There is probably nothing as promising and as frightening as the notion of 'reading' or 'studying' the Bible. The book itself is sizable, consisting of thousands of pages. Though it was overseen by the Spirit of God, it is directly written by many human authors, providing many genres and flavors, over a period spanning at least hundreds of years. It's not in chronological order. The original languages of the Bible don't exist in modern language today, making translation a frequent challenge to grasp the original intent.
And to top it all off, the Church in America largely had convinced people that the only true version of the Bible was a translation that we don't speak today (King James English).
No wonder people are intimidated!
And yet, there is a pot of gold (figuratively) for those who are willing to begin and continue the journey as a student of Scripture. We find several truths to debunk the frightening myths to which we once subscribed:
- The Bible is not nearly as hard to understand as I once believed, if you are willing to read it in the language you speak. I encourage you to check out the post I did several months ago, http://powhatancommunitychurch.blogspot.com/2008/08/which-bible-should-i-get.html. It will help you understand the differences and perhaps will identify why Bible reading has been so difficult for you to this point. (you might also check out Sammy's post http://powhatancommunitychurch.blogspot.com/2008/12/understanding-bible.html.)
- People haven't changed all that much. The names may be different, but human nature is the same. So, it's really not hard at all to connect with the thoughts, temptations, and behaviors of the characters we read about in the Bible. We actually relate well to them.
- God is not trying to confuse you. On the contrary, when we read the Bible - when we really invest some effort into a regular diet of scripture, we find that we know God better and better.
- It's OK to ask questions. From Abraham to Moses to Job to Jesus, Godly people in the Bible engaged God when they didn't understand. As you read, questions will come. It's not irreverent to ask God about them. Often, we grow the most as we wrestle with that which we do not initially understand.
- I can understand the Bible. It's so rich, you never know all there is to know. But over time, you will find that you can know more than you do today.
Where to start? I recommend a few different options:
- If you've never read it, I recommend Genesis and Matthew. Genesis is a fast moving book that takes us from the first man and woman all the way to a developed, populated civilization. People are messed up and have made a mess of God's Plan A. Through Abraham (Genesis 12-25), God develops a 'plan B' - a Saviour. That Savior is Jesus, of course, and you get to know Him and His life in Matthew. Both books read like fast moving stories and, in a good modern English translation like the NIV, both books are easy to read and understand.
- You might try a Bible reading guide. There are several versions of 'the One Year Bible'. Beware that, if you undertake to read the Bible in its entirety in one year, you will put half an hour or more into it every day. I think this is a fantastic plan. I just don't want you to get discouraged. Who cares if you turn a one year plan into two?! If you were to average reading the Bible 5 out 7 days for the next 24 months, wouldn't that be a win?