may think this plan is too ambitious for you but I want you to understand that there is no replacement for reading the Bible. God desires to shape our daily lives and help us focus on what is needful for today.
Step 1 – Read
The first step is not too complicated. Read the Bible and you will become more familiar with the ways God has been found at work in our world. There are many good Bible reading plans. At St. Paul Lutheran Church we provide in the monthly newsletter and the weekly announcements a daily plan for reading the Bible.
Another plan for you to consider is to read through the Old Testament at least once a year. Keep a journal as you read. Mark in your journal stories and details you want to remember. Also, write down anything you did not understand. As you continue to read, you will find many of your questions are answered in the Bible. The questions left unanswered as you read can become the starting point for more study using commentaries or the beginning of an interesting conversation with a friend.
You might consider reading the New Testament in a different manner. Read one book at a time repeatedly for a month. In your journal write down what you want to remember, and write down your questions. Also in your journal write down for the themes for each chapter. Leave space between the chapters so that the next time you read that same book you can add more details. You will develop an intimacy with the books of the Bible that will help you draw upon the well of God’s Word when you are thirsty.
Pray at the beginning and end of your reading time. Use the psalms as the words for your prayer.
Step 2 – Interpretation
When I read the Bible, I look for different levels of understanding. I want to understand the words on the page and sometimes that means I need a dictionary, map, commentary, or some other reference tool. I also want to understand what these words mean to me and my life. How should I apply these words? Interpretation and application can become self-serving if I seek from the Bible only what I want to find. I encourage you to humble yourself to the possibility that God can be at work in the Bible in ways that only the Spirit of God can reveal to us. Trust God to be at work in the Word and in the world.
Read the Bible and encounter the promise that God is at work in the world and in your life. I want you to think it is normal to read the Bible. Please do not be embarrassed if you have not read your Bible in a while. Have fun reading your Bible. Find some tears and some arguments. Find some laughter. Most importantly find God and find yourself.
Step 3 – Community
You do not do any of this reading of the Bible alone. You are a part of a community. If you have any questions or struggles as you read the Bible, then you can share them with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Besides your personal reading of the Bible, I recommend you participate in a Bible study. I find myself richly blessed by hearing how others discover in the Word of God the amazing grace of Jesus Christ.
I’m thankful for David Lose’s article from 2013 that jump started my thinking in on the importance of encouraging people to read the Bible.